March 24, 2008

A Lesson for All Americans; Race and Forgiveness in the 21st Century

By Timothy Birdnow

Patrick Buchanan takes a very frank look at racial politics in a piece at Human Events.

He is, of course, replying to Barack Obama`s speech excusing the Radical Wright Reverend and the Black Liberation Theology of his church, as well as Barack`s tossing of his white grandmother to the wolves to save his political fortunes. As Mr. Buchanan so eloquently points out, the excuses offered by Barack are no excuses at all, and if Mr. Obama truly wants an honest, open discussion of race he will listen to whites and not merely lecture them about how bad they have been.

That America is guilty of slavery is beyond question, but that sin was paid in blood, something that other former slave-holding nations did not have to endure.  It further should be pointed out that there is plenty of blame to go around, starting with African tribal chieftains who started the pipeline by enslaving prisoners of war and selling them to Arab middlemen, who sold them to European slavers.  It is indisputable that slavery flourished in America long after it had ended in Europe, but there were a number of reasons for that.  Slaves were very expensive-as much as $100,000 in antebellum money-and the matter of compensation alone could have started a war.  (When the French began producing rum on their islands the triangle trade-the movement of slaves to the Indies, sugar to New England, and rum to buy more slaves in Africa-ended and New England suddenly found her moral conscience over the matter of slaves.) Northerners refused to compensate slaveholders, who refused to relinquish their slaves since so much of their wealth was tied up in them.  Only 8% of Americans owned slaves, and 2% of Southern slaveholders were black freedmen, so the guilt, while being collective in that non-slaveholding Americans acquised through their failure to act, was reasonably limited.

Does that excuse the horror of slavery?  Not in the least, and the children of former slaves have carried a generational burden that stemmed from the enforced ignorance and stigma to which they had been bound.  But virtually all people were slaves at some point in history, and America is about second chances if it is about anything.  Times have changed, but many in the black community refuse to admit that-even to themselves-because it means they will have to face any failures they meet and accept their own responsibility for their lives.  People like Reverend Wright prefer to blame others for their problems rather than work to overcome their own inadequacies. 

But Black Americans were discriminated against AFTER slavery, we are told.  Very true, but so were Irish, Italians, Mexicans, Germans, etc. etc.  Japanese Americans were imprisoned in concentration camps during the Second World War, but they got over it.  I understand; blacks were SYSTEMATICALLY discriminated against, and that is true, but it ended because of the good will of white America.  A man like Reverend Wright undoubtedly believes that whites were forced to end legal discrimination by the marches and protests of black people, and that the majority whites (who were 90% of the population at that point) had power taken from them in some way.  This is a ridiculous viewpoint to hold; the advances made after Martin Luther King and other black protestors came because white America felt guilty, and there was a movement among whites to right the wrongs done to the blacks.  Had white Americans not done so the marches and protests-and riots-would have simply been crushed by the police.  Newspapers, television, radio would have ignored them as random acts of violence.  It took a change of heart by the white majority in this country to advance the cause of the black community.

Since Brown Vs. the Board of Education and the Fair Housing Act there have been a plethora of laws passed to aid and assist the black community, and preferences in hiring have been given to them.  Reverse discrimination has become a way of life; between two candidates, the less qualified will often be chosen if that candidate is a member of a protected class.  Has it ever occured to someone like Pastor Wright that this is equally offensive and repugnant?  Does he understand how it feels to a white person trying to, say, get a teaching position at a university and being denied because they aren`t the right color?  If discrimination is wrong, then it is wrong.  Two wrongs do not make a right, and discriminating for someone is as bad as discriminating against, since the net effect is the same.

This idea, espoused by Barack Obama (who is, essentially, a spoiled white kid with a black father who had no experience with the tradition of slavery) that white America still owes a tremendous debt to the Black community is the source of much of the problems faced by black America.  It is a crutch which many blacks have become incapable of relinquishing. Much is made about the number of black men in prison, but the fact that most of them are there because of crimes perpetrated against other blacks is ignored.  That the black community has failed these young men never occurs to a Reverend Wright; it is white racism that puts them there.  Illegitimacy, drug abuse, rampant sexuality, a rejection of education as ``too white`` and an acceptance of violence and crime as ``authentically black`` destroys the black community and oppresses the decent people in that community. 

One of the great enablers of this oppression are ``churches`` like Reverend Wrights; they preach anger, bigotry, and dependency.  The Protestant doctrine of Justification through Faith is distorted into an excuse of sin, and church services become an experiential exercise in which emotional outbursts substitute for real faith.  If the Reverend Wright were truly a Man of God he would be more concerned with salvation then with rebellion. 

Eventually, any community-and any individual-must learn to stand on their own two feet, must take responsibility for the conditions under which they live.  It is easy to blame others, it is easy to excuse bad behavior because of disagreeable circumstances, but that road leads to failure and despair.  Immigrants to this country-including many black Africans-have managed to pull themselves out of their morass.  Why is it that a Reverend Wright has an audience at all?  Anger sells, as does rebellion.  Reverend Wright has found a willing audience.

I work with a man from Eritrea, and he immigrated to America for a better life.  Now, this man is undisputably black, and he loves his adoptive country, having just gotten his citizenship.  He has had a hard go; working three jobs and struggling to bring his (mail order) wife to be with him.  He once asked me why many black people hold views similar to Jeremiah Wrights, and I had to give a long, pedantic explanation which did not satisfy him.  To this fellow, America is a wonderful blessing, and he is one lucky guy to have made it here.  Everything is his for the taking if he works hard and plays by the rules, at least from his viewpoint. 

Should the black community forget the past?  Absolutely not! Their past is part of them, and they have much to offer this country, many good things to contribute to the American experience.  It is necessary, however, to toss out the things which have been holding them back.  The black subculture-poor use of English, rejection of education and the work ethic, acceptance of crime and drugs and extramarital sex, etc. are things they must part with if they are to fully integrate into society.  Many black people have done exactly that, and they have prospered.  However, the successful blacks are held back by those who would hang onto a culture of grievance, and by the knowledge that their success may not have been earned but may be the product of affirmative action-in other words, given to them as a gift.  How can one be proud of ones-self with such a cloud hanging over everything?  Is it a victory to win a race in which you are given a healthy head start? 

White guilt has lead to not just an acceptance of the black subculture but an adoption of many of the less admirable traits by whites; consider the popularity of gangster-rap among white teens, for instance.  Human beings all suffer from Original Sin, and we tend not to elevate but to degrade one another. White guilt is degrading the white community as surely as black anger is degrading the black community.  We both need to let go, to move forward rather than backward.  A Barack Obama will not move us forward, nor will a Jeremiah Wright. 

What is needed is a general, nationwide act of forgiveness.  All races should forgive the other, and try to move beyond skin color to work for the common good.  I know what will be said ``what do whites have to forgive?`` A great deal; we had Native Americans killing us since the first English colony at Roanoak, and we fought back, eventually winning a centuries-long war, for instance.  Was the final victory righteous?  Of course not; death or the Reservation was a terrible choice.  But it is doubtful that the many Indian tribes would have treated the whites any better.  Consider the enslavement, torture, and mutilation of captives by the ``noble red-man``.  Blacks, too, while having been historically relatively powerless, have been guilty of crimes against whites, rapes, robberies, murders, carjackings.  Many whites have been discriminated against on the basis of race; jobs, loans, etc. that are reserved for minorities. Many whites feel that black Americans hate and resent them, and this despite strong efforts by many white Americans to help and encourage the black community.  Jeremiah Wright is a poster boy for all that white America sees as cause for blame.

But we all must move beyond this.  Forgiveness is an amazingly powerful form of healing, and if black Americans would stand up, would offer forgiveness, then perhaps they can be the leaders of twenty-first century America rather than continue in the shadows. 

Forgiveness and self-sacrifice are the hallmarks of nobility, and America has seen that commodity in very short supply in recent years. White America has largely lost that trait, and someone needs to lead the way.  A rejection of the Jeremiah Wrights, of the Jesse Jacksons, the Al Sharptons, and the legion of white race-hustling liberals would be a good start.  An end to the failed path offered yet again by Barack Obama, in which blame is heaped on the cringing heads of white Americans and in which government`s exercise of power-which ultimately means taxes and the sword-is used to advance one group at the expense of another.  This cannot and will not work-it never has. 

Booker T. Washington offered the harder path to the black community; he wanted a self-sufficient existence for them.  His reasoning was that if one makes a deal with the devil, the devil will collect his due.  If Blacks accepted help and assistance from the government, or from anyone other than themselves, they would be beholden to that entity, never entirely free.  Washington wanted Black excellence.  He understood that black excellence would shame white mediocrity, and that the ``colored`` people would earn their place and their pride.  But Man is weak, and all people tend to choose the easy path; the NAACP offered not toil and sweat but political action and rebellion.  This was the quick route, the broad and easy path.  Black America has paid for this choice every day since.

Fortunately, one can change paths, and the easy path of easy defeat can still be scorned for the hard path which leads to a worthier place.  No good things in life come easy, and if something is to be worthwhile it requires sacrifice and discipline.  Pride cannot be bought, or voted for, contrary to what the Democratic (sic) Party has to say.  It must be earned. 

That is a lesson that all Americans need to understand.





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