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

Christopher Dorner


Victor Davis Hanson

We live in a confused society where Somali Muslim immigrants fight African-Americans in Minnesota schools; where the African-American community of Compton, California, is targeted by Latino gangs; where Asian and “white Hispanic” youths who scream “U.S.A.” at high-school basketball games or wear flag-themed clothing to school are presumed guilty of racism against Latinos. That is the world that befuddled Christopher Dorner and helped reduce him to the incoherence of resorting to the old white/black binary, where there was far more to be had than in L.A.’s confusing cauldron of contemporary tribal spoils. The lesson about southern-California law enforcement in the Dorner case was not proof of racism, but a disturbing incompetence that led not only to the police being fooled for days about Dorner’s whereabouts, but also to the shooting of two innocent people and the near shooting of a third — two Latinos and a white — on the premise that they fit the description of the wanted Dorner.

Finally, a new generation of Americans has come of age in an era when affirmative action, not Jim Crow, is the establishment norm. It is hard to demonstrate to the lower-middle-class white male at CSU Bakersfield that his supposed 24/7 privilege must be countered by affirmative action accorded to wealthier Latinos or Asians at Stanford — as wealth and poverty, and minority and majority status, are no longer predictable on the basis of racial and ethnic identity.

Unmentioned is the strange phenomenon of de facto white affirmative action — the old-boy/old-girl network of New York and Washington elites, who get their kids into Sidwell Friends or Exeter as boot camp for Yale or Princeton, either by an opportune phone call or by the sort of lifelong neurotic prepping that only contacts and money can provide. That results in the spectacle of the nearly all-white New Republic seeking absolution for its apartheid by publishing an article on Republicans’ supposed lack of interest in minorities, or the mostly white-male Obama White House staff feeling exempt from the ramifications of their own rhetoric and ideology. The more a Chris Matthews foams on television about racism and privilege, the more one can excuse his own mostly separate and unequal existence. How odd that some minorities such as Marco Rubio, Allen West, Clarence Thomas, and tens of thousands of other conservatives are somehow deemed less authentic than elite whites who merely profess a particular sort of empathy for minorities.

The Left is confused about how to resurrect America’s old racial paradigms. Absurdity follows, as that Trayvon Martin must have been shot down “like a dog” by a “white Hispanic” vigilante. Christopher Dorner must be a modern-day Toussaint Louverture driven to understandable murder of the white oppressor, who turns out to be Asian. Instead of To Kill a Mockingbird, our generation is left with the flat psychodrama of Skip Gates donating the plastic handcuffs he wore for a few minutes to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Amid all this chaos, we look for guidance to the president who promised that his own mixed heritage and long toil on the front lines of racial tension would temper passions. Instead, from Skip Gates to Trayvon Martin to “punish our enemies,” Barack Obama so far has proven a reactionary of the first order.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His The Savior Generals will appear in the spring from Bloomsbury Books.