I have been in a funk this week as I have watched our country struggle once again with the issue of race in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict. On the one hand by all rational accounts justice was served, while on the other the raw emotion at the senseless death of a young black man has opened up the race wound once again.
One late summer day in 1963 Mom took me to the museum in Washington, DC. I was crazy about the Smithsonian, and I was going with Mom, the best possible partner. She would explain things in a clear and concise way which made the complex understandable to a precocious 7-year-old. I remember it being hot on the bus. Mom didn’t drive. And then I remember looking out the window and seeing hundreds of thousands of people. Mom decided we would get off the bus near the Jefferson Memorial and have a look.
It was only later that I found out it had been the demonstration at which Martin Luther King had given his “I have a dream” speech. I of course was more interested in going to see the cowboy and Indian exhibits.
Mom was a devout Catholic and a devout conservative, but her social views were very strong. She taught us to respect everyone no matter their color or social standing.
I guess it came from her time in an orphanage and then taking the most menial of jobs just to get by during the Depression. It was still a time when NINA, or No Irish Need Apply, existed and so she remembered what it was like to be held down. Being young and alone and Irish and female taught you to fight back. She did so quietly in her own way. Education was her salvation. Not a formal one, but one of libraries and voracious reading.
There was another reason my mother was an egalitarian. Her sister had married a black man and they had a child. This may have been scandalous in many homes and places, but not in our family. Mom taught us to try to live the Christian ideal, not that we were very good at it. Everything that Martin Luther King said and did resonated with me as the right thing to do.
And so we are here now, almost at 50th anniversary to the day of Dr. King’s speech, and the hate mongers bait us and spread their poison. We are also approaching the 50th anniversary of the inception of the Great Society social welfare programs that were supposed to end poverty in the richest country on earth. And what have we achieved?
The United States is the most multicultural country on earth. We have virtually every single nationality represented in our population. Most have Americanized and many have retained their roots, but we are all, first, Americans. Go onto any Army or Marine Corps base and you will see immigrants from across the globe buying into the American Dream, sometimes at the cost of their lives.
But then on the other side we have the separatists. The exploiters. The destroyers. It can be seen in the Occupy Movement and in the universities and in the headlines.
The United States and the individual states have spent trillions of dollars on the social safety net. We have spent trillions on the War on Drugs. And what have we accomplished? Very little. So it’s not the money spent.
We have had African-American Secretaries of State and Supreme Court Justices and Cabinet level officials, so it can’t be institutional racism. A half white – half African man won two terms in the White House with approximately 52% of the vote. With only 12% of Americans identifying themselves as of African descent where did the other 40% come from?
But the problem runs much deeper and tears at our psyche. The was a collapse in the African-American nuclear family in the 1950’s and 60’s. Before that, fatherless homes were relatively uncommon. Just at the time when the goals of the civil rights movement were being achieved the basic social network disintegrated.
In 1965 Daniel Patrick Moynihan, almost the prototypical liberal Democrat, wrote a study for the Department of Labor called “The Negro Family:The case for national action”. It centered on the destruction of the nuclear family in the African-American community and argued that both slavery and discrimination were key factors influencing collapse.
Moynihan was vilified at the time and has been condemned time and again for his findings, but today it is our culture itself that is tearing itself apart as those same factors pull at the central node of human existence; the family.
It isn’t rocket surgery. We are assaulted by a culture of misogyny rooted in the African-American community with no one except perhaps Bill Cosby willing to condemn it. And it isn’t just African-Americans; there are plenty of young Hispanic and Asian American and Anglo gangstas as well.
Trayvon Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel can barely speak intelligible English and cannot write in cursive and they call it keepin’ it real. Our high schools churn out kids like this of all colors every day and the teacher’s unions fight any improvement to a now horrific education system like it is Stalingrad.
We have institutionalized stupidity and enacted a legal code without morality and we wonder how we got to this point. The states are legalizing general anesthesia as revenue enhancement and we wonder why our kids get stoned.
500+ people are killed by guns in a gun free zone called Chicago and the media and the government avoid confronting the problem like leprosy. African-Americans represent 12% of our population but 50% of the homicide victims in the country were black in 2010, the most recent year for statistics. 90% of the perpetrators in the murder of African-Americans were other African-Americans.
And yet the President and the Attorney General and Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have used the Zimmerman – Martin case to stoke the flames of racism. What is worse is that the President and the Attorney General are both lawyers and know that the Zimmerman – Martin case is probably the worst example that could be cited as a race based case. But it serves the political needs of the President and his supporters to flame the fires and bury the scandals surrounding the Administration.
On May 15, the Washington Post printed an article on the world’s most and least racially tolerant countries and the United States was ranked as one of the most tolerant. We are a nation of mutts.
First it was the homogeneity of a predominantly Northern European Protestant majority and an oppressed minority in the South, but wave after wave of immigrants flooded the country and with each wave the walls fell down. Today we are a melange, and yet our president, who is half white, refuses to acknowledge his non – black heritage except when exploiting it as his wife recently did in Dublin. This is a man who grew up in comfort in Indonesia and Honolulu and at Occidental College and Columbia and Harvard and the gentrified part of Chicago and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who is telling us how the man has kept him down. I am no longer buying it, not that I ever did. Limousine liberals come in the colors of the rainbow.
The schools, especially in the cities and, as African-American families are pushed out of them because of gentrification, even in the suburbs, are a mess. Family life in America is a mess. Our government has in every way imaginable, encouraged extreme irresponsibility; whether in the management of our social programs or the abortion battles or the legalization of marijuana or any number of other ways. It has in many ways also declared war on our faith-based society. Liberty does not equal irresponsibility. It argues for greater responsibility of the civitas.
The current administration promised hope but has instead at every turn delivered a lack of hope. There is less faith in government than at any time in our history, and yet government has become ever more intrusive in our lives. This has affected the African-American community more than any other.
So let’s have a dialog. What are the real issues and how do we solve them? How do we take responsibility and ownership of the problems and work to fix them?
And let’s leave the race baiters behind. We are better than that. This is America.