The 4th Annual Dr. MLK Jr. Column

January 18, 2007   5:25 pm

This year, the usual combined weekend of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday followed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday is not combined, as the third Monday of January precedes the third Sunday by 6 days. Plus, this year provided lots of content on both topics, so the usual combined column will be split.

Sadly, racial issues were front and center during the past year. In May, the residents of New Orleans, Louisiana re-elected Ray Nagin, the governor during Hurricane Katrina. Like Dr. King, he had a dream too. His was nowhere near as admirable, though; he wanted New Orleans rebuilt as a “Chocolate City”. Although he apologized for that comment, regular readers will know what I think about apologies (and non-regulars can learn here). Comments such as this only serve to deepen racial divides, not contribute to Dr. King’s vision of a nation where race is not even a concern.

In May, the “Day Without Immigrants” attempted to paint those who are opposed to illegal immigration as racists, rather than fans of enforcing our existing laws. I’ve written about this recently (see the 2006 Year in Review: The Ridiculous), so I won’t expound on this too much here. These folks are attempting to equate their plight with those of blacks, using the same language. However, the truth of their situation is that they are here illegally, and as such have no standing to demand rights and treatment of American citizens. There is a way for non-Americans to become Americans, and cutting in line in front of those who are observing the law is not that way.

Come November, Michael Richards went off on a racial rant during a stand-up comedy show. This was followed by, you guessed it, apology after apology upon apology, with a side helping of apology. And again, these ring hollow with me. Richards’ racism shows what can happen in today’s environment of focusing on race and stereotypes - even a successful actor such as he can still harbor these feelings. Like Nagin’s apology, his apology does not erase the window into the soul that his words provided. The words themselves are not the problem; the attitude behind them are. (Let me be clear - I’m not against apologizing to someone if you personally hurt them. Not all apologies are as useless as the two I’ve described above.)

Wrapping up earlier this month, the Duke rape case carried immense racial undertones. Many people were quick to believe the story, especially since the accuser was a poor black woman, and the people she was accusing were rich, privileged white men. Now, it turns out that the plentiful DNA evidence collected from the accuser exonerates the lacrosse players. When this story broke, several people suggested it was a ploy by the District Attorney Mike Nifong, who was up for re-election, to pander to the black voters in Durham, North Carolina. Even now, the accuser’s family are still buying into the hype. The accuser’s cousin was interviewed on CNN a few nights ago, and here’s part of what she said, with the highlighting added by me… (In the transcript of the entire show, do a search for “UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE” to find the beginning of this interview.)

It’s unfortunate that it’s turned into race. But it’s always been there. It sensationalizes the story. You know, it’s got class and it’s got race in it. And I think from day one, a lot of people felt that these were privileged young white boys, who felt like they could treat these young women, strippers or not - I think they had the mentality that they were superior to these young women. And I think that’s unfortunate. And I think that that’s just the world we live in.

Read the part I highlighted - even though these guys have been found guilty of nothing, they’re still privileged white boys who were superior to the others! And that’s just “the world we live in.” Incredible! I do agree with her conclusion, though - it is truly unfortunate.

But, these prove that racism is still a problem, right? I’m not so sure. Sure, there are still racists of every color, and there always will be; that’s one of the pitfalls of a free society. But, people do not have to be hyper-sensitive over racial issues, either - that is a conscious choice, although our current society has some pretty strong conditioning towards that sensitivity.

Let me wrap up by sharing my personal observations, based on data from Census 2000. I’m white, and I’ve lived as a minority for the past 9 years in Montgomery, Alabama. This city is 50% black, 47% white. (Subtract “Hispanic origin” from White - they’re counted both places.) For the next 4 years, I’ll be living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a city that is 40% Hispanic, 32% white, 3% black. In Montgomery, I’ve rarely felt unwelcome. When we go out to parks or the mall, nearly everyone I meet is friendly, no matter their skin color. We’ll talk about our families, or crazy things our kids do. Sometimes, we’ll even discuss contentious things, like the war in Iraq. Depeche Mode said it more than 20 years ago - people are people.

The only exception to this was in some stores and restaurants. Usually, this was just unfriendly service - and, this can’t all be blamed on racial differences, as I’ve had woeful service from all races. The most offensive time (to me) was the store where two black customers in line behind me were checked out before me. In these cases, though, did I call my local city commissioner, or the media? Nope - I just kept my feet and dollars away from those establishments. That’s the way a free society works - you’re free to be a jerk, and I’m free to not give you my money.

I’m looking forward to Albuquerque. I’m not there yet, so I can’t say this for certain, but I’m pretty sure that most folks out there are friendly as well. As we go around the parks, malls, restaurants, and churches of that city, we will meet Americans just like us - folks who want a safe nation, clean streets, and the best for their children. Apart from some loudmouths, Dr. King’s dream is being realized every day; hopefully, common sense will begin to prevail among all the races, and the “racial offense” industry will begin to wither. If the money spent on trying to make people apologize or comply with some minutia of the law was instead spent on positive things, this nation would be much better off.

(To read previous years’ columns, select the “Race” category from the sidebar.)

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