The NFL and breaking the chains of conformity
Might the kerfuffle over NFL players kneeling for the National Anthem finally trigger the decline of the victimhood meme in the black community?
The black community in America is one of the few examples of a culture that (in contrast to actual African cultures) insists that it lacks any resources to better itself, that it cannot alter its circumstances without external help, that there are no bootstraps to be found in the ghetto – and that as a result, real change must be initiated from the outside, as a gift bestowed by a guilty world.
This is credo by which the black community is bound together. Challenge it, and the basis for maintaining a separate black identity is undermined.
Shelby Steele, the black American scholar, wrote:
I decided to live as an individual and as I grew older, and thought more, and read more and experienced more, my views became more conservative. But my group is liberal. Not only that, they say, 'If you're not liberal and not a Democrat, you're not black. If you're conservative, you're a sellout.' Here, then, I'm living with that kind of a pressure against my individuality.
There are few genuine "individuals" in public black life. Better to be a clone and operate within accepted parameters. If anyone strays, he is excommunicated and shunned.
So strong is this requirement for solidarity that during the Duke Lacrosse case, when a citywide meeting was held in a historic black church, a congregation of pastors and civic and civil rights leaders sat stolidly in their seats as keynote speakers (members of the New Black Panther Party) denounced lacrosse players, whites, and Jews. No one stirred or took a knee. Not a few snickered at an anti-Jewish jibe.
So strong is this requirement that in half a century, the black community, which has numberless churches and in which the church is a central feature of community life, has failed to elect a single congressman who opposes the redefinition of marriage, transsexualism, abortion, or other concepts not accepted by traditional religious norms. Since being a Democrat is equated with being black, that means accepting all the baggage the Democratic Party packs with it, and even the church congregations and pastors will submit. No one wants to stand out or be excommunicated.
But past oppression cannot be conflated into present-day oppression. It is likely, for example, that today's racial disparities are due more to dysfunctions within the black community, and – I would argue – to liberal social policies that have encouraged us to trade more on our past victimization than to overcome the damage done by that victimization through dint of our own pride and will[.] ... [T]here also comes a time when he must stop thinking of himself as a victim by acknowledging that – existentially – his fate is always in his own hands. One of the more pernicious corruptions of post-1960s liberalism is that it undermined the spirit of self-help and individual responsibility in precisely the people it sought to uplift.
We may all hope there will come a day when people hear about "studying hard" and think it refers to "acting black." And when there are two parents in every black family, the father offering a male role model and a shield against seeking out gang membership. But these needed and real changes cannot be imposed externally; they must come from within. Without them, no amount help from outside can make a difference.
I would love to see us, as blacks, get to the place where we say, 'I'm not going to play race games with you. Here I am. This is who I am. Take it or leave it.'
Maybe the public reaction to taking a knee will be the first indicator that playing the victim (by millionaires, no less) is no longer effectual; that the public is no longer convinced by it; and that the American black community has to realize that it has the capacity and resources within itself to bring about reforms and put an end to ghetto life, if it will only use them. If so, the current dustup over the anthem can only be a blessing in disguise.
Until then, those of us on the outside, no matter how much we may be willing to help, can only stand by and watch.