Commentary Magazine


Topic: racism

The New Left’s Ugly Race Consciousness

As Republicans, the party of emancipation and desegregation, are busily dismantling the last vestiges of the Confederacy’s legacy from public grounds, the left has embarked on a bizarre victory lap. An uncritical media establishment is certainly aiding liberals in their effort to cast themselves as heroes in this latest racial debate, specifically Hillary Clinton for having the courage to recite road-worn, analgesic slogans peripherally related to racial healing in speeches before friendly audiences. The right’s more abrasive voices are, however, not helping the GOP make the case that it is a party of racial tolerance. Commentators like Ann Coulter, who recently called rebel flag slayer and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley an “immigrant” who “does not understand America’s history” (she was born in Bamburg, South Carolina), provide the left’s self-assured ethnographers with a justified opportunity to attack the movement with which she identifies as being hostile to those of non-European descent. But some on the left have indulged in peculiar and equally offensive bouts of race consciousness of late. Those who have indulged in this manner of naked stereotyping deserve all the censure that Coulter has received. Read More

As Republicans, the party of emancipation and desegregation, are busily dismantling the last vestiges of the Confederacy’s legacy from public grounds, the left has embarked on a bizarre victory lap. An uncritical media establishment is certainly aiding liberals in their effort to cast themselves as heroes in this latest racial debate, specifically Hillary Clinton for having the courage to recite road-worn, analgesic slogans peripherally related to racial healing in speeches before friendly audiences. The right’s more abrasive voices are, however, not helping the GOP make the case that it is a party of racial tolerance. Commentators like Ann Coulter, who recently called rebel flag slayer and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley an “immigrant” who “does not understand America’s history” (she was born in Bamburg, South Carolina), provide the left’s self-assured ethnographers with a justified opportunity to attack the movement with which she identifies as being hostile to those of non-European descent. But some on the left have indulged in peculiar and equally offensive bouts of race consciousness of late. Those who have indulged in this manner of naked stereotyping deserve all the censure that Coulter has received.

“[Bobby] Jindal’s status as a conservative of color helped propel his meteoric rise in the Republican Party — from an early post in the George W. Bush administration to two terms in Congress and now a second term as Louisiana governor — and donors from Indian American groups fueled his first forays into politics,” a Washington Post report observed earlier this week. “Yet many see him as a man who has spent a lifetime distancing himself from his Indian roots.”

The Post noted that Jindal’s parents stopped visiting their homeland on the Subcontinent in the 1990s after the Louisiana governor’s grandfather died. The report added that he changed his name to “Bobby” from Piyush and converted from Hinduism to Christianity as a teenager. “There’s not much Indian left in Bobby Jindal,” rah University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Pearson Cross told the Post.

Yet there is little evidence that Jindal is ashamed of his ethnic background so much as he is proud of his American heritage and profoundly thankful for the sacrifices his parents made in order to ensure that he could call himself an American.

Jindal, whose boilerplate stump speech focuses extensively on his parents’ backgrounds in India and the trials they endured in order to provide him with the opportunities that he made the best of in the United States, has committed what the left regards as the unforgivable sin of rejecting identity politics altogether. The Pelican State governor called those who preoccupy themselves with prejudging their fellow Americans based on their skin colors “dim-witted” and added that his family has refused to consider themselves “hyphenated Americans.”

“My dad and mom told my brother and me that we came to America to be Americans. Not Indian-Americans, simply Americans,” the governor has said. “If we wanted to be Indians, we would have stayed in India. It’s not that they are embarrassed to be from India, they love India. But they came to America because they were looking for greater opportunity and freedom.”

Throughout his career, Jindal has been subjected to question after question from the press designed to elicit his precise level of race consciousness. In fact, the Post’s expose on Jindal’s racial authenticity is reflective of a longstanding impulse on the left to question Jindal’s devotion to his ethnic background. The Washington Examiner’s T. Becket Adams recalled that MSNBC was compelled to apologize after one of its guest speculated that Jindal was trying to “scrub some of the brown off his skin” in order to seek his party’s presidential nomination. “Is Bobby Jindal’s reputation for intelligence anything other than ethnic stereotyping?” Vox.com editor Matt Yglesias asked in 2013. Jindal is, for the record, a Rhodes Scholar who attended three Ivy League institutions and Oxford University as a student.

“How Dinesh D’Souza and Bobby Jindal advance in the GOP by erasing their ethnic identities,” a tweet promoted by the formerly serious intellectual journal The New Republic shrieked. The article, authored by Jeet Heer in February, spends most of its time attacking D’Souza – a conservative provocateur who hasn’t served in a political role since the Reagan administration – for his denunciation of Barack Obama’s “anti-colonial” worldview. Heer goes on, however, to include Jindal and Gov. Haley in his catchall rebuke of conservative Indian-American political figures.

D’Souza indicates a wider problem, given that one of the Republican Party’s most prominent Islamophobic voices is Louisana [sic] Governor Bobby Jindal, a South Asian. D’Souza’s racism and Jindal’s xenophobia find a more muted parallel in the career of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, whose advancement includes suppressing public references to her Sikh heritage and being presented by her campaign as a “proud Christian woman.”

“The careers of D’Souza, Jindal, and Haley carry an implicit message: Racial minorities can advance in the GOP by erasing their ethnic identity and/or attacking other minorities,” Heer concluded.

This kind of noxious racial paranoia is toxic to national comity, and it undermines the very virtues associated with the immigrant ethic. The left professes a profound appreciation for America’s immigrant heritage, but it apparently recoils at the notion that the immigrants who come here do so with the intention of assimilating into American society. Jindal and Haley were born in the United States. To presume that they should display a cultural affinity other than towards the country of their birth is precisely the kind of contemptible ethnic stereotyping liberals claim they abhor.

In all likelihood, this manner of disreputable racial agitation on the left is only going to grow coarser over the course of the 2016 cycle. The expansive Republican field includes politicians of a variety of ethnic, gender, and religious backgrounds; it’s probably the most diverse field of presidential candidates any American political party has ever produced. By contrast, the Democratic slate is conspicuously monochromatic. For a party that has branded itself the champion of ethnic diversity over the course of the Obama administration, this will be a jarring transition. One obnoxious coping mechanism is to undermine the authenticity of the GOP slate’s minority candidates. Get ready to see more of its kind soon.

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Charleston and Our Tragic Impotence

The reaction to the slaughter of nine members of an African-American church in South Carolina demonstrated by the members of the affected community has been one of unfathomable transcendence. The residents of Charleston, guided by divine faith, have responded to unspeakable violence with forgiveness and behaved in a manner that is beyond admirable. The reaction to this event from those who were not immediately affected by it has been quite different. Some have embraced divisiveness, aggression, and litigiousness while others succumbed to fatalism and despair.  These reactions to this act of terror have been muted expressions of torment at the horrible understanding that none of us could have, or likely ever will be able to, prevent evil people with wicked intentions from doing their worst. Read More

The reaction to the slaughter of nine members of an African-American church in South Carolina demonstrated by the members of the affected community has been one of unfathomable transcendence. The residents of Charleston, guided by divine faith, have responded to unspeakable violence with forgiveness and behaved in a manner that is beyond admirable. The reaction to this event from those who were not immediately affected by it has been quite different. Some have embraced divisiveness, aggression, and litigiousness while others succumbed to fatalism and despair.  These reactions to this act of terror have been muted expressions of torment at the horrible understanding that none of us could have, or likely ever will be able to, prevent evil people with wicked intentions from doing their worst.

From almost the moment the news of this barbarity broke (an earthquake is a “tragedy,” this was something else entirely), the commentariat on the left began asking why we as a nation do not call this kind of attack an act of “terrorism.” Of course, we do. A variety of analysts from across the political spectrum condemned this cruel act a terrorist attack. In a definitional sense, the Charleston shootings do not vary discernably from those executed by ISIS or al-Qaeda-inspired lone wolf attackers.

When a 32-year-old ISIS devotee shot and killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo outside the Canadian National War Memorial and stormed parliament in October of Last year, his attack terrorized a community. It was preceded just days prior by hit-and-run attack on two Canadian soldiers executed by a similarly inspired individual. A 16-hour hostage drama in Sydney, Australia, also had its roots in Islamist ideology and terrorized a city. When two gunmen executed a strike on the provocative conference planned by Pamela Geller’s group in Garland, Texas, it was also terrorism. And when a Bosnian man drove a car into a crowd in Austria, emerging from the wreck only to stab passersby until he was subdued, that, too, was a terrorist attack.

The terrorizing effects of all of these events are not distinct from the impact the assault on black parishioners in South Carolina has had on the African-American community. Many on the right made these links, but that did not satisfy those who were supposedly asking why the Charleston attack was not universally dubbed “terrorism.” Their refusal to take yes for an answer exposes the dishonest nature of the question. What they would ask if they possessed the courage is why the United States does not regard the fight against virulent and violent racism like that espoused by the Charleston shooter as the same national military priority and moral imperative as is global war on Islamic radicalism.

Perhaps they do not ask this aloud because the answer is self-evident. Michael Rubin noted recently that the legal definition of terrorism is something distinct from that which you might find in Miriam-Websters. This is one reason FBI Director James Comey refused to call Roof’s attack “terrorism.” Furthermore, those incidents above are dramatically divergent from one recent example of the kind of Islamic terrorism the West is presently fighting a war against: the Charlie Hebdo massacre. That attack, in the planning stages for years after being mandated by an al-Qaeda branch in Yemen, was conducted by two foreign-trained militants. What’s more, that attack was probably evitable since one of the attackers was both known to and monitored by global counterterrorism agencies.

Another distinction between Charleston and the Islamic radicalism spreading from the jungles of the Philippines to the shores of North Africa is that the latter appears ascendant. For decades, radical Islamic terrorism has been a feature of geopolitics, but the rise of nascent Islamic caliphates across the Middle East and North Africa has created an attractive veneer of novelty for aspiring recruits to the cause. By contrast, Charleston shooter Dylann Roof was a proud anachronism. He flew and revered the flags of regimes like the Confederacy, Apartheid South Africa, and Rhodesia – long defunct states that embraced discredited ideologies undone by decades of military and socio-economic pressure from without. Critics of the war on terrorism would do well to internalize the generational scale that characterizes successful wars against ideologies that would compete for legitimacy with Western democratic liberalism like those that eventually undid both the Confederates and the National Party.

But the commentary class has not engaged in much of this substantive and valuable debate. Instead, they have thrashed impotently in their heartache at old grievances and tired hobbyhorses.

In the wake of the shooting, many on the left including the President of the United States demanded a renewed push for federal gun control legislation. But the left is certainly not interested in elevating Roof’s minor pending drug charge to a felony, which would have prevented him from legally purchasing or owning a gun. What they demand is a reprise of the “national conversation” about gun laws that followed the Newtown shootings; a conversation that ended decisively — and badly for gun control advocates — months later when a Democrat-led Senate failed to approve even modest amendments to federal gun ownership laws.

Many have also begun to indict the old Confederate battle flag that flies ignominiously over South Carolina’s state capital. Many commentators and political actors from both sides of the aisle, mostly from the North and West, have demanded that the flag be furled following this attack. The value of this dubious symbol is a fine debate to have, but it is beside the point. If we are to take Roof’s word for what inspired him to engage in this affront to human decency, which is we all have, then we must also accept that his hatred for the United States as presently constituted is also rooted in its disrespect for long extinct Southern segregationist culture. If the charge that some are making is that the state of South Carolina is somehow complicit in these brutal murders, that is an extraordinary claim wanting for similarly extraordinary evidence. Those leveling such a charge will find the evidentiary hurdles necessary to prove it impossible to overcome. According to the FBI’s 2013 crime statistics, less than one percent of the murders committed that year were by whites targeting blacks. That meager figure is a trend, not an aberration. What’s more, despite the fact that the South has more violent crime than any other American region, this statistic indicates that there is no epidemic of white-on-black violence in the former Confederate states.

It is perhaps understandable that so much of the post-Charleston conversation has been centered on matters that have nothing to do with that shooting: unworkable gun control tropes, a peripheral if morally questionable flag, and, of course, the other political party. The striking and terrifying fact of the matter is that Roof’s attack would have been next to impossible to prevent, as were the attacks in Sydney, Ottawa, Graz, and Garland. Someday, though, the West might be so victorious in its efforts to combat Islamic radicalism that lone wolf attacks like those might be as shocking to our consciences as was the attack in Charleston. Rather than accept them as a deplorable new reality, outbursts of Islamic radicalism will be viewed as a departure from the norm to which we have become accustomed. The lamentable truth is that we will probably never be able to accept the truly terrible reality that horrible things happen, evil exists, and there will always be moments when we will be rendered virtually powerless before it.

 

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Racism and Moral Judgments

A New York Times story, in the context of the horrifying events in Charleston, examined the life of Dylann Roof, the moral monster who gunned down nine people attending a Bible study. Roof comes across as a depraved mind. Interviewing people who knew him, we were told this:

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A New York Times story, in the context of the horrifying events in Charleston, examined the life of Dylann Roof, the moral monster who gunned down nine people attending a Bible study. Roof comes across as a depraved mind. Interviewing people who knew him, we were told this:

Another friend, Dalton Tyler, said that Mr. Roof had begun talking about wanting “to start a civil war.” But like Mr. [Joseph] Meek, he did not always take Mr. Roof seriously.

Mr. Tyler said on another occasion, the two were driving to a strip club by the zoo when Mr. Roof saw a black woman, used a racist word and said, “I’ll shoot your ass.”

“I was just like, ‘You’re stupid,’ ” Mr. Tyler said. “He was a racist; but I don’t judge people.”

This is hardly the most important aspect of this heartbreaking (and also profoundly moving and inspiring) story. But it does illustrate the absurdity of a world that embraces an ethic of non-judgmentalism. The aversion to making moral judgments – of saying some things are right and others wrong – is so prevalent that some people find themselves afraid to render a verdict even on racism.

It’s fair to ask whether Mr. Tyler would be willing to make a moral pronouncement on Roof after his massacre, or whether that, too, would qualify as “judging people” and, therefore, be inappropriate. I imagine making moral evaluations about mass murder is something Tyler would be fine with, which sort of proves the point. Judging people is not per se wrong, and often it’s wholly appropriate. But we’ve become so fearful of being considered “judgmental” that many people are now afraid to make elementary ethical assessments.

The kind of soft nihilism that Allan Bloom warned about in The Closing of the American Mind has reached a rather advanced stage in many parts of America, to the point where some people are afraid to render a moral verdict on an avowed racist for fear of being deemed judgmental.

One can only hope that more and more people will regain their sense and (re) discover that sober, ethical judgments are vital to the creation of a good society; that human flourishing depends on a moral order, which is impossible to create or sustain in a relativistic world.

 

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Furling the Confederate Flag Is Just the Start

The planter class of the South lost the Civil War but won the peace. The attempt by the federal government to impose civil rights during Reconstruction (1865-1877) failed for several reasons.  Read More

The planter class of the South lost the Civil War but won the peace. The attempt by the federal government to impose civil rights during Reconstruction (1865-1877) failed for several reasons. 
To begin with, as I noted in my book Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Modern Day, Presidents Andrew Johnson and Ulysses Grant never sent enough troops to truly transform a region of 9.4 million people (5.5 million of them white). There were 87,000 federal troops garrisoned in the South in 1866, and that figure dropped to just 6,000 in 1876. The federal government’s inability to enforce the law allowed terrorist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and Red Shirts to flourish. Their goal was to deny equal rights to newly freed slaves, and that in turn necessitated inflicting terror not only on African-Americans who tried to assert their rights but also on Republican officeholders — many of them newly arrived from the North — who wanted to help them.

As important as the success that white supremacists had in inflicting violence was their success in gaining control of the narrative. Before long, much of the American population, and not only in the South, came to believe the myths of the Confederacy: That the South had superior culture and morals, that its manhood had fought and died for a glorious Lost Cause, and that the South was subsequently raped by corrupt and rapacious Northern “carpetbaggers” and their homegrown collaborators known as “scalawags.”

Recent historical research has shown that none of this was true: that newly installed Republican officeholders were no more corrupt than the secessionists they replaced, and many of them were idealistic and well-intentioned. And needless to say, the Southern cause was not at all glorious — the Confederate armies may have fought bravely and well, but they fought  to preserve a way of life founded upon enslaving their fellow human beings.

But reality was quickly trumped by myths spread by such popular works of art as Birth of a Nation (a movie based on Thomas Dixon Jr.’s 1905 novel The Clansman) and Gone with the Wind. In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, when the South was resisting a new era of civil rights, its leading segregationists harked back to this myth of their ancestors as noble fighters for a lost civilization. That myth was symbolized by the Confederate battle flag which, having once stood for secession and slavery, was now revived to stand for segregation, or in the code words of the day, “state’s rights.”

Mercifully, the South of today is light years removed from those dark days — as a quick glance at the number of African-American officeholders across the region will reveal. And yet many white Southerners continue to cling to the Confederate flag as a symbol of the beloved Confederacy. And it is hardly the only such symbol: There are still countless streets named after Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and other leaders of the Confederacy. In fact just across the river from our national capital can be found Jefferson Davis Highway in northern Virginia.

The Confederate flag has quite rightly come under fire again after the appalling massacre carried out by a white supremacist in Charleston, South Carolina, who murdered nine church goers because they were black. It has become the politically correct stance to assert that the Confederate flag that continues to fly over the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse needs to come down. But just because a position is politically correct doesn’t mean it’s wrong. In this case, it’s right. Not only should the Confederate flag come down, but I believe it’s also time for Southern states to change place names in honor of traitors such as Jefferson Davis.

I know, I know: it’s a slippery slope that could eventually result in taking slaveholders such as George Washington off our currency or even renaming our national capital. But Washington, in spite of being a slaveholder, also helped to create this country as a bastion of freedom. The good he did far outweighed his deplorable participation in the slave-owning customs of his time and place. I can think of no similar redeeming virtues that can be claimed for the likes of Jefferson Davis who helped to plunge this country into a civil war that left as many as 800,000 dead in a fruitless quest to ensure that slavery would remain legal.

I believe it is a calumny to assert that the South of today is unchanged from the 1860s or 1960s. But the South needs to complete its transformation by finally jettisoning the remaining symbols of its dark past.

 

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Rachel Dolezal and the Real Divide Among Americans

On the surface, it’s difficult to view Rachel Dolezal as anything but yet another depressing example of just how far the left’s push for the deconstruction of meaning and fact can go. Her fraudulent attempt to pose as a black woman and a victim of discrimination may not have stopped with lies on official applications but might even have extended to false claims of harassment. Yet yet her masquerade has not been greeted with universal condemnation. With the much-publicized acceptance of Caitlyn Jenner as a woman, many are asking why we can’t treat race — which is to some extent a social construct rather than a rigid divide between people — as similarly malleable. If she wants to think of herself as black, who are we, the thinking goes, to tell her she can’t? Understandably, many African-Americans as well as others are not prepared to accept this willingness to treat issues of identity in such a cavalier fashion. But is there something in this argument that might point the way toward a better society? If there is, it completely undermines the entire politics of grievance to which Dolezal has dedicated her life.

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On the surface, it’s difficult to view Rachel Dolezal as anything but yet another depressing example of just how far the left’s push for the deconstruction of meaning and fact can go. Her fraudulent attempt to pose as a black woman and a victim of discrimination may not have stopped with lies on official applications but might even have extended to false claims of harassment. Yet yet her masquerade has not been greeted with universal condemnation. With the much-publicized acceptance of Caitlyn Jenner as a woman, many are asking why we can’t treat race — which is to some extent a social construct rather than a rigid divide between people — as similarly malleable. If she wants to think of herself as black, who are we, the thinking goes, to tell her she can’t? Understandably, many African-Americans as well as others are not prepared to accept this willingness to treat issues of identity in such a cavalier fashion. But is there something in this argument that might point the way toward a better society? If there is, it completely undermines the entire politics of grievance to which Dolezal has dedicated her life.

A strong argument against the Dolezal equals Jenner formula comes today from black author Tamara Winfrey Harris who writes in the New York Times to protest Dolezal’s actions. According to her, the real problem with her bizarre journey from white to black was made possible by the legacy of segregation and racism in which a “one drop” rule allowed anyone with even partial African ancestry to be viewed as black. She’s right about that since most African-Americans, to one extent or another, have both black and white ancestors. Though such laws are thankfully consigned to the country’s sordid past, the persistence of racism in any form, however marginal to mainstream culture and political reality (i.e. a black president and a black female attorney general) makes many blacks still wary of anything that harkens back to those memories. The problem in her view is that while Dolezal might be able to get away with pretending to be black, it is still impossible for most blacks to pretend to be white. And so long as that is true, such impersonations strike her as a vestige of racial privilege rather than a free choice that should be respected, if not honored.

As Harris writes:

Being able to shift one’s race is a privilege. Ms. Dolezal’s masquerade illustrates that however much she may empathize with African-Americans, she is not one, because black people in America cannot shed their race. We cannot proclaim the black race a nebulous concept, while strictly policing whiteness and the privileges of that identity. I will accept Ms. Dolezal as black like me only when society can accept me as white like her.

She has a point. But if the goal of our society is, as Martin Luther King Jr. memorably put it, to judge people by the “content of their character rather than the color of their skin,” why can’t a more enlightened America drop the entire effort to divide people by race? Harris would answer that racism is too great an obstacle and even in its much-diminished current state, it’s possible she’s right. Much as we would like to say that in a free country, every person should be able to choose their race as easily as they can choose their religion, blacks are not white and persons as Caucasian-looking as Ms. Dolezal was before she began darkening her skin and altering her hairstyle are still white.

But let’s leave appearance aside for a moment and ask ourselves if we would like to live in a country where race was a matter of choice rather than something imposed on us. That may strike many of us as being as counterintuitive as a man wanting to be a woman but if Rachel Dolezal truly wants to be a black woman, neither society nor the law should seek to interfere with her so long as she doesn’t do so in a manner that harms others or consists of telling or swearing to lies.

But in that theoretical world in which that might happen, it is precisely the sort of race-baiting activism that Dolezal (who was an active participant in the Baltimore protests over the killing of a black man by the police) has engaged in that makes such a goal unattainable. Ironically, rather than working to create a post-racial society in which the barriers between the races are demolished, Dolezal and many of her adopted comrades in what now styles itself the civil rights movement seek to entrench the divides between us and even to enshrine them in law. It is the advocates of affirmative action and other counter-productive race entitlements that hold onto the notion that America is a country primarily motivated by old hatreds long after such notions have become marginal or altogether discarded. Rather than the virtually non-existent supporters of Jim Crow being the problem, it is the Al Sharptons and their lesser-known acolytes such as Dolezal who do the most to render us a nation divided by race in 2015.

The point here is that a society that would be prepared to treat Rachel Dolezal’s white origins and identity as a mere detail that she could discard at will is one in which the racialist cause to which she seems to have dedicated herself makes impossible. Though there is much about this story that has the flavor of a troubled mind rather than a coherent vision of a better society, those who either condemn or support Dolezal would do well to ponder just how much the sort of racial hucksterism that many of her comrades in the civil rights movement does to make the rigid divisions between Americans permanent.

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Baltimore’s Indictments and How Not to Fix America’s Cities

Baltimore got the celebration this afternoon that many in Ferguson, Missouri longed for last summer and fall. The decision of Baltimore’s State’s Attorney to indict all the police officers connected with the death of Freddie Gray while in their custody turned demonstrations about the case into street parties today. The announcement that the cops had been charged with the most serious charges possible and faced decades in prison was exactly what the city needed to restore the peace that was disrupted by violent riots earlier in the week. But even as the nation sighs in relief at the prospect of calm in Baltimore, the upcoming trial and the ongoing debate about the significance of the case may raise more questions than can be answered by the indictment of six officers. If, as may happen, the officers are not convicted, the prospect of violence will be great. Nor is it likely that much light will be shed in the debate about the future of troubled urban areas like Baltimore or law enforcement in the rush to jail the cops in the case that has given new life to a largely misleading narrative of racism.

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Baltimore got the celebration this afternoon that many in Ferguson, Missouri longed for last summer and fall. The decision of Baltimore’s State’s Attorney to indict all the police officers connected with the death of Freddie Gray while in their custody turned demonstrations about the case into street parties today. The announcement that the cops had been charged with the most serious charges possible and faced decades in prison was exactly what the city needed to restore the peace that was disrupted by violent riots earlier in the week. But even as the nation sighs in relief at the prospect of calm in Baltimore, the upcoming trial and the ongoing debate about the significance of the case may raise more questions than can be answered by the indictment of six officers. If, as may happen, the officers are not convicted, the prospect of violence will be great. Nor is it likely that much light will be shed in the debate about the future of troubled urban areas like Baltimore or law enforcement in the rush to jail the cops in the case that has given new life to a largely misleading narrative of racism.

Unlike in Ferguson, protesters need no longer demand that police accused of a role in the death of a young black man be arrested and indicted. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby immediately became a media heroine when she gave demonstrators and pundits calling for quick justice what they wanted during the course of a lengthy address that blasted the accused for their conduct.

Mosby handled her press conference ably. But the haste with which the state’s attorney charged the officers and her choice to avoid using going through the grand jury process, leaves open the possibility that her decision had more to do with politics and the need to keep the peace than justice. The multiplicity of charges as well as the second-degree murder count also makes it likely that she is hoping to offer a plea to some of the officers in order to convict others. The guilty should be punished severely. Yet it remains to be seen whether she has overcharged the police. But just as the accused are entitled to a presumption of innocence, so, too, must the country hope that the evidence exists to support the accusations of murder. If not, then Mosby is earning temporary applause that will eventually blow up in her face as well as that of the rest of the city.

Looking beyond the fate of these individual officers, the danger here is that the case of Freddie Gray will, regardless of the evidence, become a rallying cry against police around the country as well as feeding often false charges of racism.

This week’s riot has set off an ocean of commentary about the fate of the inner cities and renewed the debate about the extent to which government can solve the problems of cities like Baltimore. Some of these exchanges have been thoughtful. But many have been absurd. The idea that calling rioters “thugs” is evidence of racism shows how far the discussion of race has been debased by a debilitating political correctness. Al Sharpton’s call for the nationalization of police, Michael Moore’s demand that they be disarmed can be dismissed as fodder for the MSNBC crowd and not much more. N.D.B. Connolly’s New York Times op-ed in which he raised the specter of slavery to depict Baltimore — a city with a black mayor and state’s attorney and an integrated police force — to be a bastion of racism highlighted the way the left hopes to parlay this tragedy and any others it can rope into the conversation into political capital.

It goes without saying that the plight of those trapped in inner cities with failing schools and dysfunctional economies are right to want change. But no matter how Freddie Gray was killed, nothing in this case changes the fact that cities like Baltimore have been governed by the political left and often by minority politicians for decades. Racism is part of the reality of American history. But the collapse of these cities is the fruit of a failed liberal government project. Liberals and Democrats point to the Baltimore riots as the justification for a renewal of the same big spending policies that have already repeatedly failed. Nor will an attempt to shoehorn isolated incidents of police misbehavior into a general narrative of racism that makes it hard for law enforcement to work bring peace to neighborhoods. That’s especially true of those that badly need police to defend the safety and property of citizens beset more by crime than a notional oppression that has little connection to their lives.

The danger here is not just that justice is always sacrificed when mobs exercise influence over politicians who fear to anger them (such as Baltimore’s mayor who called earlier this week for giving thugs “space to destroy). It’s that a productive dialogue about how to expand economic opportunity and improve education — the only factors that can heal broken cities — is being drowned in a sea of misleading rhetoric about race and police violence.

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The Consequences of “Space to Destroy”

When President Obama finally spoke today about the riots in Baltimore, he attempted to strike a balance between condemnation of those committing violence in the streets and criticism of the police who are also sometimes guilty of misconduct. He was also right when he noted that the problems in our inner cities are bigger than the discussion about police misconduct or racial prejudice. But these exemplary statements must be placed in the context of an event in which the nation witnessed portions of a major American city in the hands of a mob while police cowered or retreated. What stands out most as the citizens and police of Baltimore try desperately to take back control of their city from looters and thugs is the failure of those in authority to protect them. And responsibility for that failure extends from a mayor who wished to give the rioters the “space to destroy” as well as a president and attorney general that have at times sent a message to the nation that a war on police was understandable and even justified.

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When President Obama finally spoke today about the riots in Baltimore, he attempted to strike a balance between condemnation of those committing violence in the streets and criticism of the police who are also sometimes guilty of misconduct. He was also right when he noted that the problems in our inner cities are bigger than the discussion about police misconduct or racial prejudice. But these exemplary statements must be placed in the context of an event in which the nation witnessed portions of a major American city in the hands of a mob while police cowered or retreated. What stands out most as the citizens and police of Baltimore try desperately to take back control of their city from looters and thugs is the failure of those in authority to protect them. And responsibility for that failure extends from a mayor who wished to give the rioters the “space to destroy” as well as a president and attorney general that have at times sent a message to the nation that a war on police was understandable and even justified.

Let’s start by saying that protests about the death of Freddie Gray while in the hands of the police were justified. Every time a person suffers an injury, let alone, a death as a result of police action, it should prompt a serious investigation. But, like the reactions to the death of another young black man in Ferguson, Missouri or the man who died as a result of a choke hold from a policeman in Staten Island, New York, the effort to spin a narrative of police oppression seems more of an attempt to contrive a false narrative of oppression than it is a genuine response to what may well have been a criminal act by a cop.

But just as police need to know they will be held accountable if they misbehave, so, too, must those who enable or foment violence against the police and the communities they serve be judged by their actions.

What appears to have happened in Baltimore is a complete breakdown of authority that may well have stemmed from a statement made by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in which she said that, “we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that.”

While Rawlings-Blake claimed her words were distorted or taken out of context, that is nonsense. The inability of the mayor to control the situation only encouraged the violence to persist and spread. If the police lost control of parts of West Baltimore, the responsibility for this disgrace starts with the mayor. Once police allow lawbreakers to get away with minor violations or to flout the authority of the government, the breakdown of all law and order is not far behind.

It is true that peaceful protesters outraged about the fate of Gray don’t deserve to be lumped in with the thugs and criminals who rioted. But as much as those protesters deserve to be heard, it can’t be forgotten that in this incident as in the previous ones involving allegations of unjustified police violence, the voices of authority who assumed without any proof that these incidents were evidence of racism played a not-insignificant role in setting the tone that led to attacks on police and even looting.

The point is, it is appropriate for politicians to denounce racism and to demand investigations into questionable incidents. But, as we learned in Ferguson, it is possible that some of these alleged instances of police misconduct might turn out to be not what they appeared to be when they were first reported.

That is why it is so important that the response of public officials to anti-cop protests should not be so equivocal as to encourage rioters to think they will be given “space to destroy.”

The consequences of the effort to indict police even before we know the facts about specific cases can be seen this week in the streets of Baltimore just as we saw it in Ferguson last year. Gray’s death deserves a rigorous investigation and if police are judged responsible, they should be severely punished. But what we should also remember is that it is a short leap from some of the specious rhetoric about racism lying beneath every act of the police emanating from civil-rights groups and politicians to rationalizing or minimizing violence against police and innocent citizens by rioters.

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Eric Holder’s Ferguson Report Is a Public Service, and Conservatives Should Say So

There has been so much partisanship and misinformation about America’s police and about race in general these past few years, it’s understandable that conservatives get defensive when the topics come up–and certainly when they are fused in one story. But conservatives should set all that aside and embrace the Holder Justice Department’s thorough report on the toxic municipal policing in Ferguson, Missouri. Holder’s report is a public service. And it would be a tremendous wasted opportunity not to engage in this argument. An abusive government run amok should never escape conservatives’ ire.

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There has been so much partisanship and misinformation about America’s police and about race in general these past few years, it’s understandable that conservatives get defensive when the topics come up–and certainly when they are fused in one story. But conservatives should set all that aside and embrace the Holder Justice Department’s thorough report on the toxic municipal policing in Ferguson, Missouri. Holder’s report is a public service. And it would be a tremendous wasted opportunity not to engage in this argument. An abusive government run amok should never escape conservatives’ ire.

The first thing conservatives should note about the report is that yes, Ferguson appears to have a race problem. Here are some, but by no means all, of the more troubling statistics:

African Americans are 2.07 times more likely to be searched during a vehicular stop but are 26% less likely to have contraband found on them during a search. They are 2.00 times more likely to receive a citation and 2.37 times more likely to be arrested following a vehicular stop. …

African Americans are 68% less likely than others to have their cases dismissed by the Municipal Judge, and in 2013 African Americans accounted for 92% of cases in which an arrest warrant was issued.

There certainly does seem to be a two-tiered system of justice, and no amount of racial demagoguery from this White House or its partisans should turn conservatives away from recognizing it.

But the most fascinating part of the report is that it details precisely how the abusive policing is structured. It is a damning portrait of too-powerful government in desperate need of reform, and it should be required reading for every member of Congress.

At the core of the report is the fact that the city uses its police force as a revenue-collection tool. This is not limited to Ferguson, of course. But it’s worth looking at Ferguson to see how easily the wheels come off when this is the operative strategy. “The City has budgeted for, and achieved, significant increases in revenue from municipal code enforcement over the last several years, and these increases are projected to continue,” the report tells us. The city sets a revenue target and tells the police to go get it.

The city is now raising millions a year in fees and fines. This is where the scheme really comes alive:

Our review of police and court records suggests that much of the harm of Ferguson’s law enforcement practices in recent years is attributable to the court’s routine use of arrest warrants to secure collection and compliance when a person misses a required court appearance or payment. In a case involving a moving violation, procedural failures also result in the suspension of the defendant’s license. And, until recently, the court regularly imposed a separate Failure to Appear charge for missed appearances and payments; that charge resulted in an additional fine in the amount of $75.50, plus $26.50 in court costs. See Ferguson Mun. Code § 13-58 (repealed Sept. 23, 2014). During the last three years, the court imposed roughly one Failure to Appear charge per every two citations or summonses issued by FPD. Since at least 2010, the court has collected more revenue for Failure to Appear charges than for any other charge. …

Thus, while the municipal court does not generally deem the code violations that come before it as jail-worthy, it routinely views the failure to appear in court to remit payment to the City as jail-worthy, and commonly issues warrants to arrest individuals who have failed to make timely payment. Similarly, while the municipal court does not have any authority to impose a fine of over $1,000 for any offense, it is not uncommon for individuals to pay more than this amount to the City of Ferguson—in forfeited bond payments, additional Failure to Appear charges, and added court fees—for what may have begun as a simple code violation. In this way, the penalties that the court imposes are driven not by public safety needs, but by financial interests.

And how do such “violations” pile up? The report tells us that “It is often difficult for an individual who receives a municipal citation or summons in Ferguson to know how much is owed, where and how to pay the ticket, what the options for payment are, what rights the individual has, and what the consequences are for various actions or oversights. The initial information provided to people who are cited for violating Ferguson’s municipal code is often incomplete or inconsistent.”

In the interest of space, I’m forgoing the excerpts of personal anecdotes. But I recommend reading the report for those as well, to see how these actions affect the lives of the city’s residents. The crux of it is this: the city instructs the police to raise a certain amount of revenue. They do so by issuing various citations on skimpy or nonexistent evidence and which at times plainly violate Ferguson residents’ constitutional rights.

The municipal court then structures the payment procedure in a way that encourages additional violations. They put up obstacles to payment and don’t follow their own rules. For example, they leave the impression that in-person payment is required in far more cases than it actually is. They then close earlier than the posted closing time. It’s as if they don’t want to take your money–but that’s only because they want you to end up owing more, and then take that.

And why does the court do this? Jumping back earlier in the report, we learn that “Ferguson’s municipal court operates as part of the police department. The court is supervised by the Ferguson Chief of Police, is considered part of the police department for City organizational purposes, and is physically located within the police station. Court staff report directly to the Chief of Police.” Additionally, “the Court Clerk, who is employed under the Police Chief’s supervision, plays the most significant role in managing the court and exercises broad discretion in conducting the court’s daily operations.”

The game is rigged. And conservatives have a real opportunity to talk about why. This is the community-policing version of the regulatory state. There is a tendency among the right to counter attempts to gain sympathy for criminals by saying something like, “well don’t break the law.” And I suppose that’s true as far as it goes. But here’s the thing: it’s no longer so easy not to break the law, in all sorts of respects. And the proliferation of ticky-tack charges makes it that much easier to run afoul of the law.

Again, racism is certainly a part of this too in many cases. But the government exacerbates the problem by encouraging the police to see law-abiding citizens as potential piñatas. When you pass a law you put the state’s monopoly on the use of force behind it. And when you add a significant price tag to such arrests policing becomes like a video game. And when you bring the arms of municipal government under the unified command of the police, you remove the potential for necessary oversight.

The government has ballooned its own spending to the point where arresting citizens, and turning the innocent into criminals, has become a new form of stealth taxation. It’s dehumanizing, and limited-government conservatives are missing a real opportunity by not shouting it from the rooftops.

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The Racism Narrative and Attacks on Police

Last night’s shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri repeats a pattern of behavior that should shock Americans to their core. After the release of a Justice Department report alleging systematic racism by the police in Ferguson, and statements by Attorney General Eric Holder that appeared to delegitimize the entire law enforcement establishment in that town, there were demonstrations followed by what is described as an “ambush” of the police. While the responsibility for this crime belongs only to the person who fired the shots, it is still necessary to point out that those, including some of the highest officials of the land, who have sought to exploit charges against police in order to further their political agendas need to understand that inflammatory rhetoric doesn’t help heal our racial divide or promote peace on our streets.

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Last night’s shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri repeats a pattern of behavior that should shock Americans to their core. After the release of a Justice Department report alleging systematic racism by the police in Ferguson, and statements by Attorney General Eric Holder that appeared to delegitimize the entire law enforcement establishment in that town, there were demonstrations followed by what is described as an “ambush” of the police. While the responsibility for this crime belongs only to the person who fired the shots, it is still necessary to point out that those, including some of the highest officials of the land, who have sought to exploit charges against police in order to further their political agendas need to understand that inflammatory rhetoric doesn’t help heal our racial divide or promote peace on our streets.

The shooting particularly resonates because it was less than three months ago that similar events unfolded. In the aftermath of controversial rulings that absolved policemen of criminal charges in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in Staten Island, the country was convulsed by demonstrations and condemnations of law enforcement personnel. But after statements by the Obama administration, the mainstream media, and those claiming to speak for the civil-rights movement blasting police, the national conversation was altered by the murder of two New York City policemen by a person who claimed to want revenge for Brown and Garner.

That tragedy allowed the nation to put these incidents in perspective and to appreciate that there was more to these issues than the narrative of racism we had been hearing so much about. But that didn’t stop the administration and its cheering section of racial hucksters such as presidential advisor Al Sharpton from returning to the rhetorical excesses that helped gin up violence in Missouri and New York last year.

The Justice Department’s reports on Ferguson deserve particular scrutiny because they illustrate just how wrong-headed much of our national conversation on race has been in the last several months. After months of harangues about the shooting of Brown being indicative of racism, the federal review of the case confirmed the decision of the Grand Jury that refused to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson for the incident. The claim that Brown had put his hands up and cried, “don’t shoot” to Wilson was rightly labeled a lie. But after the mantra was repeated endlessly in social media, demonstrations, and stunts by celebrities and athletes, for many people the truth didn’t matter.

But not satisfied with debunking the myth that Wilson had murdered Brown, Justice also issued another report nonetheless blasting the Ferguson police for racism. The rationale for the report was largely statistical. As John R. Lott wrote in the New York Post earlier this week, there is reason to dispute the report’s conclusions that the numbers demonstrate bias. But even if we are to accept the idea that Ferguson’s law enforcement practices were flawed and concede, as we should, that racism still exists in this country, it must be understood that Holder’s willingness to go so far as to dismantle the Ferguson police department in a federal purge of local authorities was an attempt to ignore or to obfuscate the facts in the Brown case. After spending so much effort demonizing police because of the Ferguson incident, the agenda here was not so much reform as it was to revive the discredited claim that Brown’s death was an apt symbol of police brutality against minorities.

What we should have learned in December and ought to finally grasp now is that those who have sought to exploit extraordinary cases like those of Brown and Garner are keeping the racial pot boiling for political purposes.

The acts of violence against police ought not to silence discussions about race or of wrongful actions on the part of law enforcement authorities. But what Holder, President Obama, Sharpton, and those who have echoed their charges in the media have done is to create a narrative of police racism that isn’t always justified by the facts. More to the point, they have created an atmosphere in which violence against police becomes not only thinkable but also expected.

After all, even before the shooting of the Ferguson cops yesterday, the New York Times was reporting that police were no longer handing out traffic tickets or doing the same sort of patrols they had done before Brown’s death because of fears of violence against them. By demonizing the police, the civil-rights movement had essentially created a law-free zone in Ferguson that cannot have done much to enhance the quality of life there. Most of all, it should be remembered that the months of demonstrations and condemnations were rooted in myths and outright lies that were given credence by national figures who should have known better.

The latest shootings should, as the December killings did, cause those trumpeting often-dubious claims of racism to think more carefully about what they are doing. Moral leadership from Washington is necessary to make good on the promise of American freedom and to recognize the achievements of the civil-rights movement. But all too often what we have gotten instead are statements aimed at wrongly portraying the America of 2015 as little different from that of 1965. Racists must be condemned and out-of-control and prejudiced law enforcement must be reformed. But what must also be changed is the kind of rhetoric that incites violence and promotes harmful myths that encourage hate and division.

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GOP ‘House of Cards’ Problem, Part Two

Some right-wing bloggers are jumping on a new interview with a former David Duke aide as proof that the allegations that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise spoke to a racist group affiliated with the former Ku Klux Klan leader were misleading if not downright inaccurate. If so, all those (including me) who have called for Scalise’s resignation as the number three person in the House GOP leadership were wrong. But while the story may not be quite as clear cut as we originally thought, those claiming that this is just another liberal media hit job on a conservative are off base. Scalise’s judgment is still very much in question, as is his continued utility to a Republican Party that doesn’t need any additional burdens in its efforts to restrain Barack Obama’s imperial presidency.

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Some right-wing bloggers are jumping on a new interview with a former David Duke aide as proof that the allegations that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise spoke to a racist group affiliated with the former Ku Klux Klan leader were misleading if not downright inaccurate. If so, all those (including me) who have called for Scalise’s resignation as the number three person in the House GOP leadership were wrong. But while the story may not be quite as clear cut as we originally thought, those claiming that this is just another liberal media hit job on a conservative are off base. Scalise’s judgment is still very much in question, as is his continued utility to a Republican Party that doesn’t need any additional burdens in its efforts to restrain Barack Obama’s imperial presidency.

As I noted earlier in the week, Scalise’s problem arose from the revelation that he spoke at a conference of a white supremacist group in 2002 connected to the odious Duke before he entered Congress. While Scalise said he couldn’t recall the event and opposed the group’s beliefs, he nevertheless apologized for speaking to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO). Scalise claimed he wasn’t aware of the connection to hate but was merely addressing what he thought was a constituency group. One of Duke’s associates, Kenny Knight, told the Washington Post’s Robert Costa on Tuesday that he had arranged the appearance with Scalise, whom he described as a neighbor and a friend.

“He was my neighbor,” Knight said of Scalise, who was serving as a state representative at the time of the conference. “I asked him to be the first speaker before the meeting kicked off.”…

“This all came about because I organized the EURO meeting for David Duke as a courtesy after he had moved to Russia. I’ve known David for 40 years so I did him a favor. As part of that, I decided to ask Steve, our local representative, to come by and say a few words before the conference started,” Knight said. “He agreed, believing it was going to be neighbors, friends, and family. He saw me not as David Duke’s guy, but as the president of our civic association.” …

“Steve came in early on the first day of EURO, spoke for about 15 minutes, and he left,” Knight recalled. “He didn’t hear David speak remotely to the crowd.”

While this was not evidence of Scalise’s support for the hate group’s ideology, it was nonetheless a damning indictment of his judgment in choosing to associate with it and enough to justify calls for his resignation. Though, as I also noted, he was probably being judged by a different standard than President Obama has been for his 20-year membership in a church run by a hatemonger like Rev. Jeremiah Wright or for treating Al Sharpton as his chief advisor on race, Scalise was nonetheless guilty of making a critical error that could handicap his party’s efforts to govern effectively. Fair or not, he had to go.

But now Knight, the same person who dropped the dime on Scalise, is trying to undo the damage done to the majority whip. Knight told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that Scalise actually spoke at a meeting of the Jefferson Heights Civic Association, not Duke’s EURO. In this version of the story, Scalise spoke to the Civic Association two and a half hours before the racist conference although it was at the same hotel and apparently involved some of the same people.

Is this enough to get Scalise off the hook? At least as far as many on the right are concerned it is, and some right-wing bloggers are treating the whole thing as the moral equivalent of Rolling Stone’s University of Virginia rape hoax. But the problem with this assertion is that it rests on the word of an entirely unsavory character that is now claiming that Costa got the story wrong when he interviewed him. But this strains credibility. Costa is a good reporter and, far from a product of the liberal media bias establishment, is a veteran of National Review. It’s more than likely that Knight’s second version of the story is merely an attempt to walk back quotes that got a conservative into trouble rather than the truth. At best, Scalise still compromised himself by his involvement with some not-so-attractive customers.

Yet with most of his GOP colleagues, including House Speaker John Boehner, already standing by Scalise, this muddying of the waters may be sufficient to allow him to weather the storm and to hope that eventually the media will tire of the story and leave him alone. If he were a liberal Democrat, that might happen. But since Scalise has already apologized for the mistake that some of his defenders are now lamely claiming never happened, you can bet that Democrats will be beating the House GOP up for this as long as Scalise remains in the leadership. Indeed, irrespective of the doubts that have been raised about Scalise’s level of culpability, liberal organs like the New York Times are already running specious features about David Duke’s influence on the Republican Party in the South, in spite of the fact that the GOP and its grass roots wants nothing to do with the rabid extremist hater.

It may be that Steve Scalise will hang on to his post as majority whip, a job that most Americans only know about from the fact that it was the starting point for the villainous protagonist of Netflix’s House of Cards series. But the last thing Republicans intent on showing that they can use their control of both houses of Congress to govern effectively is a plot line that will allow liberals to smear them as racists. Scalise committed no crime but he probably knew he was skirting the line of respectability when he spoke to what may or may not have been a hate group in 2002. No one said politics is fair. Like it or not, Scalise is going to be a liability to the GOP for as long as he remains in office. It’s up to Boehner to decide if he wants to spend 2015 going toe-to-toe with Obama and the media with this kind of a handicap.

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Iran Should Confront Its Own Racism

In recent days, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has taken to his twitter feed to condemn American racism, even using the trending hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter. CNN.com asked me to respond to his tweets, which I did here. In short, there’s something rather hypocritical about the Iranian leader calling the United States—or any other country racist. The Islamic Republic of Iran is today among the world’s most racist and religiously intolerant countries. Culturally, many Iranians look down upon all the other peoples surrounding them (this is a theme explored in my 2005 co-authored book, Eternal Iran). After all, the Middle East is a region of artificial countries, shaped largely by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and nineteenth and twentieth European colonialism. Iran is an exception, however: it is the successor to great empires and has its own imperial legacy. Iranian racism against and abuse of Afghan refugees and workers is well known.

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In recent days, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has taken to his twitter feed to condemn American racism, even using the trending hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter. CNN.com asked me to respond to his tweets, which I did here. In short, there’s something rather hypocritical about the Iranian leader calling the United States—or any other country racist. The Islamic Republic of Iran is today among the world’s most racist and religiously intolerant countries. Culturally, many Iranians look down upon all the other peoples surrounding them (this is a theme explored in my 2005 co-authored book, Eternal Iran). After all, the Middle East is a region of artificial countries, shaped largely by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and nineteenth and twentieth European colonialism. Iran is an exception, however: it is the successor to great empires and has its own imperial legacy. Iranian racism against and abuse of Afghan refugees and workers is well known.

Whereas Iran once counted Baha’is among its cultural and economic elite, Revolutionary leader Ruhollah Khomeini and Khamenei, his successor, have ushered in an era of state-sanctioned religious discrimination. And while Khamenei has become fond of citing Jesus Christ in his recent tweets, let us not forget all of the Christian pastors whom the Khamenei regime has murdered. Of course, Jews also suffer at the hands of Khamenei’s regime. Sure, it’s not uncommon to hear that Iran has the second largest Jewish community in the Middle East, but it’s just 20 percent of what it was before Khomeini and Khamenei seized power. Anti-Semitism is nothing new in Iran. While former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called international attention to it with his repeated Holocaust denial, it was actually his predecessor, the so-called reformist Mohammad Khatami, who welcomed prominent Holocaust deniers to Iran and gave them a forum at the foreign ministry’s think tank.

Nor has Khamenei showed particular enlightenment toward blacks, either in his own country or abroad. When President Obama won election in November 2008—like Obama or dislike him, it was surely a historic day in American history—the Iranian press (and al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri) both dismissed Obama as a “house slave,” according to the Open Source Center, a U.S. government-run translation service. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ weekly Sobh-e Sadegh editorial discussing Obama’s election was entitled, “A Dark Person Rises to Remove Darkness From America,” but then continued to condemn the president for appointing a Jew as his chief-of-staff. Jomhuri-ye Eslami dismissed Obama as merely “a black immigrant.”

There is an unfortunate tendency in the United States toward moral and cultural equivalency. Is there racism in America? Certainly, although far less than decades ago (and enshrined too often in policies which promote color consciousness such as affirmative action). And is there racism in Iran? Of course. But to say the two are equivalent is to compare the heat from a camp fire to that of the core of a nuclear reactor. The difference in the two cases is that America has free press—remember the Emmett Till case 50 years ago—and Americans are introspective enough to confront problems and seek improvement. In Iran, however, speaking openly about anti-Semitism, discrimination against Christians and Baha’is, seeking justice for Afghans, or preventing discrimination against minorities like the Baluch or Kurds will lead to lengthy jail terms.

It’s time to call Khamenei out on his racism and bias. He is an embarrassment to what Iran could and should be and, for that matter, to any notion of human rights and decency. To let his preaching continue unanswered is simply to cede the moral high-ground to a bigot more comfortable promoting genocide than striving after any notion of justice.

If Obama is serious about race and teachable moments, perhaps it’s time to call Khamenei out on his racism.

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Scalise Should Go; So Should Sharpton.

The revelation that Rep. Steve Scalise, the number three person in the House Republican leadership, gave a speech to a white supremacist group in 2002 has prompted calls for his resignation. Despite House Speaker John Boehner’s statement of “full confidence” for one of his deputies, Scalise should quickly exit his post as Majority Whip so as to remove the taint of racism from the new Congress that will be sworn in next month and to allow his party to pursue a conservative agenda without being burdened by his baggage. But those liberals who are screaming for Scalise’s scalp should be careful about holding the GOP leadership to a higher standard than those who advise the president or Democrats. If Scalise should resign, and he should, how is it that it was not an issue that the president of the United States attended a church run by hatemonger like Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the White House should stop treating Al Sharpton, a man with far more baggage than Scalise’s sin, as their “go-to-man on race.”

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The revelation that Rep. Steve Scalise, the number three person in the House Republican leadership, gave a speech to a white supremacist group in 2002 has prompted calls for his resignation. Despite House Speaker John Boehner’s statement of “full confidence” for one of his deputies, Scalise should quickly exit his post as Majority Whip so as to remove the taint of racism from the new Congress that will be sworn in next month and to allow his party to pursue a conservative agenda without being burdened by his baggage. But those liberals who are screaming for Scalise’s scalp should be careful about holding the GOP leadership to a higher standard than those who advise the president or Democrats. If Scalise should resign, and he should, how is it that it was not an issue that the president of the United States attended a church run by hatemonger like Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the White House should stop treating Al Sharpton, a man with far more baggage than Scalise’s sin, as their “go-to-man on race.”

Some Republicans are lamenting the growing pressure on Scalise as sign of a double standard. They rightly point out that Robert Byrd was a Democratic leader and saluted as a Senate institution despite his past membership in the Ku Klux Klan. They point to President Obama’s decision to retain his membership in a church where hate was preached and, up until his successful campaign for the presidency, his embrace of Wright as a mentor.

But none of that excuses Scalise’s lapse. Republicans may be held to a higher standard than Democrats when it comes to race but that doesn’t mean that the GOP should give its leaders a pass. Scalise’s speech may have preceded his entry to Congress and happened a long time ago but any claim that he didn’t know what sort of group he was addressing lacks credibility. KKK leader David Duke founded the so-called European-American Unity and Rights Organization. Scalise’s willingness to attend one of their functions in 2002 as a keynote speaker in the obvious hope of currying favor with the far right was egregious and should not be excused. It is, if anything far worse than the lapse of judgment that same year when Senator Trent Lott had to resign his leadership of Senate Republicans for saying that it was a shame that Sen. Strom Thurmond lost the 1948 presidential election when he ran as a Dixiecrat advocate of segregation.

Scalise may not agree with David Duke about anything but being a member of the House leadership is a privilege not a right. The last thing Republicans need heading into the new Congress is for them to have to answer questions about the House Whip’s past. Scalise should ignore Boehner’s statement and do the right thing for his party and the Congress by withdrawing now and take a weapon out of the hands of the Democrats.

But while we’re making Scalise walk the plant, it’s fair to raise the issue of double standards.

The ship has sailed on the question of Obama’s association with Wright and his church. The liberal mainstream media may have downplayed or ignored the issue but it was no secret. The lure of electing our first African-American president was enough to cause many Americans who would not tolerate such an association on the part of another politician especially a Republican. But while the re-elected president is right to say that the people have had their say about him twice, that doesn’t excuse his choice of a man who has personally made anti-Semitic statements, helped egg on crowds to commit violence in the name of hate as well as a proven liar and tax cheat as an honored guest advisor to this administration. Were anyone of this ilk to be given similar honors by a Republican president, it would be a far bigger story than that of Scalise and rightly so.

The challenge here is not so much to political partisans but to the news media that has accepted Sharpton as a respectable leader and even given him a cable news platform. It is they who must not hound the administration on this issue and not let go in the same manner that they would if it were someone with racist associations. Their failure to do so does not get Scalise off the hook. But it ought to shake the consciences of those liberals in the press corps whose pretense of objectivity is a fraud.

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De Blasio Can’t Turn His Back on Sharpton

Today, both New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani termed the reaction of cops to the appearance of Mayor Bill de Blasio at the funeral of one of two assassinated policemen as “inappropriate.” The decision of police officers to turn their backs to the mayor en masse was a dramatic illustration of their lack of confidence in his leadership and a sign of the crisis for law enforcement that has been exposed by recent events. Nevertheless the rift between the mayor and the police could be healed by, as Giuliani also noted today, by a clear apology that shows he understands that he was wrong to join the gang tackle of the cops after Ferguson and the Eric Garner incident. But anyone expecting that to happen understands nothing about de Blasio or contemporary liberalism, which is waiting impatiently for the second murdered officer to be buried before trying to turn the national conversation back to a false narrative of racism from one of the left’s ideological war on the police.

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Today, both New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani termed the reaction of cops to the appearance of Mayor Bill de Blasio at the funeral of one of two assassinated policemen as “inappropriate.” The decision of police officers to turn their backs to the mayor en masse was a dramatic illustration of their lack of confidence in his leadership and a sign of the crisis for law enforcement that has been exposed by recent events. Nevertheless the rift between the mayor and the police could be healed by, as Giuliani also noted today, by a clear apology that shows he understands that he was wrong to join the gang tackle of the cops after Ferguson and the Eric Garner incident. But anyone expecting that to happen understands nothing about de Blasio or contemporary liberalism, which is waiting impatiently for the second murdered officer to be buried before trying to turn the national conversation back to a false narrative of racism from one of the left’s ideological war on the police.

Giuliani, who had many run-ins with the police during his eight years at City Hall over contractual issues, rightly understands how dangerous the breech between the police and the political leadership of the city can be for public safety. Thus, his plea for De Blasio to swallow his pride was good advice: “Mayor de Blasio, please say you’re sorry to them for having created a false impression of them.”

Giuliani was also right when he said what de Blasio most needed to do right now was to disassociate himself from Al Sharpton, the nation’s current racial huckster in chief. Sharpton has earned the obloquy of the nation with a lifetime of incitement and lies. But he was a crucial supporter of de Blasio’s mayoral campaign last year and has become an unexpected power broker in the Obama administration that has come to view the former sidewalk rabble-rouser and current MSNBC host as their go-to person on race issues.

But while the lame duck Obama may think there is no cost to his associating with Sharpton, de Blasio has a great deal to lose by doing so even if he doesn’t appear to understand this fact.

After only a year in office, de Blasio finds himself in a crisis largely of his won making. Having won by a landslide last year as the overwhelmingly liberal city elected its first Democrat in 24 years, the mayor clearly thought he had carte blanche to govern from the left. On many issues, he might well have gotten away with that decision. But having antagonized the police by campaigning against stop and frisk policies, he went a bridge too far when he joined in the chorus of those treating law enforcement as the enemy after Ferguson and then the non-indictment of the officer accused of choking Garner. That rhetoric created the impression that de Blasio agreed with those who have come to view police officers as guilty until proven innocent when it comes to accusations of racism or violence against minorities.

The police are not perfect and can, like politicians, make terrible mistakes. But the problem with the post-Ferguson/Garner critique that was relentlessly plugged by racial inciters, the liberal media and prominent political leaders such as Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder is that it cherry picked two extraordinary and very different incidents and wove it seamlessly into a highly misleading narrative about racism that might have been applicable in Selma, Alabama in 1965 but doesn’t reflect the reality of America in 2014. That this argument has roiled the nation and harmed racial understanding in a country that elected and then re-elected an African-American to the White House goes without saying. But the assassination of the two cops revealed that the cost of this egregious piece of incitement could be deadly.

That’s why it is past time for de Blasio to break ranks with Sharpton and his crowd and begin a process of healing that will save his city and his administration much grief in the next three years.

But the problem here is not just that de Blasio owes Sharpton and rightly fears what would if he chose to make an enemy of him. It’s that de Blasio, an aging radical who doesn’t particularly like to listen to advice from those who don’t already agree with him (a personal flaw that he shares with President Obama) is an ideologue that actually believes in the skewed racial worldview that an unscrupulous racial profiteer like Sharpton promotes. This inability to meet the police and the citizens they protect may well doom the city to years of racial strife and a rightly discontented police force. This could all be averted if de Blasio were wise enough to drop Sharpton and begin speaking as if he was mayor of all the people rather than just his considerable left-wing base. But even if it could allow him to better govern the city, de Blasio is no more capable of moving to the center than the president.

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Even the NY Times Can’t Save de Blasio

It’s been an awful week for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The man who was elected in 2013 on a platform of cop bashing has faced the fury of the police and the public after the murder of two members of the force exposed the ugly face of the post-Ferguson/Eric Garner protests. Like most politicians backed into a corner, de Blasio has lashed out at the media while proving unable to either make peace with the cops or to control his leftist allies who continue to conduct anti-police demonstrations. But de Blasio is not completely without friends. He still has the New York Times, which weighed in today with an embarrassing piece of flummery intended to reassure New Yorkers that everything was OK because the mayor was “calm.” If that’s the best they can do, de Blasio may be in even more trouble than his critics thought.

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It’s been an awful week for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The man who was elected in 2013 on a platform of cop bashing has faced the fury of the police and the public after the murder of two members of the force exposed the ugly face of the post-Ferguson/Eric Garner protests. Like most politicians backed into a corner, de Blasio has lashed out at the media while proving unable to either make peace with the cops or to control his leftist allies who continue to conduct anti-police demonstrations. But de Blasio is not completely without friends. He still has the New York Times, which weighed in today with an embarrassing piece of flummery intended to reassure New Yorkers that everything was OK because the mayor was “calm.” If that’s the best they can do, de Blasio may be in even more trouble than his critics thought.

The conceit of the piece is that de Blasio’s personal approach to the crisis that has threatened to tear the city apart while the rank and file of the NYPD are openly displaying their contempt and anger at the mayor is so deft that he is overcoming all obstacles. But even a casual reader can tell that the only people saying such things are close de Blasio allies whose comments are then slavishly taken down and published by the Times.

It is only in such an article at a time in which de Blasio has seemed to be out of control and losing his ability to influence events that you can read some of the following things about the mayor:

He has acted like himself: a confident but mercurial leader whose singular political style has not wavered.

Mr. de Blasio, a political professional who promised a warmer, friendlier City Hall, is approaching the fallout from the shooting deaths of two police officers with an operative’s touch, and a healthy dose of the personal.

Or this piece of flummery:

“His response is measured; it’s being respectful of everyone,” said Bertha Lewis, a longtime friend and adviser to the mayor, who, like another ally interviewed for this article, volunteered the phrase “pitch perfect” to describe his approach.

Ms. Lewis said the call to suspend protests and tough talk would give all sides a chance to calm down. “Making that middle-of-the-road statement is a good idea as mayor,” she said.

Are they kidding? On Planet New York Times, the spectacle of an ultra-liberal mayor lashing out at the mainstream press for merely reporting the anti-cop death threats chanted at demonstrations he supports may be “pitch perfect,” but in the rest of the galaxy, that’s the sort of thing that is generally considered tone deaf.

To be fair to the paper, part of de Blasio’s problem is conveyed in the article. It notes that while a more able leader would be spending this week reaching out to allies as well as foes in order to try to unify the city, de Blasio isn’t bothering with such conventional tactics:

And where other politicians are quick to line up allies to reinforce their message, Mr. de Blasio has been relatively insular. The mayor who recently boasted “I never need rescuing” has conferred only with a small group of close advisers since the shooting.

Mr. de Blasio has not spoken with Senator Charles E. Schumer or Representative Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn, in whose district the shootings took place. Nor, apart from a brief exchange of texts, has he spoken with Eric L. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president.

Arrogance and insularity are not generally the sort of leadership traits that are associated with success. Even worse is the conviction that comes across from the mayor and his allies that the problem is merely a passing fancy that the public will soon forget about.

That’s the sort of foolish, self-deceiving optimism that failed leaders always latch onto while sinking into permanent dysfunction. To the contrary, as the first major crisis of his administration, this is the moment when the public’s impressions of his ability to lead inevitably become more a matter of evaluating performance than of promises or potential. And on that score, he is in big trouble. De Blasio didn’t create this mess by himself. President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and racial hucksters like Al Sharpton deserve a major share of the blame too for weaving the Ferguson and Garner cases into a false narrative about police violence and racism. But de Blasio, who won election by highlighting his criticisms of the successful efforts of the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations to lower crime, was already in a difficult relationship with the police when he joined in the gang tackle of law enforcement personnel after the Ferguson and the Garner cases. His unwillingness to back down and his instinct to attack those who point out what his allies are saying has exacerbated the situation. The notion, as the Times claims, that all this can “catalyze an ultimately productive conversation about race and the police” is sheer fantasy.

That’s especially true when Sharpton, whose close White House ties (as our Pete Wehner reminded us earlier today) make him a more influential national player than the mayor, chose to defy the mayor’s call for a temporary end to police protests. Put simply, a New York mayor who is simultaneously being brutally attacked by the head of the police union while being snubbed by the city’s leading African-American race baiter is a man marooned on an island and I don’t mean the island of Manhattan.

The Times can be an important ally for any New York mayor. But articles that attempt to put forward an image of the mayor as someone embodying “practiced calm” at such a moment is more likely to generate scorn rather than support. De Blasio may yet recover from this disaster but the insular, foolish man portrayed in this article needs more help than even his media cheering section can provide.

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After Cops Die, de Blasio Can’t Blame Media for False Racist Narrative

Backed into a corner by the backlash against those who have fed a campaign of hate against police after the murders of two cops over the weekend, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio resorted to the last ditch of all failing politicians: blame the media. But like all such attempts, this one won’t divert public attention away from the hateful atmosphere toward police created by his statements as well as those of other politicians, media figures, and racial hucksters who turned the Ferguson, Missouri incident and the death of Eric Garner into an excuse for cop-bashing.

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Backed into a corner by the backlash against those who have fed a campaign of hate against police after the murders of two cops over the weekend, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio resorted to the last ditch of all failing politicians: blame the media. But like all such attempts, this one won’t divert public attention away from the hateful atmosphere toward police created by his statements as well as those of other politicians, media figures, and racial hucksters who turned the Ferguson, Missouri incident and the death of Eric Garner into an excuse for cop-bashing.

During a press conference with Police Commissioner William Bratton, de Blasio was asked by reporter Tony Aiello of CBS New York about the torrent of abuse directed at police by protesters at rallies he and other liberal politicians supported. His response was not only to minimize the problem but to blame journalists for highlighting the chants and threats aimed at cops. Here’s what the mayor said when asked about the hateful chants and whether he would be comfortable with members of his household—whom he had featured in comments highly critical of the police—using such language:

Of course not. We’ve talked about this so many times and I’m not going to talk about it again. And now the question now is, what are you guys going to do? What are you guys going to do? Are you going to keep dividing us? I am telling you over again again, that’s how you want to portray the world but we know a different reality. There are people who do that. It’s wrong. It’s wrong. They shouldn’t do that. It’s immoral, it’s wrong, it’s nasty, it’s negative. They should not do that but they, my friend, are not the majority. Stop portraying them as the majority.

It’s possible to argue that the people in the streets calling for the deaths of policemen are not the majority of those who have protested the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But for de Blasio to claim that it is the media who have divided Americans is worse than a joke. It’s a big lie intended to divert attention away from what the mayor, the president, the attorney general, and media figures like Al Sharpton who have been dividing us, have done.

Having spent the last four months doing their best to establish a narrative that seemed to claim that all white police personnel were a threat to the safety of African-Americans, these left-wingers are in no position to be complaining about divisive statements. Nor can they credibly gripe about taking incidents out of context and call for us to focus on the big picture of the protests they helped spark.

Though the mayor deserves credit for calling for an end to demonstrations in the wake of the anti-police violence, an honest assessment of his own role in fomenting resentment of New York’s Finest should take into account that he was elected to his office in no small measure because of his attacks on the cops. Since taking office he has clashed repeatedly with the police and then joined in the gang tackle on them after Ferguson and the Garner death.

The whole point of his critique was to create division and anger in which the police were not only the objects of angry protest but also blamed for perpetuating a Jim Crow-style racism of the past that died long before most of today’s policemen were born.

Even more to the point, the mayor’s complaints about taking things out of context could better be applied to his attempts, along with those of others on the left, to take two very different and unusual incidents with tragic outcomes and then weave them together into a narrative in which police were seen as racists bent on shooting and strangling innocent blacks.

Though the mayor may think anti-police threats are bad, by stoking those unreasonable fears with incendiary comments about teaching his son to fear the police, he bears a degree of responsibility for an atmosphere in which it seems possible to say just about anything about cops.

It’s true that some elements of the media do deserve blame. But it’s not those who rightly covered the “pigs in a blanket” and “dead cops” chants and brought them to public attention. Rather, it’s the racial hucksters who speak from their bully pulpits on MSNBC, CNN, and the broadcast networks who have incited hatred against the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to protect minority populations and neighborhoods as well as everyone else.

For decades, liberals have mocked conservatives who complain about media bias in favor of the left. So perhaps it’s understandable that de Blasio is angry with some in the press corps who think they shouldn’t be the bodyguards of the left. If de Blasio thinks he can get away with such a transparent ploy, he’s not quite as ready for prime time as he thinks. Those in law enforcement deserved de Blasio’s support when the mob was baying for the blood. Instead, de Blasio, Obama, and Holder were egging on the protesters. It’s too late for the mayor to evade responsibility for that failure by blaming those journalists who are doing their jobs.

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As Police Die, Racism Narrative Unravels

Any conversation about the murders of two New York City Police officers this weekend must start by acknowledging the ordinary heroism of law enforcement personnel that puts them in harm’s way every day. We should then acknowledge that all those who have criticized police actions in Ferguson, Missouri and New York after the controversial deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner are not responsible for the slaying of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. We don’t know yet who or what may have influenced the reportedly mentally disturbed shooter, who was apparently bent on “revenge” for Brown and Garner. But we do know this. After four months of non-stop condemnations of the police and the justice system for both racism and deliberately targeting African Americans for violence, it is time for the race hucksters and their political enablers such as President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to stop the campaign of incitement against the police.

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Any conversation about the murders of two New York City Police officers this weekend must start by acknowledging the ordinary heroism of law enforcement personnel that puts them in harm’s way every day. We should then acknowledge that all those who have criticized police actions in Ferguson, Missouri and New York after the controversial deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner are not responsible for the slaying of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. We don’t know yet who or what may have influenced the reportedly mentally disturbed shooter, who was apparently bent on “revenge” for Brown and Garner. But we do know this. After four months of non-stop condemnations of the police and the justice system for both racism and deliberately targeting African Americans for violence, it is time for the race hucksters and their political enablers such as President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to stop the campaign of incitement against the police.

Conservatives know very well that attempts to politicize violence on the part of the mentally ill is deeply unfair. They know that liberal claims that either the Tea Party or conservatives such as Sarah Palin were somehow responsible for the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was sheer slander. If some angry supporters of the police now try to say Obama, Holder, or de Blasio approved or countenanced the actions of Ismaaiyl Brinsley, they are just as wrong. Obama, Holder, and de Blasio have all rightly condemned the murder of the two officers.

But once we acknowledge that, we cannot ignore the fact that the discussion about race and the police in this country has gotten out of control in recent months and that these same political leaders who should have been seeking to restrain the public from drawing extreme and general conclusions about two very extraordinary cases instead kept the pot boiling for political advantage.

Even worse than that, they have empowered and legitimized racial demagogues like Al Sharpton who have sought to profit from exploiting these tragedies to promote their own agendas. In turn, Sharpton and those like him who are given prominent air time on networks like MSNBC and CNN have encouraged protesters who have not only engaged in violence but often openly called for the killing of police, a stance that has been openly endorsed by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and other radicals.

The act of a single possibly mad gunman does not mean that Americans must never question the actions of police or ponder broader issues about race. It is misleading to claim that those who have raised such questions have given a green light to the murder of police officers. Yet those who have sought to take two very different and quite unusual incidents in Ferguson and New York and weave them into a neat narrative of racism and anti-black violence by police have done very much the same thing. The difference between the two is that the media spent much of the last four months seeking to establish that wrongheaded narrative as a fact while they will, quite rightly, give no credence or air time to those who will blame Obama for cop killers.

The narrative of incitement against the police in recent months was based on two misnomers.

One was the unquestioning acceptance of the narrative of police wrongdoing and racism in the killing of Brown and the far more questionable death of Garner by both the media and political leaders. This involved not only the willingness of both celebrities and lawmakers to treat myths, such as the claim that Brown had his hands up when he was shot, as fact. It also involved the casual acceptance of the charge of racism on the part of ordinary cops around the nation in the absence of any real proof as well as the shouting down of those like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani who sought to defend the role of the police in defending the black community rather than attacking it.

Just as reprehensible was the willingness to ignore the calls for violence against the police on the part of so many of those who took to the streets about Ferguson and Garner. While stray comments on the part of a handful of Tea Partiers became the foundation for conventional-wisdom dismissal of their movement as racist or violent, the anti-police chants at mass demonstrations were largely ignored, rationalized, or excused. The same is true of comments like those of Farrakhan delivered in Baltimore where the killer of the two policemen lived.

But just as the murder of two cops doesn’t necessarily excuse the actions of the police in the Garner case, neither should we forget that all too many public figures have accepted with very little evidence the assumptions about racism and violence that have done so much to besmirch the reputation of the police. Rather than working to connect the dots between the comments of the president, the attorney general, and the mayor to a murder that none of them wished for, sensible observers should instead be unraveling the even shakier narrative these figures helped create about police misbehavior and racism.

The unraveling of the false narrative of incitement against the police should not give rise to another that is also mistaken. But what happened in Ferguson, Staten Island, and the assassination of two police officers should teach us that simplistic, easily manipulated narratives that serve the interests of a few race inciters and politicians don’t deserve any more respect than conspiracy theories coming from the other end of the political spectrum. If there is any reproach today that should be laid at the feet of Obama, Holder, and de Blasio, it is that by helping to foster one false set of assumptions, they have now left themselves vulnerable to questions about their own willingness to accept and exploit calumnies against the police and the justice system.

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The Cost of a False Narrative of Oppression

At a different moment in time, the decision of a Staten Island grand jury not to an indict a white police officer for using a choke hold on Eric Garner, an African-American who later died after being taken into custody, would not be much more than a local news item in New York. But coming as it did on the heels of the much-publicized decision of another grand jury in St. Louis County, Missouri not to indict another white cop in the shooting death of another black man, teenager Michael Brown, the Staten Island deliberations were immediately dragooned into service by mainstream media talking heads, African-American leaders, and President Obama to reinforce a narrative of oppression of blacks by white police.

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At a different moment in time, the decision of a Staten Island grand jury not to an indict a white police officer for using a choke hold on Eric Garner, an African-American who later died after being taken into custody, would not be much more than a local news item in New York. But coming as it did on the heels of the much-publicized decision of another grand jury in St. Louis County, Missouri not to indict another white cop in the shooting death of another black man, teenager Michael Brown, the Staten Island deliberations were immediately dragooned into service by mainstream media talking heads, African-American leaders, and President Obama to reinforce a narrative of oppression of blacks by white police.

Though each of these two decisions appear to stand on their own as being reasonable interpretations of the law, together they appear to justify the upsurge in demonstrations around the country protesting police behavior and asserting that blacks are being systematically victimized. But whatever one may think of these rulings or of the police, those who are hyping this story need not only to think carefully whether the story they are telling is true but also whether the net effects of their campaign against the police will hurt minorities far more than it help them.

The facts in the Staten Island case seem to be as straightforward as the Ferguson, Missouri incident were muddled. The confrontation was caught on a video taken by a cell phone and showed that a chokehold was employed. The New York City Police Department has banned chokeholds for use but they are not illegal. The grand jury clearly believed that the tragic result was not the result of a crime but observers may well wonder about the use of excessive force or why an unarmed man resisting arrest for a petty crime wound up dying in this manner.

But no more than in the Ferguson incident, the facts in that case are not really the point of the protests, the president’s statement, or what is being said about the case on the cable news networks. As awful as each of these stories may be, the willingness of the media to seize on every instance in which a white police officer kills a black civilian in order to make a point about race says more about the need of the left to fuel fears about racism for political advantage than a true flaw in the justice system or American society.

The point is one can question the wisdom of the Staten Island grand jury’s decision, just as one can dispute the result of the inquiry into the death of Michael Brown. But even if you think excessive force was used in each incident, taken in total or individually, the argument for a trend of oppression of white on black violence is lacking. Though no one can or should deny America’s history of racism, those who confuse isolated incidents with the systematic violence of Jim Crow are doing minorities and the police a grave disservice.

More to the point, the willingness of the mainstream media to jump on this false narrative has not only wrongly undermined faith in the justice system and justified violent protests; it also makes it harder for police to do their jobs protecting minorities badly in need of protection. Just as bad is the willingness of President Obama to use what is left of his badly damaged credibility to continue to stoke the fires of distrust. Having coming into office with a unique opportunity to heal America’s racial strife, he has instead become a creature of the same race hucksters like Al Sharpton that seek to further divide the nation.

Irrespective of the merits of the case, those trumpeting the Staten Island case as proof that the system is biased against blacks are merely feeding fear, not dispelling racism. To the extent that the mainstream media seeks to assert that both the police and the justice system are guilty until proven innocent, they, too, are undermining the rule of law. While we hope that calm will prevail in the aftermath of this incident, Ferguson provides an excellent example of what happens when media talkers and feckless politicians speak with impunity and ordinary citizens pay the price for their wild accusations.

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Obama’s Ferguson Dog and Pony Show

As protests against the decision of a grand jury not to charge Officer Darren Wilson with the murder of Michael Brown continue, the White House is scrambling to catch up with President Obama’s liberal base. With the political left out in the streets and screaming murder on the cable networks, the president felt the need to play catchup today on Ferguson and to speak as if a difficult legal case can be used to justify politicized charges claiming that America’s police are out of control and targeting black youth with impunity. His response, a White House meeting and a raft of meaningless though potentially expensive proposals, may be enough to help him win today’s news cycle. But let no one, least of all the president’s media cheering section, pretend that what we are hearing today is anything more than an illustration of a basic political precept: it’s better to pretend to do something about a marginal problem than to tell those protesting that it is their skewed perceptions that are wrong.

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As protests against the decision of a grand jury not to charge Officer Darren Wilson with the murder of Michael Brown continue, the White House is scrambling to catch up with President Obama’s liberal base. With the political left out in the streets and screaming murder on the cable networks, the president felt the need to play catchup today on Ferguson and to speak as if a difficult legal case can be used to justify politicized charges claiming that America’s police are out of control and targeting black youth with impunity. His response, a White House meeting and a raft of meaningless though potentially expensive proposals, may be enough to help him win today’s news cycle. But let no one, least of all the president’s media cheering section, pretend that what we are hearing today is anything more than an illustration of a basic political precept: it’s better to pretend to do something about a marginal problem than to tell those protesting that it is their skewed perceptions that are wrong.

As I wrote earlier today, after spending so much of the last six years crying wolf about racism and seeking to stoke fears rather than to heal, the president is in no position to reclaim the high ground on the issue that he occupied when he was elected by deliberately eschewing appeals to partisanship and race. Nor does it speak well for the president that he felt the need to, in essence, backtrack from the sagacious stand he took last week when the grand jury in St. Louis County decided no crime had been committed when Wilson shot Brown. Having told Americans to respect a judicial process and to refrain from riots and violence to vent their disappointment in the result of the proceeding, today he reverted to playing the race card, albeit in more measured terms than his fans on the left.

It is true that many African-Americans don’t trust the police and that racism isn’t dead. But by accepting the premise of the Ferguson rioters that somehow the lack of an indictment is proof that the system isn’t working, Obama wasn’t advancing the cause of healing. Even more to the point, by focusing all of his attention on alleged police misbehavior, the president was ignoring the fact that what African-Americans trapped in poor neighborhoods need most is more policing, not less.

As for the president’s suggestions, they speak volumes about how insubstantial the White House’s approach has become. The president said he would seek to impose more restrictions on the transfer of military-style equipment—like the ones deployed in Ferguson when the trouble began this summer—as well as spending money on body cameras for police, presumably to ensure that those wearing the devices would be caught red-handed if they mistreated civilians.

Let’s specify that there is a reasonable discussion that can be heard about the utility of such equipment in most local police problems. There are also arguments to be made in favor of applying the same sort of technology that has brought cameras to many police cars to the bodies of officers. Police may benefit as much from the scrutiny as they will be hurt by it.

But let’s not pretend that this is about better policing or bridging the racial divide. The president could cite no studies pointing to the need for any of his measures nor could he argue credibly that a White House photo op was anything but what he denied it to be: a dog and pony show intended only to demonstrate a faux interest in an issue that would soon be forgotten as soon as the media and left-wing demonstrators move on from Ferguson to whatever the next media feeding frenzy turns out to be.

Nor should we be impressed by the noises about a possible presidential visit to Ferguson or any other measure intended to make it seem as if Obama is doing something about the issue.

The problem here is not just that Obama punted on his chance to be a genuine racial healer years ago as he egged on his supporters to brand his critics as racists rather than just Americans who disagreed with his policies. It’s that by putting forward a faux program intended to make it look as if he is doing something, he has again made the problem worse rather than better.

It is no small irony that the administration run by the first African-American president and staffed by the first African-American attorney general has done so much to stoke racial disharmony and to empower race baiters like Obama ally Al Sharpton. By validating those who are determined to perpetuate the myth that the Ferguson incident was about a vicious white cop who killed an innocent black kid with his hands up—a proposition that the evidence presented to the grand jury appears to debunk—the president has ensured that his time in office will continue to witness a further deterioration of relations between blacks and whites.

President Obama isn’t solely responsible for this. But he could have used his bully pulpit to steer the national conversation in a more rational manner in ways that might have helped more than it hurt. White House dog and pony shows have their uses at times, but today’s version was evidence of how they can also do far more harm than good.

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Ferguson and How Obama Failed on Race

One of the most remarkable aspects of the reaction to the Ferguson, Missouri controversy is the manner in which President Obama has become a marginal figure in the discussion about race in America. To say this is not to discount the fact that the president’s various statements on the case—including his entirely appropriate response to the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown and his condemnations of the violent riots that ensued—have been given wide notice. But one of the most significant elements of this debate is the one that few are discussing: how is it that the man who was elected president in no small measure to heal the country’s historic racial divide has not only failed to advance that cause but has found himself sidelined by race baiters. As with so much else that has happened in this failed presidency, Obama’s inability to act decisively or courageously caused him to miss opportunities to help a nation that looked to him for leadership.

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One of the most remarkable aspects of the reaction to the Ferguson, Missouri controversy is the manner in which President Obama has become a marginal figure in the discussion about race in America. To say this is not to discount the fact that the president’s various statements on the case—including his entirely appropriate response to the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown and his condemnations of the violent riots that ensued—have been given wide notice. But one of the most significant elements of this debate is the one that few are discussing: how is it that the man who was elected president in no small measure to heal the country’s historic racial divide has not only failed to advance that cause but has found himself sidelined by race baiters. As with so much else that has happened in this failed presidency, Obama’s inability to act decisively or courageously caused him to miss opportunities to help a nation that looked to him for leadership.

To recall Barack Obama’s rise to prominence and then to the presidency is to think of a figure who attempted to both embody the progress the country had made in resolving its historic racial issues and to rise above the issue. Both his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech and his 2008 Philadelphia speech about race were, despite the anodyne nature of their texts, considered watershed events because of the president’s ability to articulate the nation’s aspirations for both post-partisan and post-racial healing.

But once in the presidency, Obama not only embarked on a rabidly ideological agenda that further divided an already polarized country but also used his bully pulpit to sermonize on race in ways that only made things worse. His dubious extra-legal intervention in the controversy over Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates showed how unsure his instincts were on the one topic that most Americans would have looked to him for guidance. Instead of challenging both blacks and whites to acknowledge past problems while moving forward in productive ways, his periodic return to the issue has made him more the kibitzer-in-chief on race rather than a healer. Though his Ferguson comments this year have shown him to be chastened by both the Gates fiasco and his similarly maladroit intervention in the Trayvon Martin killing, the man with the magic rhetorical touch has found himself curiously unable to summon his voice in a manner that would bring the country together rather than merely playing to his party’s base.

Far worse than that, the Obama White House and the Democratic Party spent most of the last six years becoming heavily invested in the proposition that all opposition to the president and his agenda was primarily rooted in race. That this was preposterous was always clear. As Bill and Hillary Clinton could have told him, attempting to impose government control on a sixth of the American economy was bound to inspire spirited opposition, but the Obama crowd and their media cheerleaders weren’t content with merely answering his critics. They had to demonize them all as racists turning every discussion of ObamaCare into a proxy for a race battle that should have been treated as definitively over once the country elected an African-American president.

Indeed, the notion that criticism of Obama was thinly veiled racism became a staple of American politics in the last few years. Though it was transparently disingenuous, it was nevertheless effective, both in terms of the effort to marginalize conservative opposition to Obama’s big-government agenda as well as in reminding Americans that they needed to support the president in order to maintain their standing as decent, non-racist citizens.

That may have helped reelect the president but I think liberals and Democrats who have either employed this despicable talking point or tolerated it as a necessary evil in order to hold onto the White House have underestimated how much this effort has helped poison the well of American society.

Instead of being the man who would, as he promised, lead us into a new chapter of history in which race would not be used as an excuse to further divide the country, Obama actually became the vehicle for a meme that allowed the left to use it as an all-purpose political weapon regardless of the cost to national harmony.

Thus, it is little surprise that not only has the president made no impact on issues where blacks and whites view the same events differently, he now finds himself caught between an electorate that is rightly skeptical of anything he and his supporters say on race and race hucksters who are unsatisfied with his attempt to chart a middle course. Michael Eric Dyson wrote yesterday in the New York Times that Obama is a guilty of a “treacherous” balancing act for not seeking to lead Americans to the barricades on behalf of the dubious notion that white America is to blame for the death of Michael Brown rather than his own misbehavior. This is ironic, but entirely predictable since the president’s characteristic indecision has gotten him into trouble here as in every other problem he has faced.

By spending so much of his presidency posing as a victim, Obama helped create a reality in which most blacks believe the country is less free of bias than it was when he was elected. Instead of a healer, Obama has become a passenger in a bus driven by men like Dyson or White House friend Al Sharpton. That is a shame for a presidency that began with such promise. But it is an even bigger tragedy for a country that could well have used Obama’s leadership on race but instead received cynical exploitations of the issue that have made it harder than ever to bring Americans together on race.

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Democrats’ Pitiful Premature Sour Grapes

Faced with a likely defeat in tomorrow’s midterm elections, some Democrats are in denial and predict an unlikely victory. Others have already started to form the usual circular firing squads, pointing their fingers at either an unpopular President Obama or those politicians that tripped over themselves in embarrassing efforts to disassociate themselves from the administration. But perhaps most telling are those choosing to dismiss the significance of tomorrow’s results even before they happen. Trying to deny the inevitable or to shift blame for it when defeat happens isn’t productive but nevertheless must be termed normal political behavior. The greatest danger for Democrats in the days following their likely loss of the Senate, however, is to pretend that a midterm disaster brings with it no hard lessons for the defeated.

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Faced with a likely defeat in tomorrow’s midterm elections, some Democrats are in denial and predict an unlikely victory. Others have already started to form the usual circular firing squads, pointing their fingers at either an unpopular President Obama or those politicians that tripped over themselves in embarrassing efforts to disassociate themselves from the administration. But perhaps most telling are those choosing to dismiss the significance of tomorrow’s results even before they happen. Trying to deny the inevitable or to shift blame for it when defeat happens isn’t productive but nevertheless must be termed normal political behavior. The greatest danger for Democrats in the days following their likely loss of the Senate, however, is to pretend that a midterm disaster brings with it no hard lessons for the defeated.

In recent days, the New York Times provided its liberal readership with a trifecta of midterm denial. But though these attempts to salve Democratic wounds that had not yet started bleeding were exactly what the paper’s readers want, they are the worst kind of medicine for a political party.

The most absurd was an op-ed by a Duke University professor of public policy and one his students. In it David Schanzer and Jay Sullivan, a junior at the school, argue that it is time to abolish the midterms. According to them, the exercise of allowing the people to have their say about Congress every two years is a nuisance. They say it is a big waste of time that forces members to spend too much time raising money and fundraising. But the real reason they don’t like it is that lately Republicans have done better at them because congressional Democrats don’t motivate the same kind of turnout from those with a marginal interest in politics, as Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012. Schanzer and Sullivan don’t like the “whiter, older and more educated” midterm electorate so they think the best thing is to extend House terms to four years from two and change senators from having six years in office to either four or eight (!) before they have to face the voters.

Like all efforts to change the Constitution in order to manipulate the system to immediate partisan advantage, this scheme is a farce. The reason why the Founders wanted frequent elections for the House is that they rightly believed one house of Congress should be more reflective of the political passions of the moment while the other would be more reflective of long-term concerns. The pair from Duke wish to sacrifice this laudable aim because it doesn’t currently help the party they seem to favor without remembering that it could just as easily flip to help the Democrats as it has at times in the past. While I don’t think many serious people will pay much attention to this nonsense, it does illustrate the willingness of many on the left to do anything to somehow game the system in their favor.

While that piece was just plain foolish, more destructive was the explanation for the likely Democratic loss from Times columnist Charles Blow. The writer tends to view virtually every issue through a racial lens, so it is no surprise that this extreme liberal thinks the Democrats’ big problem remains racial animus toward President Obama. He agrees with Obama that the reason for criticism of his administration is that there are “some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black president.” Since black support for Obama has not wavered throughout his presidency, Blow naturally assumes that the dropoff elsewhere must be due to racism, something that is accentuated by the Democrats’ reliance on huge turnouts from African-American voters to remain competitive.

Racism still exists in America but this is, of course, the same president who won clear majorities in two presidential elections in which a lot more white people voted than blacks. But despite these historic victories, he prefers to blame his troubles on irrational hatred rather than face the facts that a lot of people have buyer’s remorse about reelecting him after a record of failure in the last two years. While Democrats have resorted to race-baiting this fall in what may prove to be a futile effort to increase black turnout, the party would be well advised to distance itself from the politics of racial grievance once the dust settles. Playing to your base is important, but, as Republicans have shown us, doing so exclusively is a formula for electoral disaster.

But perhaps Nate Cohn in the Times’s Upshot section illustrated the most dangerous variety of Democratic thinking in his piece. In it, he gives us the ultimate sour grapes interpretation by saying that even if the GOP wins in key battleground states outside of their southern comfort zone, it won’t be a big deal if it is a close margin. His point is that since Democratic turnout will inevitably be far greater in 2016, anything short of a GOP landslide means the next presidential election will repeat the pattern of 2010 and 2012 in which a Republican win was followed by an impressive Democratic victory.

While it is true that Democrats have in recent years tended to do better in presidential years, that is mostly the function of a singularly historic figure named Barack Obama. Though the party hopes Hillary Clinton will perform just as well as the putative first female president succeeding the first African-American, her poor political skills (illustrated again last week) make that a chancy proposition. The thing about politics is that it changes all the time. Any assumptions about the next election based on the last few is, in this case, another instance of wishful thinking on the part of the left, not a sober analysis.

What happened this year is that Republicans learned some of their lessons from the past few cycles, nominated good candidates, and stayed on message. Democrats thought they could survive the downturn in Obama’s popularity by playing the same tired themes about a war on women and racism but are finding that it didn’t work as well as the last time. If they lose this week, Cohn’s advice might lead them to think that they have no need to re-evaluate that mistake but should, instead, merely do more of the same in hope of a better audience in 2016.

Whatever happens tomorrow, what the loser must do is to take a hard look at their defeats, and draw the proper conclusions. If Democrats emerge on Wednesday putting it all down to racism or the accident of a midterm, they will be setting themselves up for a far worse surprise in 2016 when conditions and turnout factors may not be as favorable for them as they think.

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