Signs of our new, improved multicultural times: a friend of mine, a small independent bookseller, told me that her store recently received a visit from a woman who announced that she worked for the Equal Opportunities Commission. The commission—one of England’s busy-bodying, quasi-governmental organizations—sniffs out racism, much as the Spanish Inquisition once sniffed out judaizing heresies among the conversos, and in the process it provides non-manual employment for the semi-educated.

“Where is your section by black authors?” she demanded to know.

“We don’t have one,” replied my friend.

“Why not?”

“Because we don’t classify authors by race.”

The lady from the commission demanded to know where the volumes by such and such black authors were. My friend showed her where they were, among all the other books.

“You should have a section for black authors,” she said.

“We don’t classify books by race,” my friend repeated.

The lady from the commission, very annoyed, stormed out, exclaiming for all to hear, “This is a white racist bookshop!”

My friend told me this in her bookshop—sotto voce, when she was certain that there was no one who could overhear.


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