Pharos-Tribune

Opinion

April 21, 2014

LYONS: How we devalued the 'R' word

(Continued)

Even President Obama, while careful not to say that the Trayvon Martin jury decided wrongly, emphasized that “it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.”

Actually, I’m often amazed that black people love this country as much as they do. What’s more, ethnic groupthink definitely comes in technicolor. You don’t have to be Justice Clarence Thomas to see that.

Obama was recently asked what race had to do with his poll ratings. He answered diplomatically: “There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black president,” he said. “Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black president.”

Needless to say, the usual suspects, as Jonathan Chait writes in an ambitious New York Magazine cover story on Obama and race, “exploded in indignation, quoting the first sentence without mentioning the second.”

That’s standard Fox News-ism.

However, Chait’s not your standard Salon/MSNBC-style lefty, accusing the president’s GOP foes of bigotry. To the contrary, his is an ambitious, if ultimately unpersuasive attempt to define what he calls “the psychic wound that has divided red America and blue America in the Obama years.”

Democrats and Republicans, he thinks, are both “paranoid” about race. They wage an “endless war of mutual victimization” — each side persuaded of its primal innocence.

Violating professional taboos, Chait even lists liberal journalists like Salon’s Joan Walsh and Slate’s Timothy Noah, who have dropped evidence-free “r-bombs” on Obama’s critics. Mind-readers, most of them. “MSNBC,” he writes, “has spent the entire Obama presidency engaged in a nearly nonstop ideological stop-and-frisk operation.”

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