City Journal Winter 2016

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Winter 2016
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By Heather Mac Donald, Victor Davis Hanson and Steven Malanga

The Immigration Solution.

By Heather Mac Donald

Are Cops Racist?

Eye on the News

Heather Mac Donald
Poisonous “Authenticity”
Jeremiah Wright draws on a long line of Afrocentric charlatans.
April 29, 2008

Selected Responses:

Sent by Sherri on 05-04-2008:

It's obvious from Obama's education that he does not agree that black kids should be expected not to be able to sit still in a classroom. Talk to his wife about their children you will know what they expect in their own "black" children. They wouldn't expect any more from any other black child.

In addition, in the black church community there is more that one reason for staying at the church you belong to. As Obama said, he may not subscribe to the views of his minister, but may have loyalties to the other members and church community as a whole. Whites and blacks do differ on lots of issues when it comes to social issues pertaining to their habits. We do things for different reasons. Being political is not a good reason to make decisions about your personal life as far as blacks are concerned. However, whites may see it as a no-brainer to distance themselves from anything that would jeopardize their intentions. I feel that a closer look would find that Obama may be more naive than anything.

Sent by John Dineen on 05-01-2008:

Excellent article. Unfortunately this is is the same ideology espoused by liberal, white American apologists who seek to find any excuse to explain away the diparity in black/white performance in school. It's so unfortunate that this condescending attitude also resides in the black community. I can't help but feel that those who promulgate these so-called theories have another agenda--power. It's much easier to manipulate the victim than the empowered.

Sent by Michael on 04-30-2008:

I served with African-Americans in the military. They were as disciplined and well-trained as anyone else, in contrast to Rev. Wright's assertions. I guess the difference may be: in the military the African-Americans didn't have one of their African-American "leaders" looking over their shoulders telling them they could NOT do things as well as whites, or that bad behavior among African-American soldiers was excusable because they are "different."

Sent by CW on 04-30-2008:

An excellent and well-researched piece on the purveyors of black "authenticity" that is so crippling to large swaths of the black community. One good thing to come out of the Wright fiasco is national exposure of the radical anti-white strain that runs through many black churches in America. This came as a terrible shock to many white Americans, and the realization that we are far, far away from becoming a "post-racial" society should be a wakeup call for all of us.

These voices of hatred and of permanent division need to be confronted and condemned by a new generation of black leaders. It is tragic that blacks who have indeed put race behind them--people like Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, Juan Williams, and many, many more--are so casually dismissed as "Toms" because they embrace conservative ideas and actively attack the culture of victimhood. One hope we may have is that Obama, in spite of his puzzling, long association with a fanatical demagogue, may turn out to be a black liberal who can inspire black America to turn away from the fictional excuses for failure that have long been the staples of black "leadership."

But that may be a faint hope. I can find no reasonable explanation other than cynical political motives for his decision to remain in the poisonous environment of Rev. Wright's church for these many years, without one peep of protest.

Sent by Al Gaynor on 04-30-2008:

Your article sounds all kinds of alarms. Many of us have had various levels of understanding of what you are writing about.

On the whole, however, the majority are ignorant of the the extent of the problem. The implications are horrendous. It helps to explain why a Bill Cosby runs into such a buzz saw when he tries to change things. Excellent article.

Sent by Robin Monroe on 04-30-2008:

I find Rev. Wright's attitude about the impossibility of blacks sitting still and listening as a means of learning quite disturbing. If it is in fact impossible for black children to learn this way, then what is the age when it becomes possible for blacks to learn this way? What Rev. Wright is insinuating is that attentive listening and learning are impossible for blacks. If this is the case, then this begs the question - hasn't he wasted his entire life preaching to a black congregation? And hasn't that most segregated of hours on Sunday morning been a complete waste of time? And wasn't he telling the attendees at the NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner that there is no point in sending black children to college, because it's impossible for them to be attentive and listen anyway?

So I wonder, is it possible to ask Mr. Wright what the magic age is when the "switch is flipped," so to speak - when is it that blacks become able to sit, listen, and learn attentively?

Mr. Wright has done more this week to set the cause of black Americans back 100 years than any of the academic nutcases that he cites.

Sent by T. Phipps on 04-30-2008:

Barack Obama, like many Americans, is of both African and European ancestry. Which side of our brains do WE use? It's clear that Rev. Wright, who also appears to be of mixed heritage, uses neither.

Sent by David Oputu on 04-30-2008:

The only thing "poisonous" is your attitude to any black who dares to reject white orthodoxy. How would you know if blacks have different learning styles? How would you know if the obsession with keeping children "orderly"--which is not found in any black society that has escaped the heavy hand of white domination--interferes with the education of black children? We understand the pleasure you take in race hustling by calling prominent blacks race hustlers. But you cannot hurt us by undermining Obama.

Sent by Mike on 04-30-2008:

Heather Mac Donald is shocked by the historically false Afrocentric fables concocted for the sake of multiculturalism, the embrace of Ebonics and classroom incivility, and the embrace of criminality as part of the "black identity."

She ought not be. This is a very, very old shtick, dating back to Norman Mailer's essay "The White Negro" in 1957 and the left-wing adulation of rapist Eldridge Cleaver in the 1960s. It is still with us in 2008 because white, liberal elites have, for over 50 years now, used blacks as a tool to kick down traditional American behaviors and morality.

Ultimately, blacks are only 12 percent of the population. If the white majority demands that blacks speak correctly and eschew immorality and criminality, then they will. Conversely, blacks celebrate social pathologies only because they are goaded on by liberal white elites who similarly seek to celebrate those same social pathologies.

Sent by Nathan Jessup on 04-30-2008:

"There is another class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs - partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs....There is a certain class of race-problem solvers who do not want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public."

- Booker T. Washington

The idea that Wright's speech would be applauded at length by 10,000 people makes me feel a little queasy...and uninformed.

I had no clue.

Sent by Phillip Remstein on 04-30-2008:

The Rev. Wright is delusional in his recollection of his days in schoool in Philadelphia. He grew up in the Germantown section of Philly in a large single-house, mostly white neighborhood, with disciplined and functioning schools. His father was a well-known and respected minister, and his mother was a teacher in the public schools who enjoyed an excellent reputation among her students, ending her career as a principal of Girls High School, a highly regarded academic institution.

Wright graduated from Central High School, which at that time was ranked as one of the top three academic public schools in the nation, and today is still highly rated. I graduated in 1955; he graduated in 1958. It was an open- enrollment school, predominately Jewish and white, with a black enrollment of approximately 6 percent. Wright matriculated based on the results of a highly competitive examination. There was no affirmative action; acceptance was simply based upon your academic excellence. Black students were respected and treated as equals among many of their fellow students and by the teaching personnel, (most of whom held Ph.D.s), without prejudice. There was absolutely no racial tension or incidents whatsoever in this school.

Whatever bad experience Wright recollects is a measure of his revisionist memory. An added note: Bill Cosby had been a student at this same school several years prior. From this school graduated the great future leaders of Philadelphia and around the country in the fields of education, medicine, law, and science. Included among the well-known graduates was Noam Chomsky, a highly regarded international academic, although not necessarily universally loved.

Sent by Ben Karp on 04-30-2008:

Great article saying things that I have not heard. I'd hoped it was being said somewhere in the country that I love but fled, in part because of the madness which race-obsession has caused, as well as the obscenely low standards both black and white America seem to hold for blacks, whose culture they generally agree is a composite of debilitation.

One other thing for Wright. Given that he is likely, and like many of us, as much Native and Scots Irish as he is West African, what does his brain look like?

The list of Afrocentric “educators” whom Reverend Jeremiah Wright has invoked in his media escapades since this Sunday is a disturbing reminder that academia’s follies can enter the public world in harmful ways. Now the pressing question is whether they have entered presidential candidate Barack Obama’s worldview as well.

Some in Wright’s crew of charlatans have already had their moments in the spotlight; others are less well known. They form part of the tragic academic project of justifying self-defeating underclass behavior as “authentically black.” That their ideas have ended up in the pulpit of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ and in Detroit’s Cobo Hall, where Wright spoke at the NAACP’s Freedom Fund dinner on Sunday, reminds us that bad ideas must be fought at their origins—and at every moment thereafter.

At the NAACP meeting, Wright proudly propounded the racist contention that blacks have inherently different “learning styles,” correctly citing as authority for this view Janice Hale of Wayne State University. Pursuing a Ph.D. by logging long hours in the dusty stacks of a library, Wright announced, is “white.” Blacks, by contrast, cannot sit still in class or learn from quiet study, and they have difficulty learning from “objects”—books, for example—but instead learn from “subjects,” such as rap lyrics on the radio. These differences are neurological, according to Hale and Wright: whites use what Wright referred to as the “left-wing, logical, and analytical” side of their brains, whereas blacks use their “right brain,” which is “creative and intuitive.” When he was of school age in Philadelphia following the Supreme Court’s 1954 desegregation decision, Wright said, his white teachers “freaked out because the black children did not stay in their place, over there, behind the desk.” Instead, the students “climbed up all over [the teachers], because they learned from a ‘subject,’ not an ‘object.’” How one learns from a teacher as “subject” by climbing on her, as opposed to learning from her as “object”—by listening to her words—is a mystery.

One would hope that Wright’s audience was offended by the idea that acting out in class is authentically black—it was impossible to tell what the reaction in the hall was to the assertion. But one thing is clear: embracing the notion that blacks shouldn’t be expected to listen attentively to instruction is guaranteed to perpetuate into eternity the huge learning gap between blacks on the one hand, and whites and Asians on the other.

Wright also praised the work of Geneva Smitherman of Michigan State University, who has called for the selective incorporation of Ebonics into the curriculum in order to validate the black experience. Wright gave another shout-out to the late Asa Hilliard of Georgia State University, who told us, Wright said, “how to fix the schools.” Like Hale, Hilliard argued that disrupting the classroom through “impulsive interrupting and loud talking” is inherently black. His bogus Afrocentrism, propounded in his “African-American Baseline Essays,” metastasized in educational circles during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Hilliard argued that Western civilization was at once stolen from black Africa and crippling to black identity. As the late Arthur M. Schlesinger recounted in his 1991 alarum about multiculturalism, The Disuniting of America, Hilliard urged schools to teach black students that Egypt was a black country; that Africans invented birth control and carbon steel; that they discovered America long before Columbus; that Robert Browning and Ludwig van Beethoven were “Afro-European”; and that the Atlantic Ocean was originally named the Ethiopian Ocean. (City College of New York laughingstock Leonard Jeffries—he of the infamous distinction between materialistic, aggressive European “ice people” and superior African “sun people”—contributed to Hilliard’s Essays, asserting therein that slavery was undertaken as “part of a conspiracy to prevent us from having a unified experience.”)

Approving of self-destructive behavior in school is just one part of the vast academic project to justify black underclass dysfunction. The academy has also singled out crime as authentically black, another poisonous idea that Wright appears to have embraced. In his NAACP speech, he mocked the tendency of “those of us who never got caught” to treat “those of us who are incarcerated” with disrespect. In other words, we all commit crime, but only some of us get nabbed for it.

This leveling argument recalls the bizarre doctrines of University of Pennsylvania law professor Regina Austin. In a widely reprinted California Law Review article from 1992, Austin asserted that the black community should embrace the criminals in its midst as a form of resistance to white oppression. People of color should view “hustling” as a “good middle ground between straightness and more extreme forms of lawbreaking.” Examples of hustling include “clerks in stores [who] cut their friends a break on merchandise, and pilfering employees [who] spread their contraband around the neighborhood.” It never occurs to Austin that these black thieves may have black employers who suffer the effects of black crime—as do the larger neighborhoods of which they form the essential fabric. Officially incorporating crime into the black identity, as Austin and Wright do, is a pathetic admission of defeat and marginalization.

To understand how such ideas become mainstream, one need only read the front page of today’s New York Times. There, television critic Alessandra Stanley thrills to the authentic voice of black America: Wright “went deep into context—a rich, stem-winding brew of black history, Scripture, hallelujahs and hermeneutics,” Stanley effuses. “Mr. Wright, Senator Barack Obama’s former pastor, was cocky, defiant, declamatory, inflammatory and mischievous.” One might think that Wright’s promotion of the idea that black kids can’t sit still in class would raise some worries, even in a television critic. Surely Stanley would expect her own children to listen to their teachers. But the white elite’s desire to avoid charges of racism cancels out all reasonable reactions to dangerous nonsense when such nonsense comes out of black mouths. The coverage of Wright’s speeches beyond the Times has been just as silent about their crackpot Afrocentric pedagogy, meekly following the agenda that Wright set by asking instead whether the black church, and not Wright, was under attack.

Wright’s speeches have shown how quickly academic insanity becomes incorporated into practice. And now we may be on the verge of seeing such madness spread into the White House. The mainstream media have had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into questioning Obama’s affiliation with Wright. By now, Wright’s 9/11 and AIDS diatribes are well-worn—and Obama’s repudiation of them a no-brainer. It is imperative that someone at CNN or the New York Times ask Obama whether he, too, believes that the way to “fix the schools” is through Afrocentric curricula and double standards in student discipline, and whether he, too, believes that blacks only think with the “right side” of their brains.

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