Opinion: Columnists

Dog-whistling 'Dixie' over and over is wearing thin

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Noemie Emery,Columnists,President,Analysis,Trayvon Martin

After the bombings at the Boston Marathon on April 15, a columnist at Salon expressed his wish for a Caucasian villain, and he did get his wish — not a blond, blue-eyed Nazi or Bull Connor wannabe, but a Chechen from the actual Caucasus, an immigrant, and a Muslim, and the deflation was visible.

After Gates-gate, when Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested and handcuffed in his own home by a white policeman James Crowley, whom Obama had said "acted stupidly," white liberals and the race-grievance industry hoped they had found their Bull Connor wannabe, and were again disappointed.

About the time that drop-offs in actual prejudice started to threaten their jobs and their funding, academics discovered 'unconscious prejudice,' which was prejudice people had without knowing they had it.

And when George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin in Florida, they hoped again they had found a Germanic villain — and instead found a Hispanic, from a mixed racial background, with black ancestors, and who tutored black children.

In the face of all this, they became ultra-creative, with the New York Times calling Zimmerman a "white Hispanic," a term they may have coined for this occasion, and NBC News doctored a tape to make him sound like a racist, for which it is facing an imminent lawsuit, which every sane person should hope it will lose.

The grievance industry complains about profiling, but it seems to do this itself without reservation, making the sizeable leap from prejudice — meaning "pre-judging" — to putting thoughts into other men's heads.

Gates thought Crowley begrudged him the house that he lived in, and blew up when he asked him for proof that he lived there, which was standard procedure for possible break-ins, and which somebody seems to have told the professor, before the historic "Beer Summit" took place.

About the time that drop-offs in actual prejudice started to threaten their jobs and their funding, academics discovered 'unconscious prejudice,' which was prejudice people had without knowing they had it, and therefore could never deny.

To measure this, some scholars created an index of "racial resentment," asking questions on issues with no racial content in which feelings on race were nonetheless found.

Many hours on MSNBC's "Hardball" were happily passed in discussing "dog whistles," innocent phrases that racists deploy to send coded messages to evil and white-hooded friends.

These were usually sent by Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, who learned these dark arts in the northernmost states of the union where the Confederate cause still has such resonance.

But dog whistles fell out of favor last summer, when the definition at last became stretched beyond reason, and some of the help on the MSNBC roster found sinister meanings in "Chicago" and "golf."

This shows a palpable lust for the 1950s and 1960s, the "Good War" in the domestic arena, which, like World War II, had great moral issues, great moral clarity, and great divisions between right and wrong.

Since then, however, things have been different: The Gates-Crowley row was a misunderstanding; the Florida death was a great, tragic blunder; the great threat to black lives now is gang violence, and Zimmerman is a poster-boy for the Democrats' "coalition of the ascendant" and an Obama voter himself.

"Today's civil-rights leaders have missed the obvious," as Shelby Steele tells us. "The success of their forebears in achieving social transformation denied to them the heroism that was inescapable for a Martin Luther King Jr ... It's hard to be a King or Mandela today."

It's less hard if you think Trayvon Martin is like Emmett Till, George Zimmerman is like Bull Connor, and Florida is like apartheid South Africa, which is why they keep trying. But it is wearing terribly thin.

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