Cheat-Seeking Missles

Friday, April 04, 2008

Two Black Americas, Two White Americas

For one heck of a heart-stopping look at America today, look no further than today's op/ed page of WaPo and the columns by Charles Krauthammer and Eugene Robinson.

Krauthammer's piece, The Fabulist vs. The Saint, shows us a white America paralyzed by fear of black America. No, not fear that we'll be mugged or our wimmin will be violated, but fear that we may say something that displeases our black co-citizens. After showing the media's glee to jump on Hillary's well deserved fate ("her Waterloo at Tuzla"), Krauthammer turns to the flag-bedecked Obama race speech:

This invitation to move on, as it were, has been widely accepted. After the speech it became an article of faith that even referring to Wright's comments was somehow illegitimate, the new "Swift-boating."

It is not just that Obama surrogate Rep. George Miller denounced the Clinton campaign for bringing up Wright when talking to superdelegates as trying to "work the low road." You expect that from a campaign. Or that Andrew Sullivan called Hillary's commenting on Wright "a new low." You expect that from Andrew Sullivan.

But from the mainstream media? As National Review's Byron York has pointed out, when Clinton supporter Lanny Davis said on CNN that it is "legitimate" for her to have remarked "that she personally would not put up with somebody who says that 9/11 are chickens who come home to roost" or the kind of "generic comments [Wright] made about white America," Anderson Cooper, the show's host and alleged moderator, interjected that since "we all know what the [Wright] comments were," he found it "amazing" and "funny" that Davis should "feel the need to repeat them over and over again."

Davis protested, "It's appropriate." Time magazine's Joe Klein promptly smacked Davis down with "Lanny, Lanny, you're spreading the -- you're spreading the poison right now," and then suggested that an "honorable person" would "stay away from this stuff."

Honorable people don't criticize hate-spewing black pastors and black presidential candidates who sat their families in front of the spew for 20 years. Why? Because honorable whites don't diss anything about blacks, apparently. In public anyway.

Of course, Hillary's campaign has every right to bring the matter up because it goes to the question of Obama's ability to reason, act and live in a manner we have come to expect of the men who have put on George Washington's mantle. But the discussion is off limits not just because Obama is black, but more so because the white liberal elite think Rev. Wright is right.

But he's wrong. Robinson doesn't say as much in his op/ed, Two Black Americas, but the black America that he paints says it loud and clear. While he talks about successful blacks and blacks in poverty today, that's not the two black Americas he's talking about. Rather, it is the black America of Martin Luther King and the black America of today.

Forty years after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, we sometimes talk about race in America as if nothing has changed. The truth is that everything has changed -- mostly for the better -- and that if we're ever going to see King's dream fulfilled, first we have to acknowledge that this is not an America he would have recognized.

On April 4, 1968, it was possible to make the generalization that being black in this country meant being poor; fully 40 percent of black Americans lived below the poverty line, according to census data, with another 20 percent barely keeping their heads above water. African Americans were heavily concentrated in the inner cities and the rural South. We were far less likely than whites to go to college, and our presence in the corporate world was minimal.

Robinson acknowledges that 25% of blacks today are mired in poverty, and because the better-off blacks don't have generations of money and success behind them, they're a bit more nervous about their success, but:

  • African Americans control $800 billion in purchasing power, which, if translated into gross domestic product, would make a sovereign "Black America" the 15th- or 16th-richest nation on earth.

  • Not even 2% of black households 40 years ago earned the equivalent of $100,000 a year in today's dollars. Now, about 10% of black households do.

  • In many cities, more African Americans now live in the suburbs than within the city limits.

  • The grandson of a slave was chairman of Merrill-Lynch until he resigned in the wake of the mortgage meltdown, "and floated back to earth with the help of one of the loveliest golden parachutes Wall Street has seen."
These probably aren't the people who make up most of Rev. Wright's congregation, which I've heard it referred to as an "inner city black" congregation. If that is indeed the case, it may be like this group described by Robinson:
For those who haven't made it into the middle class, however, things are different. Inner-city communities were hollowed out -- a process accelerated by the riots that followed King's death -- and left fallow for decades. Middle-class professionals fled, businesses closed, schools disintegrated, family structures fell apart. Drugs and crime were symptoms of the general rot ...
Such people could well respond positively to Wright's hate speech about white America, but they would be better served by a pastor who encourages them to join the middle class. Wright, however, preaches that the middle class is a cop out and counter to black liberation.

Obama stuck with a church that, as near as we can tell from Wright's sermons, demonized the 75% of blacks who were successful. As a man who wanted to be the president of America, he should have been doing all he could to see other blacks achieve the financial security he and Michelle enjoyed. That's what we expect as Americans.

Obama's judgment went haywire, or the whole sitting in the pew thing was just a sham that didn't require much thought -- yet the media wants to be done with the whole affair, leading me to the conclusion that there are two white Americas: The one that is comfortable with race, and the one that is so uncomfortable with it, they would rather not talk about it -- proving my long-held theory that Obama is benefiting from racial Teflon, to the detriment of every candidate he faces.

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