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Thursday, September 21, 2006

When is it OK to Mention Race?

A reader writes with savvy comments and a sharp question:
When Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger refers to a California legislator of Hispanic descent as "hot," liberals accuse him of being a racist, even though the legislator says she took the comment as a compliment. When the CBS program Survivor announces plans to group contestants by race and ethnicity, liberals denounce the network for trafficing in gross stereotypes. All this time I thought liberals favored identity politics based on race, ethnicity, and gender. What gives?
Surprise! The only people allowed to invoke racial and ethnic categories are ... liberals. Those entitled to speak loudest, and without so much as a nod to critical reasoning: liberal persons of color. The phrase "persons of color" seems quite innocently to refer to demography; in fact the phrase is a statement of ideology. "Implicit in this phrase," writes Ward Connerly, "is the coalescing of minorities into a coalition or political caucus, which, together with white women, constitutes a power base of sufficient magnitude to preserve race- and gender-based preferences and to achieve other political benefits for the coalition." This means, among other things, that a leading "progressive" newspaper doesn't hesitate to editorialize that Clarence Thomas should not have made it to the Supreme Court because Clarence Thomas doesn't "think like a black man." Now of course the Jim Crow regime of the Deep South held equally festive notions of how black persons are supposed to think and behave. Martin Luther King, Jr., declared all this to be so much bunk, and for a while liberals and civil rights activists agreed. But something happened. Liberals and civil rights activists discovered that agreeing with King had the effect of putting them out of business as social engineers. So they went back to the drawing board and worked out a new calculus based on a theorem from the playbook of the Russian revolution — that's Lenin, not Yeltsin. The post-King civil rights establishment declared that the mere achievement of equal opportunity for minorities wasn't quite enough. Woefully inadequate, in fact, because it left them without entire groups of victims to, you know, save. Which is what morally superior, virtuous, compassionate, social justice seeking activists do: scour the social landscape for entire groups of victims that need to be saved. This keeps the victims dependent upon the largesse of the activists, who get to feel important and go to cocktail parties where wine and cheese and tassled penny loafers are copious. The dependents remain dependent and the saviors acquire cholesterol. Such a deal. So it came to pass, during an era of vast social stupidity that overlaps with this week, liberals and civil rights activists began demanding not simply equal opportunity but equal outcomes. This required a new regime of reverse discrimination, or what polite people deign to call redemptive apartheid. Tin-ear leftists defended this practice by demanding that America admit to present guilt for past racial crimes. Because this resulted chiefly in the election of more Republicans, politically savvy liberals (Bill Clinton comes to mind, except about sex) got good at saying they oppose quotas while favoring efforts to "mend not end" affirmative action. Translation: They favor quotas that aren't called quotas, a strategy aimed at hoodwinking moderate voters who genuinely detest racism but can't square affirmative action with their quaint notions that persons should achieve according to — what's that word? Oh, right. Merit. But I digress, but not entirely, because context matters. Schwarzenegger described California legislator Bonnie Garcia as "very hot." He added, "They have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it." Saying she's got no problem with the governor's description, Garcia proudly declared herself a "hot-blooded Latina" who is passionate about issues. Leave it to Democrat gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides to chime in with: "Once again, Gov. Schwarzenegger has used language that is deeply offensive to all Californians and embarrassed our state." Gotta love Angelides' remarkable capacity to speak for "all" Californians. Hmm, if Bonnie Garcia didn't find "hot" a problem, maybe she's just filled with loathing for herself, as a woman and as a Hispanic person. What else could explain her refusal to line up with left-approved stereotypes of how women and people of color are supposed to think and act? Here's what gives. Liberals continue paying lip service to Dr. King's call to judge all persons not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character," yet these very liberals play the race card every day, for their own self-aggrandizement. Self-styled progressives regularly condemn "racial stereotypes," yet they eagerly embrace racial profiling so long as it's called "affirmative action." Let's get real. The true if unstated purpose of racial preferences is to allow the civil rights establishment to maintain power by demanding that America feel guilty for past racism, and to give white liberals an easy way to reclaim legitimacy while avoiding charges of racism. Brilliantly, Shelby Steele has written of "the symbiosis between whites and blacks by which they agree to let victimization totally explain black difficulty. Whites agree to stay on this hook for an illusion of redemption, and blacks agree to keep them there for an illusion of power." If liberals hate racial stereotypes as much as they claim to, they can forget about nonsense generated by the CBS entertainment division. They can turn their attention to something far more destructive to an entire generation of young black Americans: the patronizing, sickenly racist, and typically liberal notion that blacks cannot compete on standardized paper-and-pencil tests without racial preferences.