Why Race Relations Have Gotten So Much Worse
Speaking in the wake of the Dallas horrors, President Obama correctly assured us that race relations are not as bad in this country today as they were during the Watts riots of the sixties.
But that was over fifty years ago and is only part of the story. Throughout the eighties and nineties and into the 21st century, those relations had improved to the extent that none other than the great actor Morgan Freeman could have this 2005 exchange with host Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes.
WALLACE: Black History Month, you find...
FREEMAN: You're going to relegate my history to a month?
WALLACE: Come on.
FREEMAN: What do you do with yours? Which month is White History Month? Come on, tell me.
WALLACE: I'm Jewish.
FREEMAN: OK. Which month is Jewish History Month?
WALLACE: There isn't one.
FREEMAN: Why not? Do you want one?
WALLACE: No, no.
FREEMAN: I don't either. I don't want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.
WALLACE: How are we going to get rid of racism until...?
FREEMAN: Stop talking about it. I'm going to stop calling you a white man. And I'm going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman. You're not going to say, "I know this white guy named Mike Wallace." Hear what I'm saying?
Hear what you're saying? Boy, do I ever. And that part about "Stop talking about it" -- nothing makes more sense. Since racist acts were already against the law and had been diminishing, the best way to extinguish, or seriously curtail, the remaining racism was to stop talking about it, to stop making such a big deal about it, to call each other by our names and not our races and let the racial scab slowly heal and disappear.
Just a few years later, the scab appeared very much healed with the inauguration of America's first African-American president, a man who would be elected twice. I didn't vote for him for policy reasons, but his election brought tears to my eyes as a former civil rights worker. America's long nightmare, as Dr. King might have put it, was over, at least as over as things could be in this imperfect world.
But it wasn't -- not by a long shot. It went the other way. Driven by what I call in my book "nostalgia for racism," racial enmity was brought back as surely as Michael Corleone was pulled back in in Godfather III.
Power, of course. The Democratic Party relies on the perceived reality of racism for the identity politics on which it feeds. Racism is the lifeline of the Democrats. Votes lie there.