The Week in Race

Since we're supposed to be in a post-racial era, it was surprising to see race explode as a major part of last week's national discussion. As usual, when the issue flares up, it's done so by words and actions that are inflammatory and/or have no basis in reality.

What first caused it? Am image seen a million times over — an editorial cartoon of two police officers hovering over the bloody carcass of a dead chimpanzee. "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," the caption read.

During the uproar, an e-mail appeared in my inbox containing a story for Newsmax.com by Mark Hyman, titled "The End of Racism? Black Americans Achieving Great Success."

"Can we now agree that racism is essentially a thing of the past?" Hyman asked. Well, no, we can't.

While claiming racism is as common as polio (huh?) and listing successful African-Americans ranging from Oprah Winfrey and Cathy Hughes to Dave Chappelle and Dr. Ben Carson, whose success purportedly means racism is dead, Hyman argued, "The evidence indicates there is little blacks cannot accomplish. The barriers are no different than those faced by others."

While the success of the someone like Oprah Winfrey demonstrates the success possible to any American, African- or otherwise, one need look no further than the entrenched inequalities in education, seen at Baltimore's chronically challenged Frederick Douglass High School or South Carolina's "Corridor of Shame" — a series of decrepit and perpetually underperforming schools — to immediately clear up any notion that the barriers are no different.

Or ask Michael Steele. Where Barack Obama's rallying cry has been "Yes, we can," prominent Democrats have for years told Steele, "No, you can't" because party trumps race. Do you think House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) would ever call a Democrat "slavish," or that Maryland state Senate President Mike Miller would call an African-American running for office as a Democrat an "Uncle Tom?"

Nor did the reliably liberal Baltimore Sun question the credentials of an African-American Democrat by saying he or she offered little "but the color of his skin," as they did to Steele in 2002.

And let's not forget the role race played in the 2008 Democratic primary — from Clintonian race-baiting in South Carolina to the Obama campaign labeling Hillary Clinton as "D-Punjab."

Just as racism clearly continues, even the most partisan Democrat should concede that Republicans from the South are capable of making decisions without considering race. Unfortunately, when some Southern Republican governors last week said they were considering rejecting federal stimulus money, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) immediately went to the race card, saying their actions were a "slap in the face" to African-Americans. Reasonable people can disagree on how, or if, to spend federal stimulus money, but immediately — instinctively — charging that those decisions are race-based represent a slap in the face to all voters.

America has come far on the issue of race, but there's still a long way to go. One thing is for certain: We can't move forward as long as too many Republicans deny any kind of racism exists and too many Democrats seek every opportunity to charge racism.