Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Looming Hiddenness

We're good!  Y'all commence to forgettin' about America's racist past now!

The looming anniversary of 8/28/2013 is making all white pundits realize they are not racists any more no sir not at all, and they are not afraid of a brown planet they just wish all the browner people, and especially the really brown people, would stop bringing up racism because everybody knows THAT'S what's really racist!

George Will wants you to quit blaming white people, because what Daniel Patrick Moynihan said is sciency!

“The events to which you refer were foreshadowed by something eight months after the march … A young social scientist from Harvard working in the Labor Department published a report. His name was Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He said, ‘There is a crisis in the African American community, because 24% of African American children are born to unmarried women.’ Today it’s tripled to 72%. That, and not an absence of rights, is surely the biggest impediment.” 

And Kathleen Parker wants to just nip it!  Nip it in the bud!  Nip it nip it nip it!

I make these observations not to exacerbate a problem but in the hope that we can stop this craziness before things escalate. The conversation-about-race that pundits keep insisting we need to have should end where it began.

Because we shall not cease from exploration until we return to where we started; or we just give up because it's getting too close to the bone.

And besides, if President Obama doesn't stop pointing out he has the same skin color as Trayvon Martin, we'll have to impeach him for being the Racist-in-Chief.  No, seriously:

 In so saying, he essentially gave permission for all to identify themselves by race with the victim or the accused. How sad, as we approach the 50th anniversary of the march Martin Luther King Jr. led on Washington, that even the president resorts to judging not by the content of one’s character but by the color of his skin — the antithesis of the great dream King articulated.
I've no doubt George Zimmerman judged Travyon by the content of his character, so everything about that case is Obama's fault.

And wasn't that Dr. King's dream?  That one day white people wouldn't have to feel guilty about how they treated black people for almost 400 years.


  1. He said, ‘There is a crisis in the African American community, because 24% of African American children are born to unmarried women.’ Today it’s tripled to 72%. That, and not an absence of rights, is surely the biggest impediment.”

    Of course, an "absence of rights" and the security they provide, a long history of breaking up black families, a "war on crime" that puts gobs of young black men in jail ... those have nothing to do with the rate of African-American children born to unmarried women?

    On a more personal note, my daughter is an "African American[*] [child] born to [an] unmarried" (white) girl. And my wife and I were not yet married when my wife took custody of my daughter (actually it was the day after our first date). But, as a girl adopted into a middle class Jewish family, I somehow don't think my daughter is one of the "children" about which Moynihan and Will are so "concerned". So what really is the source of their concern?

    * my daughter's actually mixed race and really no darker in coloration than the Bukharian, South Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean kids at her school. But my daughter very much identifies herself as "African American" (when pressed, she'll aver that she's "a little part white") and is identified as such by all of her peers and teachers even though she has a white biological mother and a white adoptive father.The one drop rule lives on ...

  2. At the risk of being thought a hopeless reactionary I have to say that a 72% illegitimacy rate strikes me as a very serious problem, for poverty, for health care, for education, and for the kind of life-long parental guidance and help that most of us baby boomers have always taken for granted. This, of course, is wholly apart from the exhaustion, frustration and despair of working class single parents.

    Obviously those issues don't absolve anyone of racisim or the institutionalized pathologies that feed the continuing racial divides in this society. But an argument between one party saying that the problem is sexual ethics and the other that it's the economy gets us nowhere.

    (One the other hand, since we seem to be powerless to do anything about either, I'm not sure what there is exactly to do, other than wring our hands, and note that most other ethnicities seem to be wracking up record illegitimacy rates as well.)

    I go back to that line from Livy: We can bear neither our vices, nor their remedies.

  3. But an argument between one party saying that the problem is sexual ethics and the other that it's the economy gets us nowhere.

    I would only point out that Dr. King continuously referred to economic injustice as part of his argument for civil rights up until the time of his death. The first part of his most famous speech is about the "promissory note" which America wrote but won't allow blacks to cash. Which is not the same thing as saying the only solution is economic, or that the structure of the economy is the only problem.

    What's interesting to me is that only now, 50 years later, am I starting to hear any recognition that the March on Washington 50 years ago was about more than "I have a dream!", even if that discussion seems to be happening around the margins. We have, by and large, thoroughly erased Dr. King's efforts on economic justice, just as some want to erase the fact he was a black man talking about racism directed toward black men, women, and children (no, Rick, I certainly don't mean you in that; I'm going back to the post subject now).

    I would agree the problem is not merely an inherently unfair economic system, and that economic solutions will not be the tide that lifts all boats. But neither would I argue, on the contrary, that the problems are all merely personal or social, or that even further legal steps would provide the cure. But the more we leave out the reality of an economic system that benefits us by impoverishing and belittling other human beings from our analysis, the further we are from any solutions, or any justice.

    And, unlike Livy, I look to Dr. King: the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

  4. Interesting footnote: According to a quick and superficial Google search, Theodore Parker, a 19th century Unitarian minister, was the first to have used that particular imagery:

    "Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice."

    It was commonly repeated in many contexts by any other number of speakers, and Dr. King's first reference put a form of the saying in quotation marks--he made no claim of authorship, I think. According to this particular site it was last used by Dr. King in a speech in 1964.

    I mention this only because I have been perusing a few of his other sermons, and was surprised to find this in a sermon of March 31, 1968:

    "Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitablity. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be coworkers with God. And without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation."

    (From the second volume of the Library of America "American Speeches")

    But of course you're right that even a most superficial reading of King's best-known sermons, in their entirety, unmistakeably shows that his concern was as much with poverty and war as with race. Though events like the election of President Obama provide some suggestion of racial progress, I'm not entirely sure that the average welfare of African-Americans in this country is significantly better. It is very different, today, I think. The problems are different, many stemming from, first, the explosion in drug trafficing in the 60's, and, second, the dire effects of the war on drugs beginning shortly thereafter. Education seems to have largely re-segregated. Rich and poor are farther apart than ever. And our military spending dwarfs what was imaginable in the 60's.

    I am sometimes grateful that I'm not in a position to be suggesting what we do about these things.

  5. We forget, too, that Dr. King was Xian minister.

    And thanks for the elucidation.