One difficult aspect to discussions about race in our society is the fact that the concepts of race and racial oppression, despite their genuine social importance, can be overplayed or used inappropriately. This is an issue that no one wants to address, because claims like this can easily be taken too far and be abused by those who oppose confronting race in a serious way.

In this vein, Jim Hoagland has an op-ed in the Washington Post today arguing that Sudan has been playing the “race card” as part of its effort to prevent the outside world from resolving the conflict in Darfur. The government of Sudan, a largely Muslim country with a mixed population of Arabs and non-Arab Africans, has been shamelessly appealing to both African and Arab nations in a bid for “racial solidarity” against efforts to stop the genocide in Darfur.

In brief, Sudan has been attempting to undermine the U.N. peacekeeping force being readied for deployment, by arguing that the force represents white interests intent on once again exploiting black and Muslim lands. This argument has stalled support from Egypt and other African and Middle Eastern nations afraid of backing Western nations charged with racial and colonial oppression.

While there may be no way to prevent genocidal rulers from exploiting legitimate concerns over racial oppression, it’s a shame that Washington and other capitals haven’t been more forthright in calling out Khartoum for this charade. In this instance, it is black and Arab regions which are suffering from the delay, and the conflict is not of Western design.

I like to compare the reluctance to acknowledge sham claims of racial oppression to discussions about false accusations of rape or child abuse. No one doubts that there are instances in which innocent people are falsely charged with rape or child abuse, but neither does anyone dispute that most such accusations are true. The trick is to distinguish properly, in particular cases, whether claims are true or false, and to address the legitimate and important issue of false accusations, while never losing sight of the fact that genuine accusations do respresent the greater social problem.

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