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Oct 7, 2007 9:42 pm

On Racial Integration

Prof. Reeves writes from Wisconsin. Among his dozen books are Twentieth Century America: A Brief History, and biographies of John F. Kennedy, Joseph R. McCarthy, Fulton Sheen, and Chester A. Arthur. Marquette University Press published his biography of Wisconsin Governor Walter J. Kohler, Jr. in 2006.

In a powerful piece in the Wall Street Journal, Michael Meyers recently took the NAACP to task for failing to help heal contemporary racial problems. He accuses the organization of endorsing the “warped values and mindset of the obstinate subgroup of young blacks” that promote racial separation. “There has been no general alarm issued, much less a call to arms to save these very black youths from their patterns of illiteracy, welfare dependency, criminality and social dysfunction. Instead, while an entire generation of young blacks has been weaned on racial difference, racial rhetoric and racial chauvinism, the NAACP went silent.”

Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition and a former assistant national director of the NAACP, wants the organization to “reclaim its mission as a racial healer” in large part by working to enhance education, promote middle class values, reject racial favoritism, and drop the “pretense and posturing” of identifying with Africa. (Julian Bond, Chairman of the NAACP, responded with a letter to the Journal contending that his organization stood fully for racial integration.)

The issue was raised again recently when civil rights leader Jesse Jackson publicly criticized Senator Barack Obama for “acting like he’s white” because of his relatively calm and measured approach to the arrest of six black juveniles on attempted murder charges in Jena, Louisiana.

The plight of American blacks is easily documented, of course. Data about unmarried mothers, crime, school drop-outs, and poverty are all too familiar. The Census Bureau, for example, reports that in 2006 the poverty rate among blacks was 24.3% (At the same time, the poverty rate for Latinos, many of them relative newcomers to this country, dropped to 20.6% from 21.8% a year earlier.) The Bureau also reports that more than three times as many black people live in prison cells as in college dorms. Marc Morial, president and CEO of the Urban League cites the prison cell data as “one of the great social and economic tragedies of our time.” In Wisconsin, the reading achievement gap between blacks and whites in the fourth and eighth grades is the worst in the nation, and the gap is increasing.

Something remains seriously wrong in the black community, and Michael Meyers is surely correct in pointing to the glorification of destructive values often linked to racial separatism. But let’s ask ourselves an even more interesting question: Aren’t whites to blame just as much as black civil rights leaders for this glorification?

Blacks don’t own and operate MTV or the other major media outlets that consistently feature nihilist, racist, and sexist hip-hop and rap. (Black Entertainment Television has been owned by Viacom Inc. since 2001.) Blacks don’t own and operate the major newspapers and magazines that consistently respect and even fawn over the very “subgroup of black youths” Meyers describes, portraying gibberish and noise as profundity and beauty. Blacks don’t own and operate American colleges and universities whose faculties approve courses and majors that advance racial separation and often teach bogus history. Blacks don’t own and operate the advertising industry, which sets standards for apparel and conduct in accord with the lowest levels of our culture. Blacks don’t own and operate the Hollywood studios that continue to attack the moral and aesthetic standards of the nation’s young people, black and white.

Let us endorse Meyers’ call for a sensitive and responsible NAACP. Black leaders must see that in this new century we must rise above race and work together to enhance the dignity, prosperity, and literacy of all Americans. But a fully integrated, intelligent, and prosperous society, once the premiere aim of the civil rights movement, will be attained only with the cooperation of the white powers that be, especially in the media and in education at all levels. We must reject the view of all African Americans as anarchic, ignorant, violent, and promiscuous, a cruel stereotype promoted today by many whites and, ironically, by many blacks themselves.

Let’s start this ball rolling with the professors. Which major college or university will first call itself “a colorblind campus” and rid itself of Affirmative Action, jettison its black studies programs, fire all race based advisers (the Chief Diversity Officer at Washington State University has a staff of 55 and a budget of $3 million), abolish separate graduation exercises for blacks, integrate all living quarters, and require all students to pass the same demanding classes that will insure, among other things, that graduates know who Claudio Monteverdi was as well as 50 Cent? One can see the banner on such a campus floating from the library tower, “Equality Reigns Here.” Glorious day.

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Elise Fillpot - 10/8/2007

The form of equality on the campus envisioned by Mr. Reeves reminds me of the equality asserted by a certain group of pigs in a George Orwell novel. Mr. Reeves is quite right -- on the campus he depicts in his closing paragraph, an "equality reigns here" banner could be flown with impunity. The operative word in the banner, however, would be "here". The campus would not advance equality beyond its own gates, which appear to be manned by and for the guardians of white privilege.

vaughn davis bornet - 10/8/2007

I hardly thing "rant" describes any part of this contribution. I just finished writing a 40 page history of my college of employment during my days there and think the writer takes seriously the problems he starts with in his essay.

I wish we had back the money wasted on women's studies and black studies at our college. Those handouts, where the defined oppressed ducked out on even meeting majority white students, guaranteeing isolation, were supported firmly by certain faculty (we know who).

This communication is essentially verbal conversation, of course.

I am in a bad mood. The Franklin piece in Atlantic has me in an uproar.

Is THAT the interpretation of American history we have come to?

As for those enclaves of whites, I have to say that blacks have found Oregon an accepting place, from all that I can see. Recently, that is.

As I said my evidence showed in my Sept. 3 RACE RELATIONS essay in HNN, things are getting "better." But many who seem to have an equity are very reluctant to admit ANYTHING!

Vaughn Davis Bornet

Vaughn Davis Bornet

James W Loewen - 10/8/2007

Begins like a serious article, descends into a frivolous rant. Too bad.
So whites are responsible for racial separation because we (I am white) promote affirmative action at college campuses!
How about this: whites are responsible for racial separation because we still maintain hundreds and probably thousands of "sundown towns" where African Americans still cannot prudently live.
Or this: whites operate a system of metropolitan prestige in which the whitest suburbs (e.g., Kenilworth, outside Chicago; Tuxedo Park, outside NYC; etc.; etc.) are the most prestigious, in part owing to their racial composition.
A well-run campus does take into account the poorer K-12 educational opportunities faced by most African Americans, the bias on the SAT shown in testimony before govt. boards, and other factors. That is legitimate affirmative action. It also provides all students with competent help facilities such as a good writing center. It then expects excellent performance from all those admitted. If the author's campus does not do these things, he should make sure it does. Then it can fly that banner.