I was shocked at Llewellyn Rockwell’s complete misinterpretation (Cultural Revolutions, March 1990) of what William Raspberry wrote. Until your March issue, I had always assumed that what people wrote in your magazine was reasonably accurate.

As closely as I can recall, Rockwell quoted Raspberry accurately, but he took the columnist’s words in an extremely narrow and literal sense. As Rockwell quotes Raspberry, “A Congressional Black Caucus is legitimate,” while a “Congressional White Caucus would be unthinkable,” etc. What Rockwell did not understand, and what you failed to check, was that Raspberry was writing rhetorically.

In fact, on reading the Post my wife and I were both amazed that a black, generally liberal columnist had the sensitivity to test the feel and sound of such absurdities, and then had the guts to write about his reactions. That’s exactly what Raspberry did. His list of incongruous statements was quite complete but sadly funny, the latter because as many of us know, realistically, a Congressional White Caucus is “unthinkable.” Raspberry came to realize this, and described how he eventually understood that T-shirt slogans such as “It’s a Black Thing . . . ” may not, after all, be “hip, humorous, and race conscious in a healthy sort of way.”

I hope Chronicles doesn’t devolve into another silly forum where anyone can smear words onto a page and gain a moment’s recognition for himself.

        —Robert Goranson
Woodbridge, VA

Mr. Rockwell Replies:

Mr. Goranson wants to shout hosanna because William Raspberry admits there’s a racial double standard—even if he endorses it.

Maybe people who live for too long in the Washington Post‘s delivery area become inured to liberal-think. Maybe they see nothing wrong with having a professional black for a columnist, a man who analyzes everything in racial terms, and who has only one criterion: is it good for the blacks? Any white writer taking the same position would long ago have been exiled to the Insensitivity Gulag.

Raspberry approves of “the Black Thing” mentality only for “low-prestige out-groups” like “gays, Chicanes, [and] blacks,” but not for “highprestige groups.” “My own reactions,” he says, “vary with the social status of the group touting its specialness.” Because of this double standard, he won’t tell “young blacks [to] get rid of their ‘It’s a Black Thing . . . ‘ buttons, badges, and sweat shirts” until the equallennium.

In another column (December 23, 1989), Raspberry says it might be a good thing if blacks believed that all their troubles were caused by a mythical white conspiracy, and acted on it. Race hatred would be a great motivator. (He jokes to black audiences, by the way, that he knows there’s no conspiracy because whites “aren’t smart enough.” Imagine that turned around.)

“Is there a white conspiracy? The trouble is not with the illogic of the question,” concludes Raspberry. “The trouble is our refusal to behave as though we believe the answer is yes.”

Oh? William Raspberry may be subtler than Spike Lee, but he’d throw the trash can through my window just the same.