Finally! A White Guy Teaches Black Folk How to "Rap About Race"

Eugene Volokh is shocked - shocked - that an editorial in the Los Angeles Times about Claude Allen suggests that his race - together with his conservative politics - might have contributed to his crime.

Volokh claims the piece says the man "stole because he's black" and that he's a "traitor to his race," although he tacitly acknowledges it says no such thing - er, exactly. It just made him think those things, which apparently is bad enough. (He should learn to say "no" to those voices in his head, like John Nash did.)

He doesn't mention that the editorial's author, Erin Aubry Kaplan, is black. But then, what better white man than Eugene Volokh to lecture a black woman on how to "rap about race"? After all, it was Volokh who wrote the following about an incident at the University of Tennessee:

"... is it really so bad to wear blackface? After all, if a non-black is going to dress up to a costume party as a black, he has to use something like blackface (or perhaps a mask, but what would be any different about that?). "

Right on, brother Eugene. What's a white man supposed to wear when he dresses like a colored - um, I mean, Negro gentleman? After all, tar is hard to wash off and ink is bad for the complexion. Let's not let those bigoted black people suppress the rights of white men in the South. All power to the people!

Here's the kind of thing Ms. Kaplan's allegedly racist piece really says:

(Allen) is a man who, like most black conservatives, has had to do an awful lot of personal and political rationalizing to pay dues, which included apprenticing with then-North Carolina senator and habitual racist Jesse Helms and opposing the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Is that an unreasonable observation, especially from a black woman? (Regarding Ms. Kaplan's race, I'm guessing that Volokh and/or his supporters will say it doesn't matter, that a black woman has no more authority to discuss the emotional effects of internalizing prejudice than, say, a white quasi-libertarian conservative who supports the GOP. Decide that one for yourself.)

Kaplan says that being a black man who fought against the King holiday and worked for racist Jesse Helms might well drive you around the bend. How exactly does that make her a bigot, which is Volokh's implication? After all, I can see how it might mess with your head if you're a man whose boss forces you to dress like a chambermaid - and I love women (and working people, too).

Now the conservatives will be screaming at me: "You're saying black conservatives are like cross-dressers!" Not at all. There are legitimate philosophical reasons why anyone, black or otherwise, might become a conservative. And cross dressing is a legitimate lifestyle choice. (Although cross-dressers aren't self-destructive, whereas black conservatives ... well, you can make up your own mind about that, too.)

Volokh's piece is part of the Republican/conservative drive to label as bigotry any talk about race. They hope to suppress speech about racial realities by pretending that people like Erin Aubry Kaplan are no better than the Ku Klux Klan - that they're so deluded by their prejudices that they fail to see the truly colorblind nature of our nation under its benevolent Republican rule.

In addition, conservatives and Republicans keep trying to co-opt the language of civil rights. They've tried to hijack Martin Luther King, lecturing his friends and family after Mrs. King's funeral about "Dr. King's legacy" when their own Vice President was one of only six congressmen to vote against the King holiday. They've even tried to kidnap the symbolism of the Dred Scott decision, by comparing adult African-American slaves to 100-cell blastulas in order to suppress a woman's right to choose.

But we can forget about all of that now. I'm sure Volokh's motives were pure and noble. I mean, man, it took courage for him to "get up, stand up" like he did. I'm glad he had this little "rap" with us, and that he set Erin Aubry Kaplan straight.

After all, it's 2006 and not 1966, but it's still righteous when somebody sticks it to "the Man."

A Night Light