When Worlds Collide

I was a guest last night on the radio show Live from the Left Coast with Angie Coiro, a program featured on the liberal Air America Radio network. While Ms. Coiro and her producer were exceedingly kind and gracious to me throughout the evening, her guests on the panel left me exasperated and more cynical than ever before about the elitists in this nation. The topic of the panel discussion was racism in the health care reform debate. The liberal message machine, realizing that “right-wing extremist,” “domestic terrorist,” “angry mob,” “Astro-Turf,” “Nazi,” and “un-American” - did I miss anything? – weren’t working, decided to go back to the Janeane Garofalo chestnut, “racism, straight up.”

Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst during the President’s speech? Racism.

The massive 9/12 Tea Party rally in our nation’s capital? Racism.

All opposition to the President and his policies, even if expressed by black people? Racism.

Oh, and his black opponents are "self-loathing, Stepin Fetchit, sellout Uncle Toms," to borrow the phrase the host used to describe a typical liberal reaction to a black conservative.

The panelists on the show included an associate professor of politics and African American studies, an “anti-racist” writer and activist, an editor for a libertarian magazine, and me.

The dialogue during the show can be summed up as follows:

  1. We are closet racists who protect white privilege by opposing government programs that help minorities while defending those that aid the white majority.
  2. We aren’t overtly racist but ignorant of systemic racism that causes racial disparities.
  3. We aren’t racist unless we’re Republicans, in which case we’re likely to be racists.
  4. We are good and decent people who are utterly flabbergasted at these “little gods” who presume to know the minds and hearts of people they’ve never met.

Guess which one was me?

I tried to explain to our betters that the Tea Party participants were my friends and neighbors and that we work together, play together, worship together, attend our children’s sporting events and recitals together, dine out together and generally try to be good citizens who give more than we take and help each other and those who can’t help themselves.

Because we share the same values, we’re a family. My race is irrelevant to them; in fact, I’m not conscious of my race when I’m around my friends and, until recently, they had never brought up the topic with me. Nowadays, when the whole nation is accusing you of racism, the topic is bound to come up, and the reaction of my friends is puzzlement and frustration at being falsely labeled.

This idyllic picture was too much for our superiors to take. Of course you’re not bad people, they opined. You’re just not aware that your actions have an adverse impact on minorities. So we’re committing unconscious acts of racism?

They also said if we were so pure on the topic of race, we wouldn’t allow some of the more reprehensible signs and images at our rallies. I tried to explain that this movement was a very loose confederation of groups and individuals with no centralized command or control, and that in Thomas Jefferson’s “boisterous sea of liberty,” acts of free expression would sometimes cross the boundaries of good taste.

I reminded them of similarly ugly imagery from the leftist protests against President Bush during his term, and used that as an illustration of how our national devotion to free speech must include speech many of us may find objectionable. We can and should speak out against it when we see it, but it’s not just our right to free speech, assembly and petition; it’s theirs, too.

The nobles insist, however, that this is an effort masterminded by Fox News and that we’re a bunch of simpletons following their lead. Oh, that’s much better than being called racist!

Meanwhile, the panelist presumably on my side, while disagreeing with the hypothesis that racism is the primary factor behind the scope and intensity of criticism being leveled at President Obama, seemed to be trying to separate himself from the hoi polloi by declaring his hatred for Republicans.

You see, he knows the Tea Party movement isn’t racist because he knows what racism looks like thanks to the GOP’s “southern strategy” and, therefore, he didn’t see the calculation or cunning of evil Republicans in this grass-roots movement. He must have repeated at least twice that he hated the Republican Party.

At the end, we were asked what we would propose to move the nation forward on the topic of race. The elitists essentially said we rabble needed sensitivity training to recognize our racist actions for what they are.

I offered that if race is at the forefront of one’s mind and heart, it will color everything else that follows it and perhaps if we focused first on our shared destiny and our equal dignity and worth, we wouldn’t be so obsessed with race.

Afterwards, I was exhausted and frustrated and just wanted to go watch the second game on Monday Night Football to take my mind off the sheer display of condescension and haughtiness I’d just experienced.

My oldest daughter tried to encourage me by saying if one listener was positively influenced by what I said, it was worth it. I don’t think the people who typically listen to Air America Radio would be influenced by anything I said, however. That was 45 minutes of my life I can’t get back.

At least the game was good.