Accusations of Racism in American Politics

One of the great achievements of the American civil rights movement is a broad and deep consensus that racism — which has a long history in this country — is unacceptable, indeed even intolerable. Civil rights activists, led by Dr. King, appealed to the conscience and good will of the nation on the issue and won the nation over.

In America, one of the worst things that can be said of anyone is that he or she is racist. The charge is so potent that some — Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton come to mind — have hurled it about with abandon, knowing how far people will go to avoid the label.

But the accusation should be wielded with the most extreme care, supported by abundant evidence.

Which brings us to the case of Joe Wilson, the back-bench Republican congressman, who called Barack Obama a liar to his face in the House chamber last week. He apologized and he should have and it wouldn't hurt him to do it again.

But now Wilson stands accused of — you guessed it — racism.

Democratic Congressman Johnson's talk of people donning "white hoods" encouraged by Wilson is but one example. A noted New York Times columnist said over the weekend that Wilson could not accept that a black man is president. She said she heard Wilson use the word "boy," in his outburst — though she admits he did not say that. That, it seems, is her evidence.

People have wondered if President Obama would play the race card to answer his critics. He has not. It is being done for him.

Brit Hume is the senior political analyst for FOX News Channel.