Claremont Review of Books reviews The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse, by Richard Thompson Ford:
By now, as he states, racial bias has become “unlawful, immoral, and perhaps more important, déclassé.” And yet “in our racially charged society, a minor snub or simple lapse of etiquette may be misinterpreted as a racial insult.” Jesse Jackson did not hesitate to compare “the temporary shelters in the New Orleans Superdome [after Hurricane Katrina] to the hull of a slave ship.” Subtle and complex problems that have multiple causes (inner-city poverty, disproportionately high black incarceration rates, and the like) evoke “the language of civil rights—‘racism,’ ‘discrimination,’ ‘bias,’ ‘bigotry.'” Such misleading rhetoric is a potent weapon; those whom he calls the “antiracists” have “the full coercive power of government and the weight of popular consensus” behind them. That power “attracts the unscrupulous opportunist along with the sincere victim and the honest petitioner.”
“Overuse and abuse of the claim of bias is bad for society and bad for social justice,” Ford argues. “The accusation of bigotry inevitably provokes defensiveness and resentment rather than thoughtful reaction”—a point many whites (who have little patience with “black radical agitators and malcontents”) express privately. Playing the race card is particularly troubling to Ford—a man of the Left—because he believes that “racial segregation seems about as certain as death and taxes,” and fears a backlash in which problems like residential separation, health care, and job security will end up ignored.