Why Race Matters

An honest national conversation is long overdue.

On Memorial Day weekend, there were riots in Charlotte, Rochester, Nashville, Miami, Myrtle Beach and Boston. Last Friday, fighting broke out at Brighton Beach in New York City, where five people were shot and a young girl was killed. Flash mobs have been attacking people in Chicago on the streets and on public buses. The common thread? All of the mobs were black youths – and there’s been a concerted effort by the media to ignore that reality.

Toward what end? Sparing America from a having a real conversation about race? Here’s what the see-no-evil crowd doesn’t want to talk about: there’s a thug element in the black American community which has been glorified for years. The seed was planted during the Johnson administration, which spawned the Great Society and the massive expansion of the welfare state.

Despite all protestations to the contrary, that expansion destroyed the basic underpinning of any civilized society, namely the nuclear family. Nowhere has that destruction been more prevalent than in the black American community, which now boasts an out-of-wedlock birthrate of 72 percent.

It’s not as if no one saw it coming. Daniel Patrick Moynihan predicted that America would pay profound consequences for “defining deviancy down,” specifically citing the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program as the prime culprit.  Before the advent of the Great Society, AFDC had been reserved for widows, as a means of funding once-married women who had lost the primary male supporter of the family. In the 1960s, president Johnson and Congress changed the qualifications: any household where there was no male family head present became eligible for taxpayer subsidies.

Moynihan knew exactly where this was leading as far back as 1966: ”From the wild Irish slums of the 19th-century Eastern seaboard, to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles,” he wrote, ”there is one unmistakable lesson in American history: a community that allows large numbers of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future–that community asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, disorder…are not only to be expected, they are very near to inevitable. And they are richly deserved.”

What did Moynihan get for his prescience? Excoriation. He was charged with being a racist and for “blaming the victim.” What did America get? A semi-permanent underclass in every major urban center in the country – one that one of the greatest transfers of wealth in the history of the country hasn’t even remotely begun to correct through the so-called “war on poverty,” which LBJ declared in 1964 and was the primary rationale for establishing the Great Society. In fact, the poverty rate, which dropped substantially between 1959 and 1969, has remained remarkably consistent since, in terms of percentages, and hit a 15-year high in 2009.

Why can’t we eliminate poverty? Because the progressive approach is one which completely misunderstands the human condition, positing that a lack of financial wherewithal is the disease. It’s not. It’s a symptom of the disease. The disease is a toxic mentality that leads to one horrendous life choice after another, highlighted by the choice to have children out of wedlock, followed by a father’s choice to abandon his own children as casually as one would toss away yesterday’s newspaper – even as the society at large, courtesy of progressive infatuation with “flexible” morality, has eliminated the shame that ought to attach itself to such irresponsibility.

Throw a little white guilt into the mix, perpetrated by the same white progressives who believe personal responsibility is a bridge too far for the “benighted classes,” and couple it with the black racial hucksters who egg the guilty on for personal aggrandizement and financial gain. The perfect storm of social dystopia continues unabated.

Who are the white Americans who dare question the insanity? The culture at large labels them hard-core racists. And who are the black Americans who do the same? “Uncle Toms” and racial “traitors.”

Why does the media downplay the racial element in these stories? Because walking on politically correct eggshells is far easier than stepping into the maelstrom. An editorial by the Chicago Tribune reveals the duplicity of avoiding race “unless it is a fact that is central to telling the story,“ even as it concedes that the “discussion that followed the attacks…did involve race.“ Apparently it is better to say “rioting youths” than “rioting black youths” in order to avoid being labeled, or perhaps confronted by professional agitators such as Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton who, despite all of their well-publicized baggage, somehow remain the mainstream media’s official Go-to-Guys for racial “expertise.”

None of it is flying anymore, at least not with Americans on both sides of the color line genuinely interested in a color-blind society, the people who believe in Martin Luther King’s idea that “content of character” trumps “color of skin.” They are the people who recognize that racial grievance is a business for far too many shameless people, who only prosper by keeping the victim narrative alive and well.

Nothing assures the production of victims more than the gang-banger mentality and all its attendant pathologies. The foremost pathologies? A bone-headed, reflexive macho-ism, coupled with a penchant for using guns to settle even the most minor disputes. The Brighton Beach story is depressingly familiar. From the New York Daily News:

“One man used an umbrella to crack another man in the head as the fight erupted on the Brighton Beach…[S]uddenly, a gunman squeezed off about eight rounds, first shooting in the air before aiming at the brawling crowd, cops and witnesses said.”

What kind of mentality do you have to have to aim at a crowd? And sure enough, yet another innocent victim, 16-year old Tysha Jones, is dead in what the Daily News characterized as a “senseless shooting.”

Hardly senseless. There are a litany of “sensible” rationalizations for pulling the trigger which might not make sense to outsiders, but will be very much in tune with the inner-city worldview where “respect,” aka street-cred, is earned for being able to “out-thug” everyone else.

How deep does the pathology go? Aside from the racial hucksters and their progressive enablers, as deep as the entertainment industry wants it to go. As deep as a Democratic Party, for whom black “victims” equal reliable voters, wants it to go. As deep as black Americans themselves, who ostracize their own brethren for straying away from the Left, want it to go.

And now the violence is becoming orchestrated via technology: send a Facebook message or a tweet, and x amount of kids will show up in a “flash mob,” and shake down a busload of people. The progressives insist that relentless poverty causes crime, a myth debunked here, even as they overlook how many of these “poor” kids own Internet access and/or a cell phone.

This column is written with the intent of cutting through much of the political correctness that invariably accompanies any so-called national conversation regarding race, one that automatically brands anyone a racist for stating out loud what too many people prefer to whisper about. But it is not racist to point out the glaringly obvious. And it is glaringly obvious that until the self-perpetuated destruction of the black family, with all of its attendant pathologies, is confronted, it cannot be changed. It is glaringly obvious that a progressive ideology which has institutionalized inequality in the form of racial quotas and lower standards for “people of color” as a means of proving how much it “cares,” is an insidious perpetration of soft-core bigotry. It is glaringly obvious that people on both sides of the color line have been burdened with such unnecessary baggage long enough.

There will always be a certain degree of racism. Part of the hard-wired human condition is the simple fact that people tend to fear that which they do not understand. The parents of Tysha Jones are dealing with the worst thing that can happen to any parents. All decent people should be outraged. And yet once again, the central reasons for this tragedy have been side-stepped. Mayor Mike Bloomberg, in the typically clueless fashion that has become his trademark, is blaming the availability of guns for the crime. ”It would be very helpful … if Congress would have some courage to stand up and just enforce the laws that are on the books,” he said.

It would be even more helpful if America honestly addressed the reality that too many black American youths are immersed in a pathological, machismo thug-glorifying worldview–nurtured by timid politicians, racial opportunists and a head-in-the-sand media.

Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist to the conservative website JewishWorldReview.com.