You Can Talk All You Want To But It's Different Than It Was

Okay, one more thing on Obama’s big speech. Chris Caldwell ends his piece on the speech on a very strong note:

The US has not managed to eliminate racism, Mr Jackson thinks, but it has succeeded in eliminating racist talk. Remarks the slightest bit “insensitive” draw draconian punishment. White people, because they feel thoroughly oppressed by this regime, assume that it must be some kind of “gift” to minorities, especially blacks.

It is not. It is more like a torment. It renders the power structure more opaque to blacks than it has ever been, leaving what Mr Jackson calls a “scary disconnect between the specifics of what gets said and the hazy possibilities of what kinds of things are truly meant”. If the historic enemies of your people suddenly began talking about you in what can fairly be called a secret code, how inclined would you be to trust in their protestations of generosity?

This is the core of the problem Mr Obama aims to address. Bringing subterranean racial narratives into the light of day, where they can be debated openly, is a risk. Although the early news coverage of his speech has been positive, polls appear show that what Americans most want from Mr Obama is a simple demonstration that he is not like Rev Wright.

That is not exactly what they got. But they did get something better: the offer of a more intimate relationship among the races, a less instrumental use of them by US politicians and a breaking of the monopoly on interracial dialogue that has until now been held by elite censors. Americans ought to take him up on it.

Yes, indeed they ought. And the hope of precisely such a change in the terms of racial dialogue is, I think, precisely why Obama is earning praise from a guy like Charles Murray.

The question – to some extent for Obama, but more so for the left generally – is: is this really a two-way street? And I can’t think of a better test for that than how a guy like Charles Murray gets treated. Historically, that hasn’t been well, in spite of the fact that there is ample evidence that, while you may think him a fool, you have to concede he’s an honest one.

Like I said in that February piece on Obama’s church: I believe the window for defenestration should be set really high. That goes for all sides.