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August 25, 2008

Race Worriers: An Obama Presidency Might Be the End of Racial Preferences

I'm fairly certain that Ace has written about this topic before. Still, the article in the N.Y. Times is worth a minute:

They fear that growing numbers of white voters and policy makers will decide that eradicating racial discrimination and ensuring equal opportunity have largely been done.

"I worry that there is a segment of the population that might be harder to reach, average citizens who will say: 'Come on. We might have a black president, so we must be over it,' " said Mr. Harrison, 59, a sociologist at Howard University and a consultant for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies here.

"That is the danger, that we declare victory," said Mr. Harrison, who fears that poor blacks will increasingly be blamed for their troubles. "Historic as this moment is, it does not signify a major victory in the ongoing, daily battle."

This is the paradox of the successful social activist. As they get closer to achieving their goal, it becomes relatively less important that they do so. Other issues become more pressing and crowd out the attention and the money that activists depend on.

Of course, there are a few assumptions at work here. First, it is an uncompromising article of faith for civil rights activists that there will always be racism and racial discrimination. It simply will not end, ever. More than that, as far as they are concerned any amount of racism and racial discrimination justifies government intervention in the form of remedial racial preferences and quotas. (Just ignore the ironic dissonance, of course.)

Try to convince them that racial discrimination against minorities isn't so pervasive as to require legislative and judicial contortions to create and maintain state-supported racial discrimination against other groups and you will hear a lot of hemming and hawing and "We're just not there yet." And my suggestion is that you wear a rain slicker if you want to argue that class discrimination is a more destructive problem than race discrimination these days.

Second, and more troubling, is the assumption made about the goal of these activists. Most say the point is to end racism and racial discrimination. But too often it appears that the actual goal is to get as many benefits as possible for minority groups. Racism is simply a handy excuse to demand more attention, more payouts, and more preferences. In fact, these aren't social activists at all. They are lobbyists masquerading as civil rights defenders. These are the folks who turned the idea of a color-blind society into a punchline.

An Obama presidency, or even just his nomination and candidacy, should be seen as a victory for racial equality. If activists are worrying over just how invisible racial discrimination has become then it is time to man up and declare victory. Yes, it will be a change to not be part of a super-special, jump-to-the-front-of-the-line group, but wasn't that the whole point? God willing, at some point the modern civil rights movement will wake up and realize not just that everyone is equal, but that everyone deserves to be treated equally.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 11:21 AM

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