A new posting by MediaMatters.org, the media watchdog group, sums up the conservative strategy under the headline, "Don’t Litigate It, Don’t Ever Talk About It: Right-Wing Media’s Solution to Racial Discrimination."
The report recounts the media storm touched off by "The Case for Reparations," Ta-Nehisi Coates’ excellent cover story in the Atlantic magazine. Media Matters said, "…The Atlantic has given right-wing media a fresh opportunity to argue that the best way to address racially discriminatory laws or policies – such as housing segregation – is to never speak of them, let alone litigate them under civil rights law."
Media Matters observed, "In Coates’ essay, which ultimately calls for a congressional study on the long-term effects of the treatment of African-Americans in the United States, he explores the country’s history of racism and oppression, from slavery to the Jim Crow laws to the present. Although right-wing media have been known to erroneously claim that racism is no longer a problem, the systemic effect of state and federal laws that favored whites and oppressed people of color is still felt today."
For example, "…agencies like the Fair Housing Administration often refused to insure mortgages in neighborhoods that they deemed unsuitable, perpetuating systematic housing segregation that in turn fueled other disparate racial impacts that continue today, such as separate and unequal schools. Despite the fact that redlining was outlawed in 1968 with the passage of the Fair Housing Act, the housing market is still hostile to black buyers and renters, even in neighborhoods that have taken steps to improve residential housing segregation."
But you would not know any of this if you only consumed conservative propaganda.
According to Media Matters, "Naomi Schaefer Riley, who once called for the elimination of black studies from college campuses, wrote in a recent New York Post column that we’ve talked enough about race. According to Schaefer Riley, Americans are ‘done with a national dialogue on race’ and Coates’ essay ‘offers nothing new.’ She also complained that Coates’ advocacy for HR 40 [John Conyers bill to study reparations] was evidence that ‘our country’s media elites are still stuck on a liberal baby boomer racial narrative,’ and concluded that the way forward now is not discussion, but ‘colorblindness.’"
And she was not alone.
"Right-wing outlets like The Wall Street Journal, NRO, and radio host Rush Limbaugh have come out against governmental efforts to remedy past harms using litigation to enforce fair housing laws and promote residential integration programs. When the Department of Justice went after banks who had racially discriminated against people of color, the WSJ called the lawsuit an attempt to ‘shake down banks for not lending enough to minorities,’ and complained the agency was attempting to impose an unconstitutional ‘quota’ system on lenders. The WSJ also claimed that the lawsuit, and other initiatives on the part of the DOJ, had done nothing more than "’saddle a lot of minorities with foreclosed homes, huge debt burdens, and bad credit scores.’"
And Rush Limbaugh rushed to add his two cents.
"For his part, Limbaugh has argued that the Housing and Urban Development Department’s mandate to ‘affirmatively further’ fair housing was nothing more than ‘social engineering’ and a plot on the part of the government to ‘force’ people to move to integrated neighborhoods."
The conservative-dominated Supreme Court also plays a key role.
"Even worse, the Supreme Court has contributed to modern racial divisions by rolling back affirmative action policies, gutting key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, and making it nearly impossible for public schools to implement proactive integration initiatives that would help diversify heavily segregated schools. Such decisions have allowed states to impose restrictive voter identification laws, have whitewashed college campuses, and nearly driven a stake through the heart of Brown v. Board of Education, the case that outlawed state-mandated segregation in public schools. Unsurprisingly, right-wing media also determined that the recent 60th anniversary of Brown, one of the most significant civil rights victories in history, was no time to discuss racial inequalities."
The article continued, "If Chief Justice John Roberts had his way, we’d all follow right-wing media’s lead and stop talking about race. As Roberts famously stated, ‘the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.’ In her dissent opposing the majority’s decision to uphold Michigan’s ban on affirmative action, however, Justice Sonia Sotomayor countered, ‘the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.’"
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.