The ubiquity of race

October 05, 1995|By GEORGE F. WILL

WASHINGTON -- Life is full of close calls, but the question of O.J. Simpson's guilt was not one of them. If 90 percent of the evidence against him had been excluded -- indeed, if the defense had been allowed to decide which 90 percent would be excluded -- the remaining 10 percent would have sufficed.

Ten percent of the evidence would have sufficed had evidence been germane, which it was not when the trial was transformed into a seminar on Mark Fuhrman's viciousness and society's defects.

The defense brassily said to the jury approximately what Groucho Marx said in the movie ''Duck Soup:'' ''Who are you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?'' The result has been a lesson about what happens when the reckless, rampant politicization of life encompasses even the criminal justice system: People get away with murder.

Nothing -- no institution, no pattern of civility -- is spared the ravages of racial thinking. For more than a generation now, public policies such as affirmative action, the racial spoils system and the cult of ''diversity'' have been teaching the nation that groupthink is virtuous, that you are but a fragment of the racial or ethnic group to which you belong and you have few if any obligations beyond it.

Such policies have made it admirable -- and lucrative -- to identify with grievance groups defined by their resentments of the larger society. According to the doctrine of categorical representation, the interests of a group can be understood, empathized with and properly represented only by members of that group.

Given all this, it is not surprising that the jurors had no pangs of conscience about regarding Mr. Simpson merely as a member of a group -- and not seeing his victims at all. People who think ''race-conscious remedies'' for this or that can be benign are partly to blame.

The unseen victims

At least there should now be sober reconsideration of the presence of television cameras in courtrooms. It simply will not do to chant the mantra about ''the public's right to know.'' The impulse often behind that is just voyeurism tarted up in rights talk. The public's ''right'' to whatever entertains it is not sovereign over considerations of the moral standing and proper functioning of the criminal-justice system.

Johnnie Cochran says he believes that some of Judge Ito's rulings were made because the world was watching. If so -- if cameras are not a passive presence, if the act of observing alters that which is observed -- the case against cameras in courtrooms is irrefutable. Perhaps it is possible to hope that the Simpson circus, which was without precedent, will not be any similar circus' precedent.

George F. Will is a syndicated columnist.

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