Never should racial relations be better. Intermarriage between various ethnic, religious, and racial groups has become commonplace. Every family that I know can no longer be termed white or Latino or black, despite the efforts of government and academic clerks to insist on such.
Cousins, nephews, grandkids, spouses, and in-laws now all look quite different from each other. Walk downtown Palo Alto, and couples of the same racial appearance are not the norm. The president, the attorney general, the national security advisor, the chief presidential advisor, the director of Homeland Security, the director of NASA, and the former EPA head are black. To watch television commercials is to see all races hawking shared products — quite unlike in the rest of the world, where they would be more likely killing each other.
Yet racial relations have also rarely been worse in the last half-century, illustrating the old sociology adage that the faster things improve and ameliorate, the more they are declared ossified and hopeless.
Perhaps because revolutionaries and the opportunistic fear that with progress for all comes obsolescence for themselves.
We live in such a strange world. Our government compiles exhaustive statistics on race and crime, but to cite them can be racist. Authors write, properly so, according to canons of racial propriety and careful consideration, and then newspapers print scary racist commentary that follows without worry over its repercussions. Elites of all races navigate around race and class in matters of choosing homes, schools, and entertainment, and then lecture others on their illiberal Neanderthalism for trying to poorly emulate, according to their reduced stations, the patterns of picking a home, school, or golf course embraced by a Barack Obama or Eric Holder — or Rev. Wright.
For now we need to review the rules that racialists use and to navigate carefully around them. The stakes are quite high.
1) Noble Ends Sometimes Require Ignoble Means
The nation rightly condemned the repulsive racist chanting of some puerile University of Oklahoma fraternity members. President David Boren even summarily kicked them out of school, closed down the fraternity, and threw out its tenants — without a hearing, and in possible violation of free speech statutes.
But if not to protect such creepy expression, then why have a First Amendment at all? Did the Founders wish to ensure us that someday we could all listen without censorship to an unfettered Julie Andrews freely singing “The Sound of Music”?
Eighty-year-old Donald Sterling, an ex-divorce lawyer and recipient of local NAACP citizenship awards as the Los Angeles Clippers owner, now said to be suffering from prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s, had his incoherent but private musings stealthily taped by a conniving gold-digging young mistress. And so the nation discovered that the tired, old and unhinged codger mouthed racist banalities. His repugnant speech lost him his basketball team and he was banned for life from attending professional basketball games.
Was the reasoning something like: “Why worry about curbing the First Amendment rights of a racist aged billionaire?”
Had he been caught in felonious behavior fixing a game or planning to dodge the IRS, would the punishment have been worse?
Eric Holder’s Department of Justice recently exonerated Officer Darren Wilson in the Ferguson shooting, after the cop had been tried, convicted, and ostracized in the court of elite opinion. Wilson, it found, in self-defense tragically and fatally shot Michael Brown — the latter fresh from committing a strong-armed robbery, walking in the middle of the street (apparently high on marijuana), attacking a police officer, etc. The 300-pound “youth” charged Wilson and lunged at his weapon.
Did that truth matter? Or could it be sacrificed on the altar of racialism?
The ensuing lie cooked up by Brown’s rogue accomplice in the robbery — “hands up; don’t shoot” — is now canonized and has made its way as a cause celebre to the U.S. Congress. I think the logic is that, given slavery and Jim Crow of the past, it is rich of America now to insist on racially blind rules of evidence and speech.
Wilson is marked, finished as a policeman, and cannot safely go out in public. He would have perhaps been wiser to hand over his gun to Brown, and asked to take one bullet, in hopes that he could survive the wound and thereby save his job. Had Brown killed Wilson — as may well have been his intent — there would have not been protests anywhere by any group, racial or not — as there rarely are in Missouri when blacks are daily gunned downed by other blacks or when Bosnians are attacked by blacks.
Perhaps a liberal can explain the select expressions of outrage that make one death less important than another. Lives matter? Race matters? Context? Historical landscapes?
In matters of racial justice, the noble ends of supposed racial tolerance justify almost any means necessary to reach them.
In the case of George Zimmerman, he can be rebranded a “white Hispanic” to ensure that his multicultural fides do not rival his victim’s. His picture can be Photoshopped to downplay his wounds. His 911 taped voice record can be edited to make him sound callously racist — and all for a good cause of something other than racial harmony and integration.
In our sick society, such fantasies work both ways. Travyon Martin can be portrayed as a lovable preteen in his football uniform, without prior suspensions from school authorities. He eats Skittles, but doesn’t use burglar tools and drugs — or brag on social media of assaults on a bus driver. Martin, we are told by the president in the middle of the tense national debate over the case, might have looked like the son of Obama that he never had.
Editorializing in an ongoing criminal trial and investigation is now presidential habit. Affinity based not on shared values or common interests, but on superficial racial similarity, is proof of racial empathy. Had Trayvon Martin asked to take one of the daughters of Barack Obama to a Justin Bieber concert, would the president have weighed in and welcomed that invitation on the basis of Martin’s apparently shared appearance? Racial solidarity trumps all — or does it?
For the more noble purposes of ensuring racial harmony, Martin can easily be recalibrated as a preteen gunned down in cold blood by a racist vigilante, rather than — in the words of his friend Rachel Jeantel, who spoke on her cell phone to him in his last moments — attempting a preemptive “whoop ass” on a “creepy ass cracka” apparently deemed to be a nosy homosexual on his way to “go get” Trayvon’s “little brother.”
Using racist and homophobic language is now proof of someone else’s racism. Somehow we are supposed to accept that George Zimmerman is a racist and Rachel Jeantel just cannot be, given the history of racial relations in the country.
Had Zimmerman kept his pistol hidden and taken a good whoop-ass head-smashing, he would be just another asymmetrical statistic rather than public enemy number one of the therapeutic state. Could he not have taken one for the nation?
Again, the logic is that with an unrivaled history of racism, Americans have no right at this late stage in the relativist game to insist on racially blind absolutism. Apparently, the assumption is that while whites are collectively assumed to be racist, they are usually too clever to be spotted and exposed as racists by using racist language. Non-whites, in contrast, can use racist language either to show that they are not racist or to expose whites as racist by their reactions to racist language.
When we hear of something creepy like the Oklahoma racist singing or Michael Richards’ unhinged racist rant, we vie with each other to find superlatives of disparagement to prove our own superiority — or future deterrence — in the manner that no one quite knew how to stop clapping when Saddam Hussein or Joseph Stalin ended a four-hour monologue.
Not so when we hear that UC Berkeley black students recently demanded to rename a building after convicted cop killer and fugitive Assata Shakur — as well as the creation of a racially segregated meeting place on campus that excludes anyone not black. Are we to laugh or cry?
2) Some Racialists Are Worse than Others
Non-white racialists, or rather at least some non-white racialists (Zimmerman, for example, was half-Latino), cannot be held to the same rules of racial forbearance. Given the centuries-old baggage of white racism, linguistic elasticity is necessary. The n-word is de rigueur in the multi-billion-dollar rap music industry. Black intellectuals assure us on television that it is a private term of endearment or solidarity among fellow blacks, but simultaneously proof of virulent racism when used by mostly ignorant white outliers. They may be right that race matters, but at least they should be intellectually honest enough to explain to America, especially to new immigrants or the young, why the horror of the n-word is predicated on who utters it.
If a black person used the n-word to disparage someone black, he is not necessarily a racist; Al Sharpton, who is the go-to dispenser of absolution when non-black racialists use the n-word, is on tape calling former New York Mayor David Dinkins a n***er. If in emulative fashion a white wannabe uses the term to denote friendship toward a black friend, he is a racist. I don’t question the logic or the contextualization necessary to pull such sleight of speech off, only the practicality of applying the unspoken but assumed rule in a nation where millions grew up in the age of affirmative action and racial intermarriage, not the Jim Crow South.
At some point an ignorant would-be rapper of any race is going to copycat his rapper heroes, and end up groupthinking himself out of existence — unless he is Justin Bieber. Money and celebrity trump racialism?
Juxtapose the uncouth University of Oklahoma frat brothers with the latest rant from this month’s Playboy nude cover girl. Compare who has the greater outreach and clout — obscure undergraduates in Oklahoma, or the one on the cover of an iconic magazine. In Orval Faubus racist style, African-American rapper Azealia Banks quite proudly opines:
I hate everything about this country. Like, I hate fat white Americans. All the people who are crunched into the middle of America, the real fat and meat of America, are these racist conservative white people who live on their farms. Those little teenage girls who work at Kmart and have a racist grandma — that’s really America.
Not much nuance in all that. No ambiguity. No need for code words. A corn farmer in Iowa who lives a monastic existence is the true villain of America.
Switch the adjective black for white in the above smear, and the speaker would now be persona non grata in the United States.
What was strange about her rant was the collective national snooze that met it: no presidential editorial, no NAACP admonition, no visit from Al Sharpton, no Black Caucus sermonizing. It was almost as if a sophisticated America, with Iran on the verge of becoming nuclear or the Middle East in ruins, could hardly waste its time commenting on a racist simpleton like Banks. Likewise, what proved eerie about the hatred in the Rev. Wright video sermon was not his venomous language, but the standing ovation and ecstatic glee of his congregation on hearing his hate.
Note that Banks, declaring herself a feminist, relies on using the n-word in her own rap music, ostensibly because if she did not, she would not have the sales, cred, and star-power clout to do pathetic nude layouts in sexist girlie magazines.
She has no worries that whites or blacks will march on her home Ferguson-style, or that record companies will do a Paula Deen on her. She assumes rightly that her racism is contextualized and thus excused, and anyone else not of color saying something analogous should not be.
There is certainly little chance that the now-multimillionaire Banks will end up like racially sloppy-mouthed Don Imus, and be sent to serve time in the gulag of popular culture. After all, Banks uttered not one racist word, but an entire slew. To paraphrase Stalin, a single racist epithet is a tragedy; lots of them become mere statistics.
Words really don’t matter — only apparently the supposed color of the people who utter them. Nor is America to take seriously Jamie Foxx’s crude racist banter. (“I kill all the white people in the movie. How great is that?” or “Black people are the most talented people in the world”.)
Apparently without much debate, the country has accepted the principle of linguistic relativism: there is no such thing as racist language per se, given that non-whites cannot be held to the same standards of racial disparagement.
We live in a surreal age in which the two most powerful men in the United States — President Barack Obama and Attorney General Holder — can both periodically accuse others of racism and therefore themselves dip into it (“typical white person,” “cling to their…,” “punish our enemies, “nation of cowards,” “my people,” etc.).
The president warns of stereotyping on the basis of race all the time, and therefore was free to stereotype the working class of Pennsylvania, his own grandmother, the Cambridge police, and Darren Wilson. And when we descend to Al Sharpton, tragedy becomes farce. Is there one group that Sharpton has not slurred — homosexuals, Jews, whites? And how exactly did such a lurid history of racist disparagement and petty crime earn him exemption from the IRS for chronic tax avoidance, or over 70 visits to the White House to counsel the administration on matters racial?
Is Sharpton’s theory homeopathic: to cure the scourge of racism, the medicine man must himself be racist?
To be continued…