Today, James Taranto had this as part of his online column.
When George W. Bush was president, dissent was patriotic. Now dissent is racist, or so you would believe if you listened to President Obama’s supporters in Congress and the media. An example of the latter category is this lead paragraph from an Associated Press dispatch of March 20, written by Alan Fram:
House Democrats heard it all Saturday–words of inspiration from President Barack Obama and raucous chants of protests from demonstrators. And at times it was flat-out ugly, including some racial epithets aimed at black members of Congress.
The claim that protesters had shouted racial slurs was irresistible to journalists, partly because, if true, it would have had real news value. It’s the 21st century; people simply don’t shout racial slurs anymore. But it’s reasonable to suspect that journalists passed along these rumors of racism in part out of ideological animus. After all, such reports give ammunition to those seeking to demonize dissent.
That last observation, by the way, is not original. We borrowed it from Valerie Bauman, herself an AP reporter:
Opponents have branded the tea party as a group of racists hiding behind economic concerns–and reports that some tea partyers were lobbing racist slurs at black congressmen during last month’s heated health care vote give them ammunition.
Bauman’s dispatch, filed late yesterday, is a useful corrective in other ways to the poisonous dissent-is-racist narrative. Her piece is a profile of black leaders in the tea-party movement. Here’s how it starts:
They’ve been called Oreos, traitors and Uncle Toms, and are used to having to defend their values. Now black conservatives are really taking heat for their involvement in the mostly white tea party movement–and for having the audacity to oppose the policies of the nation’s first black president.
“I’ve been told I hate myself. I’ve been called an Uncle Tom. I’ve been told I’m a spook at the door,” said Timothy F. Johnson, chairman of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, a group of black conservatives who support free market principles and limited government.
“Black Republicans find themselves always having to prove who they are. Because the assumption is the Republican Party is for whites and the Democratic Party is for blacks,” he said.
“Oreos,” “Uncle Toms,” “spook at the door”: it turns out people are “lobbing” racial slurs! When Johnson speaks of the assumption that “the Republican Party is for whites and the Democratic Party is for blacks,” does anyone doubt the accuracy of his perception?
It is Democrats, not Republicans, who hold this race-based assumption. And it doesn’t actually go both ways. No white American today suffers the indignity of being labeled a “traitor” to his race; the supposedly liberal assumption is that blacks, and only blacks, are expected to think a certain way because of the color of their skin. As Bauman reports:
Black conservatives don’t want to have to apologize for their divergent views.
“I’ve gotten the statement, ‘How can you not support the brother?’ ” said David Webb, an organizer of New York City’s Tea Party 365, Inc. movement and a conservative radio personality.
Since Obama’s election, Webb said some black conservatives have even resorted to hiding their political views.
“I know of people who would play the (liberal) role publicly, but have their private opinions,” he said. “They don’t agree with the policy but they have to work, live and exist in the community. . . . Why can’t we speak openly and honestly if we disagree?”
This impulse to close ranks is understandable in the context of history. Blacks in America, after all, have experienced a few decades of full equality after centuries of slavery and segregation. Jim Crow is still a living memory. On the other hand, it is only a memory; there is no danger of its return. Today the defensive demand for ideological conformity is an obstacle to racial equality rather than a guarantor of it.
This may be changing, however. Bauman notes that 37 black Republicans are running for Congress this November. She tells a story from one of them, Charles Lollar:
A tea party supporter running against House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Lollar says he’s finding support in unexpected places.
The 38-year-old U.S. Marine Corps reservist recently walked into a bar in southern Maryland decorated with a Confederate flag. It gave his wife Rosha pause.
“I said, ‘You know what, honey? Many, many of our Southern citizens came together under that flag for the purpose of keeping their family and their state together,’ ” Lollar recalled. “The flag is not what you’re to fear. It’s the stupidity behind the flag that is a problem. I don’t think we’ll find that in here. Let’s go ahead in.”
Once inside, they were treated to a pig roast, a motorcycle rally–and presented with $5,000 in contributions for his campaign.
This is a lovely little parable of racial progress. A black politician with counterstereotypical views overcomes his prejudices and is welcomed with open arms by a white, Confederate-flag-displaying crowd. Among other things, it’s a sign of generational change: At 38, Lollar does not have the experience of being treated as a second-class citizen on account of his race.
It was probably inevitable that when Obama ran into political troubles, his supporters would try to stir up fears of racism in an effort to discredit dissenters. Yet when even a sympathetic media organization like the AP stops playing along, we can conclude that this tactic isn’t working. If liberals and Democrats hate racism so much, why are they so eager to find it in their opponents? It would be unfair to accuse them of being totally insincere, but moral vanity and cynicism surely are a big, and increasing, part of the answer.
Andrew Breitbart at Big Journalism (and at Big Government) has been on this for awhile. No one has collected the $100,000 he offered for proof of the racist epithets the Congressional Black Caucus has been advertising.
You’d think there was at least one CBC member who could use the money for the upcoming campaign or who might be inclined to use truth as a defense.