ZINSMEISTER'S RACE-CONSCIOUS NATION....

ZINSMEISTER'S RACE-CONSCIOUS NATION. Greg over at Horse's Mouth notes another peculiar article by new White House domestic policy chief Karl Zinsmeister, this 1996 American Enterprise essay on the always uncontroversial subject of race. While making appropriate hemming and hawing sounds and adding lots of caveats to his assertions, Zinsmeister still manages to come off sounding, well, like the kind of fellow an administration that's already alienated African-Americans might not chose to lead its domestic programs if it wanted to improve those relations. Zinsmeiter, in the below piece, is arguing with an essay by fellow conservative Glenn Loury, and argues, not once, not twice, but three times against the idea of color-blindness, because believing in color-blindness, he says, poses a danger to white people:

One place I cannot follow Glenn is in his call for a strict, thoroughgoing blindness to color. This is fruitless idealism. Yes, color-blindness is essential to public policy, where racial hierarchies combined with the coercive power of the state can have horribly divisive and even deadly consequences. Loury is right that this country desperately needs less race consciousness in its public life. Yet there is much more to the world than public policies, and to pretend that our race problems can be understood entirely as "problems of sin, not of skin" is, to me, to stick one�s head in the sand....

In my private and internal life I am, and must always remain, colorblind....But hard experience has taught me that colorblindness is an ineffective and even dangerous ruling principle. This is not something that I, or the vast majority of other Americans who share my view, learned from public policy conferences or books published by right-leaning theorists. It springs starkly from practical life....

Every year, more than a million-and-a-half whites are violently victimized by black offenders. Several million more annually suffer interracial property crimes. FBI figures indicate that blacks now commit hate crimes at a per capita rate four times that of whites�and we all know there are too many hate crimes carried out by whites. New York City statistics prepared for former mayor Ed Koch show that black offenders are five times likelier to kill whites than the reverse. Nationwide, according to Justice Department figures, the rate of black-on-white violent crime is now fifty times the incidence of white-on-black....

The brutal reality is that whether in the selection of juries or the choice of neighborhoods to live (or get lost) in, colorblindness has become a real risk today. So long as these frightening conditions�described by Michael Meyers on page 57 as a "state of war"�continue to exist, pretending race is irrelevant will be a luxury many Americans simply cannot afford. Jesse Jackson has told us it is a luxury he cannot afford, admitting he fears black faces on nighttime sidewalks (the same hard reality tens of millions of other Americans observe). This isn�t a matter of bigotry or animus, but of self-preservation. The penalty for the person who, ignoring race, turns down the wrong street today can literally be death. It is unfair and unrealistic to demand that people "ignore race" so long as race has direct connections to troubles and dangers of this magnitude....(emphases added)

President Bush abandoned his opposition to racial profiling after 9-11. Has he now also decided that the colorblind ideals that led to his opposition to affirmative action are no more than "fruitless idealism"? Does he now believe that "colorblindness is an ineffective and even dangerous ruling principle"? I'd rather like to hear Tony Snow's take on that one.

--Garance Franke-Ruta

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