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Jay Fleitman: Wayward arguments about race litter responses to Gregory Clay column in Gazette

CAROL LOLLIS<br/>Jay Fleitman

Jay Fleitman

The editors of the Gazette were excoriated by these readers for having committed a transgression that breached an unspoken agreement that would have banned a discussion of racial politics that differs from accepted liberal dogma. One writer wrote “you should be ashamed for publishing such blatantly racist garbage” while another was “sickened” and wondered if she was really reading the Daily Hampshire Gazette. There was surprise that “the local newspaper would give space to such hateful and ignorant words ... there was no place in the Gazette for such racism. Our community deserves an apology and a retraction for printing this column.” Another author opined, “I do not wish to pay for racism ... I am close to canceling my subscription.” Yet another writer was “appalled, shocked, and disappointed.” And there was more.

The most pointed attacks were directed at the author of the column. The core of these attacks were that the author was a racist for his opinion that the jury verdict in the Trayvon Martin case was correct, and his observations on the problems of crime in black America. The words racist and racism appeared over and over in these letters.

It has already been identified on these pages that the writer of this column, an assistant sports editor for the McClatchy-Tribune News Service, is himself African-American. I think that it is reasonable to give most of the letter-writers the benefit of the doubt that they did not know. Clay’s background when they made their accusations, as it is hard to imagine even the most ardent of liberals would presume to lecture a member of the African-American community on how morally unacceptable his opinions are relative to his own community.

One letter-writer was aware of Clay’s race when she wrote of her outrage at his piece, and described him as a “self-hating African-American.” This is a nasty characterization of someone who writes of his own experiences.

The nature of these letters published had me return to Clay’s guest column several times to try and understand what he wrote that engendered this heat. I have no interest in relitigating the Trayvon Martin case, but it seems that his observations on difficulties in the black community are likely to have engendered these passions.

The heart of Clay’s column seemed to be in this lament: “If Zimmerman were named ‘Smith’ and black, would there be mass protests nationwide? No way. The facts of life are these: Most black males in this country are killed by other black males within their own communities. Most of the assailants are between the ages of 15 and 34. Why aren’t the protesters marching about that from San Francisco to New York?” This is a heartfelt observation about what he perceives to be the true plight in his community, and that the Zimmerman-Martin tragedy pales in comparison.

I am more interested here in the nature of the responses than in the column itself. Even if Clay had been white, the level of assault using the accusation of racism was shocking. The term is now used so loosely as to have lost its importance as the identification of a social injustice in need of correction.

The accusation of racism has come to be used as a hammer to destroy the individual who expresses an opinion about virtually anything that touches on race that differs from left-wing orthodoxy. The person so identified is rendered vile, his opinions are unworthy of consideration, and he should be shunned.

The accusation of racism is deployed to terminate and win arguments. As a conservative, I’ve seen this happen over and over. For example, disagree with a policy of President Obama, and you do it because of racism. You are now meant to be on the defensive, your policy disagreement is now tainted.

Employing the accusation of racism can be intended to elevate the accuser to a higher moral ground than the person whose opinion is found in disagreement. We have certainly become a nation in which those who have taken offense by any opinion or action have become predominant.

We are the world’s first nation governed by an “Offendocracy,” and difference in opinion has become intolerable. As such, the free use of powerful words such as “racist” has poisoned the waters of public discourse when applied with so little care.

Since this column is about taking offense, I must bring up the political cartoon recently seen on this page, in which an elephant representing Republicans is portrayed as wishing that only white people vote. This is clearly an allusion to Republicans as racists in seeking voter identification in the United States.

Since the point of my writing a column is to represent the conservative viewpoint, let me be clear that our interest in implementing voter identification processes does not have to do with suppressing minority voters, but does have everything to do with a profound distrust over widespread voter fraud.

Jay Fleitman, M.D., lives in Northampton. His column appears the first Tuesday of the month. He can be reached at opinion@gazettenet.com.


Josh Mintzer: Conservative columnist needed, but should fact-check own side

Monday, August 19, 2013

To the editor: Certainly it is in our community’s best interest to have different voices offering up opinions and viewpoints. Especially in such a “blue” enclave as this, we owe it to ourselves to avoid the dangers of group-think and “the echo chamber.” With that said, could not the Gazette find a more capable conservative voice than columnist Jay Fleitman? …

Josh Mintzer: Conservative columnist needed, but should fact-check own side

Monday, August 19, 2013

To the editor: Certainly it is in our community’s best interest to have different voices offering up opinions and viewpoints. Especially in such a “blue” enclave as this, we owe it to ourselves to avoid the dangers of group-think and “the echo chamber.” With that said, could not the Gazette find a more capable conservative voice than columnist Jay Fleitman? …

Legacy Comments10

Sorry to keep beating a dead horse, but this news item just came up today. I recommend that anyone who would lend an dollop of credibility to the good doctor's cryptic add-on about voter ID laws pay attention to both who has been most responsible for voter fraud in our state, and the miniscule evidence of actual in-person fraud on the national level (the latter fact having been common knowledge for a long time). http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/09/jack-villamaino-voter-fraud_n_3728456.html

you can go tit for tat. they all do this (but dumocrats more). The real scandal is the IRS thing. Its becoming appearant now that the SEC, the EPA, OSHA, FEC - all acted illegally to suppress conservative groups. I thought that only happened in Russia? The top staffer for Florida Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia resigned this weekend (june 2013) after being implicated in a voting-fraud scheme. Chief of Staff Jeffrey Garcia resigned Friday after taking responsibility for the plot and being asked by the congressman for his resignation. The congressman said Saturday he thinks the plot was a “well-intentioned attempt to maximize voter turnout” and that the system is “prone to fraud.” Several hours before the resignation, law-enforcement investigators raided the homes of Giancarlo Sopo, the congressman's communications director, and John Estes, his 2012 campaign manager. Authorities are investigating a sophisticated scheme to manipulate last year's primary elections by submitting hundreds of fraudulent absentee-ballot requests. Garcia won the primary and later defeated incumbent Republican David Rivera in the general election. That primary resulted in a separate, federal corruption investigation into whether Rivera had ties to the illegally funded primary campaign of one of Garcia's opponents. Rivera has denied any wrongdoing.

Gary, since ¨this weekend¨is not june 2013, I have to assume you cut and pasted this from an uncredited source. If you insist on plagiarizing the blogosphere, we´re gonna have to take away your ice cream privileges.

There are so many examples out there but here's a link. The original one was from Fox News so I didn't post a link since you wouldn't believe anything from there but this link is from the Miami Herald. My point was that politicians do this stuff all the time. Wasn't Kennedy elected president when Mayor Daley provided the votes he needed? Thats probably the biggest case of voter fraud ever and that was one of your guys. And LBJ was notorius for stuffing the ballot in Texas. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/01/3479893/aide-to-miami-congressman-joe.html

I really didn't expect racism to be the issue in this trial. I do believe in our justice system and have to imagine the jurists (who heard all of the arguments and evidence) came to a decision based on what they heard. I think the original columnist probably tried to avoid "the racism card" by explaining his point of view. I tend to agree with Dr. Fleitman, it's not always about race.........but gee, folks in this Valley seem to make it so when they disagree with an opinion.

Whether you agree with it or not, you'd have to be living under some kind of rock since at least the 1960s (if not the 1600s) not to expect race to have come up in the Zimmerman trial. Shrill racism accusations might be overdone, but so is the dubious claim that people "don't see race." Being a conservative doesn't make someone a racist, but neither does recognizing that racism has played and continues to play a role in the politics of this country. The "YOU'RE the racist because you're the one obsessed with race" argument is either naive or insincere. I think either extreme is an insult to our collective intelligence. And, to be honest, I think that folks on the left are just a bit more self-aware on this issue. And don't get me started on the logical polevault that gets the good doctor from his musings on reactions to the guest column to his declaration about voter ID laws.

In the 1960's I was visiting family in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi every year. Not a great time time to spend summers there! I can remember signs warning people of color not to be places after dark..............I don't judge people based on their race.....I'm not sure many people in the this area can say the same. Be "self aware" if that's what you think you're doing, but STOP making everything about race because it doesn't and shouldn't matter! Don't you remember Dr. King! And as far as the voter ID laws go, if I get on a plane I hhave to produce an ID. Why shouldn't the people who make these laws require the people who elect them produce an ID.

The comparison of airplanes and voting is spurious, and I think you probably know that. All this talk about sweeping laws to limit voter fraud, and very, very few actual proven cases. And as for the connection between the cartoon and accusations of racism...I think that all of the conservatives that were so offended at the apparent accusation of "their" racism in the cartoon missed the point. Republican voter ID laws are more cynical than racist. They want to keep people of color and the poor from voting in some districts because they tend to vote democratic in those districts...not just before they are minorities. Republicans don't have to be racist to realize that demographic shifts in the country will push their party more into the margins unless they make some serious changes in their platform, which I think most of them aren't willing to make. So what is the relation to that and the reaction to the Zimmerman verdict? That folks like Dr. Fleitman can use the apparant excess of "Racism" accusations to shift attention away from what is really a very nuts-and-bolts political ploy. So really, they are pretty adept at manipulating the "offendocracy" to their own ends.

Re Dr Fleitman's response: I agree that there is way too much loose criticism where words once meaningful are now just used as a tool of anger. However, I am a registered Independent _ and I say that because of your claim to represent the Conservative party (presumably of today). In that you try to say there is no racism going on regarding the attempt to control who can vote, well-- there definitely is something in terms of hate going on when - by their own admission - they want NOTHING to be accomplished by the current administration. So to try to put your party above the fray of "racism" is futile unless you get them to earn the obscene money they get for being - dare I say - obstructionists - and start working for ALL the people. Linda L.

So is the point here that the author is self-empowering in an age of "offendoracy" by taking exception at the cartoon? Or is it about the non-existence of racism anythime and anywhere? I think I missed a segue somewhere.

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