Keeping Your Eyes Off the Prize

Two stories pertaining to racial relations have been prominent in the news lately, despite assurances that we would be done with all that unpleasantness if we only elected the right president, and neither one suggests that the old animosities and suspicions have diminished. Both, though, seem a distraction from the even uglier truth.
We have not previously commented on the controversy about celebrity chef Paula Deen’s admitted use of racial slurs and other offenses against racial etiquette, partly because we are not especially au courant on celebrity chefs or any other food fads and never heard of the woman until her remarks became the fodder of an inescapable number of new stories, but mostly because it seemed of such little consequence. Although we do not condone the use of racial slurs or the sorts of offenses against racial etiquette of which Deen stands accused, it seems to us that things must be going quite well in black America if the rude rantings of a 66-year-old southern woman we had previously never heard was all that the race industry had to complain about. Deen will forever be subjected to the sort of social stigma that was once reserved for unmarried motherhood — although her notoriety seems have had a salutary effect on sales of her cookbooks, which for all we know contain good recipes, her apparent racism notwithstanding — and any other celebrities inclined to fling about racial slurs will be thus forewarned. The usual double standards will still apply to any slurring his own racial group and those whose liberalism is well established, of course, but when the whole brouhaha is long forgotten and supplanted by some other celebrity’s outburst little harm will have been done.
Of more significance by far was the recently concluded trial of George Zimmerman, the volunteer neighborhood watchman who was acquitted of second-degree murder or manslaughter in the death of an unarmed black teenager. Zimmerman admitted firing the fatal shot but claimed he did so in self-defense as the teenager attacked him and was pounding his head against the pavement, a story corroborated by physical evidence and eyewitness testimony, which was believed by both the investigating police officers and ultimately by a jury of his peers, but because Zimmerman is at least nominally white and his assailant was black political pressure to prosecute was brought to bear by protestors, the press, and even the President of the United States and his Justice Department. Even with the facts pointing to Zimmerman’s innocence clearly established and confirmed by the verdict of a jury, pressure to expose Zimmerman to double jeopardy in a federal civil rights continues by everyone from the Senate majority leader to the lowliest “tweeters” sending threats of riots and revenge killings across the internet.
The noise is such that one might suppose the most pressing problem facing black American youth today, aside from the foul language and outdated opinions of semi-famous celebrity chefs, is that they are being gunned down en masse by the “white Hispanic” neighborhood watch volunteers whose heads they are pounding against the pavement. Someone knew to the country and unfamiliar with its heartbreaking racial realities would be surprised to learn that young black men die violently at a rate far exceeding any other group, overwhelmingly at the hands of one another, and that their deaths go largely unremarked by protestors, the press, or the President of the United States. It’s almost a certainty that they’ve not heard the name of Darryl Green, a black 17-year-old recently beaten to death in the president’s hometown of Chicago not because he attacked a neighborhood watch volunteer but rather because he tried to avoid such violent behavior and refused membership in a game. His tragic death has gone unmentioned by protestors, the press, and the President of the United States, and we only heard it because of the web site, supposedly a bastion of ranting right-wing racism.
Nor would anyone who knows America only through the media be aware that the black unemployment is a Depression-level 13.7 percent, with a worse-than-Depression-level rate for black teenagers, or that the income of the average black household has dropped 11.1 percent since the beginning of the supposed economy, or that any number of economic indicators show that it’s 1936 in black America. To the scant extent these facts provoke any discussion in the mainstream media it is even less commonly discussed that solving these dangerous disparities is complicated by a 72 percent illegitimacy rate in the black community and a vast gap in educational performance compared to Hispanics, whites, and Asians which will make economic equality all but impossible without quota systems and preferential hiring and educational policies that can only exacerbate the racial resentments of all other groups. Any mention of these harsh realities is also considered a breach of racial etiquette, and the polite people prefer to avert their eyes from the tragedies that don’t have an easily scapegoated white villain.
It’s easy enough to see why the president and the rest of the political class would prefer that the likes of Paula Deen and George Zimmerman dominate the news, rather than the more pressing problems that their policies have manifestly failed to alleviate, but it’s time that the rest of the country stopped being polite and started insisting on a more honest racial dialogue that could lead to real solutions.

— Bud Norman