I, a serial supporter of minority causes, am fed up with the race card. Calling someone a racist is sliming’s cheap shot. It is a banal accusation that cannot be justified and cannot be defended against. It implies the moral deficiency of those who are accused of it.
I am not abandoning my abhorrence of people held down, held back or shuffled through a justice mill because they are of a different race or ethnicity.
Believe me, I have seen it. I have seen a bartender in Baltimore refusing to serve a black man but telling him he could take a bottle home. I have worked at a newspaper where it was debated whether a black editor could manage white editors. I have covered courts where young black offenders are marched through trials that are no more than sentencing mills; where hire-by-the-trial lawyers plead away young minority people who do not know what is happening to them besides that they are going to jail. I have seen segregated water fountains, park benches and restrooms.
Yes, I have seen it.
In South Africa during apartheid, I saw a policeman leading a prisoner with a wire tether around his neck, as you would walk a dog. In Zimbabwe, I saw then-President Robert Mugabe become obsessed with demeaning and forcing out the white population.
I heard the language of apartheid on the West Bank, where there are struggles over land. I heard a Malaysian publisher say demeaning things about the Chinese. I know of the oppression of minorities from Vietnam to those of Korean descent
who perforce live second-class lives in Japan.
I have seen how the Catholics were treated in Northern Ireland and how both sides killed each other randomly. It starts with insults and ends with bloodshed.
I have toured Auschwitz where racism was perfected into genocide and evil wrought its masterpiece.
Race-baiting, race oppression and race categorization are among the deep and pervasive threats to society and to a civil way of life.
But that does not justify the easy and destructive branding of almost anyone who disagrees with anyone else as a racist. That is cheap, shallow, damning and, as a negative, hard to disprove.
I have been there, too, and know the humiliation and impotence of being accused of something you cannot defend yourself against.
Years ago, I was going to be appointed to a vacancy on the board of the venerable National Press Club in Washington, when one board member received an anonymous phone call saying that I said racist things. I did not and I do not, but the board thought it better not to appoint me. It hurt then, decades ago, and it hurts now.
Who wants to say, “Some of my best friends are minorities” or signal their virtue to disprove the label “racist”? Like a wall poster, it is easy to put up and hard to take down.
It is time we took the race card, burned it and interred its ashes. The epithet “racist” — which can be attached as easily as sticking on a Post-it — is neither dialogue nor disputation. Worse, its careless use is turning people against people whose views they fundamentally support.
While it is in play, the race card can be produced from the political sleeve like a wild card to slime anyone who disagrees with its player.
I know House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has worked for decades for civil rights causes. Using the race card was woeful in its dishonesty.
By the same token, I believe President Donald Trump to be, in many things, a truly reprehensible man; a disgrace at many levels. But that is not a reason to use the race card. Calling someone a racist precludes bringing in the heavy artillery of facts to blow away real bigotry. In its way, it locks in prejudice.
The president standing toe to toe with four Democratic House novices of color — the Squad — shouting “racist” is not speech. It is a refuge for the verbally bankrupt. Sadly, by calling Trump a racist, the Squad fired the first fusillade.