Rodney King, who was once beaten to a pulp by over-reactive policemen, asked a profound and poignant question, "Can't we all just get along?"  Based upon my reading of American history, I am sorry to say that the answer to that question seems to be not only "No," but "Hell, no!"  America has been cursed since its inception by racism, which has been directed primarily against those of African extraction.  Native Americans, Asians, and others have suffered from it too.

Racism against blacks has been with us since the first African set foot on the North American continent. When we consider the divided mind of the founders on the subject of race and how the greatest of them – men like Washington, Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson – lived so uneasily with the contradictions of slavery, we begin to wonder whether a racial dyspepsia is locked somewhere in America's DNA.   Slavery, as we know, gave rise to deeply entrenched polarization, the blood-bathed horrors of the Civil War, and the alienation of Reconstruction.  Then along came the age of Jim Crow, followed by the Civil Rights Movement.  Much of the sordid tale is spelled out in Gunnar Myrdal's masterful volumes, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy.

It would seem that blacks and whites, along with everyone else, would all awaken to a new reality oblivious to color.  Not so.  This country is as racist now as it ever was.  But the disease is sublimated, and its social and political parameters have drastically changed.  It is no longer politically correct to use the "N-word."  It is also illegal for a restaurateur or a hotelier to refuse service to a customer because of race or color.  But a tension continues to simmer just below the surface of many of our transactions.  It becomes starkly apparent upon hearing that a disadvantaged white student from impoverished Appalachia outscored an affluent black student from Boston on the SAT, but that the black was admitted to the university while the white was not.  Racial tension screams at us when a black businessman receives a loan not otherwise available to a white businessman, or when football, basketball, and track and field contests feature black athletes far beyond their proportion in the population at large.  How dare anyone, like Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder (remember him?), so much as to intimate that a genetic edge might be at work in these numbers.  The commentator will be permanently castigated and thrust into a consuming inferno, never to appear on television again!

The dynamics of race have unquestionably changed in America.  Blacks have become overt perpetrators.   Consider what happened to Rush Limbaugh, pictured above, this past week.  Although I am not a fan of the man and do not listen to his radio show, I believe that he should be free to voice provocative opinions both on and off the air and to buy into an NFL franchise if he is financially able and desires to do so.  For race-baiters like Al Sharpton, left, and Jesse Jackson, right, to complain about Limbaugh's "racism" demonstrates little more than their own incorrigible racism. Hey, where was their critical commentary when Michael Vick was reinstated in the NFL?  Did either clergyman ever suggest that O. J. Simpson's bust be removed from the NFL Hall of Fame? Oh, come on!

The media are accomplices too.  Why must we be captive to a media that enables rebarbative personalities such as Sharpton and Jackson to become larger than life in public space?  I have yet to hear any interviewer delve into the altogether questionable educational credentials of these individuals or, for that matter, to inquire where they find the funding to stir every single racial stew in this great land.  Why is it that a media capitalizing upon the peccadillos of a Ted Haggard or a Jimmy Swaggart would give Sharpton and Jackson a free pass?  It is nothing short of amusing.  I would bet that, as soon as the first stone were turned in an investigation of the conduct of these "civil rights leaders," every kind of vermin would run for cover.

It is tempting for Americans to buy hook, line, and sinker into an all too prevalent fallacy of reasoning.  It is called "the superior virtue of the oppressed."  The fallacy pervades the Marxist mentality of many of our highest governmental officials, clerical leaders, and people of influence. The fallacy holds that the poor and downtrodden are by virtue of their lowly station in life more virtuous than others. Sure, it is an incontestable fact that African-Americans have been sorely oppressed in American life.  It is also a fact that this nation has made Herculean efforts to atone for their oppression. America is second to none in its self-criticism, and in its efforts to remedy racism. These endeavors largely define the nation's nobility.  Yet, with all this having been said, we cannot afford to lose sight of the fact that human beings, regardless of their race and color, have often taken disgraceful advantage of others' charitable acts.  Sharpton, Jackson, and those of their ilk have scarcely used their "get out of jail free" cards to bolster America, but to denigrate it.  There is a remarkable absence of civic virtue in these men.  Perish the thought, but it might be that oppressed African-Americans are capable of just as much evil and barbarism as Anglo-Americans.  Prison populations would suggest as much.  What do you think?

In the meantime, racial tension among us escalates.  The question is not whether its venom will infect us as a nation (of course it will!), but who the perpetrator and who the victim wll be. Better still, we might be wise to ask whether a leading casualty of the conflict could well be a 400 year old culture with the name "America" writ large upon it.  The prospect of a cultural demise is exhilarating to many, even to those who occupy the highest reaches of political power and influence among us.  "Unbelievable," you say?  Well, believe it!

October 18, 2009