How the Left Created Black Victimology and Black Rejection of American Values:
At the dawn of the civil rights era of the 1950s and 60s, Americans came face to face with the defining social and political issue of their time: the need to address their country’s lingering racial injustices. Those inequities were particularly abhorrent in the South, where, following the long epoch of slavery, Jim Crow laws mandating segregation treated blacks as less than fully human from the 1890s through the early 1960s. Conditions for blacks in the North, though not nearly ideal, were considerably better. While northern blacks also encountered plenty of prejudice and discrimination, they at least had an elementary sense of personal security and were treated with far more respect than their southern countearts.
Around the middle of the twentieth century, there were hints that racial justice would become the trend of America’s future from border to border. Membership in the NAACP increased tenfold during World War II, reflecting a growing awareness—among both blacks and whites—of the urgent need for reform. Two years after the war’s end, Jackie Robinson broke major league baseball’s color bar. A year later, President Harry Truman announced that segregation would be eliminated from the nation’s armed forces. Truman also appointed blacks to numerous government posts in his administration. Many whites, particularly in the South, were reluctant to accept black Americans’ ever-growing inclusion in once exclusively-white realms. Nevertheless, white racial attitudes were gradually but indisputably evolving in every region of the country. Consider the following:
In 1942, opinion polls found that the proportion of whites favoring school integration was just 30 percent, and a paltry 2 percent in the South. By 1956, these figures had grown to 49 percent and 15 percent, and by 1963 they stood at 62 percent and 31 percent.
In 1942, about 44 percent of all whites, and only 4 percent of southern whites, favored the racial integration of passengers on streetcars and buses. By 1956, these numbers had swelled to 60 percent and 27 percent, and in 1963 they reached 79 percent and 52 percent.
In 1942, scarcely 35 percent of whites nationwide, and 12 percent of whites in the South, were comfortable having a black person of the same income and education move onto their block. By 1956, the corresponding figures had grown to 51 percent and 38 percent, and in 1963 they stood at 64 percent and 51 percent.
Between 1942 and 1956, the proportion of all whites who viewed blacks as their intellectual equals rose from 41 percent to 77 percent; in the South the shift was from about 21 percent to 59 percent.
Between 1944 and 1963, the overall proportion of whites who felt that blacks “should have as good a chance as white people to get any kind of job” doubled, from 42 percent to 83 percent.
Clearly, from the World War II era through the early 1960s white Americans’ racial attitudes grew decidedly more enlightened. This was reflected not only in polls, but also in the fact that Lyndon Johnson, when contemplating a possible run for the presidency in 1960, publicly pushed for the passage of new civil rights legislation—well aware that no longer could a candidate perceived to have segregationist ideals win a national election in the United States. In short, the steady and inexorable transformation of white attitudes toward blacks had set the stage for the golden years of a civil rights movement that would make powerful appeals to America’s conscience. In December 1956, after a court order officially desegregating Montgomery, Alabama’s buses took effect in response to the boycotts inspired by the famous Rosa Parks incident, Martin Luther King, Jr. declared: “There is a new Negro in the South, with a new sense of dignity and destiny.”
In 1956, in large part because of King’s charismatic presence and gifted oratory, media coverage of racial issues grew to unprecedented levels. Time, Life, and Newsweek tripled their coverage of civil rights topics that year. Civil rights reform was on America’s mind, as evidenced by a massive wave of demonstrations in the late 1950s and early 1960s. These rallies were led by such organizations as the NAACP, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the newly formed Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Boycotts, sit-ins, voter-registration drives, and protest marches spread like wildfire across the American South. In 1960 alone, some 70,000 students staged sit-ins in about 100 southern cities, occupying seats in such traditionally segregated facilities as lunch counters, restaurants, and libraries. And the media took notice. Whereas during 1959 The New York Times had given coverage to just 10 civil rights demonstrations in the entire country, in 1960 that figure grew to 414.
Over a ten-week span in mid-1963, some 758 civil rights demonstrations took place in 186 American cities, with many white participants. The summer of 1963 alone saw 50 southern cities agree to desegregate their public facilities. Without a doubt, the psychological transformation that civil rights leaders had hoped for was well underway.
Because he recognized the unmistakably evolving racial attitudes of white Americans, Dr. King based his appeals for racial justice on the increasingly self-evident premise that it was morally imperative. Committed to helping perpetuate the remarkable social and economic gains that blacks had made during the 1940s and 1950s, King foresaw an America where one day racial unity would render segregation nothing more than a distant, unhappy memory. And indeed the continuing evolution of white attitudes during subsequent decades has demonstrated beyond any doubt that King’s confidence in that vision was well founded. Virtually all contemporary polls of white Americans show that well over 90 percent now favor integrated schools and public accommodations; that almost all oppose employment discrimination against members of any race or ethnicity; that nearly 90 percent approve of interracial marriage; and that more than 90 percent would be willing to vote for a black presidential candidate.
But even as such major attitudinal changes were occurring, key positions in the civil rights movement’s leadership were being claimed by a cadre of anti-American leftists who uniformly characterized the United States as a veritable snake pit of racist vipers. In the names of “social justice” and “liberalism,” they pledged to defend blacks from whites, whom they depicted uniformly as reactionaries intent on restoring Jim Crow. White America, they explained, was racist to its rotten, capitalist core, and the only solution would be to revolt against its traditions, its values, and its institutions. Their assertion that American society was irredeemable, and that nothing short of a revolutionary transformation could rectify the nation’s moral inadequacies, became the dominant vision of the new civil rights movement. Among the notable figures in this development were Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, and their Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, and their Black Panther Party; and Malcolm X and his Nation of Islam. They preached Black Power, racial hatred, and violent revolution against a satanic white America.
In a related development, the 1960s saw the emergence of a hateful, anti-white creed known as black liberation theology, whose foremost promoter was the Rev. James Cone. Cone’s views served to lend the Black Power Movement’s radicalism the implied legitimacy of a spiritual and theological framework. Claiming that “black values” were superior to American values, Cone’s writings posited a black Jesus who would lead his African American disciples in rebellion against an oppressive United States. “This country was founded for whites, and everything that has happened in it has emerged from the white perspective,” Cone wrote. “What we need is the destruction of whiteness, which is the source of human misery in the world.”
Cone characterized white society as the antichrist, and the white church as an institution that was racist in toto. Thus he posited “a desperate need for a black theology, a theology whose sole purpose is to apply the freeing power of the gospel to black people under white oppression.” In his landmark book Black Theology and Black Power, Cone wrote: “All white men are responsible for white oppression…. Theologically, Malcolm X was not far wrong when he called the white man ‘the devil.’” In that same volume, Cone penned these sentiments about universal black goodness and white evil: “Whiteness, as revealed in the history of America, is the expression of what is wrong with man. It is a symbol of man’s depravity. God cannot be white even though white churches have portrayed him as white…. The coming of Christ means … destroying the white devil in us.”
In his book A Black Theology of Liberation, Cone advanced the notion of a deity that sided with blacks, and against whites: “Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the Black community. If God is not for us and against White people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of Black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the Black community … Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy.”
During the same period, there emerged in America a New Left movement that despised the country and everything for which it stood. As a logical outgrowth of this hatred, the New Left sought to create a new socialist order—for which a prerequisite would be to wipe clean the slate of the old order.
Toward this end, the left initiated a campaign to invert the nation’s power hierarchy, i.e. to help blacks unseat whites as the “privileged” race of a new social order. The pursuit of this objective required the left to eschew Dr. King’s dream of a color-blind society, which it did. As Dinesh D’Souza observed in 1995, “It is no exaggeration to say that a rejection of [King’s’ vision] of a regime in which we are judged solely based on the content of our character is a virtual job qualification for leadership in the civil rights movement today.” Boston University law professor Andrew Kull concurred that “the color-blind consensus, so long in forming, was abandoned with surprising rapidity.”
A few examples will serve to illustrate just how far from King’s ideals some of today’s leading activists and leftist scholars have strayed:
Eleanor Holmes Norton, former chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), has advised that we “stop quoting dead saints” like King.
Jesse Jackson has used the term “intellectual terrorism” to describe the suggestion that King, were he alive today, would oppose racial preferences for blacks in employment and education.
Legal scholar Charles Lawrence urges blacks to lobby for racial preferences and to “combat the ideology of equal opportunity.”
Lawrence’s colleague Patricia Williams supports “some measure of enforced equality” of results, rather than “blindly formalized constructions of equal opportunity.”
In Rethinking the American Race Problem, Roy Brooks contends that “there is nothing intrinsically wrong with using race in lawmaking or policy formulation.”
Philosopher Bernard Boxill writes that while southern segregation laws were “certainly wrong,” other “color conscious policies like busing and affirmative action could be correct.”
Benjamin Hooks, the NAACP’s former Executive Director, says, “The Constitution itself has recognized that there is color in this world. So from time to time we must use those [racial] categories to achieve the Constitution’s goals.”
Mary Frances Berry, former Chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, claims that “civil rights laws were notpassed to give civil rights protection to all Americans.”
Afrocentric scholar Molefi Asante charges that “integration makes us cultural hostages [and] threatens our existence as a people.”
Because such views have diffused widely throughout the black community, it is hardly surprising that, as historian David Garrow observes, “there is less integrationist sentiment in black America now than at any time since King’s death.” Along the same lines, black scholar David Bositis sees “something of a movement in the African American community away from integration.” Black columnist Michael Meyers agrees that “Dr. King’s integrationist approach to tearing down America’s racial walls is no longer in vogue.”
King’s vision was shattered not by conservatives seeking to “turn back the clock” vis a vis civil rights; indeed conservative Republicans supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act in greater numbers than did their Democrat counterparts. Rather, the vision was destroyed by the legions of prominent leftists who took the reins of the civil rights movement and began to flood the halls of academia—individuals who were influential in shaping public opinion because of their perceived authority on the subject of race. In recent decades they and their successors have assiduously cultivated the notion that African Americans are the hapless victims of a status quo that oppresses blacks at every turn. High-profile figures such as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Louis Farrakhan, along with organizations like the NAACP, uniformly depict whites as racists. Meanwhile they assure blacks that their country loathes and mistreats them as egregiously as ever. This message, quite predictably, has bred a sense of defeatism, bitterness, resentment, and victimhood in much of the black community—needlessly consigning millions of otherwise talented people brimming with potential, to unproductive, miserable lives.
A notable illustration of how the left invariably continues to assume the very worst about whites was provided by the infamous “Group of 88” Duke University professors who signed and published a full-page “listening statement” in the April 6, 2006 edition of the Duke Chronicle, quoting several black Duke students who had complained about the supposedly rampant racism on their campus, and condemning three of Duke’s white lacrosse players who recently had been accused of rape by a local black stripper. (The charges eventually would be proven entirely false.) Presuming the athletes to be guilty from the outset, the professors solemnly pondered “the anger and fear of many students who know themselves to be objects of racism and sexism, who see illuminated in this moment’s extraordinary spotlight what they live with everyday.”
Academia is replete with eminent professors who, like Duke’s “Group of 88,” view the United States as a nation that is bigoted to its core:
Consider University of Pennsylvania professor Michael Eric Dyson, who laments the “miserable plight of black men in America,” and who in January 2008 expressed his hope that the “psychic, internal emotional turmoil that black people struggle against will somehow be lessened by seeing the image of a black man [Barack Obama] in charge” of the executive branch of the U.S. government.
In his book Faces at the Bottom of the Well, NYU law professor Derrick Bell claimed that “few whites are ready to actively promote civil rights for blacks”; that “white society … condemns all blacks to quasi citizenship as surely as it segregated our parents”; and that “African Americans must confront and conquer the otherwise deadening reality of our permanent subordinate status.”
Writes Columbia University professor Manning Marable: “The main pillars of structural racism throughout American history as well as today have been white prejudice, power, and privilege. By ‘prejudice,’ I mean a deep and unquestioned belief in the natural superiority of white people over nonwhites…. In our [blacks’] daily lives, racism presents itself as a virtually endless series of ‘racialized moments,’ in which part of our humanity is stolen or denied.”
Ivy League professor Cornel West brands the United States a “racist patriarchal” nation where “white supremacy” still defines everyday life. “White America,” he writes, “has been historically weak-willed in ensuring racial justice and has continued to resist fully accepting the humanity of blacks.” Professor West attributes most of the black community’s problems to “existential angst derive[d] from the lived experience of ontological wounds and emotional scars inflicted by white supremacist beliefs and images permeating U.S. society and culture.” He explains that “the accumulated effect of the black wounds and scars suffered in a white-dominated society is a deep-seated anger, a boiling sense of rage, and a passionate pessimism regarding America’s will to justice.” “It goes without saying,” he adds, “that a profound hatred of African people … sits at the center of American civilization.”
Appearing at a 2005 United Nations-sponsored seminar called “Confronting Islamophobia,” SUNY College president Calvin Butts asserted that “whether Muslims like it or not, Muslims are labeled people of color in the racist U.S. … they [whites] won’t label you by calling you a nigger but they’ll call you a terrorist.”
Emory University lecturer Kathleen Cleaver has stated that “racist and white supremacist and exploitative practices are engrained” in American society and government, and that the “inability to treat Black people in a humane fashion” has “become part of the identity of the United States.”
According to CCNY professor Leonard Jeffries: “Western civilization is nothing more than an institutionalized, sophisticated form of barbarism” characterized by “domination, destruction, and death.” Convinced that America is founded on a “system of white supremacy,” he has accused Republicans and the Democrats alike of seeking to bring about the “destruction of the black community.”
A number of black academic leftists like Leonard Jeffries and Maulana Karenga (the founder of the holiday Kwanzaa) have created African Studies programs that cultivate racial grievance related to the perception that black contributions to American society have gone unrecognized by the majority culture. Critical Race Theory, wherein race plays the same role as class plays in the Marxist paradigm, underpins their teachings.
Other notables have joined this chorus of professors lamenting America’s alleged bigotry:
Columnist E.R. Shipp has called white racism “the most serious obstacle to the social progress of blacks in this country and the greatest threat to [their] personal freedom.” “In the United States,” she adds, “racism flows as naturally as mother’s milk from one generation to the next, perpetuating the notion that entitlement or exclusion is dictated by one’s skin color.” According to Shipp, “you can never be sure when you will be punished for [the crime of] Living While Black.”
“This is still a profoundly racist country,” says author and lecturer Paul Robeson, Jr., “meaning [that] the majority of white people are still racist, to one degree or another.”
Former NAACP Executive Director Benjamin Chavis has asserted that “racism is worse today than it was in the 60s.”
“Everybody of Caucasian descent,” says political scientist Andrew Hacker, “believes that we [whites] belong to a superior strain. Most white people believe that persons with African ancestries are more likely to carry primitive traits in their genes.”
The self-described “antiracist activist” Tim Wise, who is white, chastises “rich white people” for their impulse to “blame the dark-skinned for [whites’] hardship.” He declares: “Whites … take most everything for granted in this country; which makes perfect sense, because dominant groups usually have that privilege. We take for granted that we won’t be racially profiled even when members of our group engage in criminality at a disproportionate rate, whether the crime is corporate fraud, serial killing, child molestation, abortion clinic bombings or drunk driving. And indeed we won’t be.”
Rev. Jeremiah Wright laments “the social order under which we [blacks] live, under which we suffer, under which we are killed.” Depicting blacks as a politically powerless demographic, he complains that “African Americans don’t run anything in the Capital except elevators.” He attributes the high unemployment rate of African Americans to “the fact that they are black.”Vis a vis the criminal justice system, he likewise explains that “the brothers are in prison” chiefly because of their skin color.
According to polling data, black Americans at large seem to agree with the foregoing assessments. A December 2006 poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation for CNN found that 49 percent of black respondents said that racism was a “very serious” problem in America, and another 35 percent called it “somewhat serious.” In other words, 84 percent of blacks viewed racism as a concern meriting the qualifier “serious.”
Similarly, a March/April 2008 poll conducted by CNN, Essencemagazine, and the Opinion Research Corporation asked respondents this question: “How serious a problem do you think racial discrimination against blacks is in this country: a very serious problem, a somewhat serious problem, not too serious, or not at all serious?” Some 43 percent of black respondents said that discrimination was a “very serious” problem in America, and another 44 percent called it “somewhat serious.” Put another way, 87 percent of blacks viewed discrimination as a concern meriting the qualifier “serious.”
This belief has profound implications for black Americans—causing them to view themselves as a demographic whose unique history will forever set them apart from mainstream American culture, and to believe that they must be perpetually on guard against the culture’s relentless assaults upon their rights and their dignity. Such an outlook leads them, quite naturally, to seek to distance themselves from the culture. It also leads them to reject its norms—vis a vis such variables as dress, speech, behavior, and demeanor—and to view these as illegitimate constructs imposed upon blacks by a hostile oppressor race.
Among the most notable “white” norms rejected by many contemporary blacks is the notion that success in school is a laudable achievement in which they can take great pride. Black anthropologist Signithia Fordham, for one, has observed that many black students intentionally perform poorly in school for fear of incurring the disapproval of their black peers who construe striving for academic excellence as an attempt to “act white.” “Kids are worried about being cut off by their own community,” she elaborates, “and uncertain about being accepted by the other [white] community…. They choose to avoid adopting attitudes and putting in enough time and effort in their schoolwork because their peers (and they themselves) would interpret their behavior as ‘white.’” According to Fordham, black youngsters are also reluctant to speak standard English, be punctual, attend the opera or ballet, study in the library, do volunteer work, and visit museums—all to avoid the appearance of “acting white.”
Concurring with these remarks, a black assistant principal has said, “I have run across blacks who do not want to seem white. [They fear that] if they achieve, they might fall into that category.” Illustrative of this observation was one particular outstanding black high-school student in Washington, DC who, while receiving a special scholarship, stepped to the podium and told the parents and teachers in attendance that his black classmates had nicknamed him “whitey” because of his diligent study habits. Similarly, a black UC Berkeley student recalled that during high school, “I got a lot of criticism about speaking proper speech…. They [other youngsters] would say, ‘Why do you talk like you’re white?’” A successful black middle-school student in Oakland told Time magazine that her low-achieving black peers, who generally accused studious blacks of acting like whites, often threatened her with violence.
Cedric Jennings, a hardworking District of Columbia high-school student, reported a similar experience to The Wall Street Journal. Most of his classmates, he explained, were poor students and considered him a traitor to his race because he studied a great deal. “The charge of wanting to be white, where I’m from, is like treason,” said Jennings. “Doing well [academically] here means you better not show your face.”
In July 1999 The New York Times quoted an eighteen-year-old black student who explained: “When you’re on the streets, you speak Ebonics…. When you’re in school, you speak proper English. But when you talk too proper, your peers will call you white and say you’re a cracker.”
In his book Losing the Race, John McWhorter, a black professor of linguistics at UC Berkeley, expands upon this theme:
“As I have noted, it is a long-established and well-documented feature of black American culture for children to tease and harass black kids who show an affinity for school. We recall … a middle-class black student opting for advanced placement classes in Evanston, Illinois, recounted being told ‘Oh, you’re an oreo’ because ‘getting good grades was always connected to white people.’ … Berkeley High School principal Theresa Saunders (who is black) notes, ‘We see it time and time again: [black] kids come in quite talented, and by the end of ninth grade year, they’re goofing off. The peer culture is such that it doesn’t acknowledge or reward academic achievement.”
According to McWhorter, “These [black] students are not stupid or willfully lazy—they are simply victims of a fundamental association of school with an ‘other’ culture sensed as oppressive.” He explains that their “resistance to standard English”—which in many black communities has taken “a particularly pointed, hostile tenor—represents part of a general rejection of whites.”
Positing a cause-and-effect relationship between this black rejection of “white” norms and a “widespread cult of anti-intellectualism” among blacks, McWhorter writes:
“Consider the data: even in middle-class suburbs, increasing numbers of middle-class black students tend to cluster at the bottom of their schools in grades and test scores…. Why? All through modern black American culture, even throughout black academia, the belief prevails that learning for learning’s sake is a white affair and therefore inherently disloyal to a proper black identity. Studying black-related issues is okay, because learning about oneself is authentic. But this impulse also implicitly classifies science as irrelevant, which is the direct cause of the underrepresentation of minorities in the hard sciences. The sense that the properly ‘black’ person only delves into topics related to himself is also why you can count on one hand the number of books by black Americans that are not on racial topics.
“The belief that blacks and school don’t go together has its roots in slavery’s refusal to let blacks be educated. But it gained strength in the mid-1960s, when black separatism rejected traits associated with whites as alien, and black students, in this spirit, began teasing their fellows who strove to excel in school as ‘acting white,’ a much harsher taunt than merely dismissing them as nerds….
“The ‘acting white’ charge—which implies that you think yourself different from, and better than, your peers—is the prime reason that blacks do poorly in school. The gifted black student quickly faces a choice between peer group acceptance and intellectual achievement. Most, out of an utterly human impulse, choose the former. Even if they open themselves to schooling in college or later, their performance all too often permanently suffers from the message they long ago internalized that ‘the school thing’ is an add-on, not a mix-in.”
A related phenomenon that has drawn the notice of social and behavioral scientists is the physical posture which many young black males assume when they are out in public. Black psychologist Richard Majors, for instance, deems the characteristic aloof swagger or “cool pose” of inner-city black teenagers “a tactic for psychological survival,” a coping mechanism designed to insulate their psyches from the choking yoke of white oppression. Enabling them to “appear competent and in control in the face of adversity,” the cool pose purportedly affords them “a source of dignity and worth, a mask that hides the sting of failure and frustration.” Dr. Majors explains that the cool pose is characterized by a combination of speech, mannerisms, gestures, and movements that “exaggerate or ritualize masculinity.” The “essence of cool,” he adds, “is to appear in control, whether through a fearless style of walking, an aloof facial expression, the clothes you wear, a haircut, your gestures, or the way you talk. The cool pose shows the dominant culture that you are strong and proud, despite your status in American society.”
In an article outlining Dr. Majors’ conclusions, The New York Times stated, “While the cool pose is often misread by teachers, principals, and police officers as an attitude of defiance, psychologists who have studied it say it is a way for black youths to maintain a sense of integrity and suppress rage at being blocked from usual routes to esteem and success.” This rage is heightened, according to Majors, by the fact that black males in America are becoming “an endangered species.”
Implicit in the related themes of the “cool pose” and the black aversion to “acting white,” is the planted axiom that whites generally are evil and, consequently, that their culture is something to be despised or defied rather than embraced. The significance of all this can hardly be overstated. It is a mindset that virtually guarantees unhappiness and failure; people who largely reject the norms and traditions of the society in which they live, have little chance of succeeding economically, professionally, or academically.
Unfortunately, thanks to the relentless drumbeat of the left, the notion that America is a land of unyielding white racism has become an article of faith for large numbers of blacks. In his Winter 2001 article “What’s Holding Blacks Back?,” John McWhorter writes that in the 1990s, which he personally deemed an era “of bracing progress for my race,” he himself “came to realize that this feeling made me odd man out among most black Americans.” Says McWhorter:
“In every race-related debate—whether over Rodney King, O. J. Simpson, the Million Man March, Ebonics, or affirmative action—almost every black person I knew, many with backgrounds as comfortable as my own, started from the fierce conviction that, decades after the Civil Rights Act, whitey’s foot remains pressed upon all black Americans’ necks. For most black Americans, the rapid increase of the black middle class, of interracial relationships and marriages, and of blacks in prestigious positions has no bearing on the real state of black America. Further, they believe, whites’ inability to grasp the unmistakable reality of oppression is itself proof of racism, while blacks who question that reality are self-deluded…. These beliefs, rather than what remains of racism itself, are the biggest obstacle to further black progress in today’s America. And all are either outright myths or severe distortions of truth.”
McWhorter laments what he terms “a deeply felt cult of victimology that grips the entire black community”:
“The victimology cult has … engendered a cult of black separatism. Inspired by the Black Power movement of the 1960s, which violently rejected whites as terminally evil, today’s separatism, in the same vein, flirts disastrously with the idea that, because white racism ineluctably drives black people outside the bounds of civic virtue, blacks shouldn’t be seriously punished or morally condemned for criminal behavior. Black transgressiveness is understandable, even ‘cool.’ A typical consequence of this view was the feting of the four black youths who maimed several people in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict, with the Nation of Islam setting up a defense fund for the ‘L.A. Four.’ [Another] recent manifestation of the idea was Jesse Jackson’s intervention when a Decatur, Illinois, high school suspended for two years seven black teenagers who injured bystanders during a gang fight at a school football game. Jackson painted this response to thuggery as a racist attempt to deny ‘our children’ an education.”
In McWhorter’s estimation:
“Victimology, separatism, and anti-intellectualism underlie the general black community’s response to all race-related issues.… Today, these three thought patterns impede black advancement much more than racism; and dysfunctional inner cities, corporate glass ceilings, and black educational underachievement will persist until such thinking disappears. In my experience, trying to show many African-Americans how mistaken and counterproductive these ideas are is like trying to convince a religious person that God does not exist: the sentiments are beyond the reach of rational, civil discourse.”
The left today encourages blacks not only to view themselves as victims, but also to exploit the implied moral superiority conferred by that status. Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Shelby Steele, who is black, explores the roots of this phenomenon:
“The most obvious and inarguable source of black innocence is the victimization that blacks endured for centuries at the hands of a race that insisted on black inferiority…. Like all victims, what blacks lost in power they gained in innocence—innocence that, in turn, entitled them to pursue power. This was the innocence that fueled the civil rights movement of the sixties and that gave blacks their first real power in American life—victimization metamorphosed into power via innocence. But this formula carries a drawback that I believe is virtually as devastating to blacks today as victimization once was. It is a formula that binds the victim to his victimization by linking his power to his status as a victim. And this, I’m convinced, is the tragedy of black power in America today. It is primarily a victim’s power, grounded too deeply in the entitlement derived from past injustice and in the innocence that Western/Christian tradition has always associated with poverty.”
In a similar vein, Steele criticizes the left’s continuing depiction of whites as “exploiters”:
“In the sixties, blacks and white liberals often engaged in something that might be called the harangue-flagellation ritual. Blacks felt anger, white liberals felt guilt, and when they came together blacks would vent their anger by haranguing the whites, who often allowed themselves to be scourged as a kind of penance. The ‘official’ black purpose of this was to ‘educate’ whites on the issue of race, and in the sixties this purpose may sometimes have been served. But [today], after a marked decline in racism and … decades of consciousness-raising, the rite had become both anachronistic and, I think, irresponsible….”
“Possibly white guilt’s worst effect,” Steele wrote in 2006, “is that it does not permit whites—and nonwhites—to appreciate something extraordinary: the fact that whites in America, and even elsewhere in the West, have achieved a truly remarkable moral transformation. One is forbidden to speak thus, but it is simply true. There are no serious advocates of white supremacy in America today, because whites see this idea as morally repugnant. If there is still the odd white bigot out there surviving past his time, there are millions of whites who only feel goodwill toward minorities.”
A similar sentiment is expressed by the black Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson, who writes: “America, while still flawed in its race relations … is now the least racist white-majority society in the world; has a better record of legal protection of minorities than any other society, white or black; [and] offers more opportunities to a greater number of black persons than any other society, including all of Africa.”
But insights like those of McWhorter, Steele, and Patterson are anathema to those African Americans who have long imbibed the endlessly repeated leftist falsehood which claims that white society will forever oppose black progress and racial equity. Blacks who accept that premise can be expected with great certainty to reject the society’s values and traditions, to see themselves as “outsiders” who are not accepted by the white majority, and to consequently refuse to engage fully in the society’s traditions or the opportunities it affords.