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Column: Hate-speech double standard

When Jesse Jackson spoke at the Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Athens, Ga., on Sunday, he utilized his favorite tactic--divisiveness. This time, Jackson used the old standby to attack Secretary of State Colin Powell.

"He's not on our team," said the Reverend. "If he wins, Trent Lott wins. We're not on that team. If he wins, we lose." Though Jackson, Al Sharpton, and other demagogues have, for decades, used such us-versus-them rhetoric to attack practically all conservatives, it seems that they have shown themselves to be especially harsh towards Powell.

I despise racism, and I know that most Americans do too. So to those of you who rightly wish to eradicate it, I pose a question; why is Colin Powell such a frequent target for radical liberals like Jesse Jackson?

Is it because he's so conservative that he poses a grave threat to their ideologies? Of course not. Powell, who supports gun control, affirmative action the right to choose, and once criticized Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" for not being compassionate, is probably more liberal than most Americans. If Jackson's primary goal were to advance liberalism, he would be better off attacking some of the many public figures more conservative than Powell. So why is Powell such a target for liberals? It's because he's black. Tell me that's not a clear-cut example of racism.

Black conservatives are some of the most derided and hated people in America today. They are constantly assaulted with racist attacks.

Earlier this month, singer Harry Belafonte provided a glaring example of such hate speech. Said Belafonte on a San Diego radio talk show, "There's an old saying in the days of slavery. There are those slaves on the plantation and there were those slaves who lived in the big house. You got the privilege of living in the house to serve the master. Colin Powell was permitted to come into the house of the master."

Belafonte is not the first entertainer to use an offensive and racist metaphor to describe a black conservative. Director Spike Lee once called Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas a "handkerchief-head, chicken-and-biscuit-eating Uncle Tom." I don't think I've ever seen a better example of racist hate speech. There is a glaring double standard when it comes to race and politics.

If a white person who seemed to show affection for blacks were called a "n----- lover," there would justifiably be an uproar to condemn the racist who called him it. But a black person who seems to side with the white man? An Uncle Tom. A sellout. A traitor. A white woman is allowed to believe whatever she wishes without being called a backstabber. But a smart, qualified leader like Condoleezza Rice? Well, according to Belafonte, she poorly represents her race.

It is interesting that such a high percentage of blacks identify with the Democratic Party. The Republican Party's first nationally elected candidate was Abraham Lincoln, a great man who should be admired by all for ending the abominable practice of slavery. The segregationist and Jim Crow movements of the 1960s were led by Democrats. Members of the Republican Party were more likely to support the 1964 Civil Rights Act than were members of the Democratic Party. As far as presidents go, it was the Kennedy administration that, along with stalling civil rights legislation, gave the FBI permission to tap Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s phone line. It was the Nixon administration that implemented a goal-based affirmative action program. And it was during the Reagan administration, when Americans of all ethnicities prospered, that blacks enjoyed a greater decrease in adult and teenage unemployment than did whites.

My intention is not to criticize black liberals. We thankfully live in America, where people should be allowed to believe whatever they want.

Along those lines, people like Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Clarence Thomas, Walter Williams, Larry Elder and Alan Keyes are also Americans, and they have the right to believe what they wish. It is reprehensible that any Americans, let alone Americans as qualified and talented as these, must endure racial epithets, condescending laughs, and slavery metaphors, all because of the color of their skin. If race is truly arbitrary, then it should not obligate a person to think in a particular way.

Maybe Jackson will one day end his quest of personal ambition and use his appeal and oratory skills to further this message.

Nathan Carleton is a Trinity sophomore. His column appears every other Tuesday.


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