Thursday, January 21, 2010

Don't Have To Admit It's Getting Better

Yesterday's WSJ contained a special section called State of the Nation:

A year into the Obama administration, we asked Americans how they're feeling about the president and politics. We found a lot of weariness, a few glimmers of optimism, and not much good news for Democrats.

The section was broken down into various areas such as the economy, health care, national security, etc. and polling data and opinion pieces germane to each area were presented. One area that was included was race relations. Now, you might think that the election of the country's first African-American president would be the latest sign of the progress that the United States has made in this area. But Marc Morial--president of the National Urban League--advises us that there is Still So Far To Go:

And when you factor in the seemingly never-ending cycle of racial incidents, like the arrest in his home of Prof. Henry Louis Gates, the refusal of a Louisiana justice of the peace to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple, and the expulsion of black kids from a Philadelphia swimming pool, it is clear that there is nothing postracial about America in the year 2010. For African-Americans, especially, these are both the best of times and the worst of times.

While I'm sure we all appreciate a Dickens reference when we read it, I have to question whether the one that Morial chooses is really appropriate for this situation. Does he honestly believe that 2010 is in any way the worst of times for African-Americans? Worse than Jim Crow era segregation laws? Worse than public lynchings? Worse than slavery? Please.

But the doors of opportunity and inclusion have yet to be fully opened to people of color. And with our economy currently in the grips of a great recession, new immigrants of color as well as African-Americans are facing increasing racial and ethnic hostility. Hate crimes and other incidents of discrimination are rising, as is hateful rhetoric on some conservative talk shows and town-hall meetings.

Morial offers no evidence to back his assertions of increases in "racial and ethnic hostility," "hate crimes and other incidents of discrimination," and "hateful rhetoric on some conservative talk shows (gee thanks for the modifier) and town-hall meetings." He could be basing his claim that hate crimes are rising on the FBI's annual report even though those statistics have been shown to be useless for year to year comparisons. His definition of "hateful rhetoric" essentially boils down to anything said in opposition to President Obama.

You may wonder why a leader of a civil rights organization would choose to focus relentlessly on the negative during of time of unparalleled achievement by African-Americans in so many facets of American life.

It is clear that we and our partners in the civil rights movement are needed now more than ever. While it is true that we have a black president of extraordinary vision and talent, it is also true that some would still rather view him and all African-Americans through the outdated prism of assumed inferiority. And so, as much as he and we would like to announce the arrival of a postracial America, our work is not yet done.

When your livelihood depends on keeping the racial grievance pot boiling, your work will never be done.

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