Wednesday, April 05, 2006

McKinney Sets Back the Race Clock

It's an early lesson in life that crying wolf in the long run bears fewer consequences for certain wild canids than it does for the criers. More to the point, Rep. Cynthia McKinney's (D-GA) recent behavior, along with her history of making every issue a race issue is arguably turning back the clock on race relations in this nation, possibly making it easier for racist behavior to take place, largely because the term "racist" has been so overused and the act so over-accused that it is losing its relevance in American society, to the point that only the most egregious acts of overt hate are challenged for what they are.

McKinney didn't want to go through security upon her entrance to a House Office Building. But the Capitol Hill Police not recognizing her, especially after a recent appearance change, required that she go through the screening like everyone else. And in response, she is alleged to have struck the officer. It's a charge she hasn't denied. But her claim was that the officer "profiled" her, presumably excusing an unnecessary act of violence. From that falls the usual demagogue tropes that she was guilty of being a

And all of it is complete hogwash. Because if all of the allegations are true, we have a Member of Congress whose arrogance and belligerence got the best of her. She expected the police to recognize her despite the fact that she was displaying no form of identification, but in any case, to except her from the rules that applied to everyone else because of the political implications of her racial and gender identification. In other words, she is blaming the officer for not having the same comically inflated opinion of her that she does of herself.

But the charges of racism, profiling, and other concerns, while completely frivolous charges in this instance, may not be in others, and the practice of making such charges every time someone is inconvenienced fans the flames of racial intolerance and actually makes subtle acts of true racist wrongs easier to commit. Because racism is something that still exists.

African Americans are owed a huge apology from the likes of Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Al Sharpton, Kweisi Mfume, Charles Ogletree, Julian Bond and the NAACP, Cornell West, and the Congressional Black Caucus for their behavior over the past twenty years. Because during that time, among other wrongs they have done to their constituents, their overuse of the term "racist" has turned it from a serious charge with moral and legal implications into an easily made and dismissed grievance that causes eyes to roll. The result is a disastrous twofold.

First, it deepens the interracial distrust that already unfortunately exists between people of different skin tones and ethic origins in this nation. When one fears that another will drop a cruel label on another because of a simple civil disagreement--a label easily flung about, but sometimes not as easily cured without significant cost and embarrassment to the accused--there exists an unfortunate arm's length distance between people who look different but who are equally American. Lincoln's admonition that a nation divided against itself cannot stand remains as valid now as it was during the Civil War. And that won't go away until people accept common disappointments as such and move on to the next opportunity. And while this divide is a serious concern, it is the least of the two.

Because when one cries wolf enough, the real wolf is eventually able to attack with impunity. Racism still exists, because stupidity still exists among humans. But if one is clever enough to disguise racist behavior in the appearance of legality, or more likely people are just too jaded to care, injustice begins to reign. And we already have evidence of that in our society.

Certainly, a display by a hate group will be challenged by any American community, but hate groups operate on the fringes and their crude displays can often be unifying to those of us of all ethnic backgrounds who abhor such vulgarity. But they are not the problem because their effects on our society are grossly limited. Their message is so clear, so extreme and so wholly unacceptable, that they and their members are most properly and easily shunned from polite society. The problems are the disgraceful things that we accept as normal.

We have a permanent urban underclass that is self perpetuating. Our welfare system which is often a way of life among many urban blacks presumes that they cannot achieve economic independence on their own. It is a system that rewards single-parent families by presuming that fathers are no more than paycheck generators, to the point that it is now not at all surprising when fathers are allowed to abandon their children and their mothers to the detriment of both. Failed schools in the cities presume that young blacks don't care about their education, can't achieve, and aren't entitled to opportunities anyway. Systems of excuse whereby crime is justified as the natural and uncontainable overflow of anger as a result of alleged racial and economic disadvantage ignore the clear choices made by the wrongdoer and the sophistication of his infractions, thus encouraging deviant behavior. Worse yet, such pleas insult the law-abiding citizens of his neighborhood whose economic status has not stopped them from living respectable and good lives. As such, racism runs unnoticed, unchecked, and is even welcomed by those who are its victims.

So when the race card is played regularly by the likes of Rep. McKinney, ignoring the fact that she was the wrongdoer, not someone trying to ensure the security of our leaders, the cumulative effects have consequences far more serious and systemic than making just one irresponsible and opportunistic Member of Congress look even more foolish than she already did.


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