Friday, November 30, 2007

Sean Taylor and the African-American Crisis

As readers of my blogging will recall, I've been especially critical of the descent into oblivion of America's black lower third.

What's the black lower third? It's the black underclass, the bottom one-third of the country's African-American demographic. This cohort has been mired in poverty, underemployment, educational crisis, crime, illegitimacy, and family disorganization.

It's hard to discuss the situation of the black lower third. We've had forty years of civil rights gains, but millions of African-Americans have been left behind. As Juan Williams pointed out in his book, Enough, the contemporary black political leadership has betrayed African-Americans by pursuing a political strategy that exploits the cult of victimology of the underclass.

I'm reminded of the crisis of black America in reading
this morning's commentary by Jason Whitlock on the murder of Sean Taylor. Whitlock's a sports commentator at FOX Sports. He occasionally veers away from athletic analysis to provide penetrating commentary on the black crisis, for example, with his earlier critical, contrary perspective on the Jena Six affair.

In his piece today, "
Taylor's Death a Grim Reminder for Us All," Whitlock argues that Taylor, a safety with the NFL's Washington Redskins, was killed by the "Black Ku Klux Klan":
There's a reason I call them the Black KKK. The pain, the fear and the destruction are all the same.

Someone who loved Sean Taylor is crying right now. The life they knew has been destroyed, an 18-month-old baby lost her father, and, if you're a black man living in America, you've been reminded once again that your life is in constant jeopardy of violent death.

The Black KKK claimed another victim, a high-profile professional football player with a checkered past this time.

No, we don't know for certain the circumstances surrounding Taylor's death. I could very well be proven wrong for engaging in this sort of aggressive speculation. But it's no different than if you saw a fat man fall to the ground clutching his chest. You'd assume a heart attack, and you'd know, no matter the cause, the man needed to lose weight.

Well, when shots are fired and a black man hits the pavement, there's every statistical reason to believe another black man pulled the trigger. That's not some negative, unfair stereotype. It's a reality we've been living with, tolerating and rationalizing for far too long.

When the traditional, white KKK lynched, terrorized and intimidated black folks at a slower rate than its modern-day dark-skinned replacement, at least we had the good sense to be outraged and in no mood to contemplate rationalizations or be fooled by distractions.

Our new millennium strategy is to pray the Black KKK goes away or ignores us. How's that working?

About as well as the attempt to shift attention away from this uniquely African-American crisis by focusing on an "injustice" the white media allegedly perpetrated against Sean Taylor....

Let's cut through the bull(manure) and deal with reality. Black men are targets of black men. Period. Go check the coroner's office and talk with a police detective. These bullets aren't checking W-2s.

Rather than whine about white folks' insensitivity or reserve a special place of sorrow for rich athletes, we'd be better served mustering the kind of outrage and courage it took in the 1950s and 1960s to stop the white KKK from hanging black men from trees.
But we don't want to deal with ourselves. We take great joy in prescribing medicine to cure the hate in other people's hearts. Meanwhile, our self-hatred, on full display for the world to see, remains untreated, undiagnosed and unrepentant.

Our self-hatred has been set to music and reinforced by a pervasive culture that promotes a crab-in-barrel mentality.

You're damn straight I blame hip hop for playing a role in the genocide of American black men. When your leading causes of death and dysfunction are murder, ignorance and incarceration, there's no reason to give a free pass to a culture that celebrates murder, ignorance and incarceration.

Of course there are other catalysts, but until we recapture the minds of black youth, convince them that it's not OK to "super man dat ho" and end any and every dispute by "cocking on your bitch," nothing will change....

Blame drugs, blame Ronald Reagan, blame George Bush, blame it on the rain or whatever. There's only one group of people who can change the rotten, anti-education, pro-violence culture our kids have adopted. We have to do it.

According to reports, Sean Taylor had difficulty breaking free from the unsavory characters he associated with during his youth.

The "keepin' it real" mantra of hip hop is in direct defiance to evolution. There's always someone ready to tell you you're selling out if you move away from the immature and dangerous activities you used to do, you're selling out if you speak proper English, embrace education, dress like a grown man, do anything mainstream.

The Black KKK is enforcing the same crippling standards as its parent organization. It wants to keep black men in their place — uneducated, outside the mainstream and six feet deep.

In all likelihood, the Black Klan and its mentality buried Sean Taylor, and any black man or boy reading this could be next.
Obviously, Whitlock's message does't go over well with proponents of the cult of victimology (corrupted as these folks are by an ideology of internal defeat). Indeed, the black political leadership continues to rail against "inequality" in the plight of the lower third. Here's an excerpt from Jesse Jackson's recent tirade against "institutionalized racism":

The civil rights movement succeeded in ending segregation and providing blacks with the right to vote. But the end of legal apartheid did not end the era of discrimination. And the ending of institutionalized violence did not end institutionalized racism.

Patterns of discrimination are sharply etched. African Americans have, on average, about half of the good things that whites have, and double the bad things. We have about half the average household income and less than half the household wealth. On the other hand, we're suffering twice the level of unemployment and twice the level of infant mortality (widely accepted as a measure of general health).

African Americans are brutalized by a system of criminal injustice. Young African Americans are more likely to be stopped, more likely to be searched if stopped, more likely to be arrested if searched, more likely to be charged if arrested, more likely to be sentenced to prison if charged, less likely to get early parole if imprisoned. Every study confirms that the discrimination is systemic and ruinous. And yet no candidate speaks to this central reality.

African Americans are more likely to go to overcrowded and underfunded schools, more likely to go without health care, more likely to drop out, less likely to find employment. Those who do work have less access to banks and are more likely to be ripped off by payday lenders, more likely to be stuck with high-interest auto and business loans, and far more likely to be steered to risky mortgages -- even when adjusting for income. And yet, no candidate speaks to this central reality.

The result is visiting a catastrophe on the urban black community. I and many others campaign for young people to stay in school, to graduate and not to make babies until they are prepared to be parents. My son and I write and teach about personal financial responsibility. Personal responsibility is critical. But personal responsibility alone cannot overcome the effects of a discriminatory criminal justice and economic system in generating broken families and broken dreams.
At least Jackson mentions the crucial role of personal responsibility. Unfortunately, his mention comes at the end of a boilerplate elaboration of the "white system" locking blacks into cycle of inferiority.

The black crisis is not a popular topic in conservative middle America. Perhaps the broad American middle class is waiting for the black underclass to step up to the plate, to seize the legacy of Martin Luther King and drive toward the achievement and mobility that awaits them.
As Shelby Steele has noted:

Blacks today are freer than at any time in our entire history, yet our identity is more grounded in victimization than ever.
The prompt for writing the post was
an intriguing entry on Sean Taylor's death over at Countervailing Force. Here's some interesting commentary, from the comments to that post:

I have a friend at work who is a Black, small town Mississippi bred man. His statement to me one day is "The problem with Black folk is Black folk." He's earned his degree in math despite growing up in one of the most historically racist states. So, w/ all due respect, Jesse, and Reverand Al, yes, there is racism, but it is not the REAL problem in the Black community. Educational opportunities are there, but it needs to be culturally inculcated, and it needs to be taught that one must separate from the hood. Sean Taylor never really got away from the hood. Others have. Others have not and have paid for it. Sean was a great football player, a fantastic hitter and thus was famous, but now he's just a statistic. He's one of many that die senselessly. But then again, maybe "It's a Black thing, you wouldn't understand."
Well said. I hope that more blacks will adopt a more can-do approach.