In panning Ta-Nehisi Coates’ open letter to his 15-year-old son, Between the World and Me, Randall Kennedy expresses something which every thinking black American has considered, even those who call themselves liberals.
[Coates] insists that behind apparent black racial pathology is the omnipresent reality of white domination—in this instance an act of white supremacy carried out by a black marionette. “To yell ‘black on black crime,’” he contends, “is to shoot a man and then shame him for bleeding.”
A difficulty with attributing this much influence to white folks is that doing so negates the will of black folks. This brings to mind Ralph Ellison’s critique of Gunnar Myrdal’s An American Dilemma. Myrdal averred that “the Negro’s entire life and, consequently, also his opinions … are, in the main, to be considered as secondary reactions to more primary pressures from the side of the dominant white majority.” Objecting to this formulation, Ellison asked:
Can a people … live and develop for over three hundred years simply by reacting? Are American Negroes simply the creation of white men, or have they at least helped to create themselves out of what they found around them? Men have made a way of life in caves and upon cliffs; why cannot Negroes have made a life upon the horns of the white men’s dilemma?
(All emphasis mine.)
In 1970s, when Affirmative Action became all the rage, one of the few overtly political statements issuing forth from my parents that I can recall is their fervent opposition to it. Simply put, they viewed the policy as an official assertion of the innate inferiority of blacks. They still do.
Professional Black Leftists (PBLs) like Coates, et al. sometimes claim that we black conservatives are “showing off for the white man’s approval” when we put forth conservative opinions in public. It’s a bemusing accusation, since it seems to me that professional black Leftists are inordinately concerned with what white people as a group think of blacks, as if white America were an audience, black liberals were putting on some kind of Broadway show, and black conservatives were the competing show across the street.
Mr.Kennedy’s review calls forth a realization that has brewed in the back of my mind for quite some time: PBLs actually believe that the majority of black people are inferior to other races.
Oh, not themselves, of course. But, all of their bluster toward conservatives of all hues, and even their attempts to turn their mommy/daddy issues into a field of scholarship are defense mechanisms against saying this outright or even admitting it to themselves. And they get angry when you, white person, refuse to see “our inferiority” and to give us our collective wheelchairs. (I have another theory about black failure. It does not involve eugenics or IQ comparisons.)
Of course it would take a great deal of effort to undo the real problem; not inferiority, but the tree which LBJ planted all those years ago, the fruit of which is this. And this. And this. Rotten fruit.
LBJ demonstrated that a culture can be changed on purpose for the worse. (That’s what European leaders are trying to do now, by the way.) PBLs cannot grasp this particular pattern. Believing in the inferiority of other blacks is easier.
And for those of us who are at a loss as to how to make things better, repentance–making an 180-degree turn–begins in the house of the Lord. Action follows therefrom.
Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel, tentatively titled, Arlen’s Harem, will be done in 2016. Follow her on Twitter.
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