I recently debated Jackson on race and the recession at Washington, D.C.'s Newseum. It was obvious during our debate that Jackson still lives in an America of the 1950s and 1960s when racial discrimination was the single biggest problem facing black America. In the bad old days of segregation and Jim Crow, blacks faced obstacles they could not overcome no matter how well prepared or qualified they were. Employers could choose, with impunity, to pass over blacks if their prejudices dictated.
But we are now two generations removed from the era of pervasive racial discrimination. We now have laws that not only forbid such discrimination -- and punish transgressors heavily -- but encourage employers to take "affirmative action" to ensure that black, Hispanics, and women can compete. Unfortunately, those laws have been turned on their head. The problem now is not that we do too little to help blacks and Hispanics, but that we actually practice reverse discrimination in order to ensure "diversity" in college admissions, employment, and public contracting.
The election of Barack Obama to the highest job in the land is proof enough that we no longer live in an America where racism runs rampant. But for Jesse Jackson and many of the black leaders of his generation, this is not good news. They have made careers out of playing the race card on every issue -- and the gig is now up.
There aren't many areas in which I agree with President Obama, but so long as he repeats the message "There is not a black America and a white America ... but the United States of America," we should welcome it.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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