Sunday, June 20, 2010

Discussing constitutional issues without being racist

Mr. Paul, meanwhile, found himself hurtling into the past when, responding to questions from Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, he expressed philosophical reservations about the 1964 Civil Rights Act, specifically the provision that forced private businesses to integrate. (Later, he amended that position, saying he would have supported the act anyway.)

The ensuing cries of racism probably made perfect sense to those who lived through the ’60s. After all, if a white Southerner in 1964 opposed integration on constitutional grounds, odds were pretty good that bigotry was a motivating factor. And yet the national conversation around racism and its remedies today is considerably more nuanced than it was 50 years ago — or even 10 years ago.

Now Tiger Woods plays annually at Augusta, historically an all-white club. The African-American president of the United States has said that his own relatively privileged daughters should not benefit from affirmative action programs when applying to college. Americans the president’s age and younger are inclined to assume that one can question the responsibilities of government and private entities when it comes to race without necessarily being dismissed as a racist — even if it does make them, as in the case of Mr. Paul, something of an ideological outlier.

Just because a policy achieves some good, doesn't mean that the policy is good, and it should be OK to discuss the means without being accused of disliking the ends.

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