As you may recall, in the original attack, Chait compared Hillyer to a slave overseer. And while he stopped short of accusing the conservative writer of overt racism, he implied the writer had displayed a sort of latent racism.
This was absurd for a variety of reasons, including Hillyer’s admirable record on civil rights issues. But the race card is sometimes wielded to stifle debate and to force would-be critics to genuflect at the altar of political correctness, and as a writer who cares about preserving honest debate, that is a primary concern.
Perhaps the most forgiving way of describing Chait’s charge is to say that he thinks Hillyer was being racially insensitive — that he subconsciously employed words and ideas that reinforced racial stereotypes. But the truth is that sometimes the person who isn’t attune to every racist trope is the person who abhors racism the most. ”If he wants to accuse us of not hearing alarm bells that shouldn’t exist in the first place,” Hillyer responded, then “conservatives must plead guilty. It is leftists, not conservatives, who are obsessed with race.”
In a perfectly colorblind society, not only would skin color not be a factor in electing presidents, it would also not be a factor in whether or not to criticize them. Pulling punches, in other words, is the soft bigotry of low expectations. Now, of course, we may not be there yet. There are certain things that, because of their historical context, simply should not be said or done. And like pornography, you almost always know it when you see it. There are perhaps too many showmen in this industry, but writers who want to bring light to the world ought not needlessly stir up such divisive trouble.
So, for example, if you don a Confederate flag mask, I’m willing to say you’ve crossed the line. But, on the other end of the spectrum, if you think the word “Chicago” is a racist dog whistle, then someone needs to stand up and say you’ve gone too far.
Anyone who worries about free speech and the preservation of honest political debate ought to be concerned about overly-sensitive ears who wish to label any and every dissent as an example of racism.