Our Conversation About Race
There were more comments to those two columns than any I've written in a couple of years. And a lot of those comments were people going back and forth responding to each other.
Many of the comments were actually thoughtful, others were snarky, silly, or just plain stupid. Still, that's what you get when you ask for such a conversation among a broad range of people.
So, the question is just how useful is that "conversation" in moving the country forward toward greater understanding and racial harmony?
My feeling is that it's a little bit useful. Not very, but a little bit. Because it shows where most people are on the question.
There are those who are stuck in the 60s, believing that race is everything and that being black is the ultimate disadvantage in our society. They believe that despite, all the civil rights laws that were passed and all the anti-discrimination boards, agencies and commissions that have been established to hear complaints from aggrieved victims of racism, that America is barely out of the dark ages when it comes to being fair to black people.
Not surprisingly, a large percentage of these people are black themselves. But a good number of them are white liberals who take a special kind of satisfaction in announcing the historical and contemporary guilt of their own race when it comes to oppressing black people. Such a person is a guy named Tim Wise, who makes his living lecturing college kids and anybody else who'll listen about what he calls the "pathology of white privilege."
Then there are the white people who are simply sick of hearing about how tough it is being black in this country and how America still owes today's African Americans reparations for slavery and other historical injustices. Some of these white people truly are racists. They think black people, as a group, are inferior human beings, less intelligent and less moral and America would be a better place without them.
But I think the vast majority of whites believe in an inclusive, diverse, merit-based and increasingly color-blind society. That actually believe in judging people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. And there are many black people who share this same vision for America.
It seems to me that America's racialists and race hustlers are finally being marginalized. While they still hold sway on many college campuses where the tenured radicals run all sorts of departments devoted to "victim" studies, the real world is moving on. Try as they might to indoctrinate students to their victim-based world view, the vast majority of students graduate to see America, as it is: a place of excellent opportunity. If you are smart, willing to be pleasant, and show up for work, you'll do fine. And that's true even if you're not that so smart.
As for "white privilege," I'll give the final word to Shelby Steele, one of America's foremost writers and thinkers on matters of race. As he told John Stossel not too long ago:"
I grew up in segregation. So I really know what racism is. I went to segregated school. I bow to no one in my knowledge of racism, which is one of the reasons why I say white privilege is not a problem... the real problem is black irresponsibility. ... Racism is about 18th on a list of problems that black America faces."Mr. Steele is right.
Single-parent households, bad schools, crime, drugs, and a culture of victimization, those are all in the top ten. It's time black (and white) America got our priorities straight.