Black Leadership and Racial Murder
The recent explosion of black-on-white vicious and hateful killings -- the murder of thirteen-month-old Antonio Santiago, the shooting of nurse David Santucci in Memphis, the murder of Australian student Chris Lane, the beating death of elderly veteran Delbert Belton -- have served to put an end to one of the great myths of the civil rights movement: that black leadership would lead the country out of racism into an epoch of national reconciliation.
One of the assumptions behind the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s was that black participants (not to overlook their white supporters) had a moral claim infinitely superior to that of their opponents. There is certainly a large measure of truth to this. There's no meaningful measure of comparison between Ralph Bunche, James Meredith, Ralph Abernathy, or Martin Luther King and the Bilbos, Faubuses, and Wallaces who comprised the defenders of segregation.
(As for those who want to criticize Rev. King for his numerous affairs -- that is a private matter with no connection the subject at issue. Alpha males often misbehave in that fashion -- it's part of the package, an aspect of the human condition. Douglas MacArthur had a 17-year-old Filipina mistress before he settled down. If you can square that circle, then you can dismiss Dr. King.)
The high moral authority of its leadership characterized the entire movement. King's adaptation of a Gandhian nonviolence strategy within a "turn the other cheek" Christian framework was a key element in elevating the effort. The refusal of marchers and demonstrators to strike back elicited admiration even from those skeptical of their aims. Of the numerous killings that occurred during the civil rights era, not a single one can be ascribed to an active supporter, despite immense provocations from segregationists.
But even as the movement reached its hour of triumph in 1964-65, with the utter destruction of the segregation regime and the fulfillment of the ideal of legal equality for all Americans, something went wrong. The promise soured, and victory turned into ashes. The movement was taken over by a combination of race hustlers out for personal advancement and would-be revolutionaries hoping for a racial Götterdämmerung. The murder of Dr. King in 1968 put the seal on these developments.
The dream of a true racially egalitarian society died thanks to deliberate efforts to make whites pay for their role in oppressing blacks, whether real or imagined. This is no exaggeration: there is no other way to explain things like the takeover of the Kansas City school system or forced bussing in south Boston than as attempts to make whites suffer. This trend was nationalized through affirmative action, which has the distinction of being a horrendously bad program that looks worse than it actually is. If fifty people apply for a job that is given to an unqualified minority applicant, only one has actually been cheated. But the other 49 believe they have been. A system more clearly designed to increase resentment and animosity between the races is not easy to imagine.
An entire academic and educational superstructure has been constructed to justify these programs and the racist impulse behind them. Black Studies, Minority Studies, Subaltern Studies, White Privilege Studies... each was designed to push the narrative that all whites are guilty and all minorities -- blacks above all -- are victims. This has become the lens through which ethnic and racial interactions are viewed. By the 21st century, the public face of black America was divided into two groups -- whining, cajoling race hustlers such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and an entire menagerie of self-styled ghetto hoods acting out defiance of both whites and the normal members of their own ethnic group.
The most dramatic failure involved black politicians. Black politicians were successful even in white areas partially due to white guilt, but even more in hopes that electing an intelligent, articulate black might serve to heal old wounds and smooth the path toward complete reconciliation. No hopes have ever been more cruelly denied. To paraphrase a noted 60s political philosopher, black politicians proved to be part of the problem. On one hand there were the Coleman Youngs, the Kenneth Gibsons, and the Kwame Kilpatricks who fastened onto their cities like lampreys, sucking them utterly dry. On the other were trimmers who presented the image of racial healing to white audiences while encouraging the worst attitudes among fellow blacks.
David Dinkins was a prototype example of the latter school. A genial career Democratic hack, Dinkins was elected with a huge majority by New York City liberals. His term was a continuation of decades of ultraliberal policies that had sent the city into a nosedive, increasing racial tensions and transforming New York into an economic basket case. It all came to a head for Dinkins with a simple auto accident. In August 1991 a car taking part in a procession honoring the Lubavitcher rabbi Menachem Schneerson struck a small black boy named Gavin Cato. Brooklyn's Crown Heights, uneasily divided between Hasidic Jews and ghetto blacks, was thrown into a state of nearly open racial warfare. Within hours, a black mob led by a thug named Lemrick Nelson hunted down and slaughtered innocent Australian tourist Yankel Rosenbaum while a number of other Jews were injured.
This represented the first lynching of a Jew in the United States since 1919. As such, it demanded an immediate response. Instead, Dinkins ostentatiously turned his back. He visited the funeral home where the dead boy was lying, as he well should have, but said nothing at all about the Rosenbaum slaying. When asked about this by the media, he responded, "You expect me to turn my back on a brother?"
Tensions in Brooklyn, already sky-high, clicked several notches higher. Dinkins refused to intervene, even to the extent of reinforcing police in the threatened neighborhoods. Instead he gave a pedantic lecture explaining how civic authorities had no legal responsibility to protect anyone, citing a number of court cases.
Threatened large-scale riots failed to materialize due to the efforts of neighborhood leaders with no cooperation from the mayor. Voters did not forget. Dinkins was unceremoniously booted from office in the next election in favor of Rudy Giuliani, who in short order solved a number of problems long considered intractable, with no reference to racial sensitivities. (This despite open hostility from local media and the vast cohort of New York liberals. When a rogue cop in Brooklyn tortured a Haitian suspect, it was reported throughout the media that he'd shouted, "It's Giuliani time!" The report was a complete fabrication.)
Barack Obama may as well have studied the Dinkins experience as a form of textbook. Hopes surrounding Obama's election were high -- hopes that we could at last put behind us the shadow of the slavery ships, the decades of lynching, the shame of segregation, the horrors of the ghettos, and move on into the glowing uplands of Dr. King's grand dream. Obama himself encouraged this in his promise to be a "post-racial president." But all such hopes faded in short order.
His term began with a refusal to rein in or rebuke his thuggish and deliberately antagonistic attorney general. Eric Holder insulted American whites for their "cowardice" at facing racial matters at the same time that he was shutting down a case against Black Panthers who had threatened voters at a polling site in Philadelphia. Holder went on to oversee a raft of racially-charged cases filed on specious grounds, culminating in a suit filed this month against the state of Texas for demanding voter ID and a threat to do the same to Louisiana on the grounds that a state school voucher program violated archaic "diversity" standards. All this with the manifest approval of Barack Obama.
Obama himself fumbled the Henry Louis Gates incident, turning a local police matter into a national embarrassment for himself. This marked the beginning of a series of misstatements, les faux pas, and blunders culminating in his 2012 call to use the ballot box for racial revenge.
Worst of all was the Trayvon Martin case, in which Obama, once again minding everyone's business but his own, came up with the single quotation for which he will be remembered: "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon." Obama's remark nationalized an incident transparently fabricated to create racial unrest in the run-up to the 2012 election. The Martin shooting -- or rather, the synthetic uproar surrounding it -- has played a large and ugly role in this year's racial murders, killings that have somehow escaped Obama's notice. (A literal statement: White House spokesman Josh Earnest claimed to be "unfamiliar" with the Lane murder. Obama's "response" released this week is both too little and too late.)
This is in no way surprising. Not once in his five years as president has Barack Obama made a single remark in support of racial harmony apart from standard political boilerplate. Nobody in this country has ever had a greater opportunity to advance race relations. No one has ever thrown it away more disdainfully.
Having also wrecked the Middle Eastern status quo at the cost of tens of thousands of lives, driven the economy into apparently permanent stagnation, and trashed America's preeminent health-care system, it's difficult to say whether mishandling racial relations is Obama's greatest failure. But it is certainly his most ignoble. All he had to do was go along with flow, to accede to the national healing already in progress -- but Obama, a pure product of affirmative action, Black Studies, and post-60s racial politics, simply couldn't see his way to it.
We are facing a paradox here. The very politicians and public figures who benefited most from the gains of the civil rights movement have refused to recognize the ideals that drove the movement, instead consciously choosing the system of racial hostility that replaced those ideals. They have ignored the lessons of King and Abernathy in favor of the cheap and dangerous rhetoric of the Jacksons and Sharptons, the Barakas and Farrakhans. Uncomfortably large numbers of shiftless, barely literate ghetto males take their cue directly from these figures, responding with hatred, contempt, violence, and murder. Next to this, the two-handed thieves of the Kilpatrick variety look positively benign.
As for the current state of unrest, these things have their own logic and proceed by their own timetable. There is very little to be done to halt them once they have been triggered. Similar episodes in the past make this clear. The Irish, possibly the only group comparable to post-slavery blacks in terms of ignorance, desperation, and brutalization, produced their own generation of thugs on arrival to the United States. Police simply sealed off the Irish slums and let them kill each other (an extremely romanticized version of this can be seen in Martin Scorcese's Gangs of New York). It took longer for the Italians, since their thugs were better organized. That is how the process for nullifying social threats that can be dealt with in no other way works. It is ferocious, it is effective, and it is final.
One thing that we can be sure of is that there will be no worthwhile response from Barack Obama.
A new generation of black politicians is appearing, consisting of people like Allen West, Tim Scott, and Mia Love, people who will represent blacks not as victims but as Americans. So the dream lives on. We simply need to prove ourselves worthy of it.