The ‘Racism’ Wrecking Ball


Indiscriminate charges of racism do more harm than good, as Martin Luther King well knew

John Fund  writes:  Would America be better off if the Outrage Industry went on a diet for New Year’s?

We just spent much of December quacking and arguing way too much about the views of Phil Robertson, one of the stars of the Duck Dynasty reality-TV series. Most of the attention focused on Robertson’s harsh, mean-spirited comments about gays and on the subsequent, short-lived decision of the cable network A&E to suspend him. But people saved plenty of ire for his comments, offered in an interview with GQ magazine, that when he grew up in Louisiana in the 1950s he never saw “the mistreatment of any black person” and that African Americans in that era didn’t have complaints about white people.

That’s an invitation to call Phil naïve, blind, or a liar. But such descriptions weren’t enough for Jesse Jackson, who said: “These statements uttered by Robertson are more offensive than the bus driver in Montgomery, Alabama, more than 59 years ago. At least the bus driver, who ordered Rosa Parks to surrender her seat to a white person, was following state law. Robertson’s statements were uttered freely and openly without cover of the law, within a context of what he seemed to believe was ‘white privilege.’” He wasn’t the only prominent liberal to go way over the top. MSNBC’s Michael Eric Dyson said Robertson and Duck Dynasty were “part of a majority-white supremacist culture.”

There have been sensible voices. Writing in Time magazine, linguistic scholar John McWhorter bluntly asked: “Phil Robertson is an old man of 67, and frankly, why should we care that his take on black history is not exactly enlightened?” Michael Myers, a Democrat who is executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, said that overheated charges of racism hurt all of us “because we need everyone on board and everyone’s attention when we spot and fight real outbreaks of racism and skin color discrimination.” Accusing people of racism has become so tempting that even Republicans get in on the act occasionally. This month, George Gomez, the moderate GOP nominee who ran in the special election of June 2013 to fill John Kerry’s Senate seat in Massachusetts, had to apologize for likening two conservative activists to members of what he called the “Klan.” (He denied he was referring to the Ku Klux Klan but apologized nonetheless.)

Shouting “racism” in a crowded media and political theater has become a substitute for thought and debate in America. Liberals hated it in the 1950s when extreme conservatives such as those of the John Birch Society smeared many they disagreed with by labeling them “Communists.” A 1950s media “blacklist” that encouraged the non-hiring of Communist-party members and their allies is considered one of the greatest affronts to civil liberties ever, even though it was basically the kind of “boycott” many on the left are fond of today.

Today, it damages our discourse when a respected figure such as Oprah Winfrey suggests that some critics of President Obama are racist. “There’s a level of disrespect for the office that occurs and that occurs in some cases and maybe even many cases because he’s African American,” she said while on tour to promote her latest movie…

Read the rest…

— John Fund is a national-affairs columnist for National Review Online.

National Review Online

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