"The anger is real. It is powerful, and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races."
- Barack Obama
In an effort to throw Barrack Obama's thoughtful statement onto the scrap heap of irrelevant racial rhetoric, Ed Kaitz, writing in The American Thinker has made Obama's
point more completely than he ever could have.
Based upon shop worn arguments, writing anecdotally, Kaitz takes his readers through
experiences working, in academia and in conversations with good black folk. He
hypothesizes from flawed analysis of achieving Asians that blacks are not hungry enough to succeed and that blacks have squandered their chance to achieve the American dream
because they have an entitlement mind set. Blacks, he avers, have joined the eager army of intellectual freeloaders in our nation's colleges, signing up for courses designed to
teach them about their blackness and how much they should loathe America. Simply put,
Kaitz's arguments can be distilled into the following statements: newcomers to America
succeed because they try harder and are more self reliant than our home grown, indulged
blacks; and, academicians perpetuate the problem by developing sub-standard courses
that do nothing to elevate the race; and finally, that black anger is misplaced for it should
be turned inward. This is an astounding piece of transubstantiation: changing fable into
"... to condemn it (the anger) without understanding..."
Where to begin? Try this: Just over fifty years ago, President Eisenhower integrated the
schools of Little Rock. You might not remember it but I do. I was a little boy, but I
listened to my father champion that event and I can still feel his pleasure in the rightness
of our country. His joy was that palpable then. Fifty years ago. That's all it was.
I went to an all white prep school. I never sat in class with a black boy. I went to a
college in the Southwest, now renowned for its academics. Then there were few
"academic minorities" in the school. Some great black athletes though! My first
experience with integration came the day I moved into my dormitory. The dorms were
set as suites, two rooms conjoined with a single bathroom. One potential suitemate came
with his father, who upon seeing the bathroom and the possibility of use by a "nigra" (he
stopped short of racist epithet), decided his son might be better off in a single room.
I served in Vietnam as an officer when young black men made up the majority of our
fighting force. Some used heroin, some killed their officers, some shirked their duty,
many came home infected with venereal diseases (not unlike their white counterparts)
and most came home to the same rotten housing, lack of opportunity and second rate
education they left.
I lived through Huey Newton. I lived through Watts. I lived through Rodney King. I
lived in Los Angeles when Chief Gates led a racist police force and it was dangerous to
be black. Don't tell me I don't know about it, that I just read about it. I served in a
veterans group with LAPD members and I was very afraid for my black friends. I've
been in a car in Beverly Hills driven by a black man who was stopped for no reason. It's
called DWB and if you don't know the term, you don't get it. I've walked through an
upscale fashionable department store with a black athlete and when we split an aisle,
security followed him. Still don't get it? I've been the only white person in an all black
nightclub. I can tell you first hand how scary it is to be racially different.
I went to Harvard for graduate school. There was a dearth of qualified African-American
academics in my class as I recall.
I've lived in Colorado when Ward Churchill became a cause celebre for both sides of his issue. My view on him and his particular form of idiocy is that we need Churchillian
extremes to remind us of how important it is to parse academic screed. Find some truth
in it or reject it wholly as absurd, as the faculty of University of Colorado finally did. But
we need the Berkleys and the Boulders--the Browns and the Columbias with their
pseudo-intellectual liberalism to remind us how important it is to teach our children well.
The danger we face is not in the courses presented, nor even the supposed rightness of
their content, the real danger we face is in the lack of freedom to dissent that is rife in too
many schools. But this abhorrence of dissent is as true in the imperial nature of physical
science studies and economics as it is in African American or Women's Studies. I would venture this guess: most black students dabble in these ethnicity courses but don't take them all that seriously. Do you really think that a young black in a good university setting, given the choice of course selection that will lead to high financial reward or
historic understanding of race will defer to the latter?
"... to condemn it (the anger) without understanding..."
I guess to understand black anger I would have to be black. I would have to be thought
of first as three fifths of a man. I would have to have had my race lynched, economically
deprived, educationally slighted. I would have had to be forced to live separately and had
my women thought of as sexually available by the very fact of their blackness. I would
have to be thought of as less intelligent. I would have to be thought of as black if but one
drop of black blood made me so. What color is a man if his mother is white and his
father is black?
I had a classmate in college from Indiana who told me blacks had smaller brains, couldn't
do the same tasks as whites and that in a fight you had to hit them first in the legs to bring
them down because their skull bones were thicker and you couldn't hurt them in a fight if
you hit them in the head. He honestly believed that. That was in 1967. Just over forty
years ago. Barrack Obama would have been six then. I've been in bars where blacks
weren't allowed. Barrack Obama would have been almost ten.
Remember Coach John Cheney of Temple University? His lifetime of anger must have
come un-bottled because he exploded in a press conference and threatened to do bodily damage to another coach. Most people were appalled. I wasn't. As a young man, John
Cheney was one of America's finest college basketball players. He was denied an
opportunity to play professional basketball because the NBA had a limit as to how many
black players a team could have. That he didn't unravel years before is a credit to the
strength of his psyche.
One of my favorite people in the world is a seventy-nine year old first generation Pole.
He is a true Yellow Dog Democrat. He won't vote for Obama though, "since black
people haven't proven they can take care of their own race, how can they take care of the
country?" He was the son of an immigrant in an area where Polish people were thought
of as dumb. He overcame a family accent, put himself through college, went to church,
put four kids through college, held a job for thirty-eight years, has two homes, two cars
and a pension. If he could do it, so can blacks. "They just feel like America owes them!"
Close your eyes. Tell me the difference between the black man who failed and the Asian
who succeeded. The truth is simpler than you really want to believe. Need some help
before you open those eyes? Think of two people you know. One who is white, the other
who is black. Now, describe them. Start with the white. He's how tall? What color are
his eyes, his hair? Shape his nose and ears for yourself. I needn't go farther. Think of
your black person. Begin the description without thinking, "he is black." You won't get
much more in your description will you?
Without delving into the socio-economic or psychosexual reasons for the fear of
blackness, the simple fact is that race issues in America begin and end with color.
Europeans, Asians, Latinos and mostly all other immigrants can "overcome" their
differentiation because they are not black. African Americans cannot. And because for
more than three hundred and fifty years of American history they have been ill treated
simply because of their skin color, they have been denied opportunity at every juncture of their own country's history, their anger is deeply felt and honestly come by. I can only
share my understanding of their anger in the same anecdotal style that Kaitz has done.
Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., John Cheney and their generation straddled the divide between
nothing and the hope and promise of something. Barrack Obama and his wife Michelle
have mostly chronicled the divide while living more of their dream. They have an
understanding of the root cause of their predecessors' anger no matter how inarticulate
they are in describing it. Their children and mine may yet see more change. I'm of the
first generation though. I honestly don't know. But I think that every black in America of
Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.'s generation has a right to be angry. Really angry! No matter
how counter-productive that anger is.
Here is my hope for change: I hope one day the "anger of race" will be confined to
descriptions in history lessons taught by self-important professors in liberal colleges
around this country. That won't happen until we first understand and then overcome the roots of that anger.