The Daily Debate - Methinks They Doth Protest Too Much
January 13, 2014
I am returning after taking a few weeks off after Christmas, and the first thing I wanted to do was to catch up on a story that may seem like yet another cable TV tempest but has big long-term implications.
In a year-end wrap-up, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry and her panel of left-leaning guests yukked it up mocking Mitt Romney's new adopted grandson, who is black. The segment was in appallingly bad taste and seemed to mock the idea of interracial adoption, as if the Romneys are just too darned white to adopt a black baby.
Is that what today's "progressive" views on race have come to? Opposing the mixing of the races?
Harris-Perry was roundly criticized and produced a tearful apology. Which would make this a small story, except for the fact that Harris-Perry's defenders came out of the woodwork to double down on the ugly racial implications.
On CNN, a fellow named Marc Lamont Hill denounced the photo, which showed Governor Romney with his many grandchildren, as "an exploitative picture" because "they're exploiting the kid by hauling out this black person."
His position here, mind you, is not that white people aren't allowed to mix with black people. It's that conservative whites aren't allowed to mix with blacks. This is the same premise behind the MSNBC panel's mockery of Romney. The left has gotten used to laying sole claim to being racially tolerant and "diverse" and dismissing Republicans as mean racists who hate black people. So they literally scoff at the idea that Mitt Romney might play the role of loving grandfather with a little black child on his knee. In their narrow little minds, the very idea is ridiculous.
This is all part of the left's long practice of using race as weapon to gain moral authority for themselves and take it away from others. Consider the argument of another of Harris-Perry's defenders. Atlantic columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates described Harris-Perry as "America's foremost public intellectual"—not just a prominent intellectual, mind you, but the foremost intellectual. The claim is, to say the least, hyperbolic. Harris-Perry was an obscure academic until a few years ago when MSNBC discovered her and plucked her into public notice. (I won't say "into fame," given the network's relatively weak ratings.) When challenged on this assertion byThe Politico's Dylan Byers, Coates unloaded late last week with the assertion that if Harris-Perry is not well-known—well, that's our fault for being racists.
"I came up in a time when white intellectuals were forever making breathless pronouncements about their world, about my world, and about the world itself. My life was delineated [by] lists like 'Geniuses of Western Music' written by people who evidently believed Louis Armstrong and Aretha Franklin did not exist. That tradition continues. Dylan Byers knows nothing of your work, and therefore your work must not exist.
"Here is the machinery of racism—the privilege of being oblivious to questions, of never having to grapple with the everywhere; the right of false naming; the right to claim that the lakes, trees, and mountains of our world do not exist; the right to insult our intelligence with your ignorance."
To which I respond: yawn. This is a game that is familiar to the point of being tiresome for anyone on the right: if you don't agree with the left's ideological claims, then you must be a racist. Harris-Perry herself has gladly played this game, preposterously comparing the term "ObamaCare" to a racial slur. And why should black intellectuals have all the fun? Salon's Joan Walsh ended 2013 with a review of "The Year in Whiteness," purporting to document the wicked racism of all those pallid conservatives. As I've observed elsewhere, this is the new "post-racial" politics of the Obama era: white leftists accusing white conservatives of racism.
Behind all of this is the idea of blacks and whites as automatically possessing a separate cultural identity, complete with a distinctive political affiliation. Yet isn't that the really offensive premise behind this story? With all of their snorting and chortling about their presumed superiority on the issue of race, methinks they doth protest too much. It is the left that wants to maintain a kind of cultural and political segregation, dismissing individualism and free-market ideas as a special preserve appropriate only to white people. Hence their scoffing at a family which they would deem to be culturally "white" having the temerity to adopt a black child.
That's what makes this story significant beyond the temporary embarrassment of yet another thoughtless talking head. The left has hitched its wagon to the issue of race—which is all they're going to have left after ObamaCare wrecks the economic case for big government. The Democratic Party has gone so far as to make an appeal to racial minorities the centerpiece of its electoral strategy.
But they are overplaying their hand, and incidents like this reveal their appeal to race as crude and offensive. The moment they lose their political advantage on this issue, the left and the Democratic Party will face a fundamental crisis—and it is a crisis they are bringing ever closer by their own actions.
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The Daily Debate
edited by Robert Tracinski
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Robert Tracinski is also editor of The Tracinski Letter.
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