The biggest changes in society always seem to take a generation. We sometimes have to wait for the old generation to die off--or at least wane in influence--so that new ideas can get hold. I'm sure you've heard your grandparents say something utterly cringeworthy without a second thought. It doesn't occur to them that they might have said something inappropriate.
Racial relations in America seem to be at such a juncture. With the rise of Obama, older people (and commentators) seem to be fixated on the miracle of a black man rising in prominence. Younger people are simply transfixed by a message that they find inspiring; race is largely irrelevant for them.
I get so annoyed when people focus on race instead of substance. I care what you think and how you act, not what color you are. I think that the mainstream of American thought is with me on this.
I felt that familiar annoyance again as I listened to Paul Krugman, economist and columnist for the NY Times, giving a lecture. He was trying to make a case that conservatives use codewords like "welfare" to exploit the racist leanings of their audiences. Huh? Would it be so implausible to believe that people actually mean what they say? I'm including the video that sparked this post so that you can judge for yourself the quality of Krugman's argument about race in politics. See particularly chapter 8 around 22:33.
If I say I'm concerned about welfare, or families, or taxes, or illegal immigration and identity theft, the chances are that I mean exactly that. I'm not trying to secretly push a racist or an ethnic agenda. There are simply issues that resonate with me and that I think are important. I'm not driven by the political battles of a past age that are largely settled.
We're in the clean-up stages of our country's battle against racism. I don't deny the reality of it in the past, and I don't deny that it still occurs today. But we are structurally past it and blatantly racist sentiments are commonly reviled. I'm fully on board with the sentiment expressed so eloquently by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. which is paraphrased to say that we judge people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
I plead with the older generation to move past the race debates of bygone days. Though there is still work to do and progress to be made, that debate is won.