Are we obsessed with race and racism in our society? Before you answer the question, consider how issues of race are brought up in the media and discussed around the proverbial water cooler. Do we discuss the remarkable progress we’ve made as a country since the dark days of segregation and Jim Crow?

Do we consider how blacks lived in the South in the not too distant past—like my grandparents, who ran the risk of being lynched for looking at someone white? That’s given way to interracial marriage no longer being a taboo. The Supreme Court didn’t repeal the statute banning interracial marriage in Virginia until 1967.  

Unfortunately, very little of the dialogue involving race in America today is positive, uplifting, or inspirational. Instead, there is a compulsion by many on the left to brand their political opponents as being racist. Two specific events occurred in the past week that have me firmly convinced that there is an obsession with race in America today that is destructive to our societal cohesiveness. 

First, consider the pivotal vote held by autoworkers in Chattanooga, Tenn., last Friday in which the majority ruled and decided not to join the United Auto Workers union. Perhaps these workers did not want their dues siphoned off for political activity. Perhaps they were motivated by the union influence in Detroit, which ultimately led to the town seeking bankruptcy protection. Whatever the reason behind their decision, the employees ultimately voted 712-626 against joining the UAW.  Case closed? Hardly. 

The idea that racism was a motivation behind the decision not to unionize by the workers in the Volkswagen plant was too rich for one MSNBC analyst not to capitalize upon. In reflecting upon the vote not to unionize, Timothy Noah offered the following insightful commentary:

“The opposition, I gather, portrayed this as a kind of Northern invasion, a re-fighting of the Civil War. Apparently there are not a lot of black employees in this particular plant, and so that kind of—waving the Confederate flag—was an effective strategy.” 

The notion that a decision not to unionize is equated with a Northern invasion and re-fighting of the Civil War would be laughable except that Noah is paid by MSNBC to offer political analysis. Without facts, interviews with plant employees, or evidence, the wide net of racism is cast to describe a decision that I suspect was motivated by economics, not skin color. I would point out to Noah that people like my grandfather moved north to work at General Motors because he was not able to get a job—due to real racism—in the Deep South during the Jim Crow era.

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