When something happens and racial differences really are the cause, will we even notice any more?
More importantly, will we even care?
The questions arise after a couple of recent incidents. The answers aren't very reassuring.
A handful of people this past week got themselves all knotted up because a River Ridge Elementary teacher made a kindergarten boy clean off the toilet she says he'd messed up with poor aim.
There's plenty to be upset about: If it was a case of mistaken identity, the boy was punished for something he didn't do. More technically, the teacher's punishment was probably a violation of the rules for handling bodily fluids. Children aren't supposed to clean such things up; adults are even required to wear gloves when doing so.
Those protocols - designed to protect from such things as HIV/AIDS - are absurdly overblown, but those are the rules nonetheless. And they aren't just government bureaucratic silliness, either; our office, out here in the private sector, has similar rules.
Such rules are less to protect us from blood-borne pathogens and more to protect the company from legal liability if the good Samaritan catches something.
Likewise, the school system has those rules in place to prevent possible infection, but also to inoculate the system from lawsuits.
Unfortunately, there's no vaccine for unfounded charges of racism. The mom in the River Ridge case could have complained that the teacher improperly blamed her son (although I remain mystified that an adult would take a child's word over that of a teacher). And she could have criticized the apparent violation of protocol.
If she'd stopped there, she would have been on firm ground - even though the majority of the free parenting world would have agreed with making the boy clean up the mess, and spanking him afterward.
But did it stop there? Of course not! See, the little boy is black; the teacher is white. So the punishment, mom says, was racist.
Just down the road, former Columbia County administrator Carole Jean Carey, who now is superintendent of the Warren County school system, also is weathering absurd charges of racism.
It seems that three black teachers were disciplined for fudging children's grades so they would pass. When a teacher inappropriately raises or lowers a child's grade, she is cheating the child. But to a marching group of parents and clergy in Warrenton, punishing those teachers is racist.
Never mind that Warren County's school system, under Carey's care, has made a nationally recognized turnaround from being one of Georgia's worst school systems to being one of its best - a place where just 14 percent of eighth-graders passed the state math test in 2000, and just four years later 88 percent passed.
Taking pride in real accomplishment instead of phony achievement? Must be racism.
None of this, sadly, is a surprise. U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, after all, took the national stage to accuse a cop of racism because he stopped her from bypassing a metal detector.
The good news is the Congressional Black Caucus (counterpart to the Congressional White Caucus - oh, wait; there is no Congressional White Caucus; that would be racist) later put McKinney in front of the cameras to apologize.
Reasonable people can easily go about the business of school and work without viewing every clash between people of different races as occurring because of those differences rather than the real issues.
Instead, every time one more unreasonable person cries "racism," it makes it that much less likely that reasonable people will listen when real racism is the culprit.
Or, worse, it's much less likely they'll still care.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.