From American Thinker
September 2, 2013 | By Jonathan Cohen
See also: The Aftermath of the George Zimmerman Case, Part 1: The Trial, the Evidence and the Verdict and
The Aftermath of the George Zimmerman Case, Part 2: The role of the media, the lawyers and the racial divide
Sixty years ago the black sociologist E. Franklin Frazier wrote a book “Black Bourgeoisie” in which he was very critical of the black press for greatly exaggerating the accomplishments of the black middle class. In many ways it was a cruel book because so much of the reality he exposed was a reality imposed on blacks by centuries of pervasive prejudice and discrimination. But his unsparing honesty was driven by the belief that self-deception is self-destructive and hindered blacks’ progress in accumulating wealth and in confronting the wider society with their very legitimate grievances. He was particularly critical of the black press of whom he said
“The Negro press is not only one of the most successful business enterprises owned and controlled by Negroes; it is the chief medium of communication which creates and perpetuates the world of make believe for the black bourgeoisie. Although the Negro press declares itself to be the spokesman for the Negro group as a whole, it represents essentially the interests and outlook of the black bourgeoisie. Its demand for equality for the Negro in American life is concerned primarily with opportunities which will benefit the black bourgeoisie economically and enhance the social status of the Negro. The Negro press reveals the inferiority complex of the black bourgeoisie and provides a documentation of the attempts of this class to seek compensations for its hurt self-esteem and exclusion from American life. Its exaggerations concerning the economic well-being and cultural achievements of Negroes, its emphasis upon Negro “Society”, all tend to create a world of make-believe into which the black bourgeoisie can escape from its inferiority and inconsequence in American society”.
Frazier, a black sociologist at Howard University and the first black president of the American Sociological Society published the first edition of his book in France in 1957 and it was later translated into English and a second edition was published in 1962. Much of the book is dated as the size and importance of the black middle-class has dramatically increased over the past 50 years. Blacks have become an integral part of all areas of American life up to and including the presidency of the United States. Yet the perception of exclusion remains. Forty years after the publication of “Black Bourgeoisie,” Ellis Cose published “The Rage of a Privileged Class” that was a look at the black middle-class. In it he details the frustrations of black professionals who in spite of their greatly improved status in American society still felt marginalized.
In spite of the passage of the civil rights laws of the 1960’s and progress made by blacks over the last 50 years, events such as the Zimmerman trial reveal to what extent we are still two separate societies. The explanation that would be given by most black commentators is the persistence of racism. The basis of disparate impact law is the notion that if imbalances exist in the numbers of minorities in an occupation, the starting assumption is that the reason is racial prejudice. By analogy, if a white Hispanic shoots an unarmed black teenager, the reason is racial animus and the burden of proof is on the white to prove otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt.
But maybe this picture is wrong. Perhaps the sources of higher crime rates for blacks, greater percentage of out of wedlock births, numbers incarcerated, lower graduation rates at all levels, poorer scores on standardized measures of academic achievement are not the result of institutional racism. What if whites have little ability to affect these problems, particularly if blacks claim a monopoly on the allocation of funds to solve them? For example, if blacks insist on black teachers in black schools, there is not a whole lot whites can do about improving educational outcomes.
Eric Holder says he wants an honest discussion about race. Really? Carefully orchestrated discussions that are called “difficult dialogues” are little more than lecturing people on scripts that make sure that minorities will not hear anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. But taking him at his word, it might be helpful to look back at some history.
A good place to start is the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, a watershed moment for the civil rights movement and indeed for the whole 350 year struggle for equal rights for blacks in America. Equality before the law with equal access to all the privileges of the society from being able to vote to an end to discrimination in employment, education and housing were finally established as matters of law. Though it took a few months to pass the 1965 voting rights act, and there were still some acts of resistance, the handwriting for Jim Crow was on the wall for everyone to see.
The events of that day were summed up by Martin Luther King whose words “How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” captured the optimism of the day. But as it brought one era to an end, an entirely new set of challenges opened up. There was another speech that day by Whitney Young who said that with the barriers to participation and jobs being removed, he hoped that blacks would take part in the training programs offered by groups such as the Urban League to be able to take advantage of the opportunities that were finally being offered to them.
There were always two problems facing black people. There were the societal barriers of prejudice and discrimination. But there was also the lack of training and education needed to take advantage of opportunities when they would finally become available. Certainly, the terrible history of discrimination was the major cause of the educational gap between blacks and whites. But assessing blame could not rectify the problem. This was a terribly difficult problem that was in many ways more challenging than dismantling segregation. But there was much good will at the time and a realization on the part of many whites that they had a responsibility to help alleviate the gap.
The year 1965 was also a year of departure for the civil rights organizations. Having accomplished its greatest goal, the dismantling of legal segregation, it was faced with the task of how to move forward to advance race relations and help advance the situation of black people in America. What is not usually acknowledged or remembered, let alone understood, is what happened next. Black separatism suddenly became respectable. Freed from the pressures of pleasing whites to simply survive, black identity movements began to thrive. Blacks stopped wearing their hair to look as much like white people as possible as Afros replaced straightened hair. And politically, blacks decided they had to define their own organizations starting with the civil rights organizations that had always been coalitions with sympathetic whites.
The first organization to purge whites was the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In December, 1965, in a narrow vote, they decided to become a group for blacks only. SNCC, the student organization that had supplied so many of the people whose courage made the civil rights movement possible and whose creed was described by the small buttons that featured simply a black and white hand, had in the space of a year become a segregated organization. Malcolm X, who had been previously quite unpopular among blacks while they needed white support to end segregation, suddenly became something of a hero and role model. While blacks had always admired his willingness to show his anger towards whites when others had withheld it for fear of retaliation, they did not buy the vision of a completely separate world. Now black identity was front and center, particularly for young blacks.
Colleges and universities that had recruited few black students suddenly began serious efforts to recruit and train them. Admissions offices suddenly looked to programs like Upward Bound that gave summer training to black high school students as a feeder for increasing black enrollments. By the late sixties and early seventies, the black population at many universities had become a significant presence. The more political of these students were focused on questions of identity rather than traditional civil rights. Their organizations were for blacks only and though they worked sometimes with white groups they stressed the importance of self-definition and this meant not including whites. Many black students self-segregated themselves quite self-consciously.
This was not difficult to understand. For many of the newly arrived black students, this was their first experience living in a mostly white environment. They brought the insecurities imposed on them by hundreds of years of second class citizenship. They often arrived from schools with weaker educational requirements and poorer academic training. Between their own often inadequate preparation and their anxieties about being accepted by the majority of students, they naturally found comfort in socializing with other black students.
For white activists whose lives had been deeply affected by involvement in the civil rights movement, this rejection was responded to in several ways. For those whose involvement was in community oriented projects, such as volunteering to tutor black students from economically impoverished backgrounds, they honored the admonition of black students to work in their own community and the tutoring projects were abandoned. While this may have been a loss for those students who benefited from the tutoring, it set a tone for how whites were supposed to respond to their own concerns for black poverty. In particular, it meant ceasing to do the one thing where they really had something to offer.
For some of the more radical whites, it meant giving political and moral support to the most militant black political groups and encouraging the most militant political actions. It meant unconditional support for all sets of demands made by black student organizations that were engaged in sit-ins. It meant rallies and other support for the Black Panther Party. In particular it meant spending considerable efforts to support efforts to free Huey Newton who was in jail for shooting two policemen; supporting a group of Panthers who were on trial for murdering an alleged informer in New Haven; supporting a group of Panthers in New York who were charged with plans to blow up monuments in New York. In many cases the charges were real. In the case of Huey Newton, they helped him get released from prison to go out and commit more murders as well as many other crimes.