Race is the political topic of the day. Let’s follow the logic of the left, which has raised the issue again:
• Rep. Joe Wilson yelled, “You lie!” at President Barack Obama during the president’s speech. Wilson is a white male (gasp!) from South Carolina. Obama is black. Therefore, Wilson is racist.
• Americans who came out this summer to protest against Obama’s agenda to claim government authority over the financial, automobile and health care sectors of our economy were mostly white. Obama is black. Therefore, the protesters are racist.
• Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley arrested Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. for disorderly conduct. Crowley is white; Gates is black. Therefore, Crowley is racist.
What’s missing from these claims? If you said, “proof,” give yourself a cookie (but not an Oreo, please).
Suddenly, the media are atwitter with the subject of civility. Saying the president lies is now bad, even if you can show that, well, the president didn’t actually tell the truth. Leveling the charge of “socialism” against the president is poor form, even if his policies would draw huge portions of our economy under further government control.
But calling Republicans and conservatives racist without offering the slightest shred of evidence to back up the claim? That gets a pass.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that “Wilson clearly did not like being lectured and even rebuked by the brainy black president presiding over the majestic chamber.”
Clearly? Did she do a Vulcan mind meld on him to discover this previously unexpressed thought?
“Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it,” she wrote. As evidence, she cited that Wilson was from South Carolina, which, you know, “fired the first shot of the Civil War.” So is Stephen Colbert. So, what?
Dowd notes that Wilson is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and supported flying the Confederate Battle Flag from the state capitol. But neither is a badge of racism. The Sons of Confederate Veterans is a membership group of direct descendants of Confederate veterans. Supporting the battle flag on public property certainly is divisive, but it’s not proof of racism. Being from North Carolina, I personally know a lot of non-racists who support the flag as a matter of Southern pride.
Dowd doesn’t prove Wilson is a racist. She doesn’t even attempt to. She simply asserts it and cites as evidence that he has a pedigree and a single policy position that she interprets as sufficient to conclude he must be a racist. She also mentions that he initially didn’t believe Essie Mae Washington-Williams, the black woman who claimed she was Strom Thurmond’s daughter — and was. Again, so what? Lots of people didn’t believe her at first. Are they all racists?
Jimmy Carter’s ad hominem attack on the “overwhelming portion” of those who have protested against President Obama’s policies is even worse than Dowd’s non-sequiturs.
“I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American,” Carter said on the NBC Nightly News.
At least Carter stated this as a matter of opinion (“I think”) rather than obvious fact (“clearly”). But still, where’s the evidence? He offers none.
“That racism inclination still exists, and I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of belief among many white people — not just in the South but around the country — that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It’s an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply,” he said.
Really? Prove it.
It’s easy to call someone a racist. The left does it routinely. The charges wouldn’t be made so often, though, if the media called them out.
In 1999, columnist Leonard Pitts wrote that Mark McGwire’s star shone brighter than fellow slugger Sammy Sosa’s for one reason only: racism. The reaction from baseball fans was swift. Readers barraged Pitts with hard data proving him wrong. McGwire broke Maris’s single-season home-run record and received the expected celebrity treatment. Then Sosa surpassed Maris’s total later in the season, but he broke no records. The record was McGwire’s by that point, and Sosa never surpassed it.
Chastened, Pitts wrote the next week, “I shouldn’t have said, as I did in a recent column (Oct. 4), that Americans love Mark McGwire more than Sammy Sosa on the basis of race. It was an overly broad generalization. Thank you, gentle readers, for pointing this out to me. Forcefully. Several hundred times.”
When Obama connected Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s arrest by a white officer to past racial profiling in this country, a similarly sharp reaction caused the president to reconsider.
Sadly, it’s not enough to expect that people who level the racism charge at least try to back it up. The claim is no longer about facts, but about silencing or discrediting critics. The evidence suggests that the right should expect this slanderous strategy to continue as long as Obama is in office. The right response is to challenge the accusers to back up their claims. It’s a shame, though, that this task falls to the people being attacked because the mainstream media so seldom see fit to take it up.