Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Legacy of Subjugation

It must be Pick On Pat Buchanan Week. But then again, his ignorance and prejudice are such that exposing them is the only responsible thing to do. The problem with Mr. Buchanan receiving as much air time as he does is that viewers are duped into thinking that he speaks for a large number of people. The consequence of this is the further polarization of the races. The marginal thinking of Mr. Buchanan deserves marginal exposure. But the networks eat it up because nothing sells like controversy.

Newsflash: Pat Buchanan does not represent the thinking of educated and informed white people. If he speaks for anyone anymore, he speaks for an ever-dwindling fringe of backward-thinking, ultra-conservative people who have no sense of history or responsibility vis-à-vis Black Americans and their experience.

Mr. Buchanan likes to point to statistics that reveal a state of affairs in the Black community today that is, shall we say, wanting. And then he has the temerity to suggest that Blacks in America are wholly responsible for whatever blight has befallen their condition. Statistics in a vacuum of context mean absolutely nothing. What does it mean that the illegitimacy rate among Blacks is 70%? What does it mean that Blacks commit crime at a rate seven times that of Whites? What is really behind the phenomenon of so-called self segregation among so many Blacks? What does it mean when no Blacks perform highly enough on a New Haven firefighter's examination to qualify for promotion?

We could ask questions like this all day long, and those who tend to disregard the truth about the Black experience in America probably see no connection between hundreds of years of subjugation to White authority, subordination to White privilege and the state of affairs in the Black community today. Plus, pointing up only the negative statistics serves to contradict and deny the reality that despite what they have had to endure, Blacks have enriched American culture immeasurably.

When Black intellectuals like Michael Eric Dyson or Cornell West make the point that White America has yet to accept its responsibility for the struggling plight of African Americans or that this country has yet to live up to its promise of equality and opportunity for everyone, they are castigated by those able to disguise their ignorance and prejudice as moderate, populist rhetoric.

The irony of Mr. Buchanan's statistical pontificating is that any enlightened interpretation of these statistics is infinitely more damning to Whites than Blacks. Rather than revealing a lack of responsibility by African Americans for their own plight, they reveal the extent to which White America has abdicated its responsibility for cultivating a society where fairness and opportunity are not just words but cherished ideals.

While it cannot be denied that much progress has been made toward realizing America's promise, it is ludicrous to pretend that we have done all that is necessary to level the playing field. As it exists today, the so-called playing field is pockmarked with craters of injustice. White America needs to grow up and accept its share of responsibility for the disproportionate levels of social ills afflicting Black America. It has had a big hand in fomenting the conditions where hopelessness and despair can take hold and complicate the struggle to thrive.

Black Americans aren't looking for excuses - just validation.

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