Jewish World Review July 22, 2010 11 Menachem-Av, 5770
The New Racial Mess
By Victor Davis Hanson
Weren't we supposed to enter a new age of tolerance with the election of President
His half-black, half-white ancestry and broad support across racial lines suggested that at last Americans judged each other on the content of our characters -- not the color of our skin or our tribal affiliations.
Instead, in just 18 months of the Obama administration, racial discord is growing and relations seem to have been set back a generation.
Black voters are galvanizing behind Obama at a time of rapidly falling support. White independents, in contrast, are leaving Obama in droves.
In turn, a number of Americans want to know why -- nearly a half-century after the Civil Rights Act, affirmative action and Great Society programs -- some national lobbying organizations still identify themselves by archaic tribal terms such as "colored people" or "La Raza" ("the race") when it would be taboo for other groups to adopt such racial nomenclature.
Indeed, race seems to be the subtext of almost every contemporary issue, from the soaring deficit and government spending to recent presidential appointments and the enforcement of existing immigration law. In times of growing deficits, white people are stereotyped as being angry over supposedly paying higher taxes to subsidize minorities, while minorities are stereotyped as being mostly on the receiving end of entitlements.
Why the escalation of racial tension in the supposed postracial age of Obama?
First, Obama's reputation as a racial healer was largely the creation of the media. In fact, Obama had a number of racially polarizing incidents that probably would have disqualified any other presidential candidate of the past 30 years.
His two-decade apprenticeship at
Obama also characterized his grandmother as a "typical white person" when he implied that her supposed fear of young black males symbolizes the prejudices of the entire white community.
Such campaign trash talk did not stop during the first 18 months of the Obama presidency. The race-baiting
Then there was the outburst of Attorney General
Recently, Obama appealed to voters along exclusionary race and gender lines -- not traditional political allegiances -- when he called upon "the young people, African-Americans, Latinos and women, who powered our victory in 2008."
Yet the country passed the old white/black divide years ago. We are a racially diverse society of Asians, blacks, Hispanics, whites, and mixtures of all that and more. In a world of conservative Cubans and liberal whites, race is no longer necessarily a guide to politics.
Who now, exactly, is the racial "Other" deserving of special consideration in hiring and education? A half-Punjabi immigrant whose father owns 500 acres? A three-quarters Puerto Rican who just arrived in
The more the president appeals to his base in racial terms, the more his appointees identify themselves as members of a particular tribe, and the more political issues are framed by racial divisions, so all the more such racial obsession creates a backlash among the racially diverse American people.
America has largely moved beyond race. Tragically, our president and a host of his supportive special interests have not.
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Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and military historian, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal. Comment by clicking here.
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