On Race in America: Lesson Learned, The Hard Way

"This is not a matter of race; it’s a matter of political power."

Some parts of America, particularly the liberal elites, still have a problem dealing with the issue of race. The promise inherent in Barack Obama’s elevation to the presidency, that it would inaugurate a post-racial era in all aspects of the life of the nation, has faded along with the dreams, hopes, and aspirations of millions of minorities. He promised, nebulously, that things would get better and they haven’t. Nevertheless, relations between the races have probably never been better.

Admittedly the bar is low but today people of different races live side by side, commute side by side, work side by side, shop side by side, vacation side by side, and do just about everything else without giving a moment’s thought to race. Even churches, traditionally among the country’s most segregated institutions, are increasingly mixed. Few people know, for example, that the Southern Baptist Convention – the nation’s largest Christian denomination – is currently led by a black pastor from New Orleans.

You won’t hear about any of that from the folks who have been placed on pedestals of leadership by the representatives of the liberal consensus that dominates in urban areas, in the media, on college campuses, and in the courts. To them the nation is a land divided on issues of race, a wound that can never be healed unless and until the historical victims of racism are able to rend a pound of flesh from their oppressors.

What’s going on today in New York City and Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere has little to do with actual race; it’s all about manipulating public perceptions to empower some while shaming others. Hence George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin, was described by the New York Times as a “white Hispanic,” a heretofore unknown (to most of us anyway) demographic category not recognized by the United States Bureau of the Census.

When two New York City policemen were murdered (assassinated really, while sitting in their police cruiser) over the weekend the race of the man who pulled the trigger was slow to make it into the news as was his apparent affiliation with a radical strain of Islam that believes in employing terror to overcome the power and influence of the infidels.

That one shooter was black is actually of little import. That he was probably trying to curry favor and be proclaimed “a hero” by the folks who have been shouting “What do we want? Dead Cops! When do we want it? Now!” since the Ferguson grand jury declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson for murder in the death of Michael Brown speaks volumes.

This is not a matter of race; it’s a matter of political power based on, as former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik said Monday in an essay that appeared on the Time magazine website, “a lie that has quickly become so embedded in our society that it will take a Herculean effort to bring this lie to the light of day so everyone can see it for what it is.”

He’s speaking, of course, of the idea that the nation’s police men and women are engaged in a racially discriminate campaign of violence against blacks and Hispanics, primarily those living in poor neighborhoods or traveling on state and federal highways.

Kerik has it right when he says that because of statements from so-called civil rights leaders like the Rev. Al Sharpton and politicians like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio who, through their words and actions, had some people believing “nearly all of America’s local and state police are out to kill minorities.”

The list of those who must bear the burden of guilt (if they are at all capable of it) is actually much longer than just Sharpton and de Blasio; it includes so-called icons of the civil rights movement like Jesse Jackson and even President Obama himself, who early in his administration used a dispute between a black Harvard professor and a Cambridge police officer responding to a 911 call to reinforce his presidential “street cred.”

Despite what most people are writing now and have been writing for months, this has less to do with race and more to do with the ability to exercise credible political and community power. The threat of a riot, like the one that occurred in Ferguson, is more apt to move elected officials to a negotiating table than an actual disturbance will. Community leaders have been mau-mau’d into a posture of fear that makes it difficult if not impossible to stand up for the rule of law. Part of this has been the deliberate confusion of such issues – and the manufacturing of evidence purporting to demonstrate that young black men are unfairly and unjustly singled out by the police, subjected to harassment, beatings, and even murder – with genuine issues of race and racial prejudice so that no one really knows where the lines are anymore.

I’m fond of saying that, in the world of the community organizer the one with the loudest voice wins. When inflammatory rhetoric leads someone to take unexpected action – say to assassinate to New York City police officer on duty and in uniform – then those same voices grow oddly quiet. No more presidential pronouncements. No more red meat speeches. Just appeals for peace, for calm, and a disavowal that anything anyone said could have possibly led to such an unjust result. This says more about the state of the so-called leadership of the different racial communities with which the media and others are so obsessed than it actually says about the people who make up those communities. Lesson learned, the hard way.