Stop the presses. Charles Krauthammer and I agree on something.
On Monday night’s “Special Report with Bret Baier,” Charles and I were discussing the firestorm over the racist comments made by Donald Sterling, the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team.
Krauthammer made an excellent point.
“I think it's a generational thing,” said Charles. “He [Sterling] is 80. [Cliven] Bundy is 67. Paula Deen, slightly more benign, also 67. I think hopefully this attitude is going to die over time, not entirely, but largely, and that's a good thing.”
Krauthammer added that President Obama’s response to the controversy has been “exactly right,” in saying that even though instances of bigotry continue to emerge the nation has made great progress.
Charles, President Obama and I are all on the same page here.
Racial attitudes are close linked to a person’s age.
Older Americans are less likely to have gone to school with people off different races. They are less likely to have been on the playground with them, been teammates, loved, hated and admired as well as despised people of other races without tying it exclusively to the other person’s race.
Older Americans are more likely to be uncomfortable when they are not in the racial majority at work, a restaurant or the doctor’s office. They don’t know people with a different racial, ethnic identity in their daily lives – in their communities, in their work, in their social settings and in their churches.
It is in these human interactions that people move away from stereotypes and assumptions about the other race. They learn they are not all that different from them and that old prejudices are erroneous, hateful and hurtful. They recoil from them.
Remember that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who would now be 85, said that in his experience as a young man the most segregated hour of the week is 11:00am on Sundays, when whites and blacks go to separate churches. Given that seniors dominate church attendance in this country that is most often still the case.
As such, it is much easier for racial stereotypes and prejudices to take root in the minds of older Americans.
Polls show that older Americans are the least comfortable of any age cohort with interracial marriage. They are also uncomfortable with gay marriage. They are the strongest opponents of immigration reform and any phone system that allows people to push #2 to hear the instructions in Spanish.
LA Clippers Coach Doc Rivers spoke for a younger generation of Americans when he said Tuesday: "These last 48 hours or more have been really hard for our players and for everyone," Rivers said.
"I would just like to reiterate how disappointed I am in the comments attributed to our owner, and I can't tell you how upset I am and our players are… When you're around all these people, you realize they are just as upset and embarrassed, and it doesn't reflect who they really are.”
The NBA has now banned Donald Sterling from their league. Some older people are no doubt worried that they can’t even admit to their feelings privately without fear of being embarrassed.
But the inescapable reality that Charles and I agree on is that the Donald Sterlings of the world are dying off and in the not-too-distant future their racist views will die off with them.
It is only a matter of time before these repugnant views slide farther and farther out of the mainstream. They may not ever disappear but they are already not acceptable to the vast majority of Americans.
On Bill O’Reilly’s show Monday night Bernie Goldberg said it thrilled him that there was such widespread condemnation of Sterling. He said that is evidence of real racial progress.
Bernie, Bill, Charles and I are not spring chickens. But we are all crowing with pride at the nation’s clear response to hateful words.
Juan Williams currently serves as a co-host of FOX News Channel’s (FNC) The Five (weekdays 5-6PM/ET) and also appears as a political analyst on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace and Special Report with Bret Baier. Williams joined the network as a contributor in 1997.