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Opening Arguments

The race is on

This, headlined "Racism in retreat," seems a little delusional to me:

Well, here we are. Are there some bigots? Of course. Did they, or any purported instance of "racism" during the campaign, keep Barack Obama from the nomination?

His victory demonstrates the main platform of my race writing. The guiding question in everything I have ever written on race is: Why do so many people exaggerate about racism?

This exaggeration is a nasty hangover from the sixties, and the place it has taken as a purported badge of intellectual and moral gravitas is a tire-block on coherent, constructive sociopolitical discussion.

A lot of damage has been done by those in the race-grievance industry who have exaggerated, for their own purposes, the continuing existence of racism in America. But the solution is not to exaggerate how far we've come. There are probably a lot more secret racists than secrret sexists in this country, as the coming election will no doubt demonstrate. And, as the Wright-Trinity fiasco has demonstrated, black racism is a problem as well. We have come a long way but still have a long way to do on race in America.


Harl Delos
Fri, 06/06/2008 - 9:58am

Tom Brokaw recently noted that there's a line of demarcation - roughly age 45 - in the population. Those who were 5 or less in 1968, when Dr. King was killed, look at race differently. They don't think of Barry as a black man; they don't seem to think race is a big deal.

And they're right. In 1968, educated, well-spoken black leaders got assassinated; in 2008, they run for president, and do well.

Young women don't seem to think sexism is a big deal, either, and if you look at the numbers, for them, it isn't a big deal.

Traditionally, many men have taken jobs that are dangerous or have unpleasant working conditions - steel mills, foundries, construction jobs - in order to get the high pay that such jobs command. Women have tended to take jobs where you stay clean and smell good, and received less pay. The dangerous and unpleasant jobs, though, are disappearing, while 57% of all college graduates are women, which means that for our youngest workers, women aren't seeing the same difference in pay that their mothers experienced.

There's still a lot of racism remaining. For instance, at most colleges, about 57% of all students graduate within 6 years. At Wayne State University, the graduation rate is 10% for blacks, versus about 45% for whites. Part of it is poor black families that can't afford to send their kids all the way through; part of it is poor public schools that aren't preparing black students well.

But it's changing rapidly. It's not changing because people are marching on Selma, or building tent cities in Washington. It's changing because old geezers like us, both black and white, are retiring or dying, and being replaced by those who don't think race should be significant.

My biggest reservations about Senator McCain are not ideological - (How can they be? He's abandoned every principle he ever espoused!) - but based on his age. I'm considerably younger than McCain, but I suffer from hardening of the attitudes. Obama's selling a vision of how things can be - and old fogies like me are struggling hard to figure out how things already are.

It's a terrible thing to get old. It's just that the alternative is so unappealing....