Seven days in June

One week ago today, the social and political buzz among Americans was focused mainly on Donald Trump’s announcement of his presidential candidacy and anticipation of an encyclical from Pope Francis on climate change. Otherwise, nothing terribly earth-shaking seemed to be going on. Nightfall, however, brought a tragedy, the aftermath of which is still reverberating in ways that could not have been predicted. A racist madman shot and killed nine especially fine people in an iconic black church in Charleston, S.C. — and America...

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Let’s put Obama’s public use of the N-word in context, shall we?

In a radio interview in the wake of last week’s tragedy in Charleston, S.C., President Obama said this: Racism, we are not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior. Predictably enough, some pathological Obamaphobes say the president’s public use of the N-word betrays him a racist in...

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I hate to say it, but expelling racist frat boys violates their rights to free speech

I don’t often agree with Eugene Volokh, but he’s RIGHT about the expulsion of several fraternity members allegedly involved in leading racist chants aboard a bus full of students at the University of Oklahoma: First, racist speech is constitutionally protected, just as is expression of other contemptible ideas; and universities may not discipline students based on their speech. That has been the unanimous view of courts that have considered campus speech codes and other campus speech restrictions…The same, of course, is true...

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Seventy-five years ago today, Hollywood released a racist masterpiece

Over the years, I’ve learned that there are as many ways of interpreting the movie “Gone With The Wind” as there have been occasions on which I’ve seen it — which is to say many, many ways. Jimmy Carter, a native of the state in which the movie is set, once said the release of “Gone With The Wind” on this date in 1939 was “the biggest event to happen in the South in my lifetime.” One could argue with Carter on that point — the Supreme Court’s school-desegration ruling of 1954, among other...

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Some conservatives who should know better legitimize racist attacks on Obama

Like most Americans, I was encouraged about race relations in America when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008. At first, I wasn’t especially surprised at the racist invective that emanated from some quarters at the specter of a black man in the White House. A certain amount of that kind of thing was predictable, I told myself. But, as time has passed, I’ve been shocked and disappointed at the extent to which presumably respectable conservatives have responded with silence, if not actual assent, to the racial bigotry aimed...

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