Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Racial Progress for Idiots (or Racists)

Race still matters in American society, especially for those on the left, as they can use it to bludgeon any conservative who suggests that black Americans today have made real progress.

I made this point yesterday, with some examples, in my entry, "
Race Still Matters, Obviously: Or, Talking About Black Bitches and Whores."

I cited Bill Kristol at the post, who argued that we didn't need a national conservsation on race, and that America has done "pretty well" in overcoming its national divisions since the eras of slavery and Jim Crow. Kristol indicated, though, that whenever commentators ask society to look within - to stress that civil rights progress has to begin at home, with personal achievement and family culture - they are "unfairly pilloried."

Well, now it's Kristol's turn.

Ari Berman throws out the racism card against Kristol at the Nation:

Preeminent neocon and newly-minted New York Times columnist Bill Kristol embarrassed himself last week by incorrectly stating that Barack Obama was present for one of Jeremiah Wright's fiery sermons and for neglecting to mention that his information came from the notoriously untrustworthy right-wing tabloid, Newsmax.com.

Now Kristol has embarrassed himself again this week by stating, in the wake of Obama's speech on race, that racism is
not really a problem in America. "The last thing we need now is a heated national conversation about race," Kristol writes. "Racial progress has in fact continued in America. A new national conversation about race isn't necessary to end what Obama calls the 'racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years' -- because we're not stuck in such a stalemate."

Kristol provides no empirical evidence to back up such an ignorant claim. He fails to mention, for instance, that 50 percent of
African-American men in New York City were unemployed as of 2004; or that 1 in 10 black men in their 20s are behind bars; or that more than half of all black men in inner cities do not finish high school; or that the subprime lending crisis is considered to be "the greatest loss of wealth for people of color in modern US history," according to United for a Fair Economy.

Of course we've made racial progress in America--and Obama is a testament to that. But only an idiot (or a racist) would allege that racism does not remain a major problem in our country, and that we don't need to do a lot more to address it. Kristol is not an idiot, he just plays one on the Times op-ed page.

His spectacularly
bad judgment on the war in Iraq was reason enough to oppose Kristol's appointment as a Times columnist. The Times' own ombudsman called the hiring of Kristol a "mistake." It's worse than that. His basic disregard for facts of any kind is well beneath the Times--or any self-respecting paper of record.
So, Kristol's called "ignorant," "an idiot (or a racist)," and he's pilloried for his "spectacularly bad judgment," with Iraq, no less, used as evidence (Kristol's judgement on that score's looking almost prescient, considering our success today)

Notice how Berman just rolls out the racial victimization shibboleths without any data of his own.

Nope, it's pretty much name-calling and rehashing the attacks on the Times for hiring Kristol in the first place. Just suggesting that we've made progress on civil rights - that blacks have done pretty well in the post-civil rights era - subjects one to such abuse and ridicule.

There's plenty of
data available on black progress. Problems remain, of course, but it's undeniable that we've moved so far from the American Dilemma in a little over fifty years ago - at the time of Brown v. Board of Education - that it's journalist malpractice not to cite our gains.

We have a large and growing black middle class (
here , here, and here), educational opportunities for blacks are more widely available than at any time in American history, and the number of black public officials at all levels of government has grown dramatical since the passage of the voting rights act in 1965. Barack Obama's own success, and his initial calls to transcend race, signify how far we've come as a people, one people committed to progress on racial equality.

This does not discount continuing poverty and problems of criminalization among the black lower third. But no matter how far we come, racial recrimination activists will refuse to see racial progress, they'll never suggest that the glass is half full. Instead, they'll brand those who do as idiots (or racists).