Sunday, October 5, 2003

In the wake over the Rush Limbaugh flap on ESPN, it’s clearer that the double standards employed by the political correctness police are doing more to harm race relations than any effort since Lester Maddox’s. This latest example of indignation over Rush Limbaugh’s unremarkable criticism about the media makes it clearer to many fair-minded people that in America we can’t have a serious discussion about issues involving race. Just last month, Chicago Cubs Manager Dusty Baker claimed that “blacks and Latins take the heat better than most whites, and whites take the cold better than most blacks and Latins. That’s it, pure and simple. Nothing deeper than that.” While the ignorance in this statement is shocking, neither resignation nor apology were necessary. You see, Dusty Baker is black.

Liberals and so-called “minority advocates” have effectively created a racial speech apartheid zone, in which they are able to speak publicly and freely about the topic and others (especially conservatives) are not, unless they limit themselves to a narrow area: apologizing and supporting progressive policies that purportedly will redress racial grievances. Sadly, in the process of enforcing these speech codes, the advocates of racial speech apartheid hinder our nation in tackling many difficult issues involving race.

On America being a meritocracy and a haven for markets, they allege that the concepts are simply pretexts to prevent minority opportunity. Questions about voting ballot integrity, fundamental to a democracy, are casually dismissed as attempted minority voter suppression.Neutral assessment tools to determine admissions for higher education are derided as Jim Crow-like barriers to prevent minorityeducation. Constitutional interpretation that reflects and reinforces the politicalandlegislative determinations of the populace as enacted are attacked as biased attempts to impose the bigotry of the past on racial minorities today.

The use of the “race card” by the racial speech separatists is used to attain political outcomes that couldn’t be achieved in an open and fair political debate. Whether the issue is D.C. statehood, increasing the minimum wage, supporting the liberal version of a prescription drug benefit, etc., the issues are often framed in a way to make one position pro- and another anti-minority. This approach ignores the reality that there are substantive policy considerations requiring costs and benefits to be weighed and balanced.But the race calculus won’t allow it.

Remember when black D.C. residents were told they can’t attend the private or public schools of their choice because President Clinton vetoed the school-choice demonstration program in the District?Even now, Senate Democrats engage in a filibuster over the D.C. Appropriations bill to prevent passage of President Bush’s school choice program. When black men on average receive the lowest benefit from the federal Social Security program because they don’t “live long enough” to get back what they’ve put in, who can complain on their behalf?

People of goodwill on both sides of many public policy issues have been prevented from having an open and unstilted discussion. As a result, some policies relevant to blacks are delayed or not even examined for fear of sanction.On the other hand, the silence by liberals and racial activists who have a free hand to take these issues up is deafening. Since some debates might prove inconvenient to their progressive agenda, the underlying issues must remain unexamined — even if a debate could have a beneficial effect on blacks and America.

President Bush was right to say that “every day our nation was segregated was a day that America was unfaithful to our founding principles.”It was a long and hard-fought battle to right that wrong, and although the task is largely complete, the efforts on the part of decent Americans continue. Although the speech separatists won’t acknowledge it, in America today, equality before the law is overwhelmingly the consensus view. Claiming that bigots blocking access to the election booth is the major problem facing blacks ill-serves America. Rodney King’s plaintive plea in the aftermath of the L.A. riots is more needed in the 21st century than ever.

Horace Cooper is a senior fellow with the Centre for New Black Leadership.

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