Toward Genuinely Overcoming Racism in America

I begin by pointing out that I am white (well, caucasian, anyway: my skin is actually a fair shade darker than ‘white’). To many, this fact alone disqualifies me from talking about racism. In fact, quite a few would say that my being white is sufficient to condemn me as being responsible for racism. I frankly have little to say to this group, because it is impossible to have rational debate with irrational people. But to those who are susceptible to reason, I would offer that my ancestors on both sides of my family tree fought in the Civil War on the side of ending slavery, and in fact even made the ultimate sacrifice for that cause. Why doesn’t this count? Why doesn’t it count that so many other [white] Americans’ ancestors similarly championed the right side of freedom and equality?

As is now well known, Barack Obama’s pastor – the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. – has been repeatedly quoted as having made despicable statements about “white America,” even going as far as pronouncing America with three Ks in a transparent effort to characterize the United States as the United States of the Klu Klux Klan.

Some – such as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich – have said that Jeremiah Wright’s statements shouldn’t be characterized as being particularly racist, given that just about any committed member of the left (regardless of skin color) basically agrees with the sentiment that America is a terrible place with a racist and immoral past. That doesn’t excuse Wright, and it certainly shouldn’t make Americans feel any better that an even larger number of Americans than we might think hate and despise their countries’ past. But the central problem with Wright’s view is not racism per se, but rather that if you hate and demonize America’s past, then in what meaningful sense can you say you love America? You’re essentially saying we need to overthrow histoic, traditional America and replace it with something entirely different. But how would that different thing still be America?

Wright has gone all the way back to our founding fathers and our most cherished traditions and applied the label “racist” to the whole lot. Remember, Barack and Michelle Obama’s pastor is the one who said, “Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run!… [Americans] believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.” When Wright gets through cutting away all of what he views as the racist and immoral parts of America, what would be left over? Is it any wonder that a man who so profoundly despised America and everything it has stood for would come to embrace liberation theology, which is Marxist (and fundamentally anti-American) to its very core?

The revelation of Wright’s views certainly helps us trace the origin of Michelle Obama’s views that she is proud of her country for the first time in her adult life, and that “America in 2008 is a mean place.” We now can understand that her attitude was substantially influenced by her pastor. Is it beyond the pale of reason that the same ideology that clearly seems to have influenced her thinking similarly might have influenced her husband’s? Barack Obama gave a beautiful speech yesterday, but he didn’t even attempt to answer why he chose to keep going to such a church, under such a pastor, for year after year after year.

In flat out disagreement with Jeremiah Wright, I would argue that from its very outset, America was founded by good people with great ideals. And also from its very outset, America has been a country that has had its share of not-so-good people who have frequently undermined and perverted many of those ideals. On the balance, the United States of America has been a beautiful face marred with some blemishes. So called “white America” needs to confront the blemishes; but so called “black America” surely needs to look at the face and begin to appreciate its beauty.

And I think – ultimately – that loving one’s country is rather like loving one’s spouse. It is only when you love despite the imperfections and blemishes, love in spite of past hurts and wrongs, that you truly love. It is easier for some to love the United States of America than it is for others; but I think that they who know her flaws and still love her passionately love her more deeply than the those who don’t.

But even as “white America” examines America’s blemishes, and asks itself why the nation founded on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution somehow managed to tolerate slavery for another century, and why the greatest and freest nation in the history of the world has continued to struggle with inequality to this very day, “black America” needs to examine itself as well. If we refuse to look critically into a mirror, it is as impossible to see our own imperfections as it is easy to notice the imperfections of everyone else. Let me now mention some blemishes that “black America” desperately needs to work to resolve.

It is fairly well known that black men are incarcerated at a significantly higher rate than whites, Asians, or Hispanics. It is also fairly well known that black apologists commonly cite “racial profiling” as the reason for such high rates of incarceration; it is not that young black men are either so unable to control themselves, or are so morally depraved that they have become predators, it is rather that the police are always looking for them and therefore finding them. It is an almost impossible argument for society to refute, because it amounts to proving a negative (i.e. Prove to us you didn’t do it).

But the incarceration rate of black men does not stand by itself. There are a lot of other facts to consider, which, when taken into account, actually do refute the “racial profiling” polemic. Recently, the Center for Disease Control released data pertaining to teenage girls having sexually transmitted diseases. This new study (April 2008) reveals that 50% of black teens have STDs, as opposed to only 20% of whites. Was this the result of some kind of “profiling”? Obviously not. Rather, a significant sample of whites, blacks, bispanics, and asians were tested, and the percentages emerged from the test results. Likewise, a 2005 study also finds that nearly 70% of black births are “out of wedlock,” as opposed to the still tragically high numbers of 25% of white births. Now, it is fair to ask: did black single girls and women become pregnant because they were “profiled”? Again, no.

We commonly see the diversity agenda in media and academia emerge in its shameless flogging of racial “disparities” in such areas as education, law enforcement, public health, business ownership and even mortgage interest rates. There’s almost always a clearly-stated assumption of “institutional bias” or racism against blacks. But what we don’t see is the numbers in these categories being balanced with the statistics relating to crime, out of wedlock births, and STDs. But when we look at the entire picture, a very different story emerges than the one we are commonly told.

Black children are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than are white
children–but not because they are “born black in America,” according to a new
study from The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis (CDA). Examining
data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Longitudinal Survey of Youth,
Heritage analysts determined that child poverty rates are driven primarily by
single-parent households and dependency on welfare benefits. When these and
other, less significant, factors are taken into account, the disparity between
black and white child poverty rates disappears. “Race alone does not directly
increase or decrease the probability that a child will be poor,” says Robert
Rector, Heritage’s senior research fellow in welfare and family issues and a
co-author of the report. The study notes that 68.8 percent of black American
children were born out of wedlock in 1999, compared to 26.7 percent of white
children. And black children were five times more likely to be dependent on Aid
for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), the government’s largest welfare
program. Black children also live in poverty longer than whites-46.9 percent of
their time since birth vs. 26.7 percent for whites. Yet when black children and
white children are grouped by levels of single parenthood and welfare dependence
the poverty rates for both groups are nearly identical, Rector found. The
analysis also found that nearly half (44.5 percent) of all children born to
never-married mothers depend on AFDC, compared to a fifth (20.4 percent) of
those born out of wedlock, whose mothers later married. Only a tenth (10.7
percent) of the children born to married couples who subsequently divorce end up
relying on AFDC, as do a mere 2.5 percent of those whose parents’ marriages
remain intact. The press release can be read below, and the entire paper,
“Understanding Differences in Black and White Child Poverty Rates,” is available
online at http://www.heritage.org/library/cda/cda01-04.html.
Cited in a posting from Smart Marriages Listserv on May 29, 2001. (source: http://www.divorcereform.org/pov.htm).

So what we see is a crystal-clear connection between family status and poverty. The institution of marriage, and the presence of a father in the house, is the ultimate determiner of poverty, not race. And I find it more than passing interesting that “Black children are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than are white children,” given that more than twice as many out of wedlock births occur in the black community than in the white community, and that more than twice as many black teenage girls have STDs than white teenage girls. Do you see how the former would be expected to result from the latter?

Every time an individual or a societal or government institution makes mention of facts such as these, they are immediately set upon as racist. I vividly remember Bill Cosby making some of these observations and being labeled an “Uncle Tom.” And I similarly remember hearing Rev. Jeremiah Wright shout out the names of “Clarence, Colin, and Condoleezza!” to defame Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman and Secretary of State Colin Powell, and current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as white collaborators. I believe that no one has served “black America” more terribly than the perversion of the civil rights movement and the current leadership of that community. The day when a man would be judged not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character has been replaced with a shrill demand for race quotas. And there has been a refusal to examine the real issues that have had the most severe impact on the black community, and one vicious attack after another on anyone – regardless of skin color – who has attempted to address the issue squarely and legitimately. There can be no improvement when one refuses to look at the actual problem.

The ugliest blemish on the beautiful face of America was the institution of slavery. One of the most terrible outcomes that occurred as a result of slavery – at least according to some sociologists and cultural anthropologists – was the conception of something called the “vicious cycle.” As a matter of simple history, the American institution of slavery routinely resulted in the breaking up of black families. Fathers and mothers were separated from their children by being sold to new owners individually rather than as families. And black men and women were bred like animals to produce more slaves. The vicious cycle theory holds – accurately, I believe – that several generations of this practice created a dynamic that has been incredibly difficult to overcome. And had this dynamic been perpetuated against ANY racial group, the vicious cycle would be born out in that group for generations to follow.

what I’m trying to say here is that one does not need to “blame the victim” to recognize the obvious increasing breakdown of the black family in America. Rather, Americans black and white can come together and acknowledge that a despicable institution – slavery – created a long-term disaster that has yet to heal. And Americans – black and white – need to be allowed to come together and focus on the healing of the black family. If whites continue to be labeled as “racist” every time they try to come to the table and express their views, there will be no coming together.

The problem is – as I see it – that the moment we begin to focus on “family values,” liberals tend to become extremely fidgety. They do not want the focus to be on practices such as guilt-free sexual expression, the diminishing of the role of the father, rampant divorce on demand, teenage pregnancy, and out-of-wedlock births, because they have championed all of these things for the past 40 years. Rather, they want to focus on discrimination, race quotas, glass ceilings, and the like. But the figures I’ve provided clearly demonstrate that the former dwarfs the latter as the real cause of racial inequality. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted blacks to be judged by the content of their character, but nothing shapes and strengthens the content of one’s character more than a solid family structure!

Does it seem completely unreasonable to claim that if a baby is born to a poor, uneducated single mother on welfare, that that child will grow up twice as likely to be poor? Does it seem completely unreasonable to claim that such a child is far more likely to turn to drugs, gangs, and crime than a child born into a married family with a father? Why can’t we try to resolve these problems?

In 19th century England there were slums that shocked the senses. Filthiness, criminality, prostitution, drunkenness, sloth, and every other imaginable vice had come to completely characterize entire sections of cities. William Booth – the man who founded the Salvation Army – came into these places and preached not only salvation, but individual responsibility. He told the inhabitants of these slums that no one would help them because no one even viewed them as human in their current condition, but that if they began to clean up their streets and start to take control of their own lives, that others would see their efforts and begin to provide the economic assistance that they needed. And history proves that William Booth was exactly right. It wasn’t that the wealthier class didn’t want to help people in the slums; rather it was that they had never seen these people begin to act responsibly and demonstrate that assistance would change anything. But when residents of the slums began to clean up their streets, willing help came from all directions. This ought to stand as a template for any social movement.

Similarly, it isn’t that whites don’t want to put racism behind them, help blacks, or recognize that it is in their legitimate interest to do everything they can to reach out to fellow Americans. Martin Luther King, Jr. was successful because he led his people to stand up for themselves in a positive manner and begin to take individual responsibility. He literally shamed whites who had held blacks as being somehow inferior into changing their attitudes. Over in India Ghandi accomplished a similar success. Clearly, it can be done. It is only a matter of choosing the right approach and framing the discussion in a way that does not begin by attempting to frame any subsequent discussion in terms of bitterness and blame. But that is exactly what has been done, over and over again.

What is racism? I would define it simply as holding negative views about a person or group of people on account of race. And it can’t be a despicable thing when whites hold racist views against blacks, but permissible when blacks hold racist views against whites. And any justification for such a double standard – such as the frankly self-serving notion that black racism isn’t racism because blacks aren’t the group in power – will do nothing but create bitterness and anger and continue the division. It’s not that whites don’t want white people who make despicable comments to be held accountable; it’s that they expect blacks to hold themselves to the same standard that they demand whites adhere to. If “black America” really wants “white America” to overcome its incipient racism, then they must work toward doing the same. It’s as simple as that.

Does anyone seriously doubt for a moment that, were it discovered that Senator John McCain had attended a racist white church for twenty years, that Democrats en masse would be screaming for his resignation, much less the end to his presidential campaign? And Senator Barack Obama in the past couple years called for Senator Trent Lott’s resignation for his comments honoring 100 year old retiring Senator Strom Thurmond, just as he called for Don Imus’ firing over his line against the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Bad as their words were, can anyone say that they descended to a lower level than blaming white America for a genocidal campaign to murder blacks with the AIDS virus? Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have made numerous racially charged comments against whites and Jews in their pasts, but they to be allowed to serve as the judge and jury of selective black outrage. Frankly, anyone who believes that continuing the politics of the dual-standard will lead to racial healing is a fool.

“White America” and “black America” need to arrive at a consensus on how to – in the words of our founders – “form a more perfect union.” And I would recommend we begin by focusing on issues in which both sides can come to common agreement. If “black America” demands that conservative whites either support a socialist-liberal redistributionist program or be labeled as racist, then nothing will happen except the continuation of the historic division and bitterness. Conservatives don’t believe in welfare as a general principle; they don’t want white people to live on welfare either. But if “black America” decides to truly begin to come to grips with the problem of the broken family structure in America, then “white America” – and particularly religious whites – will rally to their cause in huge numbers. Religious whites yearn to see a healthy black family structure; for that matter, they yearn to see a return to a healthy white family structure.

All sides in the racial divide need to understand that we are all in this nation – and the dilemmas we face as a nation – together. That “Why don’t you just go back to Africa!” line is pointless and hurtful; no one is going anywhere. We are all Americans. And Americans of every skin pigmentation need to come together in common cause and work – and do I mean WORK – to resolve and overcome differences and begin to make progress toward a better and stronger United States of America by focusing on common causes and common agreement.

Any naysaying aside, I do have a right to express my voice in the discussion toward racial harmony in America. My ancestors secured that right for me with their sacrifice and their blood.

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7 Responses to “Toward Genuinely Overcoming Racism in America”

  1. Joel Says:

    I don’t know your name but you are a good writer. You write the way I think. Direct. But I would like to disagree with one point you made. I don’t think that slavery itself is the reason we are having the problems we have, but it was the failure of reconstruction after the war that planted the seeds of or present harvest. he impeachment of Johnson spoiled any hope for a real recovery from the war.

    Also, a major turn in the wrong direction was when the black populace rejected the moderate leadership of Booker T Washington and began following the radical views of W.E.B Dubois. ?

    Joel.
    http://www.sovereigngod.wordpress.com

  2. Startthinkingright Says:

    Joel,
    Really appreciate your comment. My first one!

    I agree that the ultimate cause of our current racial problems goes far beyond slavery, and includes the Reconstruction period you mention. My concern was really simply to provide a relatively comprehensible and plausible explanation to account for the fact that many of the social problems faced by blacks today had historic roots that were out of their control. To the extent that we both realize that racial inequalities had a historic structural component, we truly are on the same page.

    My real concern was to provide what I believed was a real answer to overcoming racial inequality: namely, the return to an embrace of a traditional family structure in which both mother and father are considererd vital to the development of healthy, well-balanced children.

  3. Joel Says:

    Yes, I agree. The idea of expendable fathers is prevalent in the whole society, but cuts even deeper into the black family for a variety of reasons. And now that this problem is multi-generational, putting the cat back in the bag is going to be difficult. We have men making babies that did not have a father at home, so even if they try to do the right thing and be a good father to their children, they don’t know how.

    I blame federal welfare programs for the main thrust of the destruction of the black family. Men were incentivized to stop working. When they stopped working, they lost their place in the home. Women were incentivized to have babies out of wedlock, reducing the role of men to sperm donors. What a mess. It seems to me that if there is a source of black rage, it should be the liberals whose policies keep them on the welfare plantation.

    Well, I guess anyone can state the problem. But the solution? I think you’re touching on it.

    How about this laundry list:

    1. Let’s pray that God will raise up some black preachers that will drop the social gospel and preach the Biblical Gospel of the new birth, repentance from sin, faith in the Son of God, and the pursuit of personal holiness.

    2. Let’s pray that the self-defeating voices of the subculture that labels well-educated blacks as “not black enough” will be silenced.

    3. Blacks must engage in the American system if they are to enjoy the blessings of it. Separatist attitudes deliver deathblows to real hope.

    Well, that’s a start anyway.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    What does loving your country mean? Loving the physical geography? or loving the opportunities available to oneself and the perceived opportunities available to one and his/her kind. Why are blacks forever the cause of their own disadvantage when it is so obvious that white racism consistently puts him in a no win situation. ie the mass media in any white society and every other organization that represent white power and black exclusion, the constant desire of whites to prove that their own fascistic mentalities that have endured for centuries have nothing to do with the down fall of blacks. The opportunity available to them to forever garner support from every other white society club, organisation (nato, the IMF the world bank the hague etc sustains their dominance over blacks. Your arguments are almost entirly flawed unless you are saying like many before you that blacks are genetically inferior to whites.

  5. Michael Eden Says:

    First off, ‘Anonymous,’ I’m simply going to point out that you are a racist. Your statements categorically demonize white people. I find it funniest of all that black people and their “white man’s burden”-style liberal whites essentially say that white people are racist for having resources on the one hand, but then say let’s make it so BLACK people get all the resources on the other. You say that white people are the oppressive racist masters on the one hand, and it angers you because you want black people to be the oppressive racist masters instead. I’m a racist because of what I’ve got; but you want to TAKE what I’ve got for yourself, which means you want to be the oppressive racist on your own damn view. Second, I’m going to point out that you are also a Marxist. You want the redistribution of wealth. I offer you this challenge: Karl Marx said (this the central defining statement of communism) “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” I want you to critique that for me; I want you to explain what is wrong with that statement from your perspective. And I bet you can’t, because, as I said, you are yourself a Marxist.

    A racist Marxist, to be specific.

    Third, as both a racist and a Marxist, you must constantly depict yourself as the victim. You have a failed worldview that has never worked and which never WILL work. Ergo sum you require a villian, a foil, a scapegoat, a bourgeoisie, an Emmanuel Goldstein, some demagogic target to dump the blame for the fact that everything you think is wrong and will never produce anything but failure.

    Which makes it absolutely no surprise to me whatsoever that you have no understanding of what it means to be an “American” or “to love your country.” You lack the worldview to understand these concepts; they will always be a mystery to you, and merely something else to demonize.

    Now, I happen to have something in my worldview that you don’t have: I have God, and the direct revelation of God (the Bible). Which means I can state as a fact that we are all of us created in God’s image, and therefore no race is “genetically inferior.” I also can state as a cateogorical fact that there is something called “sin” and “depravity.” I can state as a categorical fact that there is a worldview which is superior to all others – the Judeo-Christian worldview – and in fact that worldview has PROVEN itself to be superior these last 2,000 years.

    You don’t understand that, either, which was why you phrased your argument in terms of “either the racist-based view of blacks being oppressed is right, or else blacks must be genetically inferior.” Bullcrap. How about the fact of Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” How about the fact that what you think is folly, and so how you live invariably is folly that will end in failure and keep ending in failure no matter who you blame for your failures???

  6. seo Says:

    A lot of of what you point out is supprisingly appropriate and that makes me ponder the reason why I had not looked at this in this light before. Your article really did switch the light on for me personally as far as this particular subject matter goes. But at this time there is one particular point I am not really too cozy with so whilst I try to reconcile that with the actual core idea of the point, permit me observe exactly what all the rest of the visitors have to point out.Well done.

  7. Michael Eden Says:

    Seo,

    I can’t ask any more than that you do your best to TRY to come to understanding of the truth. And then vote accordingly.

    Thanks for your encouraging note.

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