I’ve often thought of Black History Month as a Valentine’s Day gift to those of us who are single. With the annual media barrage of images of black suffering past and present, Black History Month is a reminder to the unattached that things could always be worse. Unless, I suppose, you’re a companionless black person, in which case it’s probably like salt on an open wound. “Home alone on Valentine’s Day…let’s see what’s on TV. Oh, great…a Southern sheriff siccing his dog on a black man’s balls.”
But this year, Hollywood has gifted black Americans with Black Panther, a big-budget heart-shaped celluloid box of chocolate optimism for blacks who want to spend a few hours escaping reality by watching a movie in which the black heroes are brilliant, brave, responsible, and victorious, and the fictional African kingdom is prosperous, clean, and orderly, and not a soul has AIDS. The black community needs this film right now. Because the future—the real-life future, not the “Marvel Cinematic Universe endless sequels, tie-ins, and reboots” future—is grim.
Yes, black unemployment in the U.S. is at its lowest point in 45 years. Not wanting to risk giving President Trump even one iota of credit, Vox’s P.R. Lockhart (formerly of Mother Jones) called the fact that black unemployment has fallen to 6.8% “ostensibly good news.” Ostensibly. The son of a bitch can’t even bring himself to admit that the record-low unemployment rate is a good thing. No, it’s ostensibly good; maybe good, maybe not. Needless to say, Lockhart doesn’t bother to list a single way in which the figure might not be good. Rather, he does his best to put the new unemployment stats in perspective, and his points are valid. The job situation in the U.S. has been steadily improving over the past few years, and blacks are simply rising with the tide. Yet even with that rise, “the unemployment rate for black Americans remains higher than that of both the overall population and other racial groups, and is almost double that of whites. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures that Trump cites, overall unemployment is 4.1 percent, while the unemployment rate for whites is 3.7 percent and Hispanics 4.9 percent.” Lockhart also points out that the new figure doesn’t include blacks who aren’t bothering to look for work (be fair, conservatives; you wielded that exact argument against Obama for eight years). Furthermore, Lockhart adds that the stats don’t include the 7.7% of U.S. blacks who are incarcerated.
Lockhart fails to mention, although I’m sure he’d have liked to, that blacks are the only U.S. racial group earning less today than they were in 2000. Another thing “Bad News” Lockhart leaves out is that, according to a September 2017 report by the Institute for Policy Studies, “median black household wealth is on a path to hit zero by 2053.”
Normally, the “establishment conservative 101” response to such insufferable black pessimism is to become all Stuart Smalley and say, “Well, that’s just stinkin’ thinkin’, Tyrone! You gotta adjust the ol’ attitude, believe in the American dream, hit the books, stay in school, don’t do drugs, and eat your vegetables” (I feel like I just channeled Ben Shapiro when I wrote that). Black leftists dismiss such advice as feel-good, fantasyland gibberish. And God help me, in this instance, I actually agree with them, if for a different reason. After all, for all their pessimism, black leftists have their own version of a feel-good, fantasyland gibberish answer, which is, if whites would just stop being so damn racist, the black community’s problems would vanish overnight.
I reject the “blame it on racism” nonsense of the left, and the Boy Scout/Horatio Alger “dad advice” of the establishment right. My pessimism regarding black America is not so easily soothed. Keep in mind, back in my own days as a GOP cog, when I was actually organizing events with Ben Shapiro, I would have given the “eat your broccoli, do your homework” answer myself. My “evolution” on the issue began, oddly enough, while watching some of my favorite prank videos on YouTube (cruel YouTube prank videos are not a guilty pleasure of mine, because I feel no guilt for enjoying them). You may not know this, but there’s an entire subgenre of YouTube prank videos in which white, Asian, and Hispanic pranksters venture into black communities just to fuck with the locals. They’re called “hood pranks,” and, cumulatively, they have hundreds of millions of views. And within this subgenre is a sub-subgenre in which pranksters fart on black people. Or at least they pretend to (they use a handheld noisemaker called a “pooter”). The premise is so simpleminded, even George Lucas could appreciate it. Fart on a black person, and enjoy the angry reaction (and maybe get socked in the face).
This is what it’s come to. Black America is now seen as a joke, a prop for comedy. Wanna see a startling Black History Month statistic? On YouTube, the most watched upload of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech has 9.8 million views. The most watched “farting on black people” video? 16.7 million views. Let that sink in: People are way more interested in seeing blacks get farted on than they are in hearing about King’s noble dream. The most watched hood-prank video of all time? 44 million views. Dr. King’s dream doesn’t stand a chance. The hood-prank videos are popular in large part because indolent “hood” blacks are so easily driven to violent rage. The responses to the pranks are inevitably furious and brutal. One could say that this is a testament to the level of anger and bitterness the average young black carries around inside him these days, but perhaps what’s more important is that the insane popularity of these videos is a testament to what the black community has come to represent to nonblacks: a source of comedy and an object of derision. “It’s not just that we’ve stopped caring about your anger,” the message seems to be, “it’s that your anger has now become comical to us.”
The problem is, blacks have not, as a community, made themselves indispensable enough for the rest of the nation to give a damn about them. Jews? Hate ’em if you will, but they have made themselves indispensable in most of the fields and industries that matter (for better or worse…I’m not making value judgments here, just stating the obvious). Curse Mexican immigration all you want, but in my home state (as I detailed in a previous piece), Mexicans have made themselves indispensable (again, for better or worse). But blacks? Look at the 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics population survey. The industries in which blacks comprise a truly significant percentage? Barbers, bus drivers, and private security (i.e., bouncers and bodyguards). Penny-ante stuff.
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