Published on LewRockwell.com on November 21, 2015.
A January 2014 Huffington Post headline read: “Nearly Half Of Black Males, 40 Percent Of White Males Are Arrested By Age 23: Study.” Published in Crime & Delinquency, that study poses a steep challenge to two supposedly very different groups. For white supremacists, who (despite no real science) believe there is a vast “biologically based” behavioral difference between blacks and whites, a less-than-10 percent distinction doesn’t offer much empirical support. But it also doesn’t offer much confirmation to those who (despite the civil rights deinstitutionalization of racism) see contemporary America as a land of “black oppression” and “white privilege.”
That shouldn’t be any surprise, for the self-styled “anti-racist progressives” of the Left are nothing but a mirror of traditional bigots. We think of right-wing racism as images of all blacks engaging in crime, being chronically unemployed, scoring poorly on IQ tests—with a soundtrack attributing these behaviors to inferior genetics. Left-wing “anti-racism” merely rebroadcasts those images, but with a new “narrative.” Now, it is “institutional,” “systemic” bias against blacks that generates those behaviors. What the Left really stands for is a redubbed racism.
One such narrator is Ta-Nehisi Coates, a recent MacArthur Fellowship recipient. On Sept. 21, he shared some of his genius with a television audience:
I don’t [think] there’s anything pathological about the African-American community at all. I think the African-American community, you know, if you go into particularly deprived or poor African-American communities and you see certain behaviors [that you] feel may not be suitable, say, at Harvard or, say, in a boardroom or, say[,] in a job interview, I think viewed within the context of the African-American community and viewed within people who are struggling with elevated rates of violence, viewed from the perspective of people who are very much concerned about getting from point a to point b on a given day, and I mean that geographically, those behaviors automatically make sense. I’ve long maintained this even before I was doing this piece, that within the context of racism, within the context of the boot upon your neck, all the behaviors within the African-American community make sense.
The only problem is the boot upon your neck, and the minute that folks remove the boot, I believe we will see a lot of those behaviors that we term as pathological begin to fade.
If racism (the “boot”) is “systemic”—i.e., without significant exception—as imposed on blacks, and it is this racism that produces the “behaviors that we term as pathological,” why aren’t those behaviors virtually uniform among blacks? Why don’t we see nearly all blacks, male and female, arrested by age 23? Even more to the point, why would we see any (let alone 40 percent of) “privileged” young white males arrested? (Also from that study: “By age 23, arrest rates were 20 percent for white females and 18 percent and 16 percent for Hispanic and black females, respectively.”)
We must note to whom Coates was speaking: MSNBC host Chris Hayes. Basically he was regurgitating what “progressives” have always fed him—and everyone else. This, in 1971, was Norman Lear’s Mike Stivic (the New Left character on CBS’ All in the Family) conversing with the crooks who just broke into the family’s house:
He [viz., Archie Bunker] doesn’t understand. He associates the crime and the stealing with the fact that you guys are black and not with the underlying social causes. . . . He doesn’t understand what living in the ghetto can do to a man.
Tellingly, the episode (“Edith Writes a Song”) portrays even this act of contrition as insufficient for a Caucasoid. Equally so, it evinces almost no qualms about its own images of law-abiding whites and lawbreaking blacks. (“Almost”—it brings in black neighbor Lionel at the very end.)
You know who does understand “what living in the ghetto can do to a man”? All those who lived in the ghetto and didn’t turn to crime. All those who are just as “black in America” as anyone else but haven’t engaged in “those behaviors that we term as pathological.” Contrast Coates’ rationalization of “behaviors within the African-American community” to Hayes with Chris Rock’s unsparing denunciation of lowlife values (no matter what color the valuers) before an all-black audience (HBO’s Bring the Pain).
The notion that not reaching Archie Bunker’s standard of living produces “pathologies” is dubious in the extreme. We may point out that moral codes against theft and other antisocial behaviors date back millennia. What wealth or “opportunity” did pretty much anyone have then? Moving closer to our time, in a discussion of Jewish life in Russia before the twentieth century even began, Oxford historian Robert Service (Trotsky: A Biography) observes:
Their shtetls were townlets or villages where poverty was the norm. The inhabitants held to the faith of their forefathers. Traditions of charity, mutual support and schooling were maintained. Jews, being the people of the book, studied the Torah and their children acquired a level of literacy and numeracy unmatched by Poles, Russians and Ukrainians. Since time immemorial even the poorest Jews put aside money so that their offspring could study the holy books.
If any more is needed, Service also writes:
Many features of Jewish behaviour were baffling to Christians. It was rare for any colonist to get drunk in taverns. The incidence of criminality was low—administrators noted with awe that “the shame of punishment has a stronger effect than the punishment.”
Is Coates—is anyone—going to tell us that these Jews were less materially impoverished or violently besieged or politically oppressed or culturally marginalized than blacks under the “institutional,” “systemic” racism of contemporary America?
Contrary to the confluent assertions of right-wing white supremacists and left-wing “anti-racists” such as Coates, there are no exclusive “behaviors within the African-American community.” It is not “systemic”—without significant exception—that blacks don’t work but whites do, that blacks commit crimes but whites don’t, that blacks use drugs but whites don’t, that blacks score low on IQ tests but whites score high. And it is not “systemic” that Americans are either blacks or whites. Contemporary America is a multiracial, multiethnic, multireligious, multieverything society in which all behaviors vary from one individual to the next. It is ludicrous to expect these random differences to aggregate into “equally unequal” patterns for all demographic groups—i.e., into percentages of low, middle, and high (earnings, arrests, test scores, whatever) identical for all races/ethnicities, for males and females, for young and old.
If anything, the Left’s indignation over “disproportionate” statistics refutes its charge of “systemic” racism. If something is “disproportionate,” it ain’t “systemic.” We wouldn’t say that in 1860 Mississippi, blacks were slaves “disproportionately.” Yet that indignation is itself absurd. When it is pointed out that “[p]olice kill more whites than blacks” (to quote Jesse Jackson’s acknowledgement of the fact), “progressives” retort that that reflects only the greater percentage of whites in the country and ignores the “disproportionate” rate at which blacks are killed. Apparently when whites and blacks are shot by cops at the same rate, then at last, thank God Almighty, we will have achieved “racial equity.”
What would a racist America look like? Certainly antebellum slavery and Progressive segregation (David W. Southern, The Progressive Era and Race: Reform and Reaction, 1900–1917) provide historical examples, but today? Each race/ethnicity would have its own government-mandated status. So, virtually all WASPs (which has come to mean all those with British Isles ancestry and a vague Protestant affiliation) would have the same income level, which would be higher than the levels for other groups. We can stop right there: WASPs span the spectrum from 740 Park Avenue affluence to Appalachian poverty. There is no mandate, and there is no uniform WASP (or Italian or Chinese or black or Hispanic) income level—or arrest record or IQ score or anything else. That is what our diverse America looks like.
A Left that still lives in the Sixties sees only an America that still lives in the Fifties—the 1850s. The Left still sees “tall white mansions and little shacks” and so still asks, “When will you pay them back?”—which is why reparations remain an issue.
In its self-delusion, the Left is tilting at the ogre of a racist society; in reality, it is charging towards the all-too-fragile structure of our nonracist country.
A Google search for “America’s original sin”—as a synonym for racism—returns tens of thousands of results. The phrase has become an article of faith for the Left—and beyond. The latest public figure to invoke it is Democratic mainstreamer (and likely Presidential nominee) Hillary Rodham Clinton. America’s original sin. The evil of the past forever stains all—except those who fashion themselves as crusaders against it. Everything here brings to mind a scene from the film version of The Name of the Rose. The corrupt Inquisitor asks the man bound at the stake if he renounces the Devil. Already condemned, he responds: “The devil I renounce is you!”