About . . . . . . Classes . . . . . . Books . . . . . . Vita . . . . . . . Links. . . . . . Blog

by Peter Moskos

July 25, 2016

"The False Promise of a ‘Conversation’ About Race"

John McWhorter wrote this article about race and racial discourse. I doubt most readers here subscribe to the Chronicle of Higher Education. It's behind a paywall, and you can't access it back-door style through google. So though this excerpt doesn't really do his whole argument justice, it's better than nothing:
After the horrific shootings in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas, we are hearing again that America needs to have a national conversation about race....

Indeed, America needs a new consensus on the relationship between black people and the police. Feeling under siege and in danger of being murdered by appointed peacekeepers is the keystone to black people’s sense that racism permeates life in modern America.

But if America finally engages in this conversation, it would be wise to avoid the ideological distortions, idealizations, and missteps that have characterized previous entreaties for it....

This idea that on race in America there is always a shoe that hasn’t dropped, that a certain vaguely articulated Great Day has yet to come in which whites realize their culpability in black people’s income, health, and educational disparities and in some way act upon it, is the fulcrum of almost all of today’s discussion of, writings about race.
...
However, it’s not always clear that these thinkers understand what a radical proposition they are making. Much of the difficulty in convincing whites beyond an educated fringe that they are "on the hook" for black suffering is that, beyond the painfully stark episodes of police brutality, the lines of causation have become so tortuous.
...
But for better or for worse, this kind of explanation is a tough sell beyond a certain mostly educated and highly sympathetic fringe of the American population.
...
Some conversation advocates will claim that I distort their reasoning, but the question is: What else is it that you are hoping this conversation will be about? Again, police brutality is one thing, and needs to be discussed, but "conversation" advocates are calling for much more.
...
This is hardly a call for giving up on the battle against black America’s problems.... However, nothing requires teaching white people that everything that ails black America is because of racism you can’t quite feel, taste, or see but is always nevertheless there.
...
It has now been 50 years since the Black Power movement arose.... The Great Day has never shown the slightest signs of coming, it is time to admit that it isn’t going to happen. The "conversation" about race is thinking black Americans’ Great Pumpkin. What we have now is all there will ever be.
...
Black people, then, need no "conversation" that isn’t aimed directly at concrete changes, such as eliminating the war on drugs, teaching poor children how to read according to methods proven scientifically to work, and providing as many women as possible with long-acting reversible contraceptives. That is, black America needs policy, not psychological revolution. All of those things could happen in an imperfect America where no "conversation" has taken place, where nonblacks continue to eat their hot dogs on the Fourth of July without a thought of what happened to black people in the past (a scenario that irritates Coates), where whites in psychological tests reveal themselves to have ugly little biases against black faces as opposed to white ones, where Donald Trump continues to pretend not to know what David Duke’s feelings about black people are, and where, in general, black people, like everyone else, grapple with a grievously less than perfect nation and try their best.
...
That calls to get real things done rather than to hope for whites to "really understand" are now seen as uncharitable and backward is a testament to how deeply the post-Black Power ideology has permeated the consciousnesses of those seeking to create change for black America.... We need governing not with words, but with words rigorously linked to intended actions. There was a time when this was called activism.

7 comments:

Bill Harshaw said...

From the standpoint of an aging white liberal, if the conversation is about white privilege, I already feel guilty, thank you. At least for me, guilt doesn't lead to action. If the conversation is about supporting some concrete proposal, which makes sense, I'm more likely to act.

CollegeCop said...

Whoever wrote it, I can't say anything but that I disagree totally. This whole idea that white people have to "do something" for us (I'm a black man as well as a police officer) is beyond nonsense. It's that kind of victimhood thinking that is the only real barrier to greater black success.

Apologies to my liberal friends, but it is a cornerstone of liberal thought that the problem must be "outside" ie some kind of oppression, inequality or injustice that is at the root of all evil. In that way of thinking there seems to be very little recognition of the fact that, well, some people just suck, and will suck no matter what you do. They think "if only they had a chance, they would advance".

I'm sure there is someone somewhere oppressed enough to not be able to move forward, but it sure as hell ain't all black people. Lots of Black People (thankfully, not all) are focused on police and white people right now, when my people's real 'enemy' is the one within, lead, aided and abetted by a radical black left that really just hates white folks and wants to squeeze them for all they are worth. I'm surprised that article didn't say the word Reparations.

For myself, I don't need 'white folks' to do anything, my family avenged all the past wrongs the day my great-grandfather bought the land his family had been slaves on...instead of waiting for some damn 'revlolution'.

Jay Livingston said...

The power to change policy -- at national and state levels -- is held predominantly by White politicians responding to predominantly White constituencies. Will those people change policies is there is no change in awareness? The slow unraveling of Jim Crow started not with legislative changes but with the courts (as conservative Whites constantly remind us). Eventually, politicians passed laws, but only after massive efforts changed awareness. De facto Jim Crow still exists in hiring, in law enforcement, in real estate, in voting laws -- not everywhere, of course, but it's hardly a rarity. As long as that sort of discrimination remains largely hidden, White people are not going to support new laws to end it, and, as in the past, they will fulminate against court decisions that try to accomplish those goals.

The question is how to change that awareness. I generally dislike new cliches, but "conversation" might not be such a bad idea. The trouble with the far left is that it confuses conversation with harangue (or else it just doesn't give a flying fuck about real conversatio. Trying to promote the idea that American is a totally racist society does more harm than good because insulting people and calling them names is not going to get them to engage in a conversation or to think about other ways of seeing their world.

aNanyMouse said...

I’ll quite bet that the folks with real power, who want us to have a “Conversation About Race", want to thereby ensure that we don’t have a Conversation About the Recent Orgies of Malgovernance, orgies committed by the Establishment crowd which (esp. since the saturation coverage of the OJ trial) has used such hot-button issues to distract us from learning about more important things. Such things include the rackets run by Wall St., Big Pharma, the most-touted nutrition “experts” (starting with Ancel Keys, but later sporting the Naderite CSPI), and the teachers’ unions.

We’ve gone from “acid, amnesty, and abortion”, to “God, gays, and guns”, to “terrorists, trannies, and Trayvons/Laquans”.

The American people are starting to see that something is really wrong, as shown by the ability of two protest candidates to each get over 40% of the Presidential primary votes. But none of the major Candidates said boo about such outfits as the CSPI or the teachers’ unions, or did more than touch on the critiques from such (somewhat well-known) people as Ron Paul, Peter Schiff, or Nina Teicholz. So I expect the Establishment to continue to double-down on terrorists, trannies, and Trayvons/Laquans.

krtsus said...

I gotta say, I agree 100% with Nanny Mouse. I don't know how many others noticed, but this race issue didn't really become as big as it was until Ferguson. Which conveniently was about the time when candidates started peacocking for the 2016. Anyone else notice this?

cap vandal said...

I pretty much agree with the major premise. Time to have a conversation is code for time to get lectured. But here is my thought.

I think whites are culpable for tolerating black popular culture. Starting with Rap music culture. And the rest of it, including clothing. I mean whites buying the music. &c.

Just look up Kanye West/Chief Keef/ Lil Jo Jo.

http://kollegekidd.com/news/chief-keef-disses-lil-jojo-he-died-damn-thought-he-was-team-no-lackin/

Kanye started working with Keef for some street cred.






.

cap vandal said...

http://www.theatlantic.com/past/politics/poverty/origin1.htm

Here is a conversation from 30 years ago.