Unfair Charges of Racism

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Thinking some more on this post, and one thing occurs to me. I suspect, though I don't know, that many conservatives believe that, in today's society, the false charge of racism is almost as bad as racism itself. I'm going back to Conor's "damned if you do/damned if you don't" point:


It's this kind of piece that causes people on the right to think that on matters of race, they're damned if they do, and they're damned if they don't -- if they don't make efforts to include non-whites they're unenlightened propagators of privilege, and if they do make those efforts they're the cynical managers of a minstrel show, but either way, race is used as a cudgel to discredit them in a way that would never be applied to a political movement on the left.

Perhaps I should flip this. I care a great deal about gender equality. I write some about it, but probably not enough. I've been accused of being sexist at some points, and more commonly of having a blind-spot with gender issues. Maybe those claim are fair, and maybe they're unfair. Likely they are both, depending on the issue and depending of the post. But in terms of my concern about sexism, the charges don't really have much bearing. My point isn't that I don't care about the critique, it's that it has no real effect on my desire to engage the issue. 

In other words, I don't do it in the hope that women will look at me and say--"Now there's one enlightened male." I'm saying, that would be cool, but it's not why I do it. I don't much care about whether I'm damned, because  I'm not looking for a blessing.  I'm not looking to be cleansed by feminists. Frankly, my beliefs on gender equality come out of the notion that all individuals deserve a chance to execute their potential, ad society should work to that end. And I'm much more concerned about that chance to execute, than I am about what name might be unfairly affixed to me. In regards to my commitment, I just don't much care.

I suspect that, on race, many liberals feel the same. No one likes to be called a racist, but you don't evince a concern about racial equality because you hope to avoid that charge. I hope I have that right. I'm still working it out.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/04/unfair-charges-of-racism/39353/