The reporters who think it's front page news that blacks disagree, or the blacks who think that the very existence of an Obama administration would be a setback for "The Black Agenda." There are many, many, many things wrong with this theory--the first of which being, from what I can tell, "The Black Agenda" is basically "A Black Middle Class College Professor Agenda." I've only seen one issue emerge from this debate--Affirmative Action. Nothing about the kids failing out of school. Nothing about the (slight) uptick in teen pregnancy. Nothing about wealth creation. Nothing about drug policy. I have no clue what makes these people so maniacally focused on this one issue, like the whole of black America hinges on their kids getting into Berkeley. Give me a break.
But there's more. I've generally been very dismissive of this notion of white guilt, but when I read stories like this I think Shelby Steele is only 75 percent wrong as opposed to 95 percent:
"I worry that there is a segment of the population that might be harder to reach, average citizens who will say: 'Come on. We might have a black president, so we must be over it,' " said Mr. Harrison, 59, a sociologist at Howard University and a consultant for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies here.
No disrespect to Dr. Harrison, but I got a sick feeling in my stomach when I read that quote. I've talked about this before, but there's something deeply emasculating, weak, and cowardly in this notion that if white people don't recognize, black people are done for. I have my doubts about whether that's true, but more importantly, it's a stupid message to pass on to a generation of black kids. I have no idea, given the history of this country, how anyone could tell their children that their live hinge on white beneficence.
I make no brief for separatism--quite the opposite; any considered study of humanity reveals all people to be single-mindedly self-interested. The only way to enroll whites into any sort of "Black Agenda" is to appeal to a mutual self-interest. In other words, A "Black Agenda" has to be flush with an "American Agenda." The whole point of Barack is that that's exactly what's possible. You don't have to black to think that the War on Drugs is a bad use of tax dollars. You don't have to be black to see that, in order to compete, America needs as many educated citizens as possible.
Beyond aesthetics there's the simple fact that the "White Sympathy" strategy as executed by the heirs of MLK, has been a dismal failure feeding the careers of demagouges, and leaving the rest of us to carry the weight. It's not like these guys have spent the 80s and 90s effectively pushing any policies. Moreover, what is the alternative? Elect John McCain and keep guilting white folks? Do these people really think that would be more effective than a Democratic White House and Congress? Or is it something deeper. Is it a fear of what lies ahead, a comfort with the old fights, a certainty in duking it out with the acolytes of Jesse Helms. No matter if it's an unwinnable fight. It's the fight you know. Are we talking about a fear of thinking forward, of no longer having the crutch of the past? Certainly there are principled reasons for blacks to oppose Obama. But fear of white ambivalence shouldn't be one of them. We really should be used to white ambivalence, by now.
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