Liberals Play the Race Card, But Get Dealt a Lousy Hand, by Michael King

Once again, racial politics seems the order of the day for liberals.

Seeking a strategy to keep Judge John Roberts from the U.S. Supreme Court, liberals have apparently concluded race is Roberts’s Achilles Heel.  Since their assertions are thin, outlandish manure is being thrown against the wall in hopes at least some of it will stick.

For example, the Associated Press posted an article on August 17 portraying Judge Roberts in an unflattering light simply because he grew up in Long Beach, Indiana.  The town, which was segregated during Roberts’s youth, is now allegedly under “scrutiny” because it might have “influenced his views.”  One could infer Roberts’s still harbors racial animosity born of those youthful days and that this racism may bloom after he’s confirmed to those and lead to a rollback of civil rights.

Judge Roberts and I share some childhood similarities.  We both grew up in “Da’ Region” of northwest Indiana.  We both spent our summers at the beaches of Lake Michigan and our winters going to high school basketball games.

Roberts being ten years my senior, but the major difference is that I am black and grew up 20 miles to the west in the predominantly black city of Gary, Indiana.

It’s no lie that Long Beach was overwhelmingly white in Roberts’s youth, and no secret that archaic segregation rules were still enforced – albeit in decline.  Many Long Beach properties had “covenants” preventing their sale to blacks and Jews.  But “Da’ Region” also had a lot of segregation by choice, not unlike many communities today.

This continues today.  While the remnants of enforced segregation have long since departed the shores of Lake Michigan, Long Beach remains predominantly white.  But the demographics do not reflect a racist attitude among residents, just as those in a primarily black community cannot be assumed to harbor ill will toward other men.

The AP story created controversy where none existed.  After describing the discriminatory laws, it is only reported later in the article that the Roberts home did not have a covenant.  Race riots in 1970 linked to Long Beach and the Bethlehem Steel plant where Roberts worked did not actually happen in Long Beach and happened long before Roberts worked at the plant.

Taking AP to task, media critic Brent Bozell said: “The writers are not bold enough to say Roberts was influenced by his hometown’s laws – but it’s certainly implied.  They point such a picture of exclusion and discrimination by his hometown that it marks Roberts as guilty by association.”

The end, however, seems to justify the means to those bent on destroying John Roberts.

Roberts’s critics are also focus on race regarding his decades-old remarks and recommendations about pop star Michael Jackson.

In 1984, Roberts – then a White House lawyer – opposed an award given to Jackson for helping combat drunk driving and a similar request for a personal letter to Jackson from President Ronald Reagan.  In a memo to his boss, Roberts wrote: “Quite apart from the problem of appearing to endorse Jackson’s androgynous life style, a Presidential award would be perceived as a shallow effort by the President to share in the constant publicity surrounding Jackson… The whole episode would, in my view, be demeaning to the President.”

It should be noted, yet often is not, that John Roberts opposed presidential events with white entertainers such as John Wayne and Bing Crosby.  Roberts felt such “commercial tributes” demeaned the presidency.  Roberts objected to Jackson for many reasons, but race was not among them.

In retrospect, shouldn’t Judge Roberts be congratulated for his foresight?  While Jackson no longer wears the pomade or the single sequined glove cited by Roberts, the “androgynous life style” later led to criminal allegations and damaging court testimony.  While Jackson was acquitted, he’s as radioactive as fellow “innocent” celebrities O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake.

Liberals are working overtime to present Judge John Roberts in an unflattering light.  Playing the race card is a time-honored tactic, so the charges should not be surprising.  The fact that the allegations are so thin, however, should be acknowledged by his defenders as evidence that the President has made a sound choice.

Michael King is a member of the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research, August 2005. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.

Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.