In the shadow of the murderous assault at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, this week, there has been a demand – from both left and right – for the "white community" to "once again call racism by its name".
As stated by the young man who murdered nine good people, it was his aim to kill "those people" in order to start a race war, which makes his actions clearly racially motivated. Ergo, he is a racist.
But as of today, I have not seen anybody refuse to admit there is racism in this country. Not one. Indeed, there is no clear evidence before me that anybody has said white people can not be, are not bigots, have no trace of racist thoughts within them. We all know, and most admit, that there will always be those who prefer the company of those who look like themselves, disregarding the other commonalities. In a free society, it will always be their prerogative to be ignorant, to choose poorly. That does not mean the whole of society is driven by that ignorant behavior.
What I have seen is a years-long habit of labeling disagreement over policy as racism. What I have seen is a decades-long habit of calling crime statistics "evidence of racism" in law enforcement, without taking into consideration other factors. What I have seen is a justice system being labeled as racist because "a black man can't get a break" even when Michael Jackson, Orenthal J. Simpson, and others with money walk, despite the overwhelming evidence the public sees against them.
Even now, there are those who use the social media to "prove" the racial bias of law enforcement by displaying side-by-side photographs of a black scofflaw who died while resisting arrest and the non-confrontational capture of the very white Charleston terrorist. Obviously, to the people who post the paired images, there is nothing but open racism on display. There is no possibility in their minds that, ultimately, the behavior of each criminal is what will define the end result.
Again, I am in no wise saying there is no such thing as racism in this country – that would be an absurd statement no matter how peaceful our neighborhoods. What I am saying is, for years there have been cries of of racism a reasonable person would ascribe to other factors. It doesn't matter to some. The accusation makes it so. In this manner, as long as the accused continue to deny that racial bias has been the primary factor in X or Y or Z, then when a clear case of bigotry comes along, the accusers feel justified in shouting, "See? See? Racism is everywhere! And you're a racist to deny it!"
If there is no possibility of any other motivation, then people should go ahead and call it by its rightful name, call it bigotry. But it dulls the meaning and stops real conversation when it gets tossed willy-nilly into every disagreement. And, where good people argue that racism is not the cause at hand, it is equally counterproductive to claim that there has been blanket denial of the presence of any such discrimination.
This is antithetical to free discourse. It is absurd. And it needs to stop.