Look, I get it. I’m racist, you’re racist, the GOP is racist, Obama is racist, Twitter’s racist…perhaps we’re all, as Avenue Q informed us, a little bit racist. In fact, I think it’s pretty safe to say that everything is racist. Did anyone see Transformers 2? I heard it made some money, and a few swipes at blacks. Has anyone ever watched Lou Dobbs? I heard he might not like Latinos. How many times have you seen a movie that featured a black guy as the funky sideshow, the Asian as the sly, intelligent one (or just Jackie Chan) and the white guy as the gorgeous hero?
Everything’s racist, prejudices are so ingrained into our society that there’s little that we can do to completely expunge ourselves of that. Most of it is subconscious, the subtle tightening of our grip on our backpacks when walking through urban black communities, making the passing assumption that the Korean kid in class is going to be instantly brilliant or casual references to “Mexi-packing” or equating frugality with those of Jewish heritage. Not to deny that it’s not a problem, but there comes a point where there’s simply nothing more to be accomplished by continuing to bring up race issues.
This comes from a completely utilitarian standpoint, so it forgoes the whole, “but if it’s wrong, we’ve gotta fix it!” mentality plenty of folks have. But I’m sorry Jimmy Carter, you fell right into the Republican party’s hands by accusing Obama’s opposition of opposing him because of his race. Yes, the subtext of baseless and tawdry racism was more than evident during the 9/12 protests.
But calling out those on the right who gleefully stew in their own 1800’s-style opinions on race does nothing but embolden them, and it gives the impression that Obama is trying to use race as an excuse to tar and feather all of his opponents by pigeonholing their opposition into one ugly category (even though he himself hasn’t really done much of that, and I’d doubt that Carter is a well-respected adviser to the current administration, unless peanut-related issues are now vital to national interests).
Admittedly, the race issue is still the skeleton in the closet, but dragging it out accomplishes nothing. It sets the health care debate back, it distracts from environmental policy, it grabs attention away from Afghanistan and it just bottles up the right and shakes them up, irritating them even more than they already are. As morally detestable as it may be, let the race issue sit on the back burner for now, get some legislation done, stow some accomplishments away and maybe then, once some curable ills are remedied, we can solve racism.
But don’t count on it.