That may sound like a racist question to many people. I’ve seen and heard that that sound bite, that Black lives matter, in the media as though it was some moral prerogative that trumps all common sense. If some politician or commentator counters that all lives matter then such a statement is judged racist by that supposedly morally superior group fomenting mob action that sets aside any sense of justice. Indeed, “justice” is seen as having things “our way”, revenge will be served. A single death of one Black individual by any White individual or group, regardless of the situation, is seen by so many to diminish the worlds sense of morality by a thousand fold or more. Yet a dozen Black individuals may die at the hands of any number of Black individuals and their memories don’t even register any moral indignation. The number of Blacks murdered by Blacks is more than exceptionally high, it borders on the suicidal. Yet there particular Blacks lives don’t matter, they don’t count as moral injustice, no one speaks for them. It would mean that the Sense of Black morality and justice is two faced and pointing that out is racist and insensitive according to those Black moralist of outrage. Well, good luck with that nonsense.
There was a social and political cartoon in Esquire Magazine back about 1965 that really summed up the Black identity experience. The cartoon was four of five panels as started out innocently enough about the Black experience and the liberal white response. It starts out with two Black men talking and went something like this. “When we discovered Hip, Whitey discovered Hip. When we discovered Cool, Whitey discovered cool. When we discovered Freedom, Whitey was lost.” Film and literature go a long way to the discovery of a Black identity with the collapse of slavery as an financial and social institution. The North won the War Between the States. The manufacturing and banking interests won total domination over the Southern Agricultural way of life. The slaves were freed and then promptly forgotten. The northern interest never pressed the argument of equality. Indeed, the North was constantly in the turmoil of European immigration, the Irish, the Polish, the Jews, the Italians, the Russians, and all the other groups that chose to come to America. True, there were several migrations of former black slaves int the Northern states. They weren’t welcome with open arms by their saviors. Such Black people were herded into ghettos and left to best find their one way. The segregation, the discrimination, the extreme injustice of these Black peoples’ existence would seem to weigh against their progress. Yet, if one bothers to read the histories of the enclaves of Black populations, they were marvels of ingenuity. Local Black businesses were established to serve the local Black population, Black banks, often informal, financed the business and community interests. There were even informal Black policing when the White city ignored the need for law and order. These were tight knit communities where exclusion was the force of justice in the community.
As for the Southern Black experience, well, what did you expect when the war was over? It is not taught that economic depression was the experience for all the Southern population and most harsh for the Black population. After ten years of exploitation by Northern get-rick-quick hordes and military government, these conquered populations were returned to such power as they could find. The population losses by the South were such that a generation was left stunted. Industry, universal education (at least for Whites) was slow in coming. Is it any wonder that the White population feared the large numbers of former slaves. The collective experience of slavery, the economic deprivation, the social exclusion, all these things served to push a sense of fear, a sense of anger, and even a sense of entitlement in the Black populations. The history is all there for anyone who cares to examine it. Of course there was going to be Jim Crow laws. The North had them, why shouldn’t the South use them as well. It takes time to convert the predominant crop of cotton and tobacco to food crops. Much of the land lay in ruin due to over use in the growing of both cotton and tobacco. It was a struggle for survival that pushed the segregation and discrimination against the Black population. Many would migrate to the north were opportunities might be limited but at least there were opportunities. Black history is not cut from one bolt of cloth, but a patchwork quilt embracing many different experiences. One has only to read the histories to understand that point.
To get back to the point of the cartoon mentioned earlier, it was that same year that President Johnson launched his “Great Society”. Welfare had been a common feature in many of the state governments and the federal government agencies. The decade of the depression prior to World War Two had seen a number of welfare programs aimed at all segments of society. Farm welfare in the form of production and nonproduction payments was seen as the key to price stability. Manufacturing subsidiaries, Federal minimum wage for federal projects like the WPA, the CCC, and the TVA gave a more uniform structure to labor while unions were in ascendancy. But in 1965 the beginning of the welfare anaconda took shape through the program, Aid to Dependent Children. It was a program with good intentions but bad results. It put an end to the Black family as an institution. Now the welfare programs has been inexistence since the thirties, but it was the expansion of coverage and changes in rules. Women were encouraged to separate or divorce their husbands in order to receive the new welfare monies. Men were discouraged from marrying or supporting their children. After all, let the government take care of it. We have Columbia University to thank for the destruction of the existing Black social structure. We have the good intents of liberal politicians to thank for the destruction of Black neighborhoods, forcing so many into ghettos that looks uncomfortable the one in Warsaw before the end of WWII. The Warsaw Ghetto had a sense of community because it was both jewish and ethnic. One could not say the same of the Black experience in America after 1970.
What I see today is the attempts of the many factions of the Black population in this country to define its identity as a whole. Yet, one can point to the Latino community and see that such a population is far from monolithic. Indeed, I would defy you to find any one ethnic group, including Whites, who can be defined in such a manner. Perhaps the most telling problem for Blacks, as a whole (and this is not universally true of all Blacks), is the pretense of the Gangsta identity, the attitude that Whitey can’t mess with me, and the need to be taken seriously by other groups. Freud would have pointed out that, in general, the Black identity is using its Hip Hop/Gangsta social identification as a defense mechanism, a protection against inclusion that might blur their identity with the rest of America. It does not help that so much of the White youth culture has picked up on this culture and embraced its identity. One is either in the societal group or one is not. If “acting Black” means being disrespectful, disregarding rules of law, acting solely with regards to one’s self interest and disregarding the interests of all others, then I see a problem that the Black community as a whole needs to discuss and correct the perceptions of its members, particularly the young.
Of course the matter is acerbated by the manner in which we have let corporations and politicians run roughshod over our economic, social, and political interests. The new trade agreement will further strip employment except the most menial work in this country. The idea that technology is going to save the world is the last big joke to be played on the world. The few jobs it creates won’t replace the great many it will displace. Indeed, the promise of Freedom was never more under attack than now. I fear that tomorrow will only encourage more reduction of freedoms and promote more slavery, and I mean for all groups of citizens, regardless of ethnicity. It’s not the myths of racism, white privilege, and white supremacy that are the evils of this country, it is the concentration of wealth that constricts the economic opportunities for all peoples in this country. Without economic opportunity social and political opportunities become vastly limited. It is a matter that ALL Blacks lives matter, that all the lives of other groups matter, not just a few that are glorified as political injustice and yet merely represent the stupidity of mob actions. We, as a people, must act on reason, not stupidity. We must act on justice, not mob revenge, We must act wit personal integrity and morality, not personal self interest at the expense of others.