Dover Bitch

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

1965: When Things Got Bad For Blacks

George Will's latest column, a heap of praise for Shelby Steele's "White Guilt" is as close to absolute proof of parallel dimensions as we could ever hope to find. Quite frankly, there is no way Will or Steele occupy the same universe as DB.

In what fragment of time and space could somebody possibly dwell for this statement to be even close to accurate?

The dehumanizing denial that blacks have sovereignty over their lives became national policy in 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson said: "You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line in a race and then say, 'You are free to compete with all the others'." This, Steele writes, enunciated a new social morality: No black problem could be defined as largely a black responsibility. If you were black, you could not be expected to carry responsibilities equal to others'.

Perhaps every history book DB ever cracked open was wrong when they suggested that "the dehumanizing denial that blacks have sovereignty over their lives" was a national policy prior to 1965. DB didn't realize that everything was just swell for centuries before 1965 and that Blacks in America were always in control of their destinies. Sure there were hundreds of years when Blacks were considered property, but there wasn't anything dehumanizing about it apparently.

We'll get back to that. First, a point about Will and Steele (let's call them "Swill"): DB doesn't care what dislodged them from this joint in time. Speculation about Steele could include a theory that he was "born on third and thought he hit a triple," that he overcame so much with no help and thinks everybody else should too, or any number of other possibilities that would explain how he became so divorced from reality. But in the end it doesn't matter that it is Will writing about Steele. The message is the matter and the message is absurd and dangerous.

Also, a few words about Affirmative Action: DB has had debates with respected friends and family members who have put forth the idea that because of Affirmative Action, there are clouds of suspicion over African-American students... like those students are only there because of a hand out. DB's response? Who gives a crap?

It's the most bogus argument you could make... Sure, you grew up in a crappy neighborhood in a overcrowded school with no budget and no library. Sure, we could help you by giving you the opportunity to go to college... but it would be too unfair to make you deal with the scorn of some of your classmates. You'd be better off without an education.

Some people go to college, work hard and succeed in life. Others go there, drink a lot and drop out. The bottom line is this: Anybody who goes to college and makes something out of themselves deserved the opportunity to go there. So some losers point at a kid and say he doesn't deserve to be there. So what? Would that kid be better off with no college education? Is that better than having a bunch of 20-year-olds think less of him for a few years?

And it's not the purpose of Affirmative Action to get Joe Schmoe into college where he can have a great time. The purpose is for Joe Schmoe's children to grow up in a more enlightened household, with books on the shelves. The purpose is that Joe Schmoe's children will not be the first in their family to get a full education. The purpose is for Joe Schmoe's children to see firsthand that all they need is an opportunity, the rest is up to them.

The cloud of suspicion evaporates when people see hard work and positive results. There will always be some jackasses who will say they don't deserve to be there. Screw 'em.

Which brings us back to Swill: "If you were black, you could not be expected to carry responsibilities equal to others'." Puh-lease. That's one way of interpreting what Johnson was saying. It's just wrong. The correct interpretation is "If you were black, you could not expect to have as many opportunities to carry responsibilities."

But this interpretation only makes sense if you are unwilling to deny that problems existed before 1965. Clearly Swill is satisfied living in this dream world. How else do you explain the next two paragraphs?

So, being black conferred "an almost reckless moral authority," a "power of racial privilege." The "power to shame, silence and muscle concessions from the larger society" was black power. The demand for equal rights became a demand for "the redistribution of responsibility for black advancement from black to white America, from the 'victims' to the 'guilty'."

Hence the black militancy's proclaiming "black power" was really an exercise in the power of helplessness. It was an assertion of white power—white society's power to "take" (LBJ's telling word) blacks to social equality. Hence "black power" was actually a denial of the power of blacks to manage their own escape from an intractable inferiority.

Riiiiiight. That some were calling for "black power" had nothing to do with the fact in 1965 that there were no Blacks in the Senate and only five in Congress (none in the South). Clearly Blacks wielded significant power in America. It was entirely a denial of their own abilities to overcome adversity to call for advancement.

Also, forget about the fact that "black power" was the opposite of Affirmative Action. It doesn't matter to Swill that people like Malcolm X and Huey Newton were calling for political and economic independence for their own communities. To Swill, this is just another example of looking for a handout.

The theory of "structural" or "institutional" racism postulates a social determinism that makes all whites and American institutions complicit in a vicious cultural pattern. The theory makes the absence of identifiable adverse events in the lives of individual blacks irrelevant to blacks' claims to victimhood. Victim status is a source of endless, sometimes lucrative and always guilt-free leverage over a guilt-ridden society.

"The absence of identifiable adverse events in the lives of individual blacks?" So first Swill denies all history prior to 1965, and now there's no evidence of obstacles since then either, other than imaginary ones of their own making, of course. DB leaves it to the reader to spend the eight seconds of thought or research needed to find an example to disprove this ridiculous assertion.

Black "militants" are actually preaching militant dependency. They have defined justice as making whites feel so guilty that they will take responsibility for black advancement. One casualty of this, Steele says, has been education: "We got remedies pitched at injustices rather than at black academic excellence—school busing, black role models as teachers, black history courses, 'diverse' reading lists, 'Ebonics,' multiculturalism, culturally 'inclusive' classes, standardized tests corrected for racial bias, and so on." Reading, writing and arithmetic? Later. Maybe.

Maybe not. Not if classrooms are suffused with "a foggy academic relativism in which scholastic excellence is associated with elitism, and rote development with repression." Steele, a former professor of English, notes that "inner-city black English diverges more from standard English today than it did in the fifties."

Again, completely divorced from reality. Take the following statement: "I ripped a CD to my iMac and downloaded the MP3's to my iPod." Sounds just like something any White kid might have said in the fifties, right Daddy-O?

In Swill's world, the codification of language only happens to victims. White kids today would all be talking like the Founding Fathers if it hadn't been for that little-reported White self-victimization. When students are taught Black History it is only in lieu of math or reading. Teachers go out of their way to avoid using words and numbers when discussing Black History.

And all of this is happening because of the snowball that LBJ pushed down a hill in 1965. Before then, everything was working perfectly.

UPDATE: In case it didn't come through in DB's late-night rant, Swill's early assertion that proponents of the path LBJ chose for America are like George Wallace is laughable. People of Wallace's ilk believed Blacks to be inferior, which is infuriating and offensively wrong.

The purpose of LBJ's and ensuing Civil Rights legislation was to compensate for the loss of opportunites created by the fact that Wallace wasn't just some nut-job, but the Governor of a state. In other words, LBJ tried to mitigate the problems caused not by any shortcomings in Blacks, but by people in power who had created a playing field entirely unfair to them and for an immoral reason.

And here's Swill, represented by a party whose chairman, Ken Mehlman, even apologized last year for a national strategy that benefited from the marginalization of Blacks in America. And Swill has the audacity to pretend that the problems that exist today have nothing to do with the fact that his party has been in power the majority of the time since LBJ pushed that legislation, and they've been undermining it since that day.

Furthermore, it's just as much of a lie to claim that LBJ proponents have removed personal responsibility from the equation. That's just a strawman tactic. Is every individual going to be a responsible citizen? Of course not. But everybody deserves an opportunity.

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