and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
January #3

Only those with weak hand see fit to play race card
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Between Martin Luther King Jr.'s real birthday and the"birthday observed," it's important to celebrate his extraordinary leadership. We should be past having to think about his race.

Race was the issue on which he led, which took almost unimaginable courage at that time in our history. But now it's important to remember him for his dream - that "persons will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

Let's honor him as a great man, not a great black man - while acknowledging that it's good for our country's unique image to honor greatness in its many colors, creeds and diverse cultures.

We shouldn't intrude on the celebration by accusing Hillary Clinton of disrespect for King's role simply because she noted that the civil rights law passed thanks to Lyndon Johnson. Clearly she meant that dreams are important, but to make them law, you need the president and Congress.

And naturally she was implying that opponent Barack Obama's stirring rhetoric isn't enough, that the ability of competent legislators like her is essential. Without agreeing that she is a competent legislator (and if she isn't, that's fine with me on so many issues), this seems a fair point.

Meanwhile, some commentators are actually saying that the New Hampshire primary vote reflects racist attitudes on the part of those pathfinder voters. Say what?!

Chip Ford says he's glad he's not a Democrat: If they vote for Hillary, they're racist; if they vote for Obama, they're sexist; if they vote for one of the white guys, they're both. Not that Democrats, who have let their party pander on race, don't deserve this.

I know race has been a big issue within our lifetime. But most of the country really has moved on, thanks to King, the politicians who voted for the civil rights law, the creators of "Roots," and the other cultural events that opened white eyes to injustice.

I often think of something I saw in a TV docudrama about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, which I hope I recall correctly.

Marshall was invited to observe a study of poor Southern children, in which each girl was allowed to choose a doll to be their very own. Both the white and the black girls chose white dolls. I thought this was heartbreaking. Marshall was moved to support efforts to build the self-esteem of minority children.

Now we have black baby dolls, Barbie dolls and Bratz, which I hope are enjoyed by girls of all races.

I became attached at an early age to black dolls. I still have my AmoSandra baby doll, which I may give to my granddaughter when I'm sure she will love it as much as I do. My parents ordered it from the Amos & Andy radio show in the '40s: they also used pancake box-tops to order a pattern for an Aunt Jemima doll - which I also still have, though the stuffing is almost gone.

I no longer have Paul, who was unusual, since except for Raggedy Andy, boy dolls were rare during my childhood. Paul was black, with a china head, and I still remember the trauma of dropping him and breaking it beyond repair.

With these memories, I know I have never been racist. Therefore I was surprised this week when I received an e-mail from someone who'd read my reference to "Deval Obama" in a previous column.

"Barbara. Your epithet 'Deval Obama' reveals more than I think you know or want to know. Seems to me the names of other hyphenated Americans who have been the political power base in this country and this state - Irish, Italian, Anglo-Saxon for example - have not faced this latent intolerance and not so subtle prejudice for more than a century. You are better than this!"

When I picked myself up off the floor, I responded: "Good grief, this never occurred to me. I, like most libertarians, don't even THINK about race when I think about people. I combined the names because both candidates used and are using the same campaign message, hope, change etc. without having an apparent clue about what they are going to do when they get into office. We call it rope-a-dope campaigning."

I may have misused that expression. I thought it referred to cowboys and calves, in this case two Democrat politicians roping in dumb voters with meaningless rhetoric. Chip tells me it's a boxing reference to a winning tactic of Mohammed Ali - and has nothing to do with his being black, by the way. Anyhow, I told the e-mailer that "People who refuse to criticize candidates just because they are black are thinking like racists, who treat others differently because of their skin color."

Which brings me to my criticism of the week: Deval Patrick's threat to bypass the Legislature and allow taxpayer-funded tuition for illegal immigrants. Although most of these illegals are Caucasian, those of us opposed to illegal immigration are also called racist. Once upon a time, that word was a genuine insult - now it's often an anachronism.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and Eagle Tribune, and often in the Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.