Commentary Magazine


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Whose America Is It?

Richard Cohen, who occasionally writes sensible things on race, suggests in his Washington Post column today that among the many reasons Sarah Palin is unqualified to be president is:

She could not be the president of black America nor of Hispanic America. She knows more about grizzlies than she does about African Americans — and she clearly has more interest in the former than the latter.

Palin draws Cohen’s fire for a passage in her new book in which she says that President Obama “seems to believe” that “America — at least America as it currently exists — is a fundamentally unjust and unequal country.” Cohen suggests that Palin’s comment is proof that she is ignorant of America’s racial history.

I’m not a Palin fan — she lost the right to be taken seriously in my book when she gave up the governorship of Alaska to embark on her career as celebrity politician — but the idea that there is a “black America” or a “Hispanic America” is offensive. Cohen’s reference is also more than a little ironic given President Obama’s own claim that “There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

Cohen aside, being familiar with the racial injustices of the past and our fight to overcome them should make us more, not less, proud that we are a fundamentally just nation, where equal opportunity remains a principle more honored in the observance than the breach.