A Race Conversation? What Are You Talking About?

Jonah Goldberg, Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2008

Thank God for Barack Obama. For until his “More Perfect Union” speech last Tuesday, it seems it never occurred to anyone that America needed to talk about race. {snip}

{snip}

{snip} Here I’d been under the impression that every major university (and minor one for that matter) in the country already had boatloads of courses—often entire majors—dedicated to race in America. I’d even read somewhere that professors had incorporated racial themes and issues into classes on everything from Shakespeare to the mating habits of snail darters. And scratching faintly in the back of my mind, I felt some vague memory that these same universities recruited black students and other racial minorities, on the grounds that interracial conversations on campus are as important as talking about math, science and literature. A ghost of an image in my mind’s eye seemed to reveal African American studies centers, banners for Black History Month and copies of books like “Race Matters” and “The Future of the Race” lined up on shelves at college bookstores.

Were all of the corporate diversity consultants and racial sensitivity seminars mere apparitions in a dream? Also disappearing in the memory hole, apparently, were the debates that followed Hurricane Katrina, Trent Lott’s remarks about Strom Thurmond, the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas, the publication of “The Bell Curve” and O.J. Simpson’s murder trial. Not to mention the ongoing national chatter about affirmative action, racial disparities in prison sentences and racial profiling by law enforcement.

And the thousands of hours of newscasts, television dramas and movies—remember Oscar-winning films such as 2004’s “Crash?”—dedicated to racial issues? It’s as if they never existed, vanishing like the image on a TV screen after the plug’s been pulled. The New York Times’ six-week Pulitzer Prize-winning series, “How Race Is Lived in America”: just an inkblot?

{snip}

No kidding. Janet Murguia is one such especially enthusiastic person. She hoped, according to the Times, that Obama’s speech would help “create a safe space to talk about [race].”

Who is Janet Murguia? Oh, she’s just the president of a group called the National Council of La Raza, which—despite what they’ll tell you—means “the race.” In fact, doesn’t it seem like the majority of people begging for a “new conversation” on race are the same folks who shout “racist!” at anyone who disagrees with them?

This sort of disconnect between rhetoric and reality is the kind of thing one finds in novels by Alexander Solzhenitsyn or Milan Kundera. {snip}

Why do voluptuaries of racial argy-bargy want another such dialogue? For some, it’s to avoid actually dealing with unpleasant facts. But for others—like La Raza or the college professors scrambling to follow Obama’s lead—when they say we need more conversation, they really mean their version of reality should win the day. Substitute “conversation” with “instruction” and you’ll have a better sense of where these people are coming from and where they want their “dialogue” to take us.

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