Will America's Race Wars Ever End?

Reflections after an ugly week in politics

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Last week, racial politics dominated the news cycle. The big story was the hasty firing of USDA official Shirley Sherrod following the release of a misleadingly edited video. She stood accused of racism by conservative media mogul Andrew Breitbart even though the full, unedited tape showed nothing of the sort. The second big story involved the leaked e-mails of liberal pundits on the now defunct e-mail listserv, JournoList. In the e-mails, The Washington Independent's Spencer Ackerman, now of Wired.com, told fellow liberals to accuse conservatives of racism if they write critically about Obama's former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright: "take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists," Ackerman wrote.

On the left and right, the two episodes have left a sour taste in pundits' mouths. In today's Sunday columns, observers wonder if America's race wars will ever subside:

  • We've Come a Long Way, But We're Starting to Regress, writes Frank Rich in the New York Times: "While America’s progress on race has been epic since the days when Sherrod’s father could be murdered with impunity, we have been going backward since Election Day 2008... The N.A.A.C.P. was wrong to demand that the Tea Party disown its racist fringe. It should have made that demand of the G.O.P. instead."

  • It's Time to Move On, writes Bill O'Reilly in the Washington Examiner: "It is long past time for all Americans to drop the skin color deal. President Obama was smart and correct when he ran as an American, not as an African-American... The NAACP, however, is obviously not as astute as Obama. By saying the Tea Party members are sympathetic to racism when proof of that is scant, the organization has defined itself as irresponsible. America's motto continues to be: Out of many, one. Don't tread on that."

  • The Media Never Deals with Race Responsibly, writes David Harsanyi at the Denver Post: "Let me suggest one lesson the nation might take from the Breitbart/Sherrod story: Let's take a breather from any more national dialoguing on the issue of race. Please. After all, can anyone recall the last productive conversation on the topic? Whenever we hear about race in politics these days, it's typically being wielded as a weapon to smear entire political movements, de-legitimatize a genuine national debate, and ratchet up anger over imaginary slights...The Sherrod incident... illustrates how easily a reckless charge of racism can destroy someone. And why, perhaps, we should stop injecting race into every argument."

  • The Racist Charge Is Fading with Use, writes Nolan Finley at the Detroit News: "This is what politics and race have come to. An accusation that ought to be leveled with the greatest sobriety is tossed about the way little boys fling schoolyard insults... The obvious danger here is using the charge of racism as a tool to leverage political advantage makes it useless for its original purpose."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.