I am not on a racial tear! I fully intended to move on to another arena after my last three commentaries, but numerous emails and personal contacts seem to indicate a racial nerve has been exposed in 2012 America. The major premise seems to be, “Ben, are you suggesting blacks move to the back of the bus again?”
The Founding Fathers stated, “… a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes …We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal …” (Declaration of Independence, and, yes, I am fully aware of the inserted ellipses).
Let me, hopefully, clear the air; former presidential candidate Herman Cain recently averred that he preferred black American to African-American, affirming that his legacy is American as opposed to African. I can dig it.
As one born some years prior to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, I have been officially labeled colored, Negro, Afro-American and black. A word of explanation may be in order for any “white” Americans reading this. If the way the word black is thrown about today seems a bit confusing to you at times, it may reassure you to know it is confusing to some black folks, as well. As of this writing, I am officially an “African-American.” (Question: I have a white preacher friend who was born in South Africa and has subsequently become an American citizen; is he now an “African-American”? Just asking).
You see, today it all depends on how you use a word. “Black” can be pejorative or salutary, depending on its use. “Black Friday” – bad; “Black is beautiful” – good. In the ’40s and ’50s, I could call a Negro the most vile epithet without consequences, but if I prefaced it with “black,” that was a challenge to a fight. Later that became, “Say it loud … I’m black and I’m proud!” Today, I think, it is questionable to be referred to, by whites, as any of the preceding labels. (But then, according to my critics, I am not really black!)
Some of America’s finest universities are now implementing something called “diversity education.” This racial evolutionary process requires the admission of “blacks” to ensure that “white” students are exposed to “black” ideas/culture, which begs the question: What exactly are “black” ideas? What is the culture of American blacks? Are blacks different simply because they are black? Is there some peculiar mindset genetically indigenous to blacks, as opposed to “plain old vanilla” white kids on the Yale, Harvard or MIT campuses? What exactly does “cultural diversity” mean in the first place? Is “black” ethnicity so radically different that it requires a forced “diversity” to prepare white (or is that white) students for life? According to some in academia, when considering admission, race can be used as a determinant. (Hmmm. Wasn’t that what kept my generation out of the self same colleges?)
The hip-hop culture, mainstream media, TV programs about blacks (“The Cosby Show” excepted – they weren’t authentic blacks) and radical black and white liberal professors all tend to convey the image of “blacks” as being somehow intrinsically different. Whites cannot be blamed if they wonder, “Who are these people and what do they want?” The average white person knows what the average white person wants, but ask the average white person what the average black person wants, and one is most likely to hear the average answer, “I don’t know.”
Blacks born after the civil-rights revolution of the ’60s are more visible, more vocal and, therefore, may actually face a greater challenge than did my generation.
Consider affirmative action: In effect, it says that as opposed to whites, orientals, West Indian blacks or African blacks (or practically any other immigrant group), only American blacks are specifically exempted from the Declaration of Independence’s assertion that “all men are created equal.” They alone, apparently, inherently lack the capacity to achieve on their own. My generation remembers very clearly that this was the precise argument put forth in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s to justify segregation. We were told, “Segregation is for your benefit; you must have help – separate but equal schools – as you are unable to compete intellectually or academically with superior white students.” Then it was called segregation; now it’s called affirmative action.
Viewed objectively, affirmative action is simply academic racial profiling, as in, “You are unable to compete intellectually or academically with superior white, oriental, Indian or other ethnic group students.” Subjected to a constant barrage of virtual racism propaganda by “civil rights leaders/activists,” people from this generation are beginning to view themselves as victims of a kind of racial thee-logy: “I am entitled.”
The following Orwellian doublespeak clearly illustrates the current situation. To single out a young black male on the New Jersey Turnpike because he is a young black male is racial profiling; to single out that same young black male on the Rutgers Campus (also in New Jersey) because he is a young black male is affirmative action.
Someone please enlighten me: Did we not march, sing, demonstrate, go to jail and, in some, cases die for equal rights? Tell me where I missed it. We were convinced that we were out not to secure special rights, just the same equal rights guaranteed by the Constitution to all Americans. Only those blacks, Muslims, Cubans, Ethiopians and illegal aliens from Mexico, Central and South America (who have been here long enough to forget why they came) are demanding special, not equal, rights.
The God-given right to succeed or fail as a result of your own efforts (or lack thereof) is the essence of the concept of the “pursuit … not the guarantee … of happiness.” The commitment to this principle is the quintessential difference between America and 98 percent of the rest of the world. It is the basis for, and the foundation of, a heretofore unshakeable devotion to the American Dream.
If we are not careful, the end result will be a new plantation mentality – future generations of not only blacks but all “deprived minorities and deserving whites” who have become dependent on subsidies, hand-outs and other entitlements from the “big white house.” The only difference in this new slave mentality is that “Massa” no longer lives in the aforementioned big white building on a plantation in Mississippi, but on the plantation at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.