Victor Davis Hanson

Unfortunately, the new racialist derangement is not confined to sports and entertainment. The Rev. Joseph Lowery -- who gave the benediction at President Obama's first inauguration -- sounded as venomous as the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in a speech that Lowery delivered to a black congregation shortly before this year's election: "I don't know what kind of a n----- wouldn't vote with a black man running." Lowery reportedly preceded that rant by stating that when he was younger, he believed that all whites were going to hell, but now he merely believes that most of them are. And in his 2009 inauguration prayer, Lowery ended with his hopes for a future day when "white will embrace what is right."

Wasn't Obama's election supposed to mark a new post-racial era? What happened?

For nearly a half-century, cultural relativism in the universities taught that racist speech was only bigotry if it came from those -- mostly white -- with power. Supposedly oppressed minorities could not themselves be real racists. But even if that bankrupt theory was once considered gospel, it is no longer convincing -- given that offenders such as Foxx, Rock and Lowery (who was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Obama) are among the more affluent and acclaimed Americans.

The Obama administration must shoulder some of the blame. Attorney General Eric Holder, our nation's top prosecutor, has referred to African-Americans as "my people" and called Americans "a nation of cowards" for not focusing on race relations on his terms.

The president himself urged Latinos to "punish our enemies." He weighed in unnecessarily during the Henry Louis Gates and Trayvon Martin affairs in ways that only added to the racial tensions. Vice President Joe Biden warned black voters at a campaign stop that Republicans were "going to put y'all back in chains."

Obama, during the campaign, brilliantly -- and cynically -- targeted particular hyphenated voting groups on the basis of their race and ethnicity -- on the assumption that such voters could be loosely united by opposition to a purported uncaring and shrinking conservative establishment. After the election, the Obama campaign asked its supporters to complete a survey that included a checklist with racial identifications -- with white omitted.

There is a growing danger in this latest round of racial tribalism. Stirring up the pot for short-term political gain in a multiracial society is abjectly insane. If the new racialism grows unchecked, it will eventually lead to cycles of backlash and counter-backlash -- and some day to something like the Balkans or Rwanda.

People are just people. But they can turn into veritable monsters when -- as a great American once warned -- they look to the color of our skin rather than the content of our character.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.