Minority Report

Time to end race-talk in America
By Dr. Grace Vuoto

During the presidential campaign, then-candidate Barack Obama said he would be a post-racial leader, ushering a new age in American politics where racial barriers would be broken and greater harmony would prevail. Instead, under President Obama, the nation is deeply polarized. In addition, there has been more race-talk in the media during the last 20 months than there has been for several decades. This current dialogue, unlike during the Civil Rights era, no longer has any beneficial purpose.

It is, therefore, time for conservatives to declare a self-imposed 25-year moratorium on race-talk. At best, these discussions are now useless; at worst, they exacerbate national wounds and fuel the leftist mindset—even when that worldview is not grounded in reality.

The epithet of “racism” has now been bandied about so often by Mr. Obama’s leftist apologists—such as MSNBC journalists Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow; newspapers like The Washington Post and The New York Times; Web sites such as Daily Kos, The Huffington Post and Salon—that the word has lost its meaning. Opposition to Obamacare is “racist,” the president’s declining approval ratings is due to “racism,” the Tea Party must be condemned for being inherently “racist,” the queries about Mr. Obama’s birth are “racist” and disapproval of Mr. Obama’s policies belie a hidden “racism.” In other words, the left no longer knows what the word means—but uses it like a club to beat opponents. As leftists are using the term, an alien would guess it means “something really, really bad that people think or feel regarding the current administration and sometimes regarding other black people in America, too.” This definition is now too vague to be relevant.

What is racism? Racism is the conviction that some individualsdue to their race—are biologically inferior. These beliefs were widespread in Europe and America for centuries, leading to the conviction that there were racial hierarchies—whites being at the top and blacks and native Indians at the very bottom. In the twentieth century, a racist political philosophy reached its pinnacle in Nazi Germany, based on the notion of Aryan racial supremacy (Jews and Slavs, despite being white, were at the bottom and targeted for extermination; Aryans would lead the way toward a new world order). Asian, African, Native Indian and Middle Eastern civilizations have been racist. In fact, racism in world history has been the norm not the exception.

Yet, we have made so much progress. In the twenty-first century there are now very few individuals in America—and in much of the Western world—who believe that some individuals are biologically inferior due to their race. In essence, that mindset is now passé. It is certainly passé in any manner that can affect public policy.

This does not mean that all cultures are regarded as equal. It is not racist to believe, for example, that French culture is superior to German culture or vice-versa. It is not racist to believe that American culture in the 1950s was superior to that of the present or vice-versa. It is not racist to assert that, as many on the right do, the U.S. Constitution is the finest political document in the world or that, as many on the left do, the European Union has produced the finest society. In other words, it is not racist to believe that some civilizations, at some point in time, were better than that of their contemporaries or than at other times in their own history. These are merely opinions that we all hold about cultures and civilizations.

Moreover, it is not racist to discuss elements of black or Hispanic or white culture in America or elsewhere around the world. In fact, these are discussions that we must and should have. The word “racism,” as used today, prevents us from addressing the real issues that have a social impact—such as cultural attitudes, perceptions and prejudices. It is not race that counts—it is culture that makes the difference, stupid.

Furthermore, policies are essentially race-neutral unless they specifically target a race. Obamacare, for example, discriminates more according to the state of health one is in than according to one’s race. Mr. Obama’s tax policies discriminate more according to income levels than race.  Mr. Obama’s foreign policy discriminates more according to the political demands of his leftist base than about any singular national or cultural preference abroad. In other words, in American politics today, policy trumps race.

Conservatives must, therefore, insist that they no longer discuss race when addressing our politics—in the same manner that we do not discuss hair or eye color or family lineage, either. We discuss policy and culture only. If a liberal accuses a conservative of “racism,” the best response is a short one: “I love all God’s children equally; I discuss only specific aspects of culture or public policy.” Period. Full stop. Walk away. Hang up. Delete e-mail.

By stopping the race-talk, conservatives will not fall into this time-consuming trap and will transcend their opponents. The more leftists are left to discuss race among themselves—a topic that is now irrelevant—the more irrelevant they will become in the national discourse. Thus, conservatives will marginalize the race-baiters. Race-talk is among the left’s last gambits to remain viable. Why are conservatives giving them so much importance instead of letting them fall into obscurity?

If we want national harmony and real progress, we have to know when it is best to stop talking; this is akin to long-married couples who get into a bad argument until one of them has the good sense to be quiet for the sake of the greater good. As conservatives consistently place a spotlight on practical, tangible policies, we will win the national debates. And the American people will see that race-talk is really the last refuge of the scoundrel.

-Dr. Grace Vuoto is the executive director of the Edmund Burke Institute for American Renewal (www.edmundburkeinstitute.org), a Washington think tank.