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What's Holding Blacks Back?

John H. McWhorter

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The cult of victimology holds Blacks back more than any institutionalized racism. Blacks will not progress until victim thinking disappears he writes.

When I was ten, my mother made me read Roots cover to cover, and she'd coax me to curl up beside her to watch old newsreels of black civil rights protesters being hosed, beaten, and dragged off to prison. We watched Norman Lear sitcoms, so I'd learn from Archie Bunker and crew what blacks had faced in the past. Later, she made sure I read accounts of black America before the civil rights movement. I learned of black lawyers working as office clerks, black classical musicians stuck orchestrating cheap stage revues, brilliant black professors trapped in threadbare segregated colleges; I read of the Scottsboro Boys, Emmett Till, and the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Such things filled me with horror--but then with relief, even triumph. After all, wasn't the point of All in the Family that Archie was powerless in the face of his daughter and son-in-law's racially progressive positions? Didn't his black neighbors have the moral upper hand--and wasn't it they, not Archie, who got to move to the Upper East Side? By my twenties, in the 1990s, I felt grateful and excited to live in times of bracing progress for my race.

Yet during the decade I came to realize that this feeling made me odd man out among most black Americans. In every race-related debate--whether over Rodney King, O. J. Simpson, the Million Man March, Ebonics, or affirmative action--almost every black person I knew, many with backgrounds as comfortable as my own, started from the fierce conviction that, decades after the Civil Rights Act, whitey's foot remains pressed upon all black Americans' necks. For most black Americans, the rapid increase of the black middle class, of interracial relationships and marriages, and of blacks in prestigious positions has no bearing on the real state of black America. Further, they believe, whites' inability to grasp the unmistakable reality of oppression is itself proof of racism, while blacks who question that reality are self-deluded.

For the complete article go to the City Journal website.



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