Putting Racism In Perspective

In a recent interview, comedian Chris Rock attacked the Tea Party:

Kids always act up the most before they go to sleep. And when I see the Tea Party and all this stuff, it actually feels like racism’s almost over. Because this is the lastthis is the act up before the sleep. They’re going crazy. They’re insane. You want to get rid of themand the next thing you know, they’re f-ing knocked out. And that’s what’s going on in the country right now.

It's an unfair assessment: the Tea Party isn't a fundamentally racist movement. In criticizing the comment, however, Tommy De Seno goes too far. "Being a racist is one of the worst things you can be because it calls into question your morality, religion, compassion - your very being," he writes. "A false allegation of racism is such a serious charge one is compelled to meet it with appropriate vigor."

That's fair enough.

But he says this too: "More proof that the 'new racism' in America is false allegations of racism." It's a fantastically wrongheaded comparison. Let's confine ourselves to racism against blacks in the United States – a small subset of the larger phenomenon. What were the consequences of this poisonous attitude? Four score and seven years of chattel slavery. The bloodiest war in American history. Countless lynchings. Jim Crow. The Klu Klux Klan. The Tuskegee syphilis experiment. The horrific list goes on and on.

Ponder it all for a moment. And thank God that we've vanquished it. Having done so, can anyone say in good conscience that today's equivalent of all that is false accusations of racism? To do so would constitute profound moral blindness. Yes, it's dastardly to falsely accuse someone of racism. On rare occasions, it can even do tremenous damage to the life of the accused. But it has never been – and will never be – comparable to racism itself.