I’m just going to start here; I do not believe that Rand Paul is a racist. I’ve listened to what he has said about the civil rights act and I think that he is trying to reconcile some very idealistic notions with bitter reality. The problem is he lacks the depth of empathy to truly “understand what the fuss is all about.” Empathy is hard. To really put yourself in someone else’s shoes you have to have a measure of creativity not often employed in day to day life. It takes a level of humility people are not willing to embrace. You need to subjugate your personality to that of another’s. Doing this for someone whom you don’t agree with is particularly difficult because the first step is letting go of your own righteousness. If you’re like Rand, and really didn’t live in a world where you are considered an outsider based not on the content of your character but on something you have no control over it is hard to see why it is so important to enforce protection from discrimination—especially if you grew up in a community that did not openly discriminate. It is easy to forget. Just like a peace time country is likely to romanticize war. You could call it hyperbole but civil rights is an ongoing war. What Rand Paul is suggesting is that we have moved beyond all these racial tensions. We know that racism is wrong. We have already come to the mountain top.
With the election of Barack Obama, people are leaping over themselves to enact this “post racial” world. It is like his election proves that all this race stuff is done and over with. All over the country people are trying to define this post racial world as not a world without racism but a world without race. The notion, I gather, is acknowledging race is what created the racism. InArizonathey have banned all cultural study programs. TheTexasschool board attempted to remove the word slave, from discussions on the “slave trade”. These and Rand Paul’s statements are attempts to whitewash our society and remove discrimination from the national discussion, because we don’t need to talk about it anymore. In Rand Paul’s case I’m giving him wide latitude on naiveté on the issue for the simple reason he doesn’t fall under any of the protected classes that have lived through inferior treatment (eg. Race, religion, sex, nationality, sexual orientation). What Rand Paul and the rest of his “post racial” brethren fail to realized is while they think society has moved on and the consensus is that discriminating based on race is something of a bygone generation there is too much evidence to the contrary. Government has to step in and prevent discrimination because it is a matter of safety. Everyone can agree that without wheel chair accessibility many disable citizens would put themselves in harms way to go to the bank, use public restrooms or reasonable live their life in the public. Not being able to freely travel inAmericabecause you never know if where you stop will sell you gas, food or even shelter is a safety issue for citizens. Such was the case before theADAand in the Jim Crow south.
More importantly what I believe the “post racial” notion misses is the lack of true public knowledge of the racial tensions that have existed throughout history. I am forever grateful that while I grew up PBS showed the “eyes on the prize” documentary, I am also glad that they have recently released part of this series on DVD (In all seriousness if you know nothing about this documentary you owe it to yourself to watch it). It is not an exaggeration to say that education in this country is Eurocentric—specifically westernEurope. Growing up I’d say my education was more progressive than most public schools education and stillJapan didn’t come up in discussion until World War 2 despite having an older culture than Europe, and forget any discussion ofPersia. In fact if it wasn’t for African American studies in my senior year of high school there would have been no discussion of the Jim Crow south in my school education.
Americais a nation of many cultures and still so few are represented. The Supreme Court will most likely be all catholic in the next few years, there are very few Muslim members of Congress and I know of no Hindu, or Buddhist members, and very few LGBT’s hold high office positions. We are still dominated by race in this country and as a result government must act in the public’s interest to ensure our safety and our liberties. Its funny Rand Paul believes that if an entity discriminated, the public would recoil and as a result they would not be able to sustain that business model. It is funny because that is what is currently happening in the State ofArizona. I hope that this is true, but the fact that this is still playing out in the most overt cases of racism to date and the outcome is at best uncertain undermines Paul’s case that discrimination would be corrected by market alone.