Anyone watching television news in Connecticut last week might have gotten the impression that the state was being invaded by Nazi stormtroopers and the Ku Klux Klan.
Prompting the hysteria on the airwaves was, first, the arrest of a student at the University of Connecticut at Storrs for spray-painting a swastika on a university building across the street from the Jewish student organization.
Hours later a rope noose and a few ropes police said could be "interpreted" as nooses were found in a warehouse under construction in Windsor.
Jewish students at UConn reacted as if they had just gone through another Kristallnacht, as if some vandal somewhere isn't always spray-painting swastikas or other vile graffiti on something. The Jewish students pledged to increase their efforts against anti-Semitism, as if there won't always be some Jew haters and as if Jews aren't safer, freer, and more secure in the national fabric here than they are anywhere else, including Israel itself.
Black politicians made angry statements, and at a news conference outside the Windsor warehouse a spokesman for the Hartford chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) shouted at the cameras that what had happened there was a hate crime requiring investigation.
Good luck to such investigation, since the building was little more than a skeleton and wide open without security. Presumably Connecticut's many unsolved murders can wait while the warehouse ropes are investigated and "interpreted" some more.
But nobody had gotten hurt or even threatened directly in the Storrs and Windsor incidents, and such incidents are often found to be "false flag" provocations anyway. While swastikas evoke the Nazi genocide of European Jewry, nooses long have had many targets besides Blacks being lynched in the old South. For centuries nooses were the mechanism of execution for anyone convicted of a capital crime in this country, going back to the imagined witches of Connecticut's earliest colonial days.
But the NAACP seemed eager to claim a threat, since victimhood now is so politically powerful. If you're seen as a victim, everyone is supposed to be intimidated and to do whatever you want, even if what you want has nothing to do with what wronged you. Indeed, victimhood now rationalizes any broad political agenda.
Nevertheless, Black people are less likely to be harmed by ropes lying around a construction site than by the bullets fired daily in their own neighborhoods, like the bullet that killed a 3-year-old boy in Hartford last month.
These politically opportunistic racial obsessions are sweeping over Connecticut and the country. For also last week South Windsor's new Equity Council held a meeting with the Board of Education to air complaints of racial abuse in the town's schools. While the complaints seemed to involve mainly the cruel and stupid talk in which teenagers excel, rather than matters of school administration, what was most remarkable about the meeting was the irrelevance to the problem of the remedies contemplated.
These remedies include replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People's Day, as if every racist in South Windsor isn't as "indigenous" as anyone else ever was; celebrating the Hindu holiday of Diwali; and loading the school bureaucracy with more "diversity" babble.
What about just identifying and prosecuting the perpetrators of racist abuse like that cited at the meeting? Such relevance doesn't seem to be on the agenda, maybe because these days in Connecticut even the most disruptive students can't be expelled but must be coddled even as they impair the education of others. So South Windsor will blame Columbus instead.
Of course Connecticut has racial problems, especially the educational and economic lagging of minority groups. These problems can be uncomfortable to discuss. But the bloviating increasingly done about trivia only discourages people from discussing the problems and builds resentment.
Nearly everyone in Connecticut wants everyone else to do well, and most people really don't care much about race. Intimidation and race mongering may work for a while politically but they won't persuade, and only persuasion will accomplish much for the long term.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.