We see that the Democrats are calling, again, for a national conversation on race. That's understandable given that a conversation on almost any other topic would be an embarrassment for Democrats, but such a call is also futile.
It's futile because there are certain ground rules to these conversations that often cause them to devolve into lectures on what's wrong with white people. The rules require that whites sit by passively while being hectored by their liberal (black or white) mentors. This is as demeaning as it is unhelpful.
If a white interlocutor should have the temerity to violate the protocol and voice an opinion critical of blacks, as did Bill O'Reilly recently, he can expect to be informed at some point in the conversation either that he's a racist or that he has no business voicing such an opinion because he's not black. O'Reilly has had the pleasure, since committing his act of defiance, of being repeatedly indicted on both charges. Here are O'Reilly's comments which, dare I say it, sound completely sensible to me:
To seek to silence this sort of criticism by calling O'Reilly a racist or by invoking the rule that white men haven't the standing to complain about black problems is fatuous and certainly a conversation stopper, but that's the way these conversations on race always seem to go. It's as if white folks' role in such "discussions" is to just shut up and listen to what black folks tell them.
Here's Sherri Shepherd on The View giving us her version of this rule:
Ms. Shepherd's remark is absurd, of course, because it only applies to whites who criticize some aspect of the "black experience." It doesn't apply, apparently, to blacks who talk volubly enough about what's wrong with whites. Blacks evince little discernable hesitation, even though they're not white, to point out the shortcomings of white society. Would Ms Shepherd extend her rule to make such critiques illegitimate? Would she disallow the complaints of black shoppers who resent being carefully scrutinized by white storeowners even though the black shopper has never been a white storeowner? Would she insist that poor people who pay no income tax have no business commenting on government tax policies because they're not taxpayers? Would she maintain that unless one is a combatant in a war an individual has no right to complain about the conduct of the war? Where does Ms Shepherd draw the line? One suspects she draws it in a very tight circle around white criticism of blacks.
Anyway, any conversation on race in this country needs to focus on the fundamental question why it is that in black communities across the country, the needle is in the red on every measure of social dysfunction. Why is it that so few blacks form stable families? Why are black kids much more likely than kids in other groups to be fatherless, to drop out of school, to be in trouble with the law, to be unemployed, to be a burden on society?
Or, since those questions will almost certainly be aborted by howls of racism, as they were when O'Reilly asked them, or by application of what we might call the Shepherd rule which disqualifies any white from asking them because whites aren't black, let me suggest two other questions which should be explored in our "national conversation," but which almost assuredly won't be: What exactly is racism and why, exactly, is racial profiling, which is usually little more than mildly insulting or inconvenient (unless abused by police), so abhorrent?
An airing of these topics won't happen, though, because too many of those calling for a national conversation on race don't really want a conversation at all. If they did they wouldn't have any objection to O'Reilly's disquisition. What they want, actually, is to lecture the rest of us on race, to demand that we defer to their moral authority on the subject, to flagellate submissive whites with the lash of guilt, and they don't want to have to take questions.
Well, if those are the rules, I'm not playing.