Shame

SHAME….Via Matt Yglesias, I have unfortunately been directed to this….collection of words from Weekly Standard assistant managing editor David Skinner.

Skinner’s article almost perfectly encapsulates my problem with conservative attitudes toward race, something that has very little to do with legal or constitutional issues. In fact, let’s just stipulate for now that conservative opposition to affirmative action, for example, is entirely principled, that they genuinely think school vouchers are the best way to help minorities, etc. Instead, let’s look at what they choose to use their bully pulpit for.

Here’s what happened: Skinner read an article in the Washington Post about an obscure and uninteresting correction that was made to a grammar question on the PSAT. But ? it turns out that the question was related to novelist Toni Morrison. The correction itself had nothing to do with Morrison, mind you ? it was just a weird point of archaic grammar ? but the subject of the sentence was indeed Toni Morrison.

And this just chaps Skinner’s ass. So he spends his morning churning out 500 words about the sentence in question. Dammit, Toni Morrison is a lousy novelist. She’s certainly not a genius. And it’s an outrage that the offending sentence was even included in the PSAT.

So here’s my question: why did he spend his morning this way? Why is it that seeing that sentence immediately sent him into a rage, and instead of writing a column about tort reform or national security or Democratic healthcare plans he wrote one instead about his opinion that Toni Morrison is overrated?

Emphasis is everything. Regardless of legal issues over race and racism, why spend your time on something like this? Why not write instead about the whites-only prom in Georgia? You don’t have to suggest a legal remedy, just use your platform to express your disgust, kick off a letter writing campaign, or organize a demonstration.

But he doesn’t, and conservatives rarely do. There’s nothing stopping them, of course, they just don’t bother. If they mention the Georgia prom at all, it’s only to say “It’s horrible, of course, but….” and then launch into a diatribe about freedom of association. Why not, instead, say “Freedom of association means there’s no legal remedy here, but….” and then launch into a diatribe about how this kind of stuff is a stain on America and needs to be ended?

William Bennett was a big proponent of using shame to accomplish the goal of getting people to act morally. So if conservatives genuinely think it’s wrong to use legal avenues to accomplish racial goals, why don’t the ones with national platforms use shame instead? What’s stopping them?

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