In an otherwise reasonable column last week comparing Obama and Romney, Frank Bruni wrote the following:
Although race represents a less central dynamic for Obama now than it did in 2008, it’s a factor in his political fortunes nonetheless. It poisons some of his opponents, pumping them full of a toxic zeal beyond the partisan norm. How else to explain their obsession with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright or the lunatic persistence of the birthers…
I guess racism is the only reason people don’t like to hear that “the government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color” or that “Them Jews aren’t going to let [Obama] talk to me” or the infamous “God Damn America!”
Of course the President has denounced these sorts of comments (though it is hard to imagine that Wright’s rhetoric was much different during the many years he was the President’s spiritual leader). And I wouldn’t recommend that Romney exploit the deranged rhetoric of this looney demagogue, even if it is tempting. Still, why is it OK to slander those who are angered by Wright’s hateful speech as being racists? So the only reason that Bruni can imagine for people’s anger is that they have been poisoned by their own racism? How else, indeed?
Isn’t Bruni saying, essentially, that the salient characteristic of Wright’s character is the color of his sin? If it turned out that Romney had been friends for years with, say, Davide Duke, would he accuse those who were outraged with being poisoned by their hatred of white people? Isn’t he saying that when black people say offensive, hateful, outrageous things, to hold them (or those who support or patronize them) accountable isn’t right? If white people are not allowed to be offended by a black man for what he says and does, isn’t that saying that what people say or do isn’t important, only what they look like?
Bruni is a smart, thoughtful guy, so it is hard to imagine him falling into this sort of trap. I try to take the Left’s concern for racial issues as genuine and, for the most part, productive. But comments like Bruni’s make me wonder.
And then I turn on MSNBC and see Al Sharpton hosting his TV show.