The deep unrest in America today wasn't caused by the color of the president's skin but the content of his policies. And more and more, it seems that the starting point for these policies is the liberal view that the Constitution is a flawed document. One of the main arguments that the Constitution is flawed and no longer relevant is directly related to the issue of race. It's an issue that all admirers of the Constitution and of our founding have to deal with squarely and honestly: the Constitution's initial compromise on the issue of slavery. It sometimes seems like slavery is all that liberal academics and the mainstream media want to talk about when the topic is America's birth, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't acknowledge the contradiction that slavery represented to American principles. To do less is to denigrate the greatness of those principles. To love our country is to confront our history squarely and honestly. To love our fellow Americans is to admit that we have not always, as a nation, respected their God-given rights.
Confronting our history, of course, also means acknowledging how much progress we've made as a nation to overcome the legacies of slavery and segregation. It always amazes me how some on the left would rather focus on America's sins rather than on the steps we've taken to heal and redeem them. Laws like the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, which followed one year later, are great human achievements. They made our country better, not just for some of its citizens, but for all of its citizens. Wouldn't it be more constructive to celebrate these great achievements instead of dwelling obsessively on the problems that made them necessary in the first place? In our hearts, I believe Americans are a fundamentally just and tolerant people.
I've been to big cities and little towns throughout the country. I've met thousands of Americans. I've disagreed with some, agreed with more, and cherished (almost!) all of them. There are exceptions, of course, but in my experience, Americans are too busy raising their families, building their businesses, and looking after their neighbors to spend a lot of time fixating on the color of someone's skin.
Still, I don't think it's an accident that the opponents of this new American awakening so often accuse Tea Partiers and others of being racist. For one thing, it's a guaranteed conversation stopper. Just saying the word racist instantly ends any legitimate debate. Just the accusation gives the accuser an excuse not to debate the issues at hand.
The second reason the charge of racism is leveled at patriotic Americans so often is that the people making the charge actually believe it. They think America—at least America as it currently exists—is a fundamentally unjust and unequal country. Barack Obama seems to believe this, too. Certainly his wife expressed this view when she said during the 2008 campaign that she had never felt proud of her country until her husband starting winning elections. In retrospect, I guess this shouldn't surprise us, since both of them spent almost two decades in the pews of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's church listening to his rants against America and white people.
It also makes sense, then, that the man President Obama made his attorney general, Eric Holder, would call us a "nation of cowards" for failing to come to grips with what he described as the persistence of racism.