Writing op-eds is hard. Sometimes they just don't come. That seems to have happened to at least two national columnists last week.
The always interesting Patrick McIlheran commented on a somewhat injudicious column by Leonard Pitts that appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Pitts was upset that a white woman told a false story of being abducted by black men and used the occasion to argue that someone he calls "you" (which I take it means "white people') see him as a "boogeyman" and not
for who he is. He says that "you" have done all other sorts of unspeakable racist acts.
Let's put aside a few obvious objections such as the fact that I doubt many people would regard mild-looking, middle-aged Leonard Pitts (whose picture runs with his column) as particularly threatening or the fact that it is not surprising that white people make 67% of false accusations of interracial crime. White people,after all, comprise more than 67% of the population.
Pitts is concerned about white stereotypes of black people. He is arguing against a response to individuals that is based entirely on their race. He doesn't want an entire group of people sullied by the actions of a few. Certainly "you" understand this, don't you?
Locally, Madison blogger Emily Mills is all over Pat for saying that assumptions of pervasive racism are suspect since "we" have been told that "black people were just as good as anyone else [by] “Sesame Street” and every adult [we've] ever known ...." Ms Mills believes that the statement is "dreadfully ignorant" because ... I'm not sure. I guess it's because she thinks he is saying that he doesn't know any black people so he has to learn about them from others.
Well, no he's not. He's saying that a presumption of pervasive racism is hard to reconcile with a generation of social indoctrination regarding the evils of racism. We live in a society where there is hardly a worse charge that can be leveled at someone than to call her a racist. In that type of society, it seems unlikely that every white person - "you" according to Leonard Pitts - is simply hiding his inner Lester Maddox.
This isn't to say that racism does not exist or that assumptions about race can still arise from our racial past - some of which are, I think, exacerbated by forms of "anti-racism." But that is a far cry from what Pitts was saying. Ms. Mills thinks we should be willing to have "difficult discussions"about the " incredibly complex" issue of race.
We should. But there was nothing complex or difficult about what Pitts wrote.