Recently, Hayley White, a 29-year-old mother in the UK rushed to her son, Elliot’s, school in the middle of the day only to find him confused and in tears. Most would assume that Elliot had gotten into a fight at school, had been caught cheating, or engaged in some other cliché’-worthy schoolboy activity. Well, the majority is wrong.

On that cold February day, Hayley learned that her son had been labeled a “racist” by school administrators. Earlier that day, the inquisitive boy asked a fellow classmate, “Are you brown because you come from Africa?” Now, had Elliot been a 19-year-old high school student, the school might have a case for racism. However, Elliot White is a mere 7-years-old. Instead of taking the child’s age into account, the school instead forced him to sign a document acknowledging that he had “made a racist remark.” I doubt that Elliot will want to ask another question in class anytime soon. For him, intellectual curiosity and punishment now go hand in hand.

During my 20 short years on this Earth, I’ve seen the word “racist” drastically change in meaning. I used to think the word was only reserved for the most prejudiced among us. If only that were still the case. Now, cries of racism are tossed about like beads at a Mardi Gras parade. Criticize the President’s singing? Well, you’re a racist. Oppose illegal immigration? You guessed it, racist. And God forbid you dare step foot into a Tea Party rally. After that, you’re pretty much a card-carrying member of the Klan. Now, not even naïve children are immune from the bitter cries of racism. It seems as if we’re all racists now.

As accusations of racism grow more frequent, accusers often lose contact with fact and reality. As alluded to earlier, Rachel Maddow said that Newt Gingrich was going after “a southern mentality and racial allusions” when he said that “President Obama ought to stop singing, ought to stop being the Entertainer-in-Chief” after Obama was videotaped singing, “Let’s Stay Together.” Not once did Gingrich refer to the President’s race. He merely expressed his opinion on how the President spends his time. I certainly can’t see any racism in his comment, but then again, I am not nearly as cultured and perceptive as Rachel Maddow who used her fabulous mindreading abilities to see into Gingrich’s heart and found his racist intentions. Yeah, right. I know Obama is supposed to be America’s Superman, but not even he has that kind of superpower.  Baseless accusations like this one rely not on fact, but on mere assumption.  And you know what they say about assumptions, right?

Perhaps the most damaging aspect of baseless cries of racism is the affect they have on cases of true racism. When racism exists, it should be exposed, pointed out, and rebuked so that we all may learn from it. However, now that The Boy Who Cried Wolf seems to have multiplied and intensified, we are rarely granted this learning experience. Cries of racism are so frequent that few take them seriously anymore.  They’re hidden behind the baseless accusations of racial prejudice and rarely exposed. Because I’ve been labeled a racist so many times for my conservatism, I even find myself rolling my eyes occasionally when I see the word “racism” zip across my television screen. Yet, this is not the right attitude. Racism is damaging, ignorant, and downright evil. When “racist” is continually overused, real examples of racial prejudice are diluted and often ignored. To say this is a tragedy would be an understatement; too many cries of racism are now synonymous not with racial prejudice but political opinion.

Thus, I urge my fellow Americans to not only abhor racism, but illegitimate accusations of racism as well.  The latter perhaps do more damage than the former.  In addition, it’s time to pray for a little more common sense in our nation.  A 7-year-old boy is not a racist for being inquisitive, and politicians should not be labeled “racist” simply because they disagree with the President who happens to be of another race. Perhaps instead of Occupying Wall Street, Americans should Occupy Common Sense, Rationality, and Sanity instead.

Amy Lutz :: Saint Louis University :: Saint Louis, Missouri :: @AmyLutz4

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