The Tangled Web of Race
The racial binaries of the civil-rights era no longer apply in America.

Christopher Dorner


Victor Davis Hanson

A number of commentators have openly sympathized with multi-murderer Christopher Dorner, who shot seven innocent people, killing four of them. Apparently the late Dorner was a voice in the wilderness crying out against the racist injustice of the “system.” His brief killing career, in the reprehensible words of Fox News commentator Marc Lamont Hill, was “exciting” for many people – almost like “watching Django Unchained in real life.” That movie’s star, Jamie Foxx, had joked of his stint as a Quentin Tarantino big-screen hero gunman, “I kill all the white people in the movie. How great is that?”

In print, and on radio and television, we are presented with bizarre themes like “Understanding Chris Dorner,” and comparisons with “Superman” in Dorner’s effect upon his admirers. Dorner, a leftist doppelgänger of Timothy McVeigh, did not just go on the attack against his hated southern-California law-enforcement community, but he also wrote a rambling, narcissistic, and self-serving diatribe that the Left gleefully elevated with the Marxian sobriquet “manifesto.” But in truth, the scribbling was no more than a pathetic rant that mentioned everything except why a police board, an internal appeals board, and the courts all independently found him culpable of lying as charged, and thus upheld his firing for baselessly smearing a female superior.

Dorner’s hate-filled diatribe, which frequently self-references Christopher Dorner as a gossip columnist, revealed him to be incoherent, half-educated, and racist in his stereotyping of Latinos, Asians, and whites. His later crimes reified his abstract hatred: His chief complaint was against his Asian-American lawyer, who, Dorner claims, inadequately pressed his appeal. The first victims of his rage against a supposedly anti-minority police department, then, were the lawyer’s daughter and her mixed-race fiancé.

Dorner was apparently aware that in modern state employment, the charge of racism can be an effective antidote for career disappointment. But he was also clearly frustrated by the race and gender complexity of southern California. He lived in a city that is governed by a Mexican-American mayor and that is one of the largest cities of Mexican nationals in the world. Worse still for Dorner, he was employed by a police department in which he routinely was evaluated by women, many of them apparently lesbian, as well as Latinos, Asians, and whites. The old Rodney King white/black-oppression paradigm had become less resonant, and that disappointment showed in the baffled manner in which Dorner indicted his peers, cooked up supposed racially motivated harassment incidents, lashed out at his rivals, and finally killed innocent people of all races.

Nonetheless, some on the left have done their best to make the cowardly (is not coolly gunning down an unarmed woman and her fiancé the work of a coward?) Dorner into a modern Nat Turner. But that is a stretch, when his hated establishment is as much non-white as it is white — and when the evidence of Dorner’s own lying and ill intent was far more persuasive to disinterested judges and boards of various sorts than were Dorner’s fantasies that his character failings were not his own.

The other great racial cause célèbre of the past year was, of course, the Trayvon Martin case. Here too, as in the prior Duke-lacrosse matter, there was a zealous effort to turn unlikely circumstances into touchstones of contemporary racism, and by extension to add a few more embers to the sputtering fire of racial complaints against society at large. Implicit in postmodern America is the understanding that falsely alleging racism not only earns little opprobrium, but establishes the narrative that if racism was not the culprit it could have been. A half-century after the flowering of the civil-rights movement, for Trayvon Martin to become iconic and to serve larger agendas, a number of adjustments to the facts, as in the Dorner case, were necessary.