The Corner

Reflections on Martin Luther King Day in 2012


Over the Martin Luther King Day weekend, you could have seen the glass as half-full or half-empty. By that, I don’t mean the usual “We have come a long way but we still have a long way to go” claptrap. When it comes to race relations and equal opportunity in the United States of 2012, you have to be delusional not to see the glass as at least seven-eighths full. It is illegal to engage in racial discrimination in just about any public or private transaction (voting, education, employment, contracting, public accommodations, lending, housing, you name it), the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that it should be illegal and that such discrimination is wrong, it is socially unacceptable to be a bigot, and race relations are good and getting better all the time. That’s not to say that friction and discrimination do not still exist — they do — but to think there is anything like the amount of it there was in Dr. King’s lifetime is, as I say, delusional.

The one kind of discrimination that continues not just to exist but to flourish and to be defended publicly is the politically correct kind. And here is where one can see the glass as half-full or half-empty.

The vast majority of Americans have no patience for it, and the list of states that have banned it continues to grow: California (1996), Washington (1998), Michigan (2006), Nebraska (2008), Arizona (2010), and, in 2012, New Hampshire (as of January 1) and Oklahoma (if voters there approve an initiative on the ballot for this November). The courts, while they bear much blame for allowing it and even encouraging it earlier on, have increasingly limited it. So there’s the half-full glass.

But there’s a half-empty glass, too. Academia loves racial and ethnic preferences, corporations have drunk the “diversity” Kool-Aid, and politicians are generally unwilling to challenge preferences — Democrats because their base insists on it, and Republicans because they skittishly fear the race card.

Worst of all, the Obama administration promotes it, sometimes directly and always indirectly. #more#Directly, as when it supports university and even K-12 race-based policies, contracting preferences by the federal government, racial gerrymandering, federal workforce “diversity” efforts; and legislative provisions in Obamacare and Dodd-Frank (to name just the two highest-profile administration bills). Indirectly, as in nominating executive-branch officials like Eric Holder and Thomas Perez and judges like Sonia Sotomayor and Goodwin Liu — and aggressively pushing the “disparate impact” approach to civil-rights enforcement.

Through the latter, the federal government insists that the numbers come out right, even if it means that policemen and firefighters cannot be tested, that companies should hire criminals, that loans must be made to the uncreditworthy, and that — I kid you not — whether pollution is acceptable depends on whether dangerous chemicals are spread about in a racially balanced way.

The other reason to be less sanguine this week is that the reasons for the socioeconomic disparities that drive politically correct discrimination are cultural and that, alas, the root problem — the appalling illegitimacy rate among African Americans (more than seven out of ten) — shows no sign, none, of diminishing.

Dr. King said he wanted his children to be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Alas, many of those who would claim his mantle this weekend are not only happy with judging by skin color, but — judging by their enthusiasm for the disparate-impact approach and their silence on the problem of out-of-wedlock births — think the content of people’s character should be viewed with indifference.

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