Finessing the "Race Card"?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Walter Williams writes a column that starts off with a familiar theme: politicians who pander to black cultural stereotypes. Knowing that most of these politicians are leftists and that Williams is black and conservative, you might expect this to be an attack on such politicians.

You would be right, but Williams isn't done. As his column progresses, the examples of pandering becomes more and more outlandish. Williams moves from Hillary Clinton's embarrassing imitation of black dialect, through John Kerry's condescending blanket moral amnesty for black criminals, and the loony insinuations by Jesse Jackson in 2000 that a Bush Presidency would lead to the return of Jim Crow, all the way ... to the black voters themselves.

What does it say about blacks who can be taken in by pandering, alarmist nonsense from both whites and blacks as a means to get their votes? As a black man, I don't find the most obvious answer very flattering.
He could have simply said, "You can't cheat an honest man," but that would have let the biggest villains off too easily.

The key to understanding why Williams ends his column as he does is to consider why Williams mentioned his race at all in closing. He obviously does not subscribe to the collectivist (and racist) nonsense he condemns, so in that sense, his race is irrelevant. He is an individual observing disgraceful behavior, and as such, he would be the last man on earth to claim moral authority simply on the basis of his race.

So why is he, at first glance, apparently playing the race card? Williams has carefully built the reader up to the inescapable conclusion that black voters must be either really stupid or complicit with the race panderers, hoping to gain by "falling" for politicians who play up to racial stereotypes.

Any self-respecting black man will bristle at the notion that his fellow blacks are generally stupid -- a notion blacks have had to work against for the better part of their history as Americans. But if blacks aren't stupid, then the inescapable conclusion is that too many of them are cynically looking for government favors.

This is what makes Williams's race relevant. He is pointing out that after fighting long and hard to be respected as men, many blacks are betraying that struggle and the opportunity -- to live as men -- that struggle won for them. In the process, they are perpetuating the notion that men can and should be judged by race. Williams, as a black man, now finds himself in the sadly familiar position of having to fight this unjust idea, but with the twist that he must now find a way to get his fellow blacks to stop promoting racial stereotypes!

Williams, as an economist, has made numerous arguments against leftist political policies. He nailed the coffin of the welfare state shut on practical grounds long ago. This is an attempt to reach his black readership on moral grounds, by appealing to their sense of honor.

-- CAV

No comments: