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Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell
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Who Is 'Racist'?


Whatever the ultimate outcome of the case against George Zimmerman for his shooting of Trayvon Martin, what has happened already is enough to turn the stomach of anyone who believes in either truth or justice.

An amazing proportion of the media has given us a painful demonstration of the thinking — and lack of thinking — that prevailed back in the days of the old Jim Crow South, where complexion counted more than facts in determining how people were treated.

One of the first things presented in the media was a transcript of a conversation between George Zimmerman and a police dispatcher. The last line in most of the transcripts shown on TV was that of the police dispatcher telling Zimmerman not to continue following Trayvon Martin.

That became the basis of many media criticisms of Zimmerman for continuing to follow him. Only later did I see a transcript of that conversation on the Sean Hannity program that included Zimmerman's reply to the police dispatcher: "O.K."

That reply removed the only basis for assuming that Zimmerman did in fact continue to follow Trayvon Martin. At this point, neither I nor the people who assumed that he continued to follow the teenager have any basis in fact for believing that he did or didn't.

Why was that reply edited out by so many in the media? Because too many people in the media see their role as filtering and slanting the news to fit their own vision of the world. The issue is not one of being "fair" to "both sides" but, more fundamentally, of being honest with their audience.

NBC News carried the editing even further, removing one of the police dispatcher's questions, to which Zimmerman was responding, in order to feed the vision of Zimmerman as a racist.

In the same vein were the repeated references to Zimmerman as a "white Hispanic." Zimmerman is half-white. So is Barack Obama. But does anyone refer to Obama as a "white African"?

All these verbal games grow out of the notion that complexion tells you who is to be blamed and who is not.

It is a dangerous game because race is no game. If the tragic history of the old Jim Crow South in this country is not enough to show that, the history of racial and ethnic tragedies is written in blood in countries around the world. Millions have lost their lives because they looked different, talked differently or belonged to a different religion.

In the midst of the Florida tragedy, there was a book published with the unwieldy title, "No Matter What ... They'll Call This Book Racist." Obviously it was written well before the shooting in Florida, but its message — that there is rampant hypocrisy and irrationality in public discussions of race — could not have been better timed.

Author Harry Stein, a self-described "reformed white liberal," raised by parents who were even further left, exposes the illogic and outright fraudulence that lies behind so much of what is said about race in the media, in politics and in our educational institutions.

He asks a very fundamental question: "Why, even after the Duke University rape fiasco, does the media continue to give credence to every charge of racism?"

Harry Stein credits Shelby Steele's book "White Guilt" with opening his eyes to one of the sources of many counterproductive things said and done about race today — namely, guilt about what was done to blacks and other minorities in the past.

Let us talk sense, like adults. Nothing that is done to George Zimmerman — justly or unjustly — will unlynch a single black man who was tortured and killed in the Jim Crow South for a crime he didn't commit.

Letting hoodlums get away with hoodlumism today does not undo a single injustice of the past. It is not even a favor to the hoodlums, for many of whom hoodlumism is just the first step on a path that leads to the penitentiary, and maybe to the execution chamber.

Winston Churchill said, "If the past sits in judgment on the present, the future will be lost." He wasn't talking about racial issues, but what he said applies especially where race is involved.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



6 Comments | Post Comment
A lynching from the left. Joseph Welch: "Have you no decency? Have you no shame?"

Comment: #1
Posted by: Tom
Mon Apr 23, 2012 12:04 PM
This whole clown show is a perfect "gift" to the Obama administration. Its a 3 in 1 deal. It sparks racial tension, which Obama loves and propogates. Its a way to attack guns despite the fact that stand your ground laws have nothing to do with this case. And most important, it distracts the nation from the UN drug legalization talks sparked by the president of Guatemala.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Mon Apr 23, 2012 6:54 PM
Racial tension is a huge problem. An even larger problem, and one that exacerbates the racial tension scene, is the liberal bias of the mainstream media and thus the inability of ignorant (NOT dumb - ignorant) people to become educated on the true facts of any situation.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Robert E. Kunkle
Tue Apr 24, 2012 12:07 PM
I do agree that the media should not rush to judgment and that Zimmerman is entitled to his day in court. I also think that there are many problematic issues with people in the general public forming ideas without gathering all of the information.

Where I take exception was where Sowell states, "In the same vein were the repeated references to Zimmerman as a "white Hispanic." Zimmerman is half-white. So is Barack Obama. But does anyone refer to Obama as a "white African"?"

Is this from the same man and party ideology that constantly accuses people 'of "race baiting"? Because that is all this is. The issue I have here is not the distinction between ethnicity and race... but simply, being a "White Hispanic" has nothing to do with parentage. It is a social classification. Race is a social classification, not a scientific classification. Obama would be a "Mixed-race American" in the UK and a "Coloured American" in South Africa. Americans don't distinguish in such a way, so he is a Black American. President Obama is not an African, so the insinuation that he is I also find dubious. In fact, many Africans would classify Barack Obama as a White American, or just a White Man... because "race" for them is not dictated by skin colour, but by acculturation.

Sowell can continue to pretend that the Conservatives are not the blatant racists, but in his phrasing of one simple sentence, he does the opposite... he shows an opinion that "race" is based on genetics and that the there is some type of clustered traits that dictate anything other than social status to racial classification.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Adam Baum
Tue Apr 24, 2012 5:43 PM
Yesterday 2 hoodlums in hoodies entered the restaurant where my wife & her staff were eating lunch. The hoodlums didn't line up to order food; they simply sauntered around the place eyeballing patrons. Suddenly a young lady at the table next to my wife jumped up & shrieked "They stole my i phone!, as the young hoodlums sprinted out the front door, vaulting over drive-thru traffic. As others rushed for the door attempting some vigilantism, my wife consoled the distraught & sobbing young thing, offering her own cell phone to call and cancel her #. "Shouldn't I call 911 or the Police?" inquired the woman. "Forget it honey; your phone is long gone and the Police will do nothing. You can't give them anything like color or race or age or attire, to go on." And that is the current state of affairs in Canada's biggest city; no politician of any stripe will touch it. Which is why I thank God for Sowell and others like him, with the courage to push back against the Jacksons, Sharptons, Matthews, MSNBC et al race-baiters of the world and continue fighting for a return to sanity.
Comment: #5
Posted by: D. Howse
Wed Apr 25, 2012 6:34 AM
Re: Adam Baum
Trip over your own biasing much? I suggest you (meaning the one being addressed) read your (the possessive) own writing here and make mental note of the direction it takes which would lose a neutral reader. If you can't see it then the ability to critique the writing of another whose perspective is not your own isn't something you possess. Especially in the case of debate, actually being able to work from the opponent's perspective improves your gamesmanship immensely and the entertainment value to those witnessing such.

As for Liberals having no definition of race using the metric of skin colour... now that's fabulously funny! American liberalism is chock full of melanin flavoured rhetoric and is defined by the "cliques" within itself who readily identify themselves as being distinct while seemingly oblivious to the hilarity of that very situation. American Conservatism's biasing exists clearly in the ability to create and maintain revenue streams and that too is obvious to those outside of the American experiment looking in. Watching Conservatives aplenty actually praising someone like a Warren Buffet who himself is at once America's premier "Vulture Capitalist" and most opportunistic soft Liberal is also a laugh. Praised by one side for predatory business practices stretching back decades and forgiven of such by the other for his words in their favour places Warren Buffet as indeed "The Man", just not for the reasons most Americans would think.

Overall it's an interesting game you Americans have going on so don't go tipping on either side of the board just yet if you would, please and thank you.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Alan_F
Tue May 1, 2012 8:22 AM
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