Quick Hit: Racial Journalism

February 14, 2014

What if the featured columnist for the Indianapolis Star is wrong that Western Civilization can be explicated through the historical lens of Selma, Alabama, circa 1965? What if there is a difference between behavior and skin pigment?

The columnist was so outraged that a group of black ministers would speak out against same-sex marriage that she interrupted her vacation to write a column labeling them “hypocrites.” Here is her reasoning, which in effect carried the day in the Indiana Senate this week:

  1. Racists opposed black-white marriages during the civil-rights struggle.
  2. Blacks (and politicians) who don’t want to be called names by big-city columnists would be smart to support same-sex marriages today.

But what if being morally or even viscerally uncomfortable with any of the 50 self-identified “genders” now recognized by Facebook is something different than treating other persons as subhuman solely because of the arbitrary shading of their skin? That would mean Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell and other eminent black thinkers are right that we have become a society dangerously myopic on the issue of race.

It is a position addressed by Tom Huston, an Indianapolis attorney, in the upcoming issue of The Indiana Policy Review. An excerpt:

“For progressives of every hue, the distance that blacks have come does not appear as impressive as the distance they have yet to go, and, as the historian Alexis de Tocqueville would have predicted, resentment of the vestiges of racial discrimination has increased exponentially in proportion to the decrease in the equality gap. Thus, there is no armistice, no peace, only escalating conflict on an expanded front. In this new struggle, which is about equalitarianism, not equality, long-time alliances have been severed, old positions have been abandoned, the appeal to conscience has yielded to the claim of victimhood, and intimidation has been substituted for persuasion. Positions have hardened, rhetoric has become shrill and argument has given way to assertion. It has gotten ugly, and anyone who says so is dismissed as a bigot.”

The argument of another contributor, Dr. Timothy Shutt, suggests that the viewpoint the Star discovers as “outrageous” is hardly new and certainly didn’t emanate solely from either Selma, Alabama, or from the same-sex marriage debate in the Indiana Legislature:

“I have read that, according to comparative linguists, the most common word for ‘others,’ the most common word for those who are not ‘Hellenes’ or ‘human beings’ or whatever, when one considers the whole array of known languages, reduces not, as we might expect, to ‘barbarians’ or ‘enemies,’ but rather — viscerally and dismissively enough — to ‘the stinkers.’ A revealing construction, if not, on reflection, entirely surprising. All cultures think they’re the best. Or all cultures I’ve ever heard of. Including our own — even in its most recent, most progressive incarnations.”

That sorry and ancient inclination, the assumption that only other people stink, can be found in a contemporary culture — the fading journalistic one on display recently in our state’s largest newspaper.

— Craig Ladwig

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