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Black and White, Starkly

If America is so racist, why stay?

By Hobbes  |  August 6, 2009

American blacks and whites live in two disjointed worlds.  They always have, but in different ways over time.

Fifty years ago, blacks lived in a physically different world - the "other side of the tracks," the designated black neighborhood, separate from the rest of everywhere whites lived.

Today, legal segregation is no more.  Except in inner-city ghettos, almost all Americans see someone of another race every day - at school, work, or as a neighbor, and certainly on TV.  Most Americans have friends of other colors; mixed-race couples are now so common as not to be worthy of note.

And yet, politically, blacks and whites might as well be on two separate continents.  If only white votes had counted in 2008, John McCain would be in the White House by a landslide - he won the white vote 55-43.

Speaking of landslides, though, when it comes to the black vote, Obama cleaned up an astonishing 96%.  His score in Washington, D.C. was about the same - yet there is no state, jurisdiction, or demographic subgroup, not even the most red-blooded, where Republicans command such Soviet-style levels of unanimity.

This same stark difference is reflected in opinion polls of all kinds. 73% of blacks think the CIA intentionally distributes drugs to inner cities to keep the black man down, whereas all but 13% of whites see this suggestion as the kookery it is.

This poll from Rasmussen is particularly pertinent for the ongoing national discussion of Prof. Henry Gates' interaction with the Cambridge police:

Seventy-three percent (73%) of African-American voters believe that most blacks receive unfair treatment from the police. Just 21% of white voters share that view...

Thirty-two percent (32%) of black voters say that most policemen are racist, but 52% disagree.

Among white voters, just seven percent (7%) believe that most policemen are racist and 71% say they are not.

Who's right?  It's becoming increasingly apparent that we'll never know.  As firmly as blacks believe they are treated unfairly by, well, pretty much everybody pretty much all the time, just so firmly do whites believe that's not the case and that we live in a basically just society.

The harder black and liberal leaders push for overt set-asides, affirmative action, and other programs intended specifically to give a favorable boost to blacks, the greater the resentment builds in the white community and we see pushback like the recent Ricci reverse-discrimination case.

As everyone's mom used to teach, "Two wrongs don't make a right."  We aren't going to get rid of old racial resentments and preferences by building new ones, yet that's what we're called on to do, incessantly and eternally.

There was another way, and while it may not offer a choice anyone will accept, it does present hard truths and hard questions that need not merely to be asked, but answered.

A Better Life Across the Seas

The United States is famously a nation of immigrants.  With the minority exceptions of the American Indians who were already here and the slaves who were dragged here against their will, every single American either chose to come here from someplace else or their ancestors made that decision on their behalf.

Why?  Until the last few decades, immigration to America was a self-exile from one's friends, family, culture, customs, climate, language, and pretty much everything that makes a person "fit in."  America is and always has been quite a culture shock from anywhere else - more so to some immigrants than others, of course, but even those who already spoke the English language found themselves in an alien world - for example, English settlers in the colonies found that the understood and well-established social norms of class and birth didn't have the same weight here.

What's more, coming to America was dangerous.  The months-long passage on tiny wooden sailing ships was a journey of constant peril; the later steamers frequently caught fire or smashed into icebergs.  A trip to America could be a death sentence just as easily as a door to the Promised Land.

Then, upon arrival, the streets of America turned out not exactly to be paved with gold.  The many modes of failure and death are too numerous to count: shot by native "savages," dead of starvation and exposure in the high Sierras, drowned in one of America's many unbridged rivers, even killed by previous immigrants resentful of competition from new ones.  The labor available, whether it be prairie farming or laying track for the new railroads, was backbreaking and often deadly.  And in the pre-modern era, the specter of disease haunted everyone rich and poor.

That's why we say of the early pioneers, "The cowards never started and the weak died along the way."

Yet the Pilgrim Fathers gave up comfortable lives in Holland to practice their religion as they saw fit.  Millions of Irish fled the known famines of Galway for the unknown hazards of the new land.  Jews and minorities from Eastern Europe suffered one too many pogroms and decided that anywhere else would be better.

Therein lies a great truth about the heritage of America: Every immigrant from Plymouth Rock to Ellis Island was also an emigrant from somewhere else.

Simply put, each and every person who came to America left their homeland because the oppression was too great to be borne.

America: Love It Or Leave It?

Over the last few weeks we have heard the usual timeworn arguments over race.  On the one side, we have the indisputable fact that legal discrimination against blacks is dead and buried and that blacks have reached the very pinnacles of power and wealth.  On the other side, we hear the constant refrain that discrimination is as insidious as ever in a way which cannot even be understood by one who has not lived it.  Never the twain shall meet.

It does not really matter anymore which side is right.  The point is, the affair of Henry Louis Gates has conclusively proven that persuasion and discussion has accomplished all it can.

If a black Harvard university professor can complain of being racially profiled - in a city, state, and nation each led by a black executive, in a jurisdiction with a black chief of police who reports to a black female mayor - and yet his complaint is accepted as received truth by, at the very least, a vast number of his fellow black Americans... then it is clear that nothing more can be done.

Sgt. Crowley's partner was a black man who swore that the arrest was justified yet the charge of bias gained a hearing.  Black and Hispanic police officers witnessed Gates' arrest and unanimously supported Crowley's actions, yet the President gave Gates' accusations credence by saying that the mixed-race police group involved had acted "stupidly."

Will we have to listen to complaints of racial bias until every position of power is held by a black person?  Or will we, even then, find that "it's all Whitey's fault" because he has all the money?

That is the situation in South Africa today: the black majority has populated government almost entirely with blacks at all levels, yet Whitey remains under assault because most wealth is held by whites.  It should come as no surprise that the white population of that nation, after having lived there for hundreds of years, is now leaving.

Blacks will never form a majority in the United States; it's projected that America will be majority Hispanic within the lifetime of many of our readers.  Any dreams of a black-run America will be well and truly dead then.

If Prof. Gates believes himself to be assailed by official discrimination at all levels, as he clearly does; if black America largely believes themselves to be held back by discrimination and racism on all sides...

Why are they still here?

America, for all its ills, is not the Soviet Union or East Germany.  We do not have an Iron Curtain keeping people in by force.  Any American who wants to leave is free to do so.

There are many other places that would love to have a Harvard professor, or even a plumber.  South Africa is starving for educated professionals and Prof. Gates need fear no official discrimination there.  Other nations in Africa have no significant white population at all; by Prof. Gates' own definition, racism there is impossible.

Lincoln's Solution

Let us make one thing perfectly clear: in no way are we arguing that black Americans ought to leave this country.  They have every bit as much right to be here as American citizens of any other hue.  Although they are not entitled to any more rights, they have every bit as much right to the exact same civil rights, the exact same equality of opportunity, the exact same privileges and opportunities of citizenship as anyone else.

Despite these facts, it's clear that enormous swathes of black America truly believe that their rights are being denied.  Michelle Obama famously said this nation is "just downright mean" to black people.

If a black person truly believes that, why be a part of it?  Why not decide, as virtually every other American's ancestors once did, that there are better opportunities elsewhere and go there?

Our racial strife is often blamed on slavery.  The truly stunning question is just how deep that blame goes.

President Lincoln, who saw hundreds of thousands of his countrymen die in a war to make men free, felt that racial forgiveness and reconciliation would never be possible.  In an early draft of the very Emancipation Proclamation, he wrote:

[T]he effort to colonize persons of African descent, with their consent, upon this continent, or elsewhere, with the previously obtained consent of the Governments existing there, will be continued.

As important as Lincoln felt black repatriation to be, it's plain that he didn't view racial separation as a task to be pushed forward regardless: he emphasized that relocation should only be done with the consent of those relocated.  For whatever reason, most American blacks who were offered the taxpayer-financed opportunity to leave decided that America held more opportunity for them than the Africa of their ancestors in spite of all those whitey racists running around loose.

As Lincoln himself said:

A house divided against itself, cannot stand.

The black ex-slaves decided that it was preferable to stand with their ex-oppressors than to return home.  Have today's American blacks made the same decision?  Have they even thought about it?

Time Marches On

A century and a half has passed since the end of slavery and America has paid a heavy price for its original sin.  Legal discrimination lasted long after slavery ended, but that too was done away with decades ago.  Today, a black man sits in the highest office in the land.

Yet there are still those who condemn the racist "U.S. of KKK-A."

When, if ever, is it reasonable to hold individual black people responsible for their own actions and choices, as we hold individuals of all other races?  Prof. Gates did not verbally assault Sgt. Crowley as a black man, he did so as a man - an individual human being.  Black criminals in jail did not deal drugs as black men, they committed crimes, were convicted, and condemned as men.  Tiger Woods does not win golf tournaments as a black man, he does so as one single supremely talented and dedicated man.

To say that black people must continually be treated as black people is to say that they are incapable of standing on their own two feet.  This is to infantilize them, if you will - to degrade and demean them just as surely as Jim Crow once did.

The slaves brought from Africa had no choice in the matter.  Today's blacks, though, do.  They can choose to return to Africa if they please; they can choose to gain an education and rise to the Oval Office if they wish to.

Or, they can turn to crime and drugs and wind up in jail.  What has that to do with color or race?  Nothing.

America's conversation on race has reached an impasse.  White Americans look at the Oval Office, at Oprah's vast riches, at the millionaire blacks in every sports arena and on the silver screen, and say that equality of opportunity has been achieved.

All too many "underprivileged" black Americans look at the squalor of their own lives... and blame Massa Whitey for not reaching out a noble hand of assistance, even while they cash their white-provided welfare checks, live in white-built government housing, and eat white-produced food.

The time has come.  Enough is enough.  America has, at long last, redeemed itself, and now has the moral authority to reject accusations of racial bias as the acts of pandering greed that they have become.