There's Not a Segregationist Behind Every Policy Dispute ; on Racial Issues, It Seems That the Kerry-Edwards Antidote to 'Two Americas' Is 'One America - for Democrats'

Article excerpt

"One America," the flip side of the "Two Americas" theme trumpeted by the Kerry-Edwards campaign, takes on a whole new meaning in front of minority audiences.

That theme was pushed by Sen. John Kerry earlier this month at the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Combined with the toxic rhetoric of the NAACP leadership throughout the Bush years, the message seems clear: the president (and I paraphrase) divides Americans by race; approves of lynchings, hate crimes, and racial profiling; and wants to take away your civil rights.

In "One America," you don't challenge the group-think on something like hate-crimes legislation. President Bush crossed that line while governor of Texas, arguing against the legislation because the swift prosecution and sentencing of the three men who lynched James Byrd in 1998 showed the system was already able to crack down on hate crimes. He wasn't questioning the rights of hate- crime victims, but the policy of how to secure those rights. In "One America," though, if you disagree on race, chances are you will be labeled anything from insensitive to racist, which for some is synonymous with Republican.

I originally supported the last incarnation of "One America," President Clinton's wide-ranging initiative on race that was supposed to go from conversation to action. But after soaking all the glory he could from the dialogues, the "first black president," as some black Americans called Mr. Clinton, deep-sixed the hard- working committee's final report. Clinton no doubt reasoned that symbolism alone was enough to keep black voters in the Democratic column in 2000.

I'm all for regular discussions about race. The more we learn about how and why we disagree, the less likely Americans are to fall for fearmongering politicians. …