Monday, January 17, 2011

The Death of a Dream?- Npr's Injection of Race into the Debate

In what can only be considered a blatant attempt to exploit the tragic Tucson shootings in order to score political points against illegal immigration opponents in the aftermath of this national tragedy, NPR injected the subject of race into the national debate on their program  "All things Considered" Jan 12, 2011 via a guest editorial by Daisy Hernandez.   Lest there should be no doubt, let's quote Ms. Hernandez herself.  

"I wasn't the only person on Saturday who rushed to her Android when news came of the Tucson shooting. I wasn't looking however to read about what had happened... What I wanted to know was the killer's surname...  I admit sadly that it was only after I saw the shooter's gringo surname that I was able to go on and read the rest of the news about those who lost their lives on Saturday..."

After explaining her (unfounded) belief that if the lunatic opening fire on innocent people-- due from all accounts to his likely diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia-- had had a hispanic "surname," those on the right would be equally exploiting the tragedy for purposes of urging a "crackdown" on illegal immigration, she concluded:

"...the only reason the nation is taking a few days to reflect on the animosity in politics today is precisely that the shooter was not Latino."

For starters, it is unfortunate Ms. Hernandez, like the majority of the political left in our Republic today, apparently views America as overtly a 'racist' country, (even as she insensitively uses her own racial slur of "gringo" to describe those of Caucasian heritage); indeed, for Ms. Hernandez and the many on the philosophical left which she represents, not only are non-Caucasians the only class that, by definition, can't be racially slurred or be racially discriminated against, but in their race-obsessed view of America every political debate or incident of mention in American life must be at its root related to race.  Indeed, all of American life, in such a view, revolves around racial matters.  We would like to believe that such views are limited to marginal journalists and progressive left activists in our open, free society; sadly we would be mistaken.

Openly promoting this view of America, U.S. Congresswoman Barbera Lee (D-CA, 9th District) recently indicated her belief that race was one, if not the, fundamental issue defining our society in urging on C-Span, "we must make race a part of our political considerations" (C-Span 1, Jan 6, 2011).
We couldn't disagree more.  In our view, it is indeed unfortunate and ironic that Ms. Hernandez should express even worse racially-based sentiments almost immediately preceding the Martin Luther King national holiday, the day set aside for our nation to memorialize the life of a man who fought racial classification and prejudice on every level via peaceful, non-violent means.  Indeed, coming right before a national holiday named after Dr. King, who in practice and quite literally gave his life for the cause of racial healing and equality, we find the timing of Ms. Hernadez' comments especially insensitive.

And while we have no basis to presume that Ms. Hernandez could have known of President Obama's then-imminent intention to call for "civility" in his Tucson Memorial speech-- though she certainly could not, as a journalist, have been unaware of the extremely insensitive and at times inflammatory rhetoric used in our Republic re: matters of race and other "hot potato" political issues in our modern times-- we find it even more unfortunate and ironic that her comments came at a time that should have more properly been dedicated to national healing and unity (as the President openly requested at the Tucson Memorial Wednesday for the victims of Jared Lee Loughner's Jan 8th shooting spree outside a Safeway grocery store that killed or injured 19 people).

Indeed, and at least in our view, this transparent attempt to exploit this national tragedy for political purposes seems a particularly despicable and irresponsible act which can only inflame racial sensitivities and animus in this country at a time we can least afford it.

On substance, Ms. Hernadez' claim to be able to guess the "what if" actions of conservatives and those opposed to illegal immigration is no more accurate (or fair) then, in the words of President Obama, trying to "guess the motives behind this senseless act" of the Jan 8 shootings. (As an aside, if Ms. Hernandez does possess the ability to know the "alternate future" by looking in her political crystal ball, we suggest she pursue a career as a psychic or perhaps bookie rather than the semi-journalist/ activist vocational route she seems to be intent pursuing.  She would probably be much better compensated!)

However, Ms. Hernandez' comments do provide occasion for a much-needed national discussion on the penchant by certain segments of our body politic to inject race into every issue of national import.   More broadly, and rather than the political pot shots Ms. Hernandez seems happy to make regardless of their effect on the unity of our great nation, it is distinctly in the public interest to engage in a discussion of how far our country has come in the struggle for a society where, to quote Dr. King, "a man is judged not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character," and to examine the competing perspectives of just what "racial justice and equality" really is (and/or should be) in modern 21st century America.  Indeed, we can think of no better way to honor Martin Luther King.

Before we begin our discussion however of what "racial equality" is, or, perhaps more descriptively, a non-racially-based society "looks like," (i.e., where race is not the predominant factor to every hiring, economic, or social determination in American life), it is important to note what it is not, and our limitations in that regard.   (Indeed, if we are ever to get to that point of a truly color blind society it is critical we do so).   

First of all, it is not a society free from any objectionable, biased, or even bigoted and prejudiced beliefs, (no matter how repugnant such beliefs may be), nor, upon considering the ramifications of such a society, would we want it so.    

Indeed, in an open and free society where individuals are free to choose and believe as they wish there will always be those with differing, erroneous, or even bigoted and prejudiced views, and such must be the case if we are to continue living in a free society where the individual's right to think and conduct their affairs as seems best to them is protected.  

Nor would we want it otherwise if we could, like the Soviet Gulag or Naziesq "reeducation" camps of old, "stamp out" the views of the prejudiced by using technology to "read" their minds, (such a crazy idea, no device could ever do that! Really? Read here and here ).   
   This is so because, no matter how rife with prejudice or "offensive" views such a system of democratic self-governance may be, ours is a Constitutional Republic with a First Amendment that protects the expression of minority and even "wrong" views no matter how personally distasteful or objectionable they are.  Oh the genius of our Founders who established a system that rather chooses choosing public approbation for noxious opinions and open debate of ideas in the search for truth to rote acceptance of any particular view sanctioned by the government, (no matter how desirable or correct such governmentally-sanctioned or "approved" views may be or the reasons behind government regulation of free speech.  Indeed, there is a name for a system in which the government only allows views it deems "approved" or "inoffensive" to be held and shared by individuals in society, let's spell it together children, it's called d-i-c-t-a-t-o-r-s-h-i-p).  LOL  Ok, excuse my momentary lapse into sarcastic ridicule that was meant for any progressive liberals among us ;)  . 

 Not only is such an open system of idea exchange superior on many levels, (as it allows full consideration of all relevant factors and viewpoints in pursuit of the truth, indeed, as the Supreme Court has noted, even a lie, once exposed to public dispute, plays a critical role as, when examined in light of other opinions more conforming to the truth only all the more starkly appears for the absurd lie that it is), but such an open exchange of ideas is actually much more effective in eradicating prejudice in society.  

Indeed, as the Founders intended it most effectively allows exposure to public shame and accountability those in society who are truly prejudiced as opposed to the much less effective modern equivelent of tar and feathering Ms. Hernadez apparently prefers and in this way allows effective repudiation of such views by the majority.  

Moreover, such principles go back to the very foundations of our Nation's founding, as exemplified in the Constitutions of various New England states and the very reason for our founding as Independent colonies, (i.e., a desire to escape the imposed intolerance of one state sanctioned version of the Christian religion with little tolerance for conscience and differing opinion on the interpretation of sacred text).

Additionally, let us not forget that history is full of examples, particularly in the fields of science and religion, of once derided and non-sanctioned "minority" viewpoints becoming, (in a mere generation or two in some cases), the predominantly accepted view, (Galileo's battle with the Catholic church over the orbit of the planets comes to mind in this regard).   

In sum, racial equality in a free society can never mean the complete stamping out of the beliefs of others, no matter how bigoted or repugnant.  (Indeed, we don't live in a society obsessed with "mind" or "thought" control, nor, as mentioned above, would we want to, as we would cease then to be a truly free society).  So then, mere change of public opinion through "educational" or coercive means can not be what racial equality is.   

Nor can equality of outcome, or financial equality, where everyone has equal means regardless of their abilities or hard work (or absence thereof) be the definiation of "racial equality."   To the contrary, that is the almost quintessential definition of the economic system known as Socialism, (or, in its more dictatorial and virulent form of political expression, Communism).  

Nor is it free enterprise, technically only an "economic" system that, as China has shown us, is not always necessarily yoked with Democratic government but can stand on its own inside a Communist or dictatorial form of government, (though its suitability over the long term to such a system, as opposed to an equally open and free form of government, is doubtful).  

Rather, "racial equality" is exactly what it sounds like; rather than any particular political or economic guarantee or system racial equality is best defined as that application of law in a prevailing governmental system where no race is given advantage or favorable treatment over any other race or ethnic group.  Unfortunately,  in our nation's continuing struggle to achieve that vision of which Dr. King spoke in his famous "Dream" speech, we have not yet reached the goal, (although great strides have been made). 

However, to that end, and in line with our desire to contribute positively to the discussion on this critical societal goal, it might be helpful to consider the perspectives of some of those involved in the struggle for racial equality in our nation's history and contrast that with the perspective of those such as Ms. Hernadez in our more modern age.  Indeed, as is usually the case, to properly understand the present one must properly understand the past.

Next time we shall more carefully examine it vis a vis the Founder's of our Nation's beliefs and the impact of Ms. Hernandez' and those who share her belief's on the realization of Dr. King's dream in light of current law.  jp

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