Milestones: The rest of the ‘race card’ deck

In Henderson, every time race is a real or imagined factor in any discussion, someone always has to mention the idea of the “race card.” The recent discussion of the naming of the Outer Loop has once again brought up Henderson’s favorite metaphor.

I can only conclude that the idea behind using the term “race card” is to minimize an opponent’s claim that race is a real factor in whatever is being discussed. The term “race card” has the effect of reducing a historical problem to a rhetorical device that is used when the argument isn’t going your way. If someone makes the claim that something is racially motivated, someone else can say that the “race card” is being played, thus negating the argument. Unfortunately, the term persists because sometimes people will bring race into an argument that has nothing to do with race or to defend an otherwise indefensible position. I’ve hit on this topic before, haven’t I, Rev. Dale?

People who talk about the “race card” seem magnanimous enough. They like to pretend that race isn’t a factor in anything, that we’re beyond all that. They’ll tell you, for instance, that affirmative action should cease in favor of judging individuals on their own merits. Sure, it sounds nice, but what about our documented history of social inequities, you ask? They’ll tell you that those no longer exist.

Keep in mind that these are the same people who live in a town where family surnames include both blacks and whites. Be that as it may, the people who share these names don’t go to the same churches or family reunions, kind of like the schism between the black and white descendants of Thomas Jefferson.

It seems as if race does matter. At least, it seems as if it matters to me.

The “race card” is by no means the only trump in the deck. It’s just the most divisive. There are 51 other cards (besides the superfluity of jokers) in the Henderson deck, and they get play time, too, for good or ill. Let’s look at a few of them together:

The Victim Card

A man was stopped on Interstate 85 twice by Henderson police officers. The first time, he was carrying a carload of dope, so that stop was legitimate. The second time he was stopped, he was clean, so suddenly he is a victim of police harassment.


Victims are people to whom bad things happen through no fault of their own. While a child can be a victim of abuse or a woman can be a victim of breast cancer, how can a criminal be the victim of law enforcement? It boggles the mind.

Anyone who takes this stuff seriously is a victim — of ignorance.

The Taxpayer Card

This is one of my personal favorites. When this card is played, it’s because the person throwing it wants to be kissed on the behind for doing his civic duty and paying his taxes. When this card is used, you can bet that the person using it is resentful of what other people are getting from taxes. They forget about the value that they themselves derive.

Everyone knows someone like this. This is the person who, upon being pulled over for speeding, tells the cop to go find a “real criminal” instead of harassing an “honest taxpayer.”

They don’t just expect service for their money, no sir. They expect civil servants everywhere to prostrate themselves for the privilege of doing their dirty work for them. You know, putting out their fires, carting their taxpaying carcasses to the hospital, teaching their kids, incarcerating the thugs, etc. And if they want a raise? Too bad. Nobody put a gun to their heads and forced them into a life of civil service, did they? No raise with my tax money, no sir.

The Religion Card

When it comes to religion, Henderson can be like this junk e-mail I keep getting from some charlatans calling themselves “Christian Family Loans.” It advises me that I can refinance my mortgage “the right way.” They’re not trying to take my house away, I’m sure. They’re going to refinance it at no interest and no points because it’s the “Christian” thing to do.

I wonder how many people are taken in by this nonsense.

Any time anyone gives their bona fides in Henderson, it always begins with “I’m a good Christian.” Any time anyone gets into hot water in Henderson, the defense begins with “I’m a good Christian.” Whenever anyone starts stirring up trouble in Henderson, it begins with the apologia “I’m a good Christian.”

Whenever the label “Christian” is slapped on anything, the religion card has been played, because associating something with religion automatically distracts from whatever real merits the thing may have.

Religion is highly personal. Should it really be used to peddle things or people?

The We’ve-Always-Done-It-That-Way (Tradition) Card

I’m not one to advocate change for the sake of change. Sometimes the old ways are best because they are tried-and-true, time-tested and proven beyond the measure of a doubt.

On the other hand, change can be a good thing, a necessary thing, even a prudent thing. Let’s take the trash debate, for example. Even though every forward-thinking municipality has gone to cheaper, more efficient means of garbage collection, we still insist on twice-weekly backyard pickup. Why? Because that’s how we’ve always done it. Throwing down this card in Henderson effectively stifles all positive change.

The You-Ain’t-From-Around-Here (Carpetbagger) Card

Marty Gister, sick child or no, you never had a chance. No one even had to throw this card at you. You threw it at yourself when you adopted the “New Name, New Ideas” slogan for your campaign. The last thing Henderson wants is novelty in thinking or in citizenry. Don’t take it personally. I, for one, admire the fortitude you showed in daring to run, as well as the poise and grace you demonstrated in losing.

What about the sweeping changes this election brought? Well, this election swapped one set of Henderson natives for another set of natives along with a wealthy longtime resident. It’s hardly a social revolution.

Oh, we say we want to bring new blood, new people and new investment into the community, but what we mean is that we want to bring more people in who are just like us, only with skills and investment capital and jobs to offer. Anyone else is just a guest worker. If you buy a house here, “transplants,” be prepared to explain why you exercised your constitutional right to live where you please for the rest of your stay.