The real conversation on racism is much more difficult but necessary

The acting dean of Northwestern University Law School opened a diversity event by declaring: “I’m Jim Speta. And I am a racist.” He was followed by Emily Mullin, executive director of major gifts to the university, who said: “I am a racist and a gatekeeper of white supremacy. I will work to be better.” Such recitations are now expected of anyone claiming to oppose racism. Indeed, there is a sense of urgency among some faculty not to be the last to self-condemn. As Begala demonstrated, “crickets” invite criticism.

I do not question Speta’s motives. I assume his statement is a heartfelt effort to support racial justice. Yet, this type of social catharsis comes across with all the spontaneity of a reeducation-camp recitation. It is difficult to see how it helps the cause of racial justice for everyone to dutifully declare themselves racists or tools of white supremacy. In a way, it dilutes the impact of calling out real racists…

What we need is what few seem willing to tolerate: a real discussion on race. There are many who believe racism is a societal scourge but disagree with the goals of the Black Lives Matter organization; others do not agree that police shootings of African Americans are part of a systemic problem of racism, as opposed to a systemic problem in the use of lethal force. When some academics have published works on such questions, they have been denounced as racists or subjected to firing campaigns. Few minds will be changed in this environment. And that is the greatest loss of all.