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When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, every prominent conservative I know was unhappy that a left-wing Democrat had been elected, but was very happy that a black had won. Among conservatives, the general thinking was that it was good for America, good for blacks and good for the world to see that America – so often, in the conservative view – unfairly criticized as racist, could and did elect a black man as president.
The conservative position has for decades been that the Left’s criticism of America as a racist country with “systemic” racism was a calumny. We conservatives did not merely believe, we knew that America had become the least racist country in the world. That is why, among many other indicators, more blacks have emigrated from Africa to America than came here as slaves (New York Times, Feb. 21, 2005). Apparently, these Africans did not believe the lie about America’s racism. They came here for liberty and opportunity and got both.
When it came to the likely consequences of the election of a black president, we conservatives – including this one – were fooled. The election of a black as president of the United States has evidently had no impact on the use of the lie about American racism. Just as the American people’s adoration of a black woman, Oprah Winfrey, and the appointment of two blacks, one a woman – by a Republican president – as secretary of state had no impact, so, too, the election of Barack Obama has had no impact.
Virtually every liberal commentator who has written or spoken on this issue has described political opposition to Mr. Obama – not only that of the tea parties – as racist.
And now, the NAACP has demanded that the tea parties cleanse themselves of the racist elements in their midst.
The argument that the NAACP did nothing wrong in demanding that the tea parties condemn the racist elements in their midst, since it noted that the tea parties are not racist, is disingenuous. Imagine the (legitimate) uproar if the most prestigious organization that fights child molestation declared that while the ACLU was not itself in favor of child molestation, it had so many child molesters in its midst that it needed to publicly condemn child molestation and work to remove the child molesters among its members.
One year and eight months after the president’s election, one can say with certitude that the election of a black has done nothing to change the dominant story (because the Left dominates our stories) about American racism. It is as central to the liberal/Left depiction of America now as it has been since the civil-rights era.
But there is one very big difference. The vast majority of nonblacks no longer cower before the charge of racism. You can see it in the anger and ferocity of various tea parties’ responses to the false accusation of the NAACP. Before the election of Obama, an NAACP attack on one’s antiracist credentials might have been debilitating. No more.
It seems quite possible that the NAACP has now lost whatever moral clout it had among Americans. It is now seen by more and more Americans as what in fact it became some time ago – an abuser of its civil-rights moral cachet.
The charge of racism leveled by liberal organizations, whether black or white, is now regarded as the politically motivated falsehood that it is. It is rightly seen, along with its six siblings – sexism, xenophobia, intolerance, bigotry, homophobia and “Islamophobia” – as the Left’s way of avoiding argument by demeaning its opponents.
People who are labeled something they know they are not – and conservatives know they are not racist – snap at a certain point. One day, the charge loses all its moral power. That happened this past year as a result of the liberal attacks on conservative opposition to Obama as racially based. Every conservative knows that opposition to the Obama and Democratic agenda has nothing to do with the president’s color. Does any liberal honestly believe that if Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid were president and pursued the same leftist agenda Obama has, there would be less conservative opposition because Pelosi and Reid are white?
So, something good has come of this: the defanging of the “racist” label. It no longer intimidates conservatives as it once did.
But there remains a major downside. To the extent that black Americans still believe that America is racist, or merely that conservatives are racist, they pay a terrible price. Nothing is more debilitating than for an individual or a group to regard themselves as victims when they are not.
For that reason, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People not only does not advance colored people, it inhibits them. And one day, most black Americans will know this.
We hoped that day was Election Day 2008. Many Americans believed that the fact that a black was elected president, and the fact that among 300 million people, there was virtually no identifiable negative reaction to America having a black president, would finally prove that this country is essentially race-blind.
But that apparently did not happen.
Therefore, if the NAACP’s preoccupation with white racism reflects the thinking of most or even many blacks, it means that there is nothing white America can do to undo the ongoing perception of endemic racism in this country – a perception that is now considerably more destructive to blacks than to American society as a whole.