A fan at Boston’s Fenway Park was recently ejected for using a racial slur directed at the Kenyan-born singer of the National Anthem before the game. This incident comes in the aftermath of Baltimore Orioles’ center fielder Adam Jones (who is black) claiming he was the recipient of racist taunts following a game in Boston. New York Yankees’ pitcher CC Sabathia (also black) seemed to empathize with Jones’ claims saying that he knows to expect racism when his team travels to play the Red Sox. Unsurprisingly, the Red Sox organization has gone into damage control in denouncing the bigoted statements and calling for change.
But what may be cause for concern is that the Boston Police Department said in a statement following the ejection of the fan that “the BPD’s Civil Rights Unit is investigating the allegations and will make a determination as to whether further action is warranted.” It’s hard to imagine what constitutional action law enforcement could take against someone who made an offensive comment (you can read the specifics of the comment here). As appalling as this was, it did not threaten anyone’s well-being or violate anyone’s civil rights. Yes, what was said was certainly hateful. But despite what Howard Dean thinks, hate speech is still protected under the First Amendment. Action taken by government in this instance would be a clear violation of the free speech that the constitution is supposed to protect.
The dangerous area that the state is venturing into with regard to racial issues is to think that furthering its own power and influence is the solution to the region’s racial strife. Bostonians don’t need to look outside of their own city’s history to see the consequences of looking to government to solve issues of race. Although the forced busing programs of the 1970’s failed all over the country, they may have failed in Boston worse than in any other major American city. The subsequent riots and violence that occurred in opposition to this kind of government-mandated integration have had scars that have lasted for decades since and have contributed to much of the city’s racial animosity since then. So what was initially supposed to improve Boston’s race relations (along with the rest of the country) actually ended up making things much worse.
The city of Boston, as well as the state of Massachusetts, is in a situation that brings two bad situations to the forefront. Here we have an area well known for having a racially charged history, but also a tendency for embracing state-centered solutions to virtually all social problems. The result has been enhanced racial turmoil despite and/or because of the government’s best efforts. There is little reason to believe that this won’t continue to be the case if more laws are written and government continues to expand in the name of alleviating the situation.
The true liberty minded solution would be to simply allow the property owners and private organizations to oversee the conduct that takes place within their own facilities. This is presently being done as Major League Baseball, as well as the Red Sox organization, is exercising the right to expel those who violate the rules of conduct that these private entities outline. But sadly, this often isn’t good enough for governments who want to prove that they are “at war” with any remnants of racism that may still exist. Taxpayer money gets wasted and the constitution gets trampled upon all to signal that the state is actively involved in combating the problem despite the wisdom, legality or results of how that state conducts itself. The perception of a proactive effort to combat racism is thought to be more important than what is actually accomplished or what rights are violated in the process.