Saturday, April 26, 2008

"Stupid Black Men"

I'll bet my title caught your attention. I think that was what Larry Elders was trying to do as well when he named his new book, "Stupid Black Men." Because his book isn't about stupid black men. It's about stupid ideas. It's about the ridiculous notion that America is a racist nation. That is not to say that there are not many racist people in America. There certainly are. But I believe that most of us are not. But there are others who use race (see Al Sharpton) to gain power and money in a community. I wonder if we have so diluted the word "racist," that it doesn't mean anything anymore. It's just a dagger to throw.

Mr. Elders is a few years older than I am, but he remembers, as I do, a time when blacks were hosed and beaten with no recourse. He remembers when racism was so much a part of the American experience that it was accepted and condoned. And like myself, he feels such pride in so much accomplished in just our lifetime. From Supreme Court Justices, to Governors, to Cabinet posts, to Oscar winners, to CEO of companies. Blacks have "overcome" and more.

I know many white people were shocked by Obama's former pastor's words that were played over and over on TV. We wondered how many black people felt that America was run by "rich white folks." We wondered how pervasive these kinds of beliefs were. After reading Elders book, I felt a profound sense of sadness, because I hadn't realized how effective people like Al Sharpton, Maxine Waters, Julian Bond,Charles Rangel, and Jesse Jackson had been in convincing so many in the black community that "the white man" was keeping them down. The examples throughout the book are too numerous to list. I especially felt sadness over the treatment of black conservatives like Michael Steele, Condi Rice, and Colin Powell.

Al Sharpton is regularly offended on behalf of all black people when anyone uses derogatory remarks against blacks. He made sure all of us knew who Don Imus was after Imu's racially insensitive remarks. He milked it for all it's worth, as he does with those kinds of things. It reminded me of something.

A few years ago I was at my daughter's high school track meet at a predominantly black school. I sat a few feet from a black woman about my age. Behind us was a large group of black high school students (with a few whites mixed in) They were yelling and joshing with each other in a friendly way. We hear the N-word yelled loudly at someone. We both turned to look, but it was just students playing around. We listened for a few more minutes as they used the N-word over and over. We both looked at each other and shook our heads. I know she was thinking the same thing I was. That our generation had fought so hard for that word to become unacceptable, and now our children's generation used it freely and often. If Sharpton wants to be offended, he can walk down the hall of any high school in America. But then he wouldn't make money or get camera time off that.

In his book, Elders reminds us of the history of the Republican party as the party that ended slavery. But the Democrats have successfully painted an erroneous picture of the Republican party as a racist party and anyone black who joins us is a "Uncle Tom." The Republicans let it happen too. We gave up on the black vote and that was just wrong.

But this book isn't really about party affiliation. It's about blame. People like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson make a living off blaming white America. When other black voices speak out, even ones who are not conservative, like Bill Cosby, they are roundly condemned.

This book lets one step back and look at the picture of black America from a different perspective. If you are black or liberal or both, you need to read this book. Seeing the race war written down and seeing how some have used it, will surprise you no matter what your political affiliation.

We have never and never will have a colorblind society, and why would we even want one? We are all creatures of our experience. How boring if we were all alike? Our color and our gender and where we were raised forms us. Why should we deny any of it? We can't point out the differences in how we look at things? We can't talk about it? White people now feel they can't speak about color or differences. They might be called racist. It diminishes our understanding of each other and keeps us from finding solutions to common problems or problems that are specific to our upbringing.

I wrote recently about the statistic of out of wedlock births in the black community. That is a problem, but there are other statistics that hardly ever get mentioned and certainly not by the likes of the racebaiters. For example, the number of black owned businesses grew 45% from 1997-2002. A growth rate faster than any other race or ethnicity (including white). The revenues of these businesses increased by 30% (compared to a 5% increase for whites) In other words, blacks are doing just fine. The "white man" isn't keeping them down.

One main point of Elder's book is that he feels that so many so called "black leaders," the media, and the Democratic party send a destructive message to the black community that hard work and self responsibility does not apply to blacks. He wants those in the black community who believe that, to end the blame game and move forward to solve their own problems.