Trivializing Race

TRIVIALIZING RACE….Ampersand points us to a charming story from the University of Virginia. A few Medical Center workers were chatting about controversial sports team names a few weeks ago and one of them

said something like this: “I can’t believe in this day and age that there’s a sports team in our nation’s capital named the Redskins. That is as derogatory to Indians as having a team called Niggers would be to blacks.”

And here’s the reaction:

In an e-mail sent to a black faculty e-mail list, History Prof. Julian Bond, national chair of the NAACP, called for the employee to make a public apology and take sensitivity training.

“My first impulse is that this should be a dismissible infraction — but free speech protections I hold dear tell me that shouldn’t be so,” Bond wrote, adding that the administration “ought to disavow such language.”

You know, I don’t get too worked up about student antics at universities. Frankly, if you took a few thousand smart 18-year-olds away from home for the first time and dumped them onto a single campus, I’d be a little worried if they didn’t act like idiots.

But Julian Bond is neither 18 years old nor an idiot ? he’s a man with a long and honorable history in the civil rights movement. So here’s some poor shlub who specifically makes the point in a casual conversation that the word “nigger” is really offensive, and Bond’s first impulse is that this ought to be a firing offense? That doesn’t even make sense on its own terms.

Do you suppose Bond ever wonders why conservatives have been so successful at convincing so many people that racism really isn’t much of a problem anymore? It’s simple: if this is the kind of thing the chairman of the NAACP is spending his time fighting, then the only race problems left in this country really are pretty trivial, aren’t they?