During the angst of movement days over the Viet Nam war, some powerful popular books came out to help peaceniks of all stripes cope. "The Games People Play" was a song widely played. The book of the same title was a popular description by Eric Berne, MD to explain his theory of transactional analysis, widely recognized still. His fellow psychiatrist, Thomas Harris wrote an equally popular book called "I'm OK, You're OK." In general, there was no way one could escape topics on introspection. Sensitivity training met us at church and in the office. Esalen Institutes started in 1962. Race, war, drugs, and sex upset the foundation of a society which already lost some prudishness by the time Elvis swivelled.
In recalling that troublesome time in comparison to another ill-advised war (with another commander-in-chief being raked over the coals) it's fitting to compare. Iraq irascibility should be easier to handle. Then we were looking for a smoking gun. Now there is an embarrassment of obstructions from which to choose Articles of Impeachment. Generations aren't at each other in the same way, since there is no draft. The Cultural Revolution made it acceptable for grandparents to welcome babies, regardless of marriage certificates. Voting rights laws and tons of legalese make race a new topic. There's still posturing about whose God is the real one, but few nowadays equate godlessness with communism.
THE RACE CARD is a new book for current times. It is written by Richard Thompson Ford and published in this year of presidential politics. Professor Ford is one of four African-American professors at Stanford Law School. His LLD comes from Harvard (1991). He grew up in California and went to Stanford as an undergraduate. Subtitle of the book is: How Bluffing about Bias Makes Race Relations Worse.
Since the important civil rights legislation of the Sixties, social perception of prejudice and, therefore, of remedies for it, made inroads in how citizens expect to be recognized. The women's movement, disability actions, sexuality issues, and other initiatives against perceived inequities flourish. By now the obese have an organization and pet/animal protection enthusiasts make their feelings known. When The People discovered We the People, many also discovered some perceived slights. As a result, it is easy to hark back to early civil rights law and deduce that if blacks can sue over being disadvantaged, so can others. The Bakke "reverse discrimination" case triggered the logic. Some claims, under law, have merit in this type of thinking. But others don't, and have come to be thought of as playing the race card. One of the problems of ambiguity can be laid at the practice of politically correct speech.
. That, by the way, is how I know there were four African-American professors at Stanford's Law School when Professor Ford wrote the book. A person lost in the corridors asked for directions to a professor, whom he described in minute detail except for race. It would have been simple to save time if he were willing to "call a spade a spade" which is the heading of Chapter 3.
One event, involving perceived bigotry, seemed so curious that I choose it as an example of how things are not always as they seem. A black person was unable to obtain a towel from an automatic paper towel dispenser, while observing white people were successful. Another black person with curiosity checked out the device. Being an inventive type, he questioned whether the action was triggered by light sensitivity and put a white glove in his pocket. With enough data to convince himself that he found the cause, he proceeded to invent a solution. He contacted the dispenser manufacturer and explained they were liable for discrimination lawsuits and capitalized on the patent.
The book was written for general public information. Those of us who deal in political questions can gain some insight into how little quarrels can be put in perspective as well as how bigger issues can be remedied in the courts. Chapter 5, dealing with post-racism, begins with a lawyerly look at the O J Simpson trial–the first one. It will be instructive to see what Professor Ford says about the second one.
In the meantime we are confronted with the politics of Senators McCain, Clinton, and Obama. Agism, sexism, and racism will come in for dissection. Perhaps we can pick up a few pointers.