Vandals have done their worst at a historic Jewish cemetery in University City. No one knows yet who the culprits are or what were their motives. But there has been a sudden uptick in threats towards Jewish Community Centers and a rise in anti-Semitic acts. Some blame Donald Trump. The perpetrators are to blame, as every person is responsible for his or her own actions.

No matter the reason for this behavior, or other examples of taunts and divisive deeds, we remain embroiled in an incessant, never-ending discussion invoking the race card.

I learned a valuable lesson in my twenties: Not every personal slight is motivated by race. On numerous occasions, I was treated quite poorly in the checkout line of a grocery store. Each time I was in a certain checkout clerk’s line to buy groceries, she was rude to me, no matter what greeting I offered. Clearly, I thought, she was a racist.

Then on the next two consecutive trips to the store, I observed from another checkout line this same woman being nasty to a white man, and then a white woman. The manager shared that she had a reputation for being rude. So her awful behavior wasn’t about race after all. She still needed an attitude adjustment, but not for being a racist.

Today, deploying the race card is a mechanism primarily used to avoid discussing policy solutions that involve personal responsibility. Take the current obsession with calling people the easily disproven “worse than Hitler” slur. No one in our current political arena or even our entire country has done anything remotely close to viciously and systematically slaughtering 20 million people, ushering in totalitarianism and starting a world war.

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But the inference is a sinister one. If the label sticks to Donald Trump, anyone who supported him in the presidential election is tainted as well. “Those people” get painted as unrepentant genocidal maniacs.

Since more than 60 million people voted for Trump, and the state of Missouri went for the Republican by a margin of over 19 points, the assumption of racism would attach the worst-possible motives to every other person encountered on a daily basis. This is ludicrous! Yet it is what passes for serious debate on issues — flinging the race card, regardless of how unjustly applied or easily disproven.

Opinions on Trump vary widely. There is even a ‘Trump is Hitler’ Facebook group. Certainly the huge majority of Missouri voters who cast ballots for him aren’t genocidal or even plain old racists.

Aren’t there more important issues? Every time personal responsibility as a remedy for poverty is broached, emails pour in accusing me of “tap dancing for my massa” “bed wenching” or “serving as a token.” Is that the best my detractors can muster? Those insults date back to the Jim Crow era and hardly pass for intelligent debate.

Statistics show that the most successful method for reducing poverty isn’t government programs; it’s keeping families intact. If there’s a better way, present your best argument for it. What other solution has been proven to lift women and children out of persistent degradation?

How do we stop the school-to-prison pipeline that is dooming the futures of millions of poor children? Certainly not by calling other Americans racists. Helping these children learn to read and do math at grade level is what prevents them from dropping out of school and embarking on a path that leads toward prison. Teaching personal responsibility, enforcing our laws, returning to community policing, getting parents involved in their child’s school, allowing God back into the public sphere — these things help ameliorate poverty. Screaming ‘racist’ does not.

Using race as a way to shut down debate and immobilize political opponents only debases our interactions and serves as protection for real racists. Completely exhausted from discussing race at every turn, we have no one left to listen when actual racism rears its ugly head, giving cover to racists that they don’t deserve. Instead of wasting our time arguing about everyone being a racist, let’s focus on increasing personal responsibility. It’s the more difficult path, but the results are far better and longer lasting.

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