Jonah Goldberg

Perhaps Holder envisions a national conversation where the whole country becomes a giant School of Athens, with blacks as Socrates and whites as Plato, eagerly taking instruction on the finer points of racial consciousness. The image that comes to my mind is different. I see Michael Scott, the hyper-vapid boss from NBC's "The Office," hectoring Stanley and Darryl -- the show's two black characters -- to make race an issue when it shouldn't be.

Americans are very good at hearing ideological appeals, but we're almost tone-deaf when it comes to clichés. That's why liberals hide so much of their agenda inside them. Say "diversity makes us stronger" a billion times and you'll come to believe it uncritically, too.

Usually, when I hear a liberal call for a national conversation on race, I translate it as: "People who disagree with me need to be instructed why they are wrong." Indeed, in a sense it's no wonder America is a nation of cowards when it comes to race, because so many of us are terrified of being called racist the moment we step out of line with liberal orthodoxy.

For example, when Clinton held one of his famous town hall discussions, he invited Abigail Thernstrom, a polite, sophisticated scholar of racial issues and champion of race-neutrality, to participate in a frank conversation about race. But the moment she expressed an honest objection to racial quotas, Clinton browbeat her as some kind of crypto-racist idiot.

We see something similar in how Holder envisions the latest iteration of a national palaver on race. He says of the debate over affirmative action (or what blogger Paul Mirengoff calls "a coward's name for race-based preferences") that, "This debate can, and should, be nuanced, principled and spirited. But the conversation we now engage in as a nation on this and other racial subjects is too often simplistic and left to those on the extremes, who are not hesitant to use these issues to advance nothing more than their own narrow self-interest."

Perhaps. Or perhaps calling views you disagree with "extreme" and accusing those who hold them of having dishonorable motives is just a clever way of saying that you don't want an "honest conversation" at all.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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