Wil­liams: free to feel sorry for whites

The Covington News - - OPINION - WAL­TER E. WIL­LIAMS COLUM­NIST

At one time in our na­tion’s his­tory, blacks feel­ing sorry for whites was ver­boten. That was por­trayed in Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-win­ning novel, “To Kill a Mock­ing­bird.” This is a novel pub­lished in 1960 — and later made into a movie — about De­pres­sion-era racial re­la­tions in the Deep South. The novel’s char­ac­ter Tom Robin­son, a black man, por­trayed in the movie by Brock Peters, is on trial, falsely ac­cused of rap­ing a white woman. The pros­e­cut­ing at­tor­ney, while grilling Robin­son, asks him why he spent so much time do­ing chores for the al­leged rape vic­tim when he had so much of his own work to do. Af­ter per­sis­tent pros­e­cu­to­rial ha­rangu­ing, Robin­son timidly ad­mits that he felt sorry for her. That re­sponse elic­its shock and dis­may from the prose­cu­tor and the court­room: How dare a black man feel sorry for a white woman?!

As a re­sult of the achieve­ments of the civil rights move­ment, which gave black Amer­i­cans full con­sti­tu­tional guar­an­tees, I am free to feel sorry for guilty or timid white peo­ple. But there may be less of a need be­cause of white peo­ple’s re­sponse to for­mer NBA player Den­nis Rod­man’s bizarre in­ter­view from North Korea in which he claimed that North Korea’s evil tyrant, Kim Jong Un, is his best friend. Rod­man has since apol­o­gized for some of his re­marks. But he’s been a bit of cathar­sis. White lib­er­als, both in and out of the me­dia, made crit­i­ciz­ing him nearly a na­tional pas­time. Even Sen. John McCain, who couldn’t sum­mon up the courage — nor would he al­low his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign staff — to speak ill of Barack Obama’s min­is­ter, Jeremiah Wright, told CNN’s Piers Mor­gan in ref­er­ence to Rod­man: “I think he’s an idiot. I think he’s a per­son of not great in­tel­lect who doesn’t un­der­stand that he re­ally does pro­vide pro­pa­ganda for this very bru­tal, ruth­less young man.”

The wide­spread and open crit­i­cism of Rod­man shows that there’s been con­sid­er­able progress and that I don’t have to feel as sorry for white peo­ple. But what about the weak me­dia re­sponse to Rep. Henry C. John­son, D-Ga., who, dur­ing a 2010 House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee hear­ing con­cern­ing U.S. mil­i­tary buildup on Guam, told Adm. Robert F. Wil­lard, the then com­man­der of U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand, “My fear is that the whole is­land will be­come so overly pop­u­lated that it will tip over and cap­size”?

Adm. Wil­lard replied, with all sin­cer­ity, “We don’t an­tic­i­pate that.” I’d pay se­ri­ous money to know what the ad­mi­ral and his white staff said about John­son af­ter they left the hear­ing room.

Then there’s Rep. Sheila Jack­son Lee, D-Texas, who asked NASA sci­en­tists whether they could drive the Mars rover to where Neil Arm­strong placed the Amer­i­can flag. Ac­tu­ally, Arm­strong planted the flag on the moon in 1969. In 2010, Jack­son Lee pointed out: “To­day we have two Viet­nams, side by side, North and South, exchanging and work­ing. We may not agree with all that North Viet­nam is do­ing, but they are liv­ing in peace.” The fact of busi­ness is that as a re­sult of North Viet­nam’s con­quest, to­day it’s only one na­tion, Viet­nam. Another Jack­son Lee ge­o­graph­i­cal ob­ser­va­tion was her ref­er­ence to “coun­tries like Europe.” But we shouldn’t be that crit­i­cal of her, be­cause Pres­i­dent Obama also has re­ferred to peo­ple from “coun­tries like Europe.” Re­fer­ring to “coun­tries like Europe” is just as ill-in­formed as say­ing coun­tries like Africa or coun­tries like South Amer­ica. Of course, they are con­ti­nents.

Some might re­call the field day the me­dia and so­cial com­men­ta­tors had with Vice Pres­i­dent Dan Quayle and his mis­spelling of po­tato, some of which was quite ruth­less. Esquire named Quayle among “The Dumb­est Vice Pres­i­den­tial Picks of All Time.” That kind of field day wasn’t seen in main­stream me­dia in the cases of John­son, Jack­son Lee and Obama. To have done so might have been deemed racist.

The bot­tom line is I’m glad the day has come when I can freely feel sorry for whites, who have to bite their tongue when it comes to crit­i­cism of blacks.

Wal­ter E. Wil­liams is a pro­fes­sor of eco­nom­ics at Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity. To find out more about Wal­ter E. Wil­liams and read fea­tures by other Creators Syn­di­cate writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit the Creators Syn­di­cate Web page at www.creators.com.

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