Harlem Renaissance Writer Resisted Politics of Victimhood

Manhattan Institute fellow John McWhorter's analysis of 20th-century writer Zora Neale Hurston's conservative philosophy is startlingly relevant today, especially after the November 2 election.  The writer's conservatism is in lockstep with the Tea Party and its backing of two black Republican congressmen: Allen West (R-FL) and Tim Scott (R-SC).

Prompted by recently discovered short stories, Professor McWhorter portrays Hurston as a "black waa-man" who would have "gladly peddled her wares on Fox News today."  At a time when "conservative" equals "racist" for most African-Americans, McWhorter zeroes in on Hurston's ideas about self-determination, affirmative action, and the subterfuge of the progressive elite's black oppression agenda:

Hurston would have understood that sense that black people are, in the end, individuals rather than the sum of an abstract "blackness," as she indicates here:

Suppose a Negro does something really magnificent, and I glory, not in the benefit to mankind, but in the fact that the doer was a Negro. Must I not also go hang my head in shame when a member of my race does something execrable? The white race did not go into a laboratory and invent incandescent light. That was Edison. If you are under the impression that every white man is an Edison, just look around a bit.

Zora was no pie-in-the-sky elitist.  She understood that the system stacked the deck against minorities and other marginalized groups.  But she resisted the lowering of the bar which ultimately serves only to sabotage the individual or group it purports to help:

If I say a whole system must be upset for me to win, I am saying that I cannot sit in the game, and that safer rules must be made to give me a chance. I repudiate that. If others are in there, deal me a hand and let me see what I can make of it, even though I know some in there are dealing from the bottom and cheating like hell in other ways.

Hurston understood the hidden cruelty of the "outstretched hand" that makes for even more enslavement -- not with chains, but in the guise of social justice.

Mockingly, she stated:

We were brought here against our will. We were held as slaves for two hundred and forty-six years. We are in no way responsible for anything. We are dependents. We are due something from the labor of our ancestors. Look upon us with pity and give!

Black conservatives live on the razor's edge, at the mercy of the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons who sling charges of "sellout" while pushing programs that continue to make their loyal Democrat followers exchange their autonomy for more government control.  Hurston had an answer for those who saw only the group, or in her word, the "mob": "It's time for us to cease to allow ourselves to be delivered as a mob by persuasive ‘friends' and become individual citizens."

Two wrongs don't make a right.  Hurston contends that compounding the horror of slavery with further victimization through albeit subtler means will keep the underclasses dependent on the same power structure that caused the problem to begin with.

For now a majority of African-Americans remain tethered to the Democratic Party despite mounting evidence that liberal policies have led to a pursuit of more dependency rather than life and liberty. In his profile of Hurston's conservatism, McWhorter suggests  that ‘resisting victimhood' and individual responsibility may be the message emerging from decades of failure.
Manhattan Institute fellow John McWhorter's analysis of 20th-century writer Zora Neale Hurston's conservative philosophy is startlingly relevant today, especially after the November 2 election.  The writer's conservatism is in lockstep with the Tea Party and its backing of two black Republican congressmen: Allen West (R-FL) and Tim Scott (R-SC).

Prompted by recently discovered short stories, Professor McWhorter portrays Hurston as a "black waa-man" who would have "gladly peddled her wares on Fox News today."  At a time when "conservative" equals "racist" for most African-Americans, McWhorter zeroes in on Hurston's ideas about self-determination, affirmative action, and the subterfuge of the progressive elite's black oppression agenda:

Hurston would have understood that sense that black people are, in the end, individuals rather than the sum of an abstract "blackness," as she indicates here:

Suppose a Negro does something really magnificent, and I glory, not in the benefit to mankind, but in the fact that the doer was a Negro. Must I not also go hang my head in shame when a member of my race does something execrable? The white race did not go into a laboratory and invent incandescent light. That was Edison. If you are under the impression that every white man is an Edison, just look around a bit.

Zora was no pie-in-the-sky elitist.  She understood that the system stacked the deck against minorities and other marginalized groups.  But she resisted the lowering of the bar which ultimately serves only to sabotage the individual or group it purports to help:

If I say a whole system must be upset for me to win, I am saying that I cannot sit in the game, and that safer rules must be made to give me a chance. I repudiate that. If others are in there, deal me a hand and let me see what I can make of it, even though I know some in there are dealing from the bottom and cheating like hell in other ways.

Hurston understood the hidden cruelty of the "outstretched hand" that makes for even more enslavement -- not with chains, but in the guise of social justice.

Mockingly, she stated:

We were brought here against our will. We were held as slaves for two hundred and forty-six years. We are in no way responsible for anything. We are dependents. We are due something from the labor of our ancestors. Look upon us with pity and give!

Black conservatives live on the razor's edge, at the mercy of the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons who sling charges of "sellout" while pushing programs that continue to make their loyal Democrat followers exchange their autonomy for more government control.  Hurston had an answer for those who saw only the group, or in her word, the "mob": "It's time for us to cease to allow ourselves to be delivered as a mob by persuasive ‘friends' and become individual citizens."

Two wrongs don't make a right.  Hurston contends that compounding the horror of slavery with further victimization through albeit subtler means will keep the underclasses dependent on the same power structure that caused the problem to begin with.

For now a majority of African-Americans remain tethered to the Democratic Party despite mounting evidence that liberal policies have led to a pursuit of more dependency rather than life and liberty. In his profile of Hurston's conservatism, McWhorter suggests  that ‘resisting victimhood' and individual responsibility may be the message emerging from decades of failure.