Its called the race card.
And it was dropped on me in a place I never expected, but in sad retrospection, should have.
It was flattered to be asked to present at the first annual Network for Public Education conference 10 days ago in Austin, Texas. This little blog has developed quite a following for people interested in the politics behind Florida education policy. The weekend was a wonderful experience as I got to meet and spend time with people I shared so much with and finally had the chance to meet.
My hopes are for NPE to expand in influence, but the uh-oh moment came during Sunday’s Common Core panel when a member responded to a question about Tea Party support to oppose Core. His response was that he could never accept the Tea Party as they “see me as sub-human.”
In the day of social media, such an irresponsible broad-brushing of a segment of our nation often ends up a take-away. Moreover, it brings discredit to a fledgling movement that badly needs to be taken seriously and gain legitimacy. It is within social media where I attempted to express my concerns about using such inflammatory dialogue to justify tactics in defending public education when the race card was played in an attempt to trump and discredit me.
I was critical of the use of “white privilege” and the dismissal of white public school advocate voices as “whitesplaining,” as having the potential to alienate people on our own side. I also took issue with doubling down on the Tea Party with KKK references. After countering the assertion that “white privilege” and “whitesplainning” was something they experienced everyday, I responded that it could only be true if they were looking for it everyday. Then it happened. Being referenced as racist in a national semi-public forum is no small thing.
Accusing one of racism is easy, but usually intellectually dishonest. There isn’t a rubric or universal standard of measurement and the impossible task of proving otherwise is left to the accused. It has become a political tactic of the left as a way to marginalize and silence opponents and ends up suppressing dialogue. So effortlessly deployed today, real racism clearly based in hate gets short shrift. In the cynical zero-sum game of winning 24 hour news cycles, the race card has a perfect home.
But not among friends. And not as part of a mission statement belonging an organization which may be the last defense of our public education system.
My caution to leave personal politics at the door also seems to have been dismissed as emerging group-think is gaining traction to embrace and advance racial themes which address grievances, old and new, real or perceived. To object is to be labeled an ostracized leprous denier. Or, well, a racist.
In my four years and 1500 posts about education policy, I’ve never written about myself. Never using first person pronouns, self-references came in the form of “this writer” or Scathing Purple Musings. But the rollercoaster ride that began with the exhilaration of Austin has nose-dived into a state of mind I never believed possible. Disillusioned, I’ve begun wondering if I want to be associated with a group who uses “Big Tent” metaphors, yet applies the race card during disagreements and easily labels large numbers of people as racists who they oppose politically.