Race & Ethnicity

Date: 7/6/97
Time: 10:47:38 PM
Remote Name:
Remote User:


From: "Carl E. Olsen"

Subject: Race & Ethnicity

The Des Moines Register
Tuesday, July 1, 1997, Page 9A


Tired of all the racial chitchat

     The conversation on race and ethnicity President Clinton wants our nation to embark upon will never succeed.  At least not until America's elites stop treating those of us who disagree on such matters as ill-willed racists seeking a return to the past.
     In his ballyhooed June 14 speech at the University of California at San Diego, Clinton called for nationwide town-hall meetings to talk about our differences.  He apparently hasn't noticed that more racial dialogue is the last thing our ethnically divided nation needs.
     Virtually every major issue Americans confront devolves into a "conversation" about race.  The examples get goofier with each passing day.  Recent efforts by an impoverished Mississippi county to attract an industry were squelched after charges of "environmental racism" were raised by the project's opponents.
     When will it end?  It won't, as long as Americans view every issue through the distorted lens of race.  Or as long as an opportunistic president uses this issue to achieve a place in history as a "racial healer" rather than as the man who sold the Lincoln Bedroom or who reportedly dropped his drawers and asked a big-haired state employee for a favor.
     I'm tired of all the racial chitchat.  Try talking about housing issues, crime, welfare or education without being accused of racism if your views stray from this Enlightened Wisdom.  White Americans are so hostile to the interests of blacks, Hispanics and other minorities that the feds must be empowered to protect members of these groups.
     Many Americans, however, including large numbers of minorities, believe otherwise.  We don't deny there are, and always will be, men and women who mistreat or mistrust those who are different.  But we resist liberal attempts to substitute group rights for individual rights.  We abhor demands for equal outcomes rather than equal treatment.  We also resoundingly reject the idea that to combat discrimination the nation must maintain a racial spoils system, whereby the government dispenses favors to victim groups that whine the loudest.
     Protecting that system -- referred to in polite company as affirmative action -- is what the president's national conversation is all about.  Does anyone believe he wants an honest debate about racial preferences and other policies opposed by a majority of Americans?  What he seeks is a national gripe-a-thon that will reduce a serious issue to the level of a national therapy session.
     Clintonites have been staunch supporters of the left-wing racial agenda of special preferences, minority set-asides in federal contracts, multicultural-education mandates and lax immigration laws.  Whenever Clinton believes the system is under attack he reaches into his rhetorical arsenal and prattles about how diversity deepens "our understanding of human nature and human differences, making our communities more exciting, more enjoyable, more meaningful."
     In his speech, Clinton recalled America's former embrace of slavery, the "sting of discrimination" felt by waves of new immigrants, the unjust internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, as well as recent examples of intolerance that offend all fair-minded Americans.  But rehashing the evil things someone's longdead relative did to someone else's will do nothing to solve today's problems.
     I call this the Freud-ization of America's racial problem.  In Freudian psychology, the patient is urged to dig for the root causes of his neurosis in order to cure it.  Now, our Psychologist in Chief apparently wants Americans to delve deeply into the national psyche, then gab about our hurt and admit our prejudices.  That, our president believes, is the next step on the road to recovery from America's "racist" past.
     America has been having a boisterous dialogue about race and ethnicity.  Clinton knows that, I suspect, but simply isn't pleased with how the conversation is going.  Proposition 209, passed by California voters to end preferences in state government, is one loud voice in this continuing discussion -- a voice the president would love to muzzle.
     Ward Connerly, the black businessman who spearheaded the initiative, explained to Time magazine that his background is African, French, Irish and American-Indian.  His wife is Irish-American and their son married a Vietnames-American.  "What racial box on the university admission form is their child supposed to check?" he asked.
     In an increasingly multiracial America, our laws better protect individuals, not groups, or we're in for problems that will dwarf our current race woes.  I'm afraid that's one part of the national conversation Clinton and his fellow liberals would rather avoid.

STEVEN GREENHUT, formerly of Des Moines, is editorial-page editor of the Lima (Ohio) News.