Racial Epithets

I regard Rep. John Lewis as a true American hero. I'm not sure I would have had the courage to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965, to face Alabama state and local troopers willing to use electric cattle prods, nightsticks, and tear gas to suppress a peaceful voting-rights march. Not for the first time, Lewis ended up bloodied, with scars that have never entirely faded.

Undoubtedly, the psychological scars have not faded either; those were the formative years for Lewis, and he has clearly not been able to move past them entirely.

What will it take to persuade the political class to abandon its racism-is-still-everywhere picture?

And thus I partially forgive him--but only him--when he is quick to see racism in an angry white crowd. Not a single one of his Congressional Black Caucus colleagues has the same excuse, and it was disgraceful (needless to say) for Nancy Pelosi to equate that brutal struggle to make good on basic constitutional rights with the sordid effort to pass a mess of a health-care law whose moral force did not even remotely resemble that of the great mid-1960s civil rights acts.

It was also disgraceful for congressional Democrats in the summer of 2006 to equate the voting-rights problems of today with those more than four decades ago. But the House Judiciary Committee did not hesitate to say, "Discrimination [in voting] today is more subtle than the visible methods used in 1965. However, the effects and results are the same"--a sentiment that almost all Democrats and Republicans, both terrified of the R-word, signed on to.

What will it take to persuade the political class to abandon its racism-is-still-everywhere picture? It remains a politically promising strategy; it certainly worked in 2006. But playing the race card may not be such a swift idea when it comes to tea partiers. A just-released Gallup poll found tea-party members to be quite representative demographically of the American public at large--the exception being blacks, who comprise only 6 percent of participants. But 6 percent is about half of the black population! A real surprise. Lewis, Pelosi, et al., take note.

Of course, if our fearless leaders were to admit that tea partiers are just ordinary Americans, quite representative of the population as a whole, they would be acknowledging an unpleasant truth: Congress was not carrying out the people's business in passing that wretched health-care bill.

Abigail Thernstrom is an adjunct scholar at AEI.

Photo Credit: ajagendorf25/Fllickr/Creative Commons

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Abigail
Thernstrom

What's new on AEI

image The Census Bureau and Obamacare: Dumb decision? Yes. Conspiracy? No.
image A 'three-state solution' for Middle East peace
image Give the CBO long-range tools
image The coming collapse of India's communists
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.