The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

At Its Core

Having spent six years of my career as a full-time professor, it's been my impression that those with a "Prof" in front of their name should be measured in their thinking, should base their conclusions not on anecdotal evidence or an individual instance of a phenomenon (no matter how compelling), but on broad and clearly measurable societal or scientific data, and should fight to dampen the impact of emotion when developing a thesis, relying instead on clear, objective thinking. It was therefore with considerable chagrin that I read the following, written by Harvard Professor Lawrence D. Bobo:
America is racist at its core. I used to doubt this simplistic claim. Today I cannot. The murder of Trayvon Martin demands total, simple, honesty. A jury in Florida failed us. We have not seen a moral failure this grave since a similarly all-white jury in Simi Valley, Calif., in 1992 acquitted the four LAPD officers who beat Rodney King.

Writing in the same year as that ill-fated verdict, the distinguished civil rights lawyer Derrick Bell declared that "racism is an integral, permanent and indestructible component of this society." In most circumstances, I treat this declaration as a foil: a claim to be slowly picked apart as, at best, too easy and, at worst, deeply unfair and wrong. Not today.

The most elemental facts of this case will never change. A teenager went out to buy Skittles and iced tea. At some point, he was confronted by a man with a gun who killed him. There is no universe I understand where this can be declared a noncriminal act. Not in a sane, just and racism-free universe.
What is even more troubling than Professor Bobo's comments is that they reflect the narrative that has been promulgated by dozens of major media outlets, hundreds of left-leaning commentators, and tens of thousands of progressives.

There is no point in relitigating the Travon Martin case. Let's assume for a moment that Professor Bobo is correct, that the jury erred, that Zimmerman is guilty, and that a Hispanic man shot an African American teenager with no provocation and no cause. None. That he was driven by racism, and that no other factors or facts come into play. Can we therefore conclude from this individual instance that "America is racist at its core"?

That would be the same America that has made significant strides in civil rights in the last 50 years, beginning with the the civil rights act in the 1960s and culminating with the election of an African American by a majority of all voters as President of the United States in 2008. Have our efforts as a country been perfect? Of course not! But they have been significant and impactful. Have we achieved a "racism-free universe"? No, we have not—as long as individual human foibles and cultural differences exist among people of all races, a "racism-free universe" will be difficult to achieve.

Is there still room for improvement? Of course there is. And with every passing year, increased emphasis on diversity, education, and understanding will provide positive results.

But racist at our core? I think not.