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Ruben Navarrette: Dialogue on race has become monologue (Opinion)

SAN DIEGO — For years, people have told me to stop talking about race and ethnicity. That sort of dialogue, they warn, only divides Americans.

Little did I know the real reason they wanted me to pipe down was so I could hear them drone on about that very same topic — on their terms.

Gaslighted by immigration and “the Squad,” folks on Fox News and right-wing radio are once again obsessed with race talk. Some of the loudest voices — Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin etc. — are content to talk only to people who look like them. If you feel disempowered because, instead of 100 percent of the pie, you now have to make do with 99 percent, you have one heck of a support group in conservative media.

Yet, some readers still urge me to back off racial issues.

Hard pass. When the folks on the cultural right stop talking about race, I’ll stop, too. Otherwise, it’s unilateral disarmament. Besides, what’s the point of a discussion about race in America that only involves white TV pundits, columnists and radio hosts?

Similar questions are surfacing in the presidential race, where candidate Julian Castro has zeroed in on the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in newsrooms. The former secretary of housing and urban development believes there’s a link between a U.S. media that is overwhelmingly white and the fact that the American public has such a one-dimensional view of what it means to be Latino.

“It’s a shame that so few of us have run for president before,” Castro recently told BuzzFeed News.

We need more voices in the mix. America’s dialogue on race has become a monologue. Familiar narratives have reemerged suggesting that nonwhite Americans are inferior, menacing and unpatriotic. Some whites even complain of “reverse racism” and insist that they’re being targeted.

Not surprisingly, President Trump is leading the sprint to the bottom. “The ‘Squad’ is a very Racist group of troublemakers who are young, inexperienced, and not very smart,” Trump tweeted last week.

Meanwhile, Republicans have gone from fending off accusations of racism to trying to run the discussion and dictate the terms. Some white folks are up in arms over three words: “people of color.”

Roger Kimball, editor of The New Criterion, recently told Fox News’ Carlson that the four freshman congresswomen who make up the Squad should stop using the term “people of color” because it’s a “racist phrase.” Besides, he said, “everyone has a color.”

True enough. And lately, a lot of voices on the right are showing theirs. They’re all too happy — at every opportunity — to tap into the angst of white Americans who feel forgotten, pushed aside and marginalized.

The opportunists include Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., who recently said this to Vice News about the Squad: “You know, they talk about people of color. I’m a person of color. I’m white. I’m an Anglo Saxon.”

This is weird. My parents, who were born in the 1940s, were beat over the head with the idea that they were the wrong color. Mexican-American mothers rubbed lemon juice on their children’s faces because it was rumored to lighten the skin.

Now some white folks seem bored with their own privilege, and they want to be thought of as “people of color.” Who can keep up?

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, R-Mass., recently told minorities who want to run for office that they had better “represent.”

Speaking at the Netroots Nation convention, the Squad member said: “We don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice. We don’t need black faces that don’t want to be a black voice. ... If you’re worried about being marginalized and stereotyped, please don’t even show up.”

Preach. People of color do not all think alike. But what good does it do to have a Latino or African-American elected official who cashes in on a cushy job but downplays part of his or her biography? Not much.

I have bad news. Our national conversation on race has turned into an incoherent rant. Deciphering it will require more dialogue, not less.

Ruben Navarrette is a columnist

for The Washington Post.

Funerals for Saturday, August 24, 2019

Barron, Dennis - 11 a.m., Airborne Church, Martinsburg.
Baylor, Elizabeth - 1 p.m., Snodgrass Funeral Home, South Charleston.
Bonds Jr., Patrick - 1 p.m., King of Glory International Ministries, Charleston.
Burgess, Corey - 5 p.m., Aldersgate United Methodist Church.
Burns, Helen - 11 a.m., Stump Funeral Home & Cremation, Inc., Grantsville.
Caldwell, Gary - 6 p.m., Long & Fisher Funeral Home, Sissonville.
Casto, Carroll - 1 p.m., Raynes Funeral Home, Eleanor.
Casto, Roger - 2 p.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Winfield.
Duty, Fred - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.
Fisher, Bernard - 2 p.m., Waybright Funeral Home, Ripley.
Gwinn, Lloyd - Noon, Church of Christ, Craigsville.  
Habjan, Nathan - 1 p.m., Wilson-Smith Funeral Home, Clay. 
Hall, Daniel - Noon, Witcher Baptist Church.
Hinkle, Ethel - Noon, Church of Christ, Craigsville.  
Hoffman, Bruce - 2 p.m., Foglesong - Casto Funeral Home, Mason.  
Kinder, Siegel - 1 p.m., Leonard Johnson Funeral Home, Marmet.
Kyler, Virgil - 11 a.m., Pleasant Grove Cemetery, Reedy.
Palmer, William - 1 p.m., Barlow Bonsall Funeral Home, Charleston. 
Raynes Sr., Steven - 1 p.m., Tyree Funeral Home, Oak Hill.
Truman, James - 2 p.m., Newton Baptist Church, Newton.
Turner, Keith - Noon, Full Gospel Assembly,  Huntington. 
Webb, Antoinette - 11 a.m., SS Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Oak Hill.
Wilson, Greg - Noon, Roach Funeral Home, Gassaway.
Withrow, James - 1 p.m., Cooke Funeral Home Chapel, Cedar Grove.