Ever since the eminently privileged Henry Louis Gates erupted into unjustified accusations of racism when a white police officer appeared at his home to investigate a report of a possible robbery, the race card has seemed to suffer a dimunition of potency as a tactic of debate in our public discourse. The president himself had to backtrack from harshly judging the police officer when made fully cognizant of Gates’s unreasoned outburst.
This may be one area where a prominent academic opened the way. Since then, those who’ve tried to argue that opposition to Obama’s policies is motivated by racism have been rebuked by none other than the president himself, who reminded everyone that he was black before he was elected. This was echoed by former President Clinton who, while of course affirming that racism persists, said that Obama would be facing the same opposition even if it didn’t, since he, Clinton, faced it too. Most recently, New York State’s hapless governor, David Paterson, suggested that his opponents were motivated by racism, and he soon after received a request from Obama not to run in New York State’s upcoming gubernatorial election. Reports were that the last straw for the president was Paterson’s invocation of racism as an excuse for his bumbling. Using race in this way, to ward off criticism and silence opponents, seems to have become as good as announcing “I’m in over my head,” “I don’t know what I’m doing,” and “I have no answers to my critics.”
And isn’t it surprising that both the exposure of ACORN and the investigation into Charles Rangel’s possible financial misdeeds in the House are proceeding pretty much without reference to race?