The recent coronavirus pandemic has again highlighted some of the persistent maladies and dysfunction common in “communities of color.” Many are using the pandemic and its toll on the “Black community” as evidence of continued White supremacy with an all too familiar call for the government to do something.
However, what many fail to understand is that today’s White supremacists include Liberals who believe that Blacks can’t succeed without white intervention—affirmative action, quotas, preferences, reparations, and lowering standards of academic achievement. This is why the term “black” really means “poor.” Even though the majority of Blacks live above the poverty level (75%) we are constantly portrayed by the media, social justice warriors, progressives, and others as a monolith of poor, ignorant, underprivileged, people who need White people to help us. Joe Biden illustrated this when he said, “Poor kids are just as smart as white kids.” In this quote, the poor kids are Black kids. In the liberal mind, poor=black. We routinely see this dynamic in education, employment, and politics. It’s a form of “group think.”
Groupthink is what keeps many Blacks from reaching their fullest potential. This includes the overarching thought or idea that as a people we must stick together to survive as if Jim Crow laws and Black codes still exist. For example, if a Black person is shot by a white police officer, it reflects on all of us. It is an attack on all Blacks. Groupthink says that any perceived act of injustice towards one Black person is an act of injustice toward all Black people. The problem with this thinking is that any action against a Black person by someone who is White is automatically perceived as an injustice. There is no need for evidence.
However, if we were to take into account Dr. King’s dream where everyone is “judged by the content of our character, and not the color of our skin,” we wouldn’t so quickly assume the innocence of the Black person or the guilt of the White cop. Instead, we’d allow for the process of an investigation to take place first. A process, which focuses on the content of both persons’ character, and not simply the color of their skin. Unfortunately, too often we have it backward. We assume the Black person is innocent, and the white cop is guilty (or racist). It never seems to occur to Liberals that maybe the Black person was wrong, and that’s why he, she was shot or arrested. This flawed thinking sees Blacks and Whites as groups, and not as individuals.
In the past, White supremacists always viewed Blacks as a group, not as individuals. The Civil Rights movement sought to change that dynamic to give Blacks back the right as individuals to excel in whatever they chose. Dr. King’s dream was that we’d be judged by the content our character, and not by the color of our skin was a nod towards a view of people as individuals and a break from collectivistic thinking characteristic of Liberal thought. To be viewed or identified by our skin color alone gives credence to the White supremacy idea that all Blacks are the same and should be treated as such. This is the problem with identity politics practiced by Liberal progressives.
Subsequently, it’s time we are all judged by our individual character. All Blacks are not poor, ignorant, or underprivileged. However, this type of individual judgment requires that we produce as individuals. The onus is then on Whites to put aside group stereotypes and judgments, and for Blacks to excel based on their God-given talents and abilities. Fredrick Douglass is quoted as saying, “Our destiny is largely in our own hands. If we find, we shall have to seek. If we succeed in the race of life it must be by our own energies, and by our own exertions. Others may clear the road, but we must go forward, or be left behind in the race of life.”
Douglass also warned against relying solely on others; but, instead urged Blacks to demonstrate self-sufficiency when he said, “[i]f we remain poor and dependent, the riches of other men will not avail us. If we are ignorant, the intelligence of other men will do but little for us. If we are foolish, the wisdom of other men will not guide us. If we are wasteful of time and money, the economy of other men will only make our destitution the more disgraceful and hurtful.”
In Douglass’ speech called “What the Black Man Wants” when asked, what should be done with the Negro he replied: “I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature’s plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!”
This speech embodies the very essence of what Black conservatives would say to White liberals today. Stop! Leave Black people alone. You see the new White Supremacy gives excuses and allowances for all the dysfunction and maladies in the Black community. In fact, it helps to create a subculture of Blacks who are dependent on government programs that ultimately promote helplessness, ignorance, and poverty. Similarly, Black Liberals are just as culpable in their demands that White intervention (or at least government funding) is necessary to solve all of our problems. Again, this ignores the onus placed on Black individuals to develop character and take responsibility for their behavior or initiative to advance themselves.
The Civil Rights movement with its grand achievements moved many of the obstacles that stood in the way of Blacks. Frederick Douglass’s vision of Whites getting out of the way of Black achievement was realized in the dream of Dr. King. If Douglass and King were here today they would certainly argue against the Black and White liberals who act as though our destiny—the destiny of Black people—lies in the hands of White people. As Douglass reminds us, “Our destiny is largely in our own hands.”