Stuck in the past

I endorse this Matt Bai piece from today, with one reservation. This part seems like an attempt to add something that isn’t fully parallel for completeness sake:

Mr. Paul, meanwhile, found himself hurtling into the past when, responding to questions from Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, he expressed philosophical reservations about the 1964 Civil Rights Act, specifically the provision that forced private businesses to integrate. (Later, he amended that position, saying he would have supported the act anyway.)

The ensuing cries of racism probably made perfect sense to those who lived through the ’60s. After all, if a white Southerner in 1964 opposed integration on constitutional grounds, odds were pretty good that bigotry was a motivating factor. And yet the national conversation around racism and its remedies today is considerably more nuanced than it was 50 years ago — or even 10 years ago.

Now Tiger Woods plays annually at Augusta, historically an all-white club. The African-American president of the United States has said that his own relatively privileged daughters should not benefit from affirmative action programs when applying to college. Americans the president’s age and younger are inclined to assume that one can question the responsibilities of government and private entities when it comes to race without necessarily being dismissed as a racist — even if it does make them, as in the case of Mr. Paul, something of an ideological outlier.

I think this is this whole notion that everything is fine now with regards to race is very naive. Whether or not Rand Paul’s best friends are black, the fact is that he is apparently not bothered by the fact that the laissez-faire free market and the original Constitution did not work for blacks, Indians, or women. Or at least not bothered enough to stop worshiping it as an idol.

Tiger Woods and Barack Obama are what you might call the classic case of exceptions proving the rule. Blacks still suffer from the legacy of slavery. Blacks are, on average, poorer, have less access to good education, are more likely to be victims of crime, and are still under-represented in most elite institutions. That’s an argument that the Civil Rights Act and perhaps affirmative action have failed or haven’t had complete success, but it’s absolutely not an argument that racism isn’t a problem.

Plus, if anything, Barack Obama has made it clear by the reactions to him that racism is alive and well in this country. Sure, the Civil Rights Act is a bit of a blunt instrument, but to me that argues for reform not repeal. The problem on race isn’t that we’re stuck in the 1960s. It’s that a significant portion of the country is stuck in the 1860s.

I’m with Bai that people are getting tired of arguing over 60s shit. I’m so utterly sick of Vietnam. At this point, even if the history books are whitewashed with conservative lies about Vietnam, it makes no difference because we have already repeated the mistake. The challenge now is to learn from Iraq.

But with respect to the Civil Rights Act, I would leave you with this proverb: The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.