Liberals are saying in the wake of Katrina that we must have a national conversation about race and poverty. Yes, let’s. It’s long overdue.

The difficulty will be having a realistic conversation without the left screaming racist and bigot. But, if we can get past the shouting, it’s time to talk.

The wrenching sight of desperate people at the New Orleans Superdome and Convention Center is not something we will soon forget. They are, as liberals suggest, a good starting point for our national conversation on race.

But it must be a conversation where everything is on the table. Along with the thoughts of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and rapper Kanya West, we have to read and talk about scholars and intellectuals who present an entirely different diagnosis of the racial ills of America.

Among the authors on the reading list for this national conversation must be writers who are critical of what welfare hath wrought. Were you impressed with the passivity of some of the people trapped in New Orleans? Could welfare be a factor in more than just not having a car in which to escape the hurricane?

We also need to discuss crime. I lived in New Orleans and know people who did up until last week. The violence you saw last week wasn’t hungry people desperate for food but a glimpse at the gang wars and corruption that are endemic to New Orleans. When we have this national conversation, let’s talk about how tolerance of civic disorder hurts the poor more than anybody else.

Can we have this conversation? Or do the liberals just crave yet another opportunity to shout bigot?