Few combinations are more poisonous than race and politics. That combination has torn whole nations apart and led to the slaughters of millions in countries around the world.
You might think we would have learned a lesson from that and stay away from injecting race into political issues. Yet playing the race card has become an increasingly common response to growing public anger at the policies of the Obama administration and the way those policies have been imposed.
When the triumphant Democrats made their widely televised walk up Capitol Hill after passing the health care bill, led by a smirking and strutting Nancy Pelosi, holding her oversized gavel, some of the crowd of citizens expressed their anger. According to some Democrats, these expressions of anger included racial slurs directed at black members of Congress.
This is a serious charge-- and one deserving of some serious evidence. But, despite all the media recording devices on the scene, not to mention recording devices among the crowd gathered there, nobody can come up with a single recorded sound to back up that incendiary charge. Worse yet, some people have claimed that even doubting the charge suggests that you are a racist.
Among the people who are likely to be most disappointed with the Obama administration are those who thought it would usher in a post-racial society. That they wished for such a society is a credit to their values. But that they actually expected a move in that direction suggests that they ignored both Barack Obama's history and the heavy vested interest that too many people have in race hustling.
This is just one of many areas in which this country is likely to pay a very high price for the fact that too many voters paid attention to Obama's rhetoric while ignoring his actual track record.
However soothing the Obama rhetoric, and however lofty his statements about being a uniter rather than a divider-- both racially and in terms of bipartisanship-- everything in his past fairly shouts the opposite, but only to those who follow facts.
Has he been allied with uniters or dividers in the past? Do Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers and Father Pfleger sound like uniters?
What has his administration done-- as distinguished from what the president has said-- since taking office?
It has dropped the prosecution of black thugs caught on camera stationed outside a polling place intimidating voters.
Obama has promoted to the Supreme Court a circuit judge who dismissed a discrimination lawsuit by white firefighters, whose case the Supreme Court later accepted and ruled in their favor.
He preceded this appointment by talking about needing people on the court with "empathy." That is a pretty word but the ugly reality is that it is just another euphemism for bias. For generations, white Southern judges had all kinds of empathy for other white Southerners, which is to say, bias against blacks.
The question is whether you want equal treatment or you want payback. Cycles of revenge and counter-revenge have been at the heart of racial and ethnic strife throughout history, in countries around the world. It is a history written in blood. It is history we don't need to repeat in the United States of America.
Political demagoguery and political favoritism have turned groups violently against each other, even in countries where they have lived peacefully side by side for generations. Ceylon was one of those countries in the first half of the 20th century, before the politics of group favoritism so polarized the country-- now called Sri Lanka-- that it produced a decades-long civil war with mass slaughters and unspeakable atrocities.
The world has been shocked by the mass slaughters of the Tutsis by the Hutus in Rwanda but, half a century ago, there had been no such systematic slaughters there. Political demagoguery whipped up ethnic polarization, among people who had co-existed, who spoke the same language and had even intermarried.
We know-- or should know-- what lies at the end of the road of racial polarization. A "race card" is not something to play, because race is a very dangerous political plaything.