Public controversy surrounds Lucia Whalen, who called 911 to report that two men were breaking into the home next door, of Henry Louis Gates. We now know that Gates was one of them; his door was jammed.
Our society is now so politically correct that 911 calls to the police must be carefully crafted to avoid needing a lawyer. Lucia Whalen has indeed hired a lawyer to defend her good name in the press.
She is defended by the observation that she didn't identify the race of the men, so she certainly wasn't racist in phoning in the report. Critics blame her for saying that one of the men might be Hispanic, after being asked by the 911 operator.
Is there no difference between these situations?
- A report that an Asian man is breaking into a house.
- It is an important identifying factor. The whole point is what the suspect looks like. That is not racism.
- Saying that the next applicant is the Asian man in the waiting room.
- Not politically correct, but not important either. Again, just identification, not a racial insult.
- Writing ASIAN at the top of a resume received for a job application.
- Definitely racist. We hope the company is concerned with skills rather than looks. Unfortunatly, this is now more common in organizations trying to balance their racial composition rather than trying to exclude applicants by race.
Harry Reid and Trent Lott, A specious comparison
01/10/10 - Powerline Blog by Paul Mirengoff
Senator Harry Reid is the Democratic Majority Leader. He made a comment in 2008 about the election potential of then candidate Barack Obama. Reid said privately that Obama was electable because he was "light-skinned" and with "no Negro dialect unless he wants to have one".
[edited]: Reid was not discussing who should be elected president, only if Obama could be. His view was that Obama's race would not hurt him with voters who might be biased against a black man, because Obama is light-skinned and able to talk white, as they say.
Reid may be incorrect, but it is not improper to assess how others might vote. It isn't racist to believe that skin color and speech patterns would help to differentiate Obama from prior unsuccessful candidates like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
But, many want to find Reid's remarks highly offensive:
- Conservatives and Republicans want to criticize Reid.
- Blacks and hard-leftists want control over any discussion about race.
- Ordinary liberals need to stay on the good side of blacks. It is more convenient to condemn Reid's statement, and forgive the man, than to violate political correctness.
I have no sympathy for Harry Reid, but I hate to see the liberal speech police have their way, and I dislike seeing conservatives taking the lead in the process.
The public discussion shows a basic confusion between analysis and belief, between what we observe and wild inferences about why we observe it. This confusion makes it impossible to talk about race and the effects of race in society.
Reid is criticized for saying "Negro dialect". "Negro" is a term that is now out of fashion and associated with bigots of the 1960's. At that time it was the common term for a black person. Some suspect that Reid is a secret bigot for using a word associated with bigots. He isn't modern enough to have shifted his word choice to "black".
If we want to escape political correctness and have reasonable discussions, then we can't do a poetic analysis of every word and phrase. Let people use the words they want. If they aren't directly insulting you or using an obviously demeaning term, their word choice is not a racist act. Look for the meaning, not the individual words, grammar, and spelling.