Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hang-Wringing about Racial Prejudice

This essay and this essay at Talking Points Memo make me think:

Here's an idea that's never been tried: stop all the hand-wringing and actually enforce all of the federal and state civil rights statutes on the books.

Racism is like water pollution. And for water pollution we have a Clean Water Act. It's a very powerful and well-written law -- but only works when it is enforced. The problem is that it is rarely enforced. Hence, we still have lots and lots of dirty polluted water.

Our civil rights laws are the Clean Water Act for racial discrimination. They are powerful and well-written laws -- but they only work when they are enforced. The problem is that they are rarely enforced. Hence, we still have lots of lots of racial discrimination of the type that is barred by statute.

Segregated communities today are largely the legacy of the Republican administrations' hostility to the very concept of using the law to stop discrimination in public and private spheres. You can't knock these laws because in fact they have almost never been tried. Republicans since Nixon have been using racism as an electoral wedge and actually encouraging the public to ridicule and demean the entire concept of racial equality. You can't pour this type of corrosive acid on the body politic for 40 years and be surprised that lots of whites and blacks don't trust each other and don't want to live near one another.

Aggressively enforce the civil rights laws on the books. And then, if that is not working, feel free to hand-wring.

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