Is the race card frayed?

“There is no such thing as racism.”

A ludicrous statement.

Here’s another: “Everything is racist.” No one says those words, but it is evident in the way some people reach for the R-word with no actual evidence.

I’ll give you a recent example, one that comes from — brace yourself — a white guy. Not just a white guy, but the head of Lodge 5 of the FOP, the police union. 

Following an op-ed in the Inquirer written by Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, union leader John McNesby wrote a letter saying Jenkins was “washed up,” which is not true, and that his comments were “racist,” which is really not true.

Police union President John McNesby (Photo: WHYY)

Jenkins’ op-ed talked about what “the community” wants in a new police commissioner and in police policies. McNesby would have been on firmer ground if he said Jenkins’ comments were anti-cop.

They weren’t, they were anti-bad cop, but at least you could have a conversation. 

You can’t, once the R-word gets rolled out. 

Predictably, McNesby was called racist by the Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler, of the Mother Bethel AME Church, and I expect to be called racist for touching this topic. It won’t be a first.

Like Jenkins, I have been called racist because of strong views, in my case opposing illegal immigration.

I don’t oppose brown immigration, or black immigration, or yellow immigration, I oppose illegal immigration, which has no color.

How do I answer the charge of racism?

I don’t. First, you can’t prove a negative. Second, when someone is so desperate as to reach for that word weapon, engaging them is pointless. Unfortunately, we have developed a subculture of people who operate on the assumption that everything in America is poisoned by “foundational racism,” as Beto O’Rourke put it.

While slavery was our original sin, is racism the wizard behind the curtain that controls every aspect of American life?

I say no.

If you say I am naive, I will answer with the words of President Barack Obama who said in no other country would a story like his be remotely possible. 

I regard the accusation of racism to be so toxic, it requires indisputable evidence. The charge is so powerful it must be almost self-evident. 

The race card has become frayed from overuse. When everything is racist, nothing is racist.

And yet we know some things are racist, but not all racist acts are of equal weight.

In a column last April, I wrote this: “As crime is divided into felonies and misdemeanors, we should recognize degrees of racism. A lyric isn’t a lynching. If actions physically hurt someone, that’s a felony. If feelings are hurt, that’s a misdemeanor. Kate Smith is a misdemeanor.”

Felonies include denying someone a job or housing, or anything else, on the basis of color.

A recent edition of the LBN Examiner ran a long essay asking, “Has Racism Lost Its Meaning?”

I pass it along, not because I agree with it all — I do not — but because I agree with parts of it and it has many illustrations. I present it fully, with no editing by me. 


Being called a racist is by now so common that it has lost its sting. Indeed, the very concept of racism is increasingly irrelevant. For example, Julian Castro, who is running for president, boasts he is opposed to “environmental racism.” Does anyone know what that is, including him?

When someone says there is an “Hispanic invasion” going on, is that proof of racism, or is it an expression of concern about large numbers of people who are entering our country illegally from points south of our border?

When a reporter standing in front of an alley in Baltimore suggests that President Trump is a racist for saying the city is a “rodent-infested mess” — and a large rat is seen running in the alley behind the reporter — doesn’t that undercut the charge?

When actress Ellen Pompeo recently said that Kamala Harris was “overconfident,” was that evidence of Pompeo’s racism, as some said, or was it evidence of devaluing the meaning of racism?

Megyn Kelly was branded a racist for noting that when she was young it was okay for a white kid to put on blackface on Halloween. Her observation was undeniably true. Does that make her a racist for recalling it?

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently said on the radio that bigots used to called Sicilians (he is half Sicilian) “nigger wops.” Some black leaders condemned him for making a racist remark. Does that make  Cuomo a racist or was he using the exact language used by racists to punctuate his point?

In 2016, comedian Larry Wilmore at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner turned to President Barack Obama (who went by Barry when he was younger) and said, “Yo, Barry, you did it, my nigger.” Is Wilmore a racist, or was he just joking around? Obama laughed at it. Does that make him a racist enabler, or someone who knows he’s being roasted?

When Republicans complained about IRS abuses against conservative organizations under President Obama, MSNBC host Martin Bashir called the GOP leaders racist, saying they are using the scandal “as their latest weapon in the war against the black man in the White House.” Was that what they were doing — dabbling in racism — or protesting corruption by IRS officials?

MSNBC host Chris Matthews said it was racist to talk about all the people on food stamps. Was he right about that, or was Newt Gingrich right when he said to him, “Why do you assume food stamps refers to blacks? What kind of racist thinking do you have?”

Daily Beast columnist Michael Tomasky once accused Mitt Romney of being a “spineless, disingenuous, supercilious, race-mongering pyromaniac” because he used a “heavily loaded word.” What was that racist word? Obamacare. If that makes Romney a racist, would that make the Obama White House racist for promoting what it called Obamacare?

About a decade ago, when Walmart sold white and black Barbie dolls, they were initially priced the same. But when the store had to prepare for inventory, it marked down certain items. Was it proof of racism, as some charged, that the black doll was reduced in price? Or was it simply a routine business practice?

The devaluing of racism began in the academy. Here are seven examples of “racial microaggressions” taught in our nation’s leading colleges and universities:

-Asking someone, “Where are you from?”

-Asking an Asian person to help with a math or science problem

-Observing that “America is a melting pot”

-Opining that “There is only one race, the human race”

-Saying, “I believe the most qualified person should get the job”

-Noting that “Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough”

-Commenting, “We got gypped”

If the scales seem tipped against conservatives it is because they are. For example, Joe Biden recently said that “Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.” Does that make him a racist, or was it just a clumsy way of saying that low-income kids have the same potential to succeed as high-income kids?

When Biden once said, “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent,” was he making a racist remark, or was it simply a sociological observation?

When he said that one of the best things about Obama was that he was “clean” and “articulate,” was he voicing his racism, or his penchant for making gaffes?

When President Bill Clinton was being impeached, Biden, and many other Democrats (white and black alike) called it a “lynching.” Now President Donald Trump is calling attempts to impeach him a “lynching.” If Trump is a racist for using this term, in this context, wouldn’t that  make Biden a racist as well?

Let’s be fair: Biden is no racist, and neither is Trump. But according to standards that Biden has now adopted as proof of Trump’s racism, he most certainly is. 

When Harvard University hosts a separate graduation ceremony for black students, is it being sensitive or racist? Would it be sensitive or racist if it did the same for white students? To put it differently, are there no principles left? Or is this just a political game, front loaded against conservatives?

Here’s something else to think about. On a scale of 1 to 10, what score should be given to someone who owns a restaurant, tells racist jokes, but does not discriminate against anyone? What score should be given to Harvard administrators who never tell racist jokes, but who discriminate against Asians — they put a cap on how many can get in?

The reason why accusations of racism are losing their sting has everything to do with the duplicity of the accusers, and their relentless invocations of it. When real racists are lumped in with those who are either innocent, or at worst guilty of inartful constructions, that’s a lose-lose, the biggest losers of which are those who are truly victimized.

12 thoughts on “Is the race card frayed?”

  1. “We, the American people, are not each other’s enemies. The enemies are those people behind the curtain jerking everybody’s chains and trying to divide us up by age, by race, by income.” – Dr. Ben Carson

    1. A great quote by a very good man!
      I believe Dr Carson’s been labeled a racist, proof of what Stu is saying.

    It’s November 24th and it’s finally snowing out here in Chester County.
    Stu, ya got it right again. You, who uses words everyday, have a large vocabulary. People in the law business are similar. The rest of us speaks “Philadelphian” or some other brand of colloquialism. There are more than a million words in the English language. Most people (used to) have a vocabulary around 40,000 words. Texting chopped that way down. With the “P.C.” Police and lazy brains, we use “race”, and a few other choice morsels. Are we racist ? That’s a toughie. Growing up in a 1950s -’60s predominately Italian neighborhood, we would call each other dego, wop or worse. The kids that were Polish, Irish, German, Negro, Puerto Rican and Jewish didn’t escape our slang either. We knew that it was wrong to disparage a ethnicity or race, but we were kids and we really didn’t mean any harm. But because some of our parents were first generation American, or fought a World War or came from a island that was abject poverty or even the ones that had grandparents as sharecroppers, we knew not to cross a certain line. Did that make us racist ? I think not. I think that that made us uneducated, and we learned from the lessons of youth.
    In todays’ world. The twitter and e-mail libraries hold all the facts that will persecute any one and every one. Kate Smith did nothing wrong, singing a song, no more than Al Jolson did wearing”black face” and singing “Mammy”. Go listen to the song or, better yet, find it on you-tube. A white guy singing Mammy just wouldn’t sell. No, they were not racist, no more than I, when we would darken our face with a burnt cork and dress up for Halloween. It is unfortunate, that we are held to a standard that only exists in the twisted minds of a few. We are Americans, trying to form a more perfect union. We make mistakes, apologize, and learn from it as we move on. If you are a small, insecure person for what ever the reason, then you need a lot more help than the rest of us. Most, you have to want the help.

  3. I made this comment on the level of influence given to a football player in choosing a new police commissioner and the second comment would be my futuristic hope for our future in race relations. Anyone has the right to voice their opinion and it should be respected relative to the interplay with the black community. A one dimension position is acceptable as stated. But when your position in life is a football player with limited knowledge of police work then your suggestions as to who should be the next commissioner fall flat. Pigmentation may have some valid complaints but like a millionaire of color, your street cred is null and void. The next commissioner should have a cross-section of many talents the first is being colored blind but responsive. Criminology background, public service and most important but will be excluded politically independent..

    Its been used to define and separate people for millennia. But the concept of race is not grounded in genetics. All Homo Sapiens are from Africa or today’s humans. Modern humans originated in Africa and have lived there the longest. They’ve had time to evolve enormous genetic diversity which extends to skin color. The human genome consists of three billion base pairs divided into roughly 20,000 genes. One tweak of a single gene gives East Asians thicker hair. Similarly, Europeans have lighter skin because of a single tweak In one gene. Across the world today, skin color is highly variable. In Africa, skin color could be ebony, copper all based on how our ancestors dealt with sun exposure, and not much else. The race is a human construction and has no scientific basis. Categories such as black, white, Indian, Chinese, were written into the Jim Crow laws and are now written into statutes like the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race or color. Scientifically all of the above have no scientific basis and pigmentation through our genetic makeup is the only individual
    Sign of a difference in humans and not by race.
    All of the above information is taken from:
    National Geographic-Harvard University-Penn State Univ-New york times and from studies by geneticists from around the world.

  4. It’s sad Stu that we are still discussing this subject. It doesn’t have to be this way. I know, I’m so damn naive! One person, President Barack Obama, had the greatest opportunity for eight years to significantly contribute to our racial divide. Instead he made it easier to apply, and look at us for it. Yes, I blame him the most, because he had the bully pulpit.

  5. The race card is one train that’s never late. Its so worn out that most people don’t give a damn anymore. I know I don’t. I never did care. I’d rather be thought of as a racist than a pedophile or murderer.

  6. Here are some examples of how far we are from racial equality: Black Caucus. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Black Power. Etc. Simple terms. Now, how about White Caucus? National Association for the Advancement of White People? White Power? Suddenly, these terms become racist and totally unacceptable. How come? Racism is alive and well in the USA. But it ain’t all the white man’s fault.

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