• Systemic Racism: What would Dr. King think?

    January 20, 2022 // 2 Comments »

    On this day, what would Dr. King think about critical race theory?

    As an educated man, he might recognize it has little intellectual underpinning. You just have to believe. Questioning is haram. He would likely disagree the force of jihad is necessary to end the white reign, or that non-believers are racial infidels, or that ends justify means. It is hard to see how King, who followed a very different theology, could agree with his intellectual and political successors.

    His intellect would almost certainly be offended by the latest woke gambit of challenging unbelievers (“opponents”) to word games, tricking them into not being able to “define” CRT so they can’t oppose it. The con is definitions believers use are squirmy. The simplest is everything good that happened to whites and everything bad that happened to blacks from 1619 up to this moment is because of slavery, which ended over 150 years ago. Passive victims are antithetical to King’s oratory.

    Whatever good ideas might sneak into any discussion of systemic racism are almost immediately squelched by some of the dumbest things ever said aloud. No matter which definition you write on the golden tablets, the result is people demanding more black sitcom characters with the same zeal as demanding we strip Jefferson’s name off of high schools, and believing both things accomplish something. As historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad put it “The Dr. King we choose to remember was indeed the symbolic beacon of the civil rights movement. But the Dr. King we forget worked within institutions to transform broken systems.”

    Most people who believe in systemic racism avoid questions. It’s all about empty faith, belief without the possibility of proof. Like any zealot, they simply know it is true because things haven’t worked out in their own lives and they cannot be responsible and they think we should reshape all of society based on their interpretation of lived experiences. They mostly just wait for something bad to happen to blacks, or on dry days resurrect some bad event from the past (how many times does Emmitt Till have to die?)  and say “There, that’s it, systemic racism.” If anyone objects, they shout that person down, deplatform or cancel them, smite them, or, as a racist, crucify them. That is all a long way from what King wrote to us all from his jail cell in sweltering Birmingham, saying the “means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.”

    Playing for Team Systemic Racism means the willful ruling out of bounds discussions which could lead to unwelcome conclusions. So, you must ignore cases of blacks doing well, and ignore cases of whites doing poorly (e.g., most of West Virginia.) You must ignore the spread of good and bads for all other races of color, brown, yellow, etc. You must also dump people as diverse as Hasidic Jews, 19th century illiterate Irish immigrants, and Louis C.K. into a category called “white.” You must ignore how actual avowed supremacist groups like the KKK and the Nazis treated people — the white Nazis killed the white Jews and white supremacist groups like the KKK violently opposed white immigration from southern Europe. You would think white-on-white would be counter-evidential to systemic racism.

    In the same vein, you must ignore the term Hispanic as racist itself in your quest for allies. It makes no sense lumping people from 32 countries who happen to speak a variant of the same language together, with a Disney-fied Lin Manuel Miranda as their leader in song. Systematic racism requires victims, the more the better, so you must search for them. For example, you can cite Japanese-American internment camps while without irony claiming Asians unfairly fill what should be black spaces in elite schools.

    As a systemic racism supporter you must not question why racist whites have “allowed” Asians, Hispanics, Persian real estate agents, Ghanaian princes, and others to succeed. You don’t want to talk about how all sorts of groups found success in America. If we are a white supremacist nation, we are quite bad at it. You must also not wonder why the racist police are equally poor at racism, failing to gun down in appropriate numbers the many non-whites who cross their gun sights in Asian, Indian, and Hispanic neighborhoods.

    To believe some sort of system underlies the state of blacks in America for four hundred years, you must also ignore in the supposed quest for white supremacy things like whites doing/voting for/supporting/paying with their lives to fight the Civil War to end slavery, the Civil Rights Acts, the A-Z of welfare and the Great Society, affirmative action, employment quotas, laws against redlining, and all the like. While not everything worked as it should, systemic racism deals in simplistic — forgive me, black and white — terms. You must insist no real progress has been made over hundreds of years.

    Belief in systemic racism also requires not asking a lot of questions about how of the 12 million blacks abducted into slavery out of Africa, only about 300,000 landed in the U.S. The millions of others went elsewhere, where apparently there is not systemic racism today. Also, you will not want to talk about how slavery was part of the economies of nations across the globe for centuries but none of them seem crippled today by systemic racism, just us. You would want to know why BLM isn’t protesting to defund the Dutch, Arab, or the British, who helped create the global slave trade infrastructure. Systemic racism demands you see slavery as a distinctly American thing when in fact that was hardly the case.

    You have to believe there exists a mass movement to not teach about racism to make room for the new theology. Even in my own lousy public high school 40 years ago we learned about Little Rock and Brown. All history classes are incomplete, most due to lack of time, some due to ignorance, some on purpose. That’s a good conversation to have, but since it doesn’t fit the meme we don’t have it. Since 1957 we’re still just shouting at each other. So in 2022 we get Martin Luther King Day without the values King embodied.

    You have to be comfortable on the one hand of turning George Floyd into a hero without paying attention to George Floyd the drug addict, the thief, a guy who wasted his life becoming America’s Top Victim. At the same time, you must be comfortable recasting Thomas Jefferson as no longer the author of the Declaration of Independence but just another white rapist.

    You must disavow how blacks made economic progress after World War II, significantly closing the wage gap with whites while segregation was still widespread. And don’t ask why this progress stopped even though racial animus declined over the years. No talking about how immigrants from the West Indies and Africa, descended from slaves, fare better than U.S.-born blacks, even better than many whites. The median income for American households of Nigerian ancestry is $68,658, compared with $61,937 for U.S. households overall.
    Fixing systemic racism also means believing it is someone else’s job. No talk about low turnout rates for black voters, or how most shootings in our cities are black-on-black and not cop-on-black. Nothing please about individual responsibility, or single parent families and runaway dads, or fetal alcohol syndrome and teenage moms, or the scrounge of inner city gangs and drug use, and how all that self-affects the black experience. Nope, those things are caused by systemic racism we must believe, so they’re not black people’s fault or responsibility to fix. Dr. King believed instead in responsibility to act, and indeed based the soul of his movement on it — things could be made better, saying “If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail.”
    We must dismiss the lack of action on systemic racism by a two-term black president with two black attorneys general, and later by a black VP, because somehow that was not their job or their responsibility except for that fact that they were the system in systemic, running the government of the United States. We do remember in 2017 Obama’s Department of Justice released a terrifying report describing the failures throughout the Chicago Police Department, the city then run by Obama’s own stooge Rahm Emanuel, saying excessive force was rampant, rarely challenged, and chiefly aimed at blacks. Not much was done, and Biden just appointed Rahm ambassador to Japan. Didn’t BLM then?
    It is maybe a bit unfair to put words in the mouths of the dead, and indeed there are people reading this who question the propriety of me, a Caucasian, even talking about Dr. King, as if that part of America’s broader story is not mine to tell. So let’s put it this way: what will happen when those who still understand Dr. King, never mind the oh-so-earnest creamy undergrads with purple hair, realize King’s successors, the critical race theorists, have built their message on a foundation of untruths, hypocrisy, lack of responsibility, hate, violence, and plain old carny talk? Will the followers pivot to a more righteous path, or will they give up, seeing fighting racism as just another meme that has run its course, exposing it was all just messaging? What happens to the work which still needs to be done when it’s revealed there was no message in CRT?

    A lot to think about on this day, remembering MLK.


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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy

    How Much Do Black LIves Matter?

    July 18, 2020 // 4 Comments »

    James Powell was 15-years-old when one hard summer the NYPD killed him.
    He’d been sitting on a apartment building stoop with some other black teenagers when the building superintendent grew frustrated and sprayed them with a garden hose after the kids refused to leave. A cop arrived, claimed Powell had a knife, and shot him twice. No one saw a knife but the cop. A quick ambulance response might have saved Powell’s life but ambulances don’t arrive quickly in that part of town. The cop was cleared by a grand jury. He’d previously shot two other people in the line of duty.

    If you don’t recognize the name James Powell it might be because he was killed in 1964, just two weeks after the Civil Rights Act passed . His death lead to Project Uplift, which you also are unlikely to have heard of, a War on Poverty program to create jobs in Harlem. A few years later the streets not far from where Powell was killed were renamed for Adam Clayton Powell, Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King. In 2020 “Black Lives Matter” was painted in bold letters on one of the streets nearby. You can now even ask Alexa and she will respond, “Black lives matter. I believe in racial equality.”

    That black people’s lives matter isn’t debatable, but how much do they really matter is a real question. It would be beyond cynical to make a Groundhog Day remark out of James Powell’s life and aftermath but not beyond the truth.


    The rioting and protests across New York City has in a way succeeded in one of its specific goals, to defund the police. On June 15 the city closed down the NYPD’s plainclothes anti-crime unit, 600 cops tasked with preventing violent street crime. Once described as elite by Mayor Bill de Blasio, the unit responsible for the choke hold that killed Eric Garner was seen by the black community as a left-over from the stop-and-frisk era. They were the successor to the Street Crimes Unit closed down in 2002 following the fatal shooting of Amadou Diallo. A federal probe found they profiled people of color along the road to ending the destruction of the city during the 1980s.

    Two days after the latest unit fell victim to BLM, party DJ Jomo Glasgow was gunned down at a house party in Brooklyn. His shooting was part of a 205 percent increase in shootings in NYC so far in 2020, the bloodiest toll since 1996.

    Adding to the current day carnage are two other fulfilled BLM demands, the mass release of prisoners due to COVID risks in city jails and the ending of bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. Persons released under bail reform went on to commit 299 additional major crimes. The shootings in NYC are in predominantly black neighborhoods. And there lies the failure of BLM successes: they take black lives that matter.


    Other BLM demands center on money for food, housing, and justice. Over the last 50 years (federal, state and local) governments spent more than $16 trillion to fight poverty. In 2012 that amounted to $20,610 for every poor person in America. Here in NYC, one out of every 14 people already lives in public housing, with the average resident staying 18 years. In a city where the overall population is 26 percent black, 45 percent of those in public housing are black. Food aid? Predominantly in black areas. More than 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers (the average for all other groups is 41 percent.) Children in a single parent family are five times more likely to be poor than children growing up in married‐​couple families. Black lives matter of course but maybe not to many black fathers. Poverty levels among blacks are largely unchanged over decades. The money didn’t help because it was supposed to be a helping hand, not create a victim’s lifestyle, and no one wants to admit the cash outlays from the Great Society and War on Poverty are the only reparations which will ever be paid.

    The modern case for more reparations is made by Nikole Hannah-Jones, a hero of BLM after her work in the NYT’s alt-history 1619 Project. Hannah-Jones, where those before her stumbled, has found the specific thing reparations is going to fix: economic inequality for blacks. In What Is Owed she writes “While unchecked discrimination still plays a significant role in shunting opportunities for black Americans, it is white Americans’ centuries-long economic head start that most effectively maintains racial caste today.” To fix that means to her reparations.

    Hannah-Jones is going to need a helluva lot of money. There are some 37 million blacks in America. Offer each $20,000 in reparations. That’s $740,000,000,000, about a thousand times the current defense budget. And it won’t pay much rent in NYC, where the median household income is $63,000, never mind close any gap in economic inequality. There is no case for reparations resolving any real-world problem except maybe white guilt.


    The basic ideology of BLM is flawed. Blacks killing blacks is called a distraction. Single families are irrelevant. Mountains of money spent just seem to mean more money is needed. But the biggest flaw is BLM removes responsibility from the black community. Nikole Hannah-Jones inadvertently sums it up best: “There are no actions that black Americans can take unilaterally that will have much of an effect on reducing the wealth gap.”

    The BLM narrative is following the Civil War systemic racism was willfully instituted across the nation to keep blacks oppressed. The splay of problems, especially multi-generational poverty and crime, is not the fault of black people. It is something created (and thus the “fault”) of white people and it must be resolved by white people. BLM is a “to do” list of things white people must do. Protests are designed to get whytepiople working on that.

    Coupled with the lack of personal responsibility is the BLM emphasis on pranks and symbols.  Streets are renamed, BLM painted on murals, Gone With the Wind sent down the memory hole, and every TV show, movie, and ad seeded by boycott threats with an ever-growing palette of POC. Go ahead, keep going: show us videos of Karens calling 911, teach history from Broadway musicals, cancel all celebrities, tear down all the statues, rename Columbus, Ohio to Wakanda, rename everything. History shows it all means nothing because it has changed little. James Powell was killed in 1964.

    The BLM narrative is a sweeping view of 400 years of history where the parts fit together like Legos from that first slave wading ashore in 1619 to killing in Minneapolis in 2020, some sort of Protocols of the Elders of White Bread. It ignores how an alleged white supremacist society has over time made its peace to accommodate and promote other minorities, Asians, people from the Indian subcontinent, Cubans and Hispanics among them, albeit unequally, and overcome waves of hate and racism against, in no particular order, the Irish, the Jews, the Catholics, the Italians, women, gays, and streams of refugees, never mind comfortably elect a black president twice and give him two black attorneys general. If we are white supremacists with systemic armor, we have done a really bad job of it.

    One would think a fundamentally racist society worried about losing majority control would not be so generous. The argument that none of those groups grandfathered into the American Dream were ever slaves — the supposed one thing which sets blacks apart — depends on all of us believing a society of immigrants recreates racism anew with each generation, holding a grudge for 400 years over something none of their relatives had anything to do with.

    In NYC, Spanish Harlem is full of warm mom and pop cuchifritos restaurants while black Harlem is infected with corporate fast food. The corner store bodegas which straddle neighborhood borders were once owned by Eastern European Jews who gave way to the Italians, then Indians, Koreans, and now Yemenis. Whole Dominican families run dry goods shops in black neighborhoods. Are they all racist? Is everyone in on it? The whole BLM narrative rejects Dr. King’s dream of insistence on content of character. Skin color is everything and race goes from being one important issue to something that matters more than anything else. Being black becomes so controlling of destiny it can only be fixed by whites.


    The horrors of slavery are endless, made worse because no matter how many times retold, history frustratingly cannot be changed. Discrimination is part of American society as it is in every society and must be fought. But a narrative that says black people have little personal responsibility when a random white guy with no historical or family connection to slavery does, one which demands someone else fix things (mostly with free money), one which is so childishly and regularly diverted by ultimately empty symbolic gestures, cannot succeed.

    James Powell was killed in 1964 and everyone is still saying and doing the same thing expecting different results. That’s what matters.


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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy