I wrote the following almost exactly four years ago. It’s never been more obviously true:
I realize in thinking about Obama, Wright, Jena Six, and my own unease with so-called “white nationalism,” that my views on racism are as follows: the racism of the past was wrong, extreme, and unjust, but it is basically dead, and white America deserves some credit for killing it. The remaining charges of racism are the product of propagandists and race hustlers, people like Al Sharpton and Jeremiah Wright. Unlike some white conservatives, I do not accept the view that the two races can’t get along, or that inherited differences explain all of the problems of black America. We are countrymen with a common history. Black America was once much more decent and functional. Black families were more intact. Black leaders were more patriotic. Blacks talked, worshiped, acted, wrote, and thought much like other Americans. In areas where equally qualified blacks and whites worked together, such as the military, racial problems were minimal. It is worth noting that the civil rights movement recognized a change in the society already underway by the 1950s, equally as much as the movement did anything to create the conditions of equality.
The race hustlers, however, provide an explanation for a troubling historical fact. Blacks as a group have not done as well after the end of official racism as anyone would have hoped. In important ways, blacks have lost ground. While it would have been naive to expect race parity in every field, it’s naturally frustrating to witness the decline of black civilizational standards since the end of segregation. Persistent black social pathologies–crime, illegitimacy, poverty–cannot be denied. Their consequences are felt by black and white alike.
Contrary to Obama, it’s not racism for someone like his grandmother to notice this, as she did by feeling fear in the face of a threatening black man. It’s a normal reaction, and it’s endemic of our “white guilt” culture that her fear is treated as abnormal, equivalent to the public rantings of someone like Jeremiah Wright. Once upon a time, the liberal fear was that “stereotyping” would give people an unwarranted and negative view of a given cohort in society. The value of interaction was one of the reasons proffered to support integration. Today, we are asked in the name of anti-racism to deny facts that we see every day with our own eyes. Why else does the media conceal the race of criminal offenders? It has nothing to do with false and misleading stereotypes. Rather, they want to make sure we don’t develop a truthful impression of an unfortunate group tendency based on the facts. Policies founded on “noble lies” are doomed to failure and contempt. As in Iraq, our approach to race should be “reality based.”
Today’s black problems cannot be explained by racism, nor can they be explained by the mysterious “legacy of racism.” Rather, a good deal of the explanation can be found in the activity of the race hustlers themselves: they have flattered their constituency and fobbed off all of their failings and faults on the alleged racism of white people. Preachers went from sounding like MLK to DMX. This is not the answer. This is not the solution. Any moral view that denies individual responsibility tends to make men of any race less responsible.
Black Americans need a moral revival to succeed, and part of that moral renewal must come from burying the hatchet on racism and recognizing the real sources of black social failure are internal, cultural, and moral. Instead of denying the facts, blacks should fall back on an older mantra: “be a credit to your race.” Black leaders in the past knew that the wayward acts of the few could be demoralizing, making the group as a whole look bad to whites and to one another. It would take real courage for Obama to call for something like this. In truth, he has hinted at this critique in the past, but in his “great speech,” where he could have talked about this face of the problem, he genuflected before the pieties of socialism and invidious white racism, echoing views much like those he listened to Reverend Wright preach about for 20 years.
* Today he repeats that cowardly and insecure stance in standing with Trayvon and Sharpton rather than in deferring to the unique facts as seen by local law enforcement on the ground.