When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, every prominent conservative I know was unhappy that a left-wing Democrat had been elected but very happy that a black American had won. Among conservatives, the general thinking was that it was good for America, good for blacks, and good for the world to see that America, so often (and in the conservative view unfairly) criticized as racist, could elect a black man as president.
For decades, the conservative position has been that the Left’s criticism of America as a racist country — one with “systemic” racism — was a calumny. We conservatives did not merely believe, we knew that America had become the least racist country in the world. That is why, among many other indicators, more blacks have emigrated from Africa to America than came here as slaves (New York Times, February 21, 2005). Apparently, these Africans did not believe the lie about America’s racism. They came here for liberty and opportunity and got both.
When it came to the likely consequences of the election of a black president, conservatives — including this one — were fooled. The election of a black president of the United States has evidently had no impact on the use of the lie about American racism. Just as the American people’s adoration of a black woman, Oprah Winfrey, and the appointment of two blacks — including a black woman — by a Republican president as secretary of state had no impact, so too the election of Barack Obama has had no impact.
Virtually every liberal commentator who has written or spoken on this issue has described political opposition to Obama — and not only that of the tea parties — as racist.
Now, the NAACP has demanded that the tea parties cleanse themselves of the racist elements in their midst.
The argument that the NAACP did nothing wrong in demanding that the tea parties condemn the racist elements in their midst, since it noted that the tea parties are not racist, is disingenuous. Imagine the (legitimate) uproar if the most prestigious organization that fights child molestation declared that while the ACLU was not itself in favor of child molestation, it had so many child molesters in its midst that it needed to publicly condemn child molestation and work to remove the child molesters among its members.
One year and eight months after the president’s election, one can say with certitude that the election of a black has done nothing to change the dominant story (because the Left dominates our stories) about American racism. It is as central to the liberal/left depiction of America now as it has been since the civil-rights era.
But there is one very big difference. The vast majority of non-blacks no longer cower before the charge of racism. You can see it in the anger and ferocity of various tea parties’ responses to the false accusation of the NAACP. Before the election of Barack Obama, an NAACP attack on one’s anti-racist credentials might have been debilitating. No more.
It seems quite possible that the NAACP has now lost whatever moral clout it had among Americans. It is now seen by more and more Americans as what in fact it became some time ago — an abuser of its civil-rights moral cachet.
The charge of racism leveled by liberal organizations, whether black or white, is now regarded as the politically motivated falsehood that it is. It is rightly seen, along with its six siblings — sexism, xenophobia, intolerance, bigotry, homophobia, and Islamophobia — as the Left’s way of avoiding argument by demeaning its opponents.
People who are labeled something they know they are not — and conservatives know they are not racist — snap at a certain point. One day the charge loses all its moral power. That happened this past year as a result of the liberal attacks on conservative opposition to President Obama as racially based. Every conservative knows that opposition to the Democratic agenda has nothing to do with the president’s color. Does any liberal honestly believe that if Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid were president and pursued the same leftist agenda Barack Obama has, there would be less conservative opposition because Pelosi and Reid are white?
So, something good has come of this: the de-fanging of the “racist” label. It no longer intimidates conservatives as it once did.
But there remains a major downside. To the extent that black Americans still believe that America is racist, or even merely that conservatives are racist, they pay a terrible price. Nothing is more debilitating than to regard oneself as a victim when one is not.
For that reason, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People not only fails to advance colored people, it inhibits them. And one day most black Americans will know this.
We hoped that day would be Election Day 2008. Many Americans believed that the fact that a black man was elected president — and the fact that among 300 million people there was virtually no identifiable negative reaction to America’s having a black president – would finally prove that this country is essentially race-blind.
But that apparently did not happen.
Therefore, if the NAACP’s preoccupation with white racism reflects the thinking of most or even many blacks, it means that there is nothing white America can do to undo the ongoing perception of endemic racism in this country — a perception that is now considerably more destructive to blacks than to American society as a whole.
– Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. He may be contacted through his website, dennisprager.com.