These laws, by transforming human beings into racial categories, dehumanize blacks and whites. Blacks feel less personally responsible for their own lives and whites are forced to relate to blacks as beans to count rather than human beings. One result is animosity of blacks toward whites and whites toward blacks.
Which leads to the second, and related, point. Racism is no longer understood as a moral problem. It is a political problem.
The success of the civil rights movement of the 1960's was its moral power. The few prevailed over the many because they had moral conviction _ truth _ on their side.
Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech was not a speech. It was a sermon. He talked about character and exhorted Americans to strive for liberty because we are "God's children."
King was not an impractical man. He knew that laws needed to be passed to deal with segregation and the absence of equality under the law. But he also knew that law "cannot change the heart" and that for us to become a greater nation, we needed to be a more moral nation.
This said, consider the circumstances of the Richards incident. It took place in a comedy club in Los Angeles. These places are cesspools of profanity and degrading sexual and scatological humor, delivered in a haze of alcohol.
The black heckler yelled out, "It's not funny. That's why you're a reject. Never had no shows, never had no movies. 'Seinfeld' _ that's it."
This tastelessness doesn't justify Richards' racist diatribe. But on the other side of the coin, blacks who want a better world ought to get out of the gutter.
For me it is commentary on our overall sorry moral state that as news shows obsessed over this mindless incident, they totally ignored an Associated Press story this same week reporting that out-of-wedlock births in the U.S. reached 37.5 percent in 2005, a record high. The figure for blacks is almost double this.
Perhaps this holiday season it is worth considering that racism will be with us as long as evil remains within us. The answer will not come from politicians and lawyers.
It will come only when we raise ourselves up. Only then, in the words of Dr. King, will we be able to say "thank God Almighty, we are free at last."