August 29, 2013
Since the statistics can’t be denied”they are too plentiful and consistent”we deny that there has been any change in the causative factors. Black-opportunity-wise, we pretend it’s still 1963. The obstacles preventing black success have become vaporous and abstract yet somehow have kept the same height and weight. We have retreated into magical thinking, away from the large and the loud, indeed away from anything visible or audible, into a shadow world of poisonous miasmas and unseen forces, of djinns and dybbuks.
In 1963 we had No Blacks Need Apply; now we have “institutional racism.” Then we had schools segregated by law; now we have “stereotype threat.” Then we had separate drinking fountains; now we have “white privilege.” Then a black voter was kept from the polls by being asked to spell the word “paradimethylaminobenzaldehyde”; now he has to”gasp!“show a driver’s license. Then we had Sheriff Rainey; now we have “hate.”
Our intellectual elites, who would scoff at astrology or witchcraft, all subscribe to this essentially magical style of thinking. Thus that very elite magazine The Economist, August 24th issue:
Discrimination has not vanished: the recent decision in New York to outlaw stop-and-frisk searches reflects the fact that in many places the police remain far more likely to suspect and harass innocent blacks. Voter-ID laws, while no doubt rooted in partisan rather than explicitly racial motives, still place a far heavier burden on minority voters than on white ones.
Never mind that New York City’s impeccably liberal Mayor Michael Bloomberg has argued, with supporting numbers, that whites are overrepresented in stop-and-frisks. Never mind that nobody can explain how it is a “far heavier burden” on a black than on a nonblack to produce ID at a polling station.
This retreat into magic horrifies me more than any particular atrocity. It is an appeal from civilization to barbarism, a rejection of all the hard-won understandings of these past 400 years. Most horrifying, most shameful of all, our highest seats of learning are approving this nonsense, this gibberish of savages.
Ah, but if we were to drop the magic we would find ourselves face to naked face with nature, which ordains all sorts of terrible things. She ordains earthquakes, plagues, mass extinctions, and the divergence of separated breeding populations. We’d prefer that these horrors didn’t apply to our precious selves; but alas, nature couldn’t care less what we prefer. Best cling to the magic, then.
Martin Luther King, in that pious America of two generations ago, could rest his hopes on a God-ordained equality in potential of all human populations, needing only a field cleared of gross obstacles to come fully into view.
We look at those stubborn statistics, thinking of the decades of upheaval and the trillions of dollars spent, and wonder.