by Chris Bodenner
A reader writes:
I teach high school in a racially diverse district, and think that anyone who has spent some time in the classroom can clearly see McWhortor and Wax's points. One way to measure the effect of whatever we want to call this "value problem" is how it ultimately transcends race. Thug culture, and the other conditions that Wax laments, bleed over into white culture, and the values replicate themselves. For many students of all ethnicities, it has simply become cool to be an uneducated thug. I don't think it is too much of stretch to see the devaluation of "learning, work and marriage" in many of the arguments of the (overwhelmingly white) far right. Somehow thuggery has become a cultural meme that is undermining the human capital of the country as a whole. The same goes for teen pregnancy.
Reading McWhorter, he brings to mind an old paradox of the right. There are two sincere, humanitarian tenets among many who call themselves conservatives. One tenet holds that dysfunctional societies cannot be made whole by throwing endless stacks of cash at them, even if historical forces originally created the present mess. The other tenet holds that we have an obligation to countries we’ve invaded to throw money at the problem until the society is made whole. Perhaps there is a way to reconcile these two beliefs, but I haven’t found it.
To all the readers saying, "But you don't understand how hard it is being in the impoverished urban communities," I have to ask them: "How is it fundamentally different from the experience of the rural white poor, or the urban white poor?" It isn't.
I grew up in the housing projects of New Hampshire, and now live on the skirts of the urban projects in Boston. I know friends whose families live in the projects here in Boston. I see the exact same dynamics at work. I've seen it in the white urban poor, black urban poor, and from my own history in the white rural poor. But the rural poor do not have access to public transit or urban densities to explore other means of employment, education, and enrichment. The ones who escape their impoverished communities are the ones who succeed. The ones who stay behind get sucked into the same downward spirals.
I lived in the same dysfunctional communities and had the same hopelessness. White, black, brown, pink ... the issues are the same and the solution is similar: Get out of your communities. It is the community that holds people back - the group think, the rampant pessimism, and myopia. Get over yourself - but most of all, get out.