National Public Radio has released the latest of its “race card” stories based on “six-word essays.” This one comes from Marc Quarles, a hospital technical who, NPR relates, “is African-American, with a German wife and two biracial children–a son, 15, and daughter, 13. The family lives in Pacific Grove, a predominantly white, affluent area on California’s Monterey Peninsula.” His six-word entry: “‘With Kids, I’m Dad. Alone, Thug’.”
Quarles’s observation–really, a complaint–is about his neighbors, whom he says treat him differently when his wife and children are away for the summer. One incident from his time living in the area stands out: when, in his first week in the neighborhood, the man across the street called the police on suspicion that Quarles had stolen his mother-in-law’s purse. That sense of unpleasantness, Quarles implies, has lingered on for him.
And yet that incident–regrettable and race-charged as it seems to have been–has nothing to do with Quarles’s fundamental claim: that to his neighbors (his “counterparts,” he calls them), he is just a black face when his wife is not around. It seems odd that Quarles might not, during the nine or ten months between summer holidays, attempt to get to know his neighbors. Odd, too, that he would extrapolate from one bad apple to all of them.
In a subsequent conversation with the neighbor who called the police, Quarles said, the man–who apologized–seemed surprised that Quarles owned a second home. Yet if the subtext to the story is that race is something about which Americans must remain conscious, with a sense of obligation owed by whites to everyone else, why should Quarles be surprised when the default (and, yes, unfair) assumption is that he might not be well-off?
The sad part of the way NPR and Quarles chose to tell the story is that Quarles seems to have grappled with the difficulties of race quite successfully. Not only does he have a multi-racial family, but he has not let racism hold back his own success, noting: “You can live in this world with that double standard and be successful and have a wonderful life.” Yet he brings the story back to Ferguson–as if he wants race to matter to him more than it does.
More regrettable is the fact that NPR is running this series at all. Not that we shouldn’t talk about race–when it is relevant–but the question here is: to what purpose? National taxpayer dollars, and prime radio air time, are being invested in stories whose purpose seems to be to reinforce race consciousness, in spite of–almost against, really–the progress of 60-plus years of the civil rights movement. Not the best use of public funds.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak