One of the great moral issues of our time is almost never discussed as such in a reasonable, productive way. Sure, we talk about it often. As a matter of fact, hardly a day goes by without it coming up on one of the major cable news channels or talk radio shows across the nation. It divides Republicans and Democrats and polarizes the parties more than almost anything else I can think of. And very few who discuss it do so in a way that makes sense.
I’m talking about racism. And not the mere existence of racism, because as long as we’re mortal human beings, racism will always exist. The moral issue of racism I’m concerned with here is how poisonous conversations about it have become, to the point where taking a public policy position, even on something entirely unrelated to race, is seen through the prism of skin color.
That’s not to say that no one takes the problem of true racism seriously. No doubt many in this country do. Democrats are convinced it’s the overriding “issue” or “problem” of our day; although deep down, behind closed doors, it’s probably more a function of good retail politics for them—a means to rallying their base and maintaining a constituency—than it is a truly systemic crisis, much less a serious moral concern.
Republicans are just as guilty of failing to see it as a moral crisis. They’re the ones always on the defensive as alleged racists and respond mostly in talking-point fashion to attacks by Democrats. I guess that’s just “politics as usual.” But it shouldn’t be. Racism is not just a question of good or bad politics, not just a matter of scoring or losing points in the fight for votes from a constituency. It has profound moral implications, because those who exploit race appeal to the baser, primal aspects of human nature, which pit people against one another in ways we ought to have left behind in the Stone Age.
That is why I believe it is time to counter this unfortunate situation with the twin virtues of tolerance and patience. Here’s the reality: In the United States, if you’re a Republican, the left considers you a racist by default, almost no matter what you say or do. If you’re a Democrat, your colleagues on the right think you can say or do almost anything—no matter how offensive—and get away with it, and you are virtually guaranteed never to be called a racist.
I bet—and it’s crazy to have to think this way—that whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, as you read the above paragraph, you likely agreed with it. You Republican readers probably thought to yourselves, “You’re right. How sad that my economic and social conservatism makes me a de facto racist,” and you Democratic readers probably thought, “Exactly! Republicans are all racist, and I’m not and couldn’t possibly be. Your point is?”
Tolerance, or rather the lack thereof, is my point. By automatically labeling one whole segment of the political spectrum as racist, the left has attempted to delegitimize all conservative thought. It’s a red herring. Rather than listen to and consider the true merits or flaws of conservatism, especially in regards to how policies will affect minorities, every idea is labeled as racially insensitive and therefore inherently bad.
The virtue of tolerance demands that you check your prejudices at the door and consider the person and their beliefs based on their merits. We ask that all people do this when dealing with someone of a different race, yet how quickly we forget to exercise the same ideal when discussing politics.
Armstrong Williams is the author of the brand-new book “Reawakening Virtues.” More content can be found on RightSideWire.com. Come join the discussion live 4-5, 6-8 p.m. EST at www.livestream.com/armstrongwilliams or tune in 4-5 p.m. EST on S.C. WGCV, Sirius/XM Power 128, 6-7 p.m. and 4-5 a.m. EST. Become a fan on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.