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Lott Or Not: Race Relations Not Improving
Posted by Keith on Jan 1, 2003 - 4:44:00 PM

WASHINGTON D.C.As I'm writing this month's column, Trent Lott has just resigned his position as Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate. Seems the gentleman from Mississippi had a few drinks at a party, then gushed about retiring segregationist Strom Thurmond's political career. I didn't hear what everyone else did, because I didn't hear a racial slur, any more than I hear one when LAPD chief William Bratton declares "war" on street gangs. But the good ol' boy committed a fatal error by saying what he did in front of C-Span cameras! Real smart, Trent. Anyway, Adios Juro. You still get to be a senator.

Democrats shouldn't be too smug about what has transpired. This change at the top gives the impression of a Republican ideological "housecleaning", reinforcing, vis-a-vis minorities, the "Big Tent" perception of universal inclusiveness. To Demos, this would be a nightmare. Smugness would also be hypocritical. Lott's inferences were a national embarrassment with racial overtones. But so is a T.V. show entitled "Black Entertainment Television" (B.E.T.), and another televised venue called the "Latin Grammys". The names of these shows are racially offensive to me. But does anyone care? Imagine programs entitled "White Entertainment Television" (W.E.T.), or the "Caucasian Grammys"! Then there is the "Black Miss America" contest. What's up with that? And let's not forget Jesse Jackson disparaging Jews, with seeming impunity, over his "Hymieville" comment (imagine Senator Joe Lieberman publicly calling Detroit "Negroville"?) If you're proud to be black, it's called "African-American" pride. And if you're proud to be Latino, it's called "Hispanic" pride. That's all fine. But if you're proud to be white, it's called racism. My point is, Democrats are not in a position to cast the first stones. Separatism runs both ways, and you don't remedy one evil with another.

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Close-minded, antiquated and racially charged issues continue to pervade American society. Photo by Jessica Griffiths/Canyon News
Racially, things are worse than they were fifty years ago, as smoke and mirrors, window dressing and tokenism substitute for genuine race relations.  Racial politics are keeping old wounds open and bleeding while patronizing and denigrating those it's intended to help. Things are worse than they were fifty years ago, as we pretend, with gimmicks such as affirmative action and political correctness, that race relations are better, when they're not. Things are worse, but we don't want to see or hear that. It would mean that our methods for dealing with race are all wrong.

By being perpetually self-righteous, Democrats drive away race-neutral voters intimidated by a perceived elitism and bias within its national leadership and platform. This certainly doesn't help anything, because on the other side are the Republicans, and they're worse! So where's a Humanist to go? Race relations in this country haven't improved because they can't improve. There's a built-in fundamental flaw: You can't legislate social equality at the grass roots level. It doesn't work. Resentment of perceived favoritism precludes the transcendence of racial animus, leading to more separatism, not less. Social issues are best tackled within a social, rather than a political, context. Dialog is the key: Honest, heart-felt dialog between the races, fear, pain and all. A national cleansing, as it were. No Washington suits telling us about the "street". No rah-rah phraseology on billboards. No beer companies sponsoring rallies. No agenda-bound rabblerousers. Just dialog. The kind  that brings tears down your cheeks at displays of humanity. Universal truth glimpsed through the smoke and flames of mortal hubris. A recognition that when you bestow dignity, you yourself become dignified.

In other words, a reworking of the way we approach race in America. Sound naive? Tell that to South African archbishop Desmond Tutu, who convened a national dialog for forgiveness and healing between the races following the repressive apartheid era in South Africa. It was a moving experience to watch, and a painful one to live through for South Africans. But the sentiments expressed throughout were real, at a grass-roots level, and seemed to accomplish what Tutu felt necessary toward healing: forgiveness, understanding, and a renewal of national character and  purpose. We can learn from South Africa, if only we so desire. If not, then please spare me the tearful and misplaced indignation when someone like Trent Lott reminds us that race relations in this country are really just wishful thinking.     HAPPY NEW YEAR!!


 

Cliffside Malibu

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