David Harsanyi writes on RealClearPolitics that it’s time to take a break from race discussions after the Sherrod story. Isn’t this how free countries are supposed to work? People bring up a cause like racial equality, and the country fights over it. Because its a good cause, activists achieve a lot of progress in 170 years.
At some point, we start wondering exactly where the line of equality lies, and whether we’re about go past it. There is still work to do, and racial issues are just going to get more complicated as racial equality gets closer. In the long-term, this is kind of a parable of the American dream. The additional turbulence is merely our descent to the final destination. Mainstream liberals aren’t pushing the envelope. Mainstream conservatives (to the extent they exist) are qualifying most of their opposition to affirmative action with honest concern for minorities. We’re not in a horrible place right now, at least in terms of formal policy on race (immigration notwithstanding). Compared to deficits, terrorism, the drug war and health care, racial equality is an issue on the right track. If our national electorate can’t agree on enough to hold our Union together, I don’t think it will be because of race.
In the short-term, the conversation is fairly nasty, with crazy arguments driven by insincerity… driven by the generations that raised us. If Harsanyi chooses to spend his time reading extreme political commentary, he is going to find the nasty process even nastier. But notice, even in the short-term: many of the loudest and worst parts of our national race conversation (like this Sherrod story) get corrected by public opinion, as if guided toward equilibrium by an invisible hand. Now, we’re a little more suspicious of dubious racism. When people take it too far the other way, that overshoots the equilibrium, and that gets corrected too. Credit Harsanyi with doing some of the correcting. Maybe the pendulum of our racial conversation will find rest, as Harsanyi seems to be hoping. Or maybe the crazy examples will provoke a moderate consensus, dismantle the defensive wall of political correctness/fake umbrage, and make the conversation better and more sincere.
I don’t think our Nation’s racial issues are sufficiently resolved, or our discussion about them sufficiently unproductive, to break up the conversation.