The Color of Character

USA, We’ve Got a Problem

Protective BubbleI am back to the college and university campuses of my first blog where I find the chances have dwindled for opening the minds of our youth (i.e. future leaders(?) of America), and resolving our social problems via dialogue. The fear is spreading. Offering a viewpoint that differs from the increasingly constricted narrative of social issues is becoming risky to one’s employment – particularly if you are an academic – or one’s physical safety. You will be shouted down, fired, or physically assaulted. And sadly, the Orwellian master of this creeping mental paralysis is from what was once the gloriously open minds of America’s left. Just read this from The Daily Beast. It’s not a joke, although I wish it were.

Whenever I am given the chance to talk about The Color of Character, I talk about it as a cautionary tale. Integration was not having the effect we had hoped for, and yet no one would mouth the words that we had a problem. The problem was that based on their exposure to their black classmates, white children were developing prejudices; prejudices that did not exist before their exposure to daily beatings, theft, verbal abuse, and witnessing those in authority powerless to call it out for fear of being labeled insensitive at best or a racist at worst. I won’t say that the white children were becoming bigots, but their desire to separate themselves from their black classmates would certainly make it appear so. Rather, they were making a rational response to a real experience. Were they to judge all blacks accordingly, based on their limited experience, then indeed it could be said that they were drifting towards outright bigotry. Perhaps some did, others, like Glen, the protagonist in the book, struggled to continue to judge others by the content of their character – not skin color. His problem then, like now, is how to judge character before you know some one? We all do it. We base it on our life experiences with others based on dress, sex, speech, race, religion, address, car, and any other outward sign that might give us a clue as to the character of the person in question.

Due to the life experiences of many non-blacks, like Glen, they approach blacks on the street (as opposed to at an office, store, restaurant, medical facility, house of worship) with caution. When it comes to choosing a neighborhood, they tend to avoid any with a reputation for crime, which, it has to be acknowledged, in our large metropolitan areas is most likely a majority or large minority black neighborhood. Schools are selected the same way. Some of that is based on experience. But some is based on people seeking out people similar to themselves, with whom they are most comfortable. This does not necessarily signify racial preferences. Glen would be more likely to feel comfortable in a majority black neighborhood where the residents were mostly educated professionals, than in an all white neighborhood composed of low income families.

To reduce the risk of more black and white children growing up separating themselves, and not understanding each other, the needed ingredient is open, honest dialogue. This has become my mantra. If only someone had asked the white children in Glen’s school how they were feeling, in addition to asking the black children what else could be done to make them feel good about themselves. If only the students and the parents were brought together to speak candidly to each other without fear of judgement, as long as the goal was conflict resolution.

There was more of a chance of dialogue, as small as it was, in 1970 than there is today. The result is a growing frustration from all of those people who cannot get a hearing, because they are considered racist Neanderthals with invalid fears and concerns. The result is a Donald Trump. Glenn Reynolds wrote this in USA Today.

Mr. Reynolds is far from the only media representative taking note of this gate to open discussion that appears to be securely locked. The children – and I call them children in spite of the fact that they are university students – who need to be protected from opposing viewpoints have gone a step beyond. They are not seeking equality of opportunity, which the left in its more noble manifestation always strove to achieve for everyone. What the entitled, anxiety ridden, intolerant dictators of acceptable speech in protective bubbles are demanding, along with equality of opportunity is a predetermined equality of outcome. And that requires stepping with a heavier boot on a lot more toes, providing more fodder for Mr. Trump.

Allow me to quote Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine:

For the white working class, having had their morals roundly mocked, their religion deemed primitive, and their economic prospects decimated, now find their very gender and race, indeed the very way they talk about reality, described as a kind of problem for the nation to overcome. This is just one aspect of what Trump has masterfully signaled as “political correctness” run amok., or what might be better described as the newly rigid progressive passion for racial and sexual equality of outcome, rather than the liberal aspiration to mere equality of opportunity.

If you think you are safe because you are not “working class,” think again. Just ask Erika Christakis, the Yale professor who had to resign because she stated that students should be able to choose their own Halloween costumes without the administration dictating what is culturally acceptable. The cry of racism rang out. The professor’s comment made enough students no longer feel “safe” at Yale, so she resigned to calm the storm. Or ask Bassem Eid, the Palestinian who attempted to speak at three prestigious Universities in Chicago to give a balanced perspective on the Middle East that included positive comments about Israel. He was shouted down, his safety was threatened, his speech stopped, and his future engagements cancelled for fear of more of the same. The only acceptable viewpoint is one that vilifies Israel alone. Dialogue? Conflict resolution? Open minds? Hah!

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