Black History Month: A Tempered Hurrah - Part II

By Patrick Hall

Ok! Here’s a little secret about racism in the year 2022. It does exist, and it will always be so because some human beings (black, white, brown, etc.) are insufferably stupid. But racism isn’t the dragon that calls for an ever-growing Army of race-obsessed professionals, D.E.I. race alchemists, and politicians to slay. To paraphrase the economist Thomas Sowell, the issue of racism in the United States is becoming more problematic to the “help-keep-racism-alive entrepreneurs” like Jim Clyburn (D-SC).  There seems to be an emerging supply-and-demand problem. The demand for racism vastly outstrips the actual number of racist individuals or groups.  Stated the further racism receded into history, both here. In Western culture, the more self-proclaimed anti-racists (such as BLM, CRT crazies, Antifa, Congressional Black Caucus, or Al Sharpton’s) are needed to retain any semblance of political virtue and moral outrage.

A stark reality emerges when one places such a downstream idea as cancel culture under the microscope. Cancel culture isn’t meant to be applied objectively, any more than copious complaints of racism by race hustlers like BLM are. Despite Black History Month, the race entitlement industry’s only objective is to denigrate America and white people in particular.

A Tempered Hurrah

It often manifests itself as doubt, or just a latent cynicism, that I have always struggled with. But, my stance toward Black History Month, to say the least, is bifurcated.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am very proud of the achievements of so-many Americans of African descent that have shaped the country’s direction. And like the many other heritage celebrations, such as Women History Month, Hispanic, LGBTQ, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American, etc., they all have their place in the conjoint identity, that is America.  However, with the ascent of multiculturalism and cultural diversity, the goals have often served to promote a neo-segregationist ethos over the last four decades—one where our nation’s unity has been purposely undermined.    However, I still believe it is essential to have a particular pride in one’s ethnic/cultural background.  But since the latter part of the 20th Century, multiculturalism and cultural diversity have skillfully endorsed a malignant, if not destructive, form of balkanization and tribalism.  I don’t know how beneficial it is in the long run for everyone to sit and marinate in their own chosen hyphenated identities, while what we know as America has slowly gotten away from us.  Spurred by the cultural elites that control the universities, corporate and social media, and the political class, many of us appear to have less than favorable opinions of America.  There are too many Americans who view the country as grievously flawed.

 In the case of many Black Americans, they too often help disseminate the self-indulgent, if not fatiguing accusation, that America is systematically racist.  Unfortunately, this zero-sum game of many Blacks within Post-Civil Rights America has become conspicuous even though blacks and all Americans live in a free society and have tremendous opportunities. Opportunities that still draw people from all over the world.  But, looking at the movers and shakers in the Black political class such as Rev Al Sharpton, the NAACP, Congressional Black Caucus, Ibram X Kendi, and even former President Barrack Obama, they appear to propagate a glass-half-full view of the country. Their secular homily still views America as impaired and in need of continuous redemption. This tome was at the heart of Barrack Obama’s 2008 Presidential rhetoric, for the need to fundamentally transform America.

A while back, my wife and I visited the National Mall in Washington DC, where we explored the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC) and other venues. My spouse, a German-born citizen, wanted to take in the culture and history of her new adopted country. The African American History Museum, for the most part, was enjoyable. Yet, many of the curations and displays always seemed to couch or frame their presentations of famous Black Americans, events, and movements, against the motif of an irremediable or racist American culture.

 I was particularly taken back by one such curation, dealing with the Black Panther Party of the late 1960 and early 1970s. They uncritically painted the Party as brave fighters of freedom for Black Americans instead of the thugs and race profiteers that they were. There was no mention of the Panther’s involvement in the homicide of their white bookkeeper, Betty Van Patter. The known evidence strongly suggests that the Panthers were responsible for her death. She was allegedly held in a secret chamber attached to the Lamp Post,1 where she was reportedly raped and tortured for an unknown amount of time before a massive blow to the head killed her. Her body was then dumped into San Francisco Bay. That her unresolved murder has never been prosecuted or solved is a deep stain on the legacy of the Panthers. In reality, the Panther of the late 1960s and early seventies represented an unsavory mixture of social justice and criminality. To cite an ex-panther associate, the Panthers were an academic program and a criminal enterprise all-in-one.  

 The museum also houses some less than “historic” exhibits. Although handling the curations of thousands of items and documents, including Nat Turner’s Bible, they also feature the handcuffs that a policeman used to arrest Professor Henry Louis Gates. If you recall, Dr. Gates was arrested in 2009 when a policeman, who did not know who he was, stopped him mistakenly for what the law enforcement agent perceived as a break-in and entering incident.  Former President Obama helped make this arrest a cause “celebre.” But once more, should this have been included in a museum that wants to include the best in African American History instead of race-baiting trivia.

 Of course, the Rev. Al Sharpton is given healthy coverage in the museum along with a large portrait of Breonna Taylor, a young woman accidentally killed in a police raid of her fentanyl/opioids drug-running boyfriends’ apartment. The corporate media at the time tried to fashion a story of a young, innocent black woman gunned down by overly aggressive law enforcement.  Although her death was tragic, it later turns out that Ms. Taylor handled the finances of her boyfriend’s drug operations.  In addition, in 2016, Ms. Taylor also rented a car for her drug-running sweetheart, which later contained a dead body in the trunk.  But I imagine for the people who built up the hagiography surrounding Ms. Taylor, that sort of thing could have happened to any of us.

 Regarding the Rev. Sharpton, the Tawana Brawley fake rape hoax, which launched him into the national spotlight, is another punch-in-gut to the museum that hamstrings its historical and cultural credibility.   Black Lives Matter also has its place in the museum, despite the murder and mayhem it has brought to many urban communities. Just recently, a BLM chapter spent $100K to bail out a Kentucky activist charged with attempted murder of a Kentucky mayoral candidate. The would-be assassin also injured several others in his attempt to murder the candidate.

But think about this for a moment. This BLM sympathizer, “i.e., black racist nutjob,” received a get-out-of-jail-free card for just $100K. Once again, he attempted to murder a mayoral candidate while wounding several others. But BLM retains its creditability and dubious repetition as a fighter for Black America at the museum. Jeez, Louise!

 However, the most egregious affront to the celebration of Black History, in which the museum was culpable, was its so-called curation, listing or defining “whiteness.”  I kid you not! After receiving criticism from conservative groups and many Black Americans, the museum removed a chart listing the "whiteness" attribute.    

The chart listed "hard work," "respecting authority," and "objective, rational linear thinking" as some of the attributes of white people, "dominant white culture, or whiteness."  The idiocy intrinsic to the display was beyond embarrassing, not only to the museum but any rational thinking American. To quote Donald Trump Jr., who was spot on when he said, "these aren't 'white' values. They're American values that built the world's greatest civilization. They help you succeed here, no matter your color."  

American………Period!

I am an American bound not by race or some tiresome hyphenation.2  Who I am as an American has been shaped by many factors that have little or nothing to do with my skin color.  As a struggling Christian, my often-stumbling relationship with Christ is still central to who I am. As a Pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic, that too has equally framed my worldview.  From that, emanates my socio-political tenets about the role of government in society, economy, and personal life.  It has led many other Americans, who happen to be black, to embrace the idea, and me that it is up to us, not the government, nor the Democrat or Republican Party, to provide for ourselves.  

I embrace capitalism, religious freedoms, free enterprise, and limited government.  As an American, I will always temper my hurrahs for most Heritage celebrations, including Black History Month. Race, ethnicity, and gender will always play a minor role.
___________________
1. The Lamp Post was one of two bars in Oakland, CA that were found to be fronts for illegal activities conducted by the Black Panther Party, under the leadership of Huey P. Newton.
 2. Patrick Hall,  “Not African-American, Just American,”  Headway Magazine   9(11) (November 1997): 37-38.

[Patrick is a retired University Library Director. He is graduate of Canisius College and the University of Washington where he earned Masters Degrees in Religious Studies Education, Urban Anthropology and Library and Information Science.  Mr. Hall has also completed additional course work at the University of Buffalo, Seattle University and St. John Fishers College of Rochester New York. He has published in several national publications such as Commonweal, America, Conservative Review, Headway, National Catholic Reporter, Freedom's Journal Magazine and American Libraries. He has published in the peer reviewed publications, Journal of Academic Librarianship and the Internet Reference Services Quarterly. From 1997 until his retirement in January 2014 he served on the Advisory Board of Urban Library Journal, a CUNY Publication.]


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