Last night on Hardball, I watched Pat Buchanan take on Michael Eric Dyson on Eric Holder’s comments about America’s cowardice in terms of discussing race. First, what Holder said was true. Second, watching that show was like watching a ferret take on a uncovered table fan.
Jonah Goldberg’s take is a good summation of much of Buchanan’s point: we already talk about race too much! We refuse to bow to the race gestapo! I’d eat chocolate Twinkies! The rest of Buchanan’s rant circled around the need for “personal responsibility” in the black community, which is exactly the sort of cowardice Holder was referencing, and what I’d like to discuss.
Buchanan pointed out the sad statistics that plague the black community, from crime to family structure. But he did the very thing that makes an honest conversation on race so terribly difficult to have – he treated the statistics as if they simply arose out of the ether, the product of a series of conscious decisions on the part of black people to sling drugs and live in ghettos. But the history of America, even to this day, revolves around how the white majority has chosen to shape our communities, and the steps to which they’ve gone to mask the nature of their decisions.
Suppose you were an upwardly mobile black family at any time in the 20th century, and you wanted to move somewhere. Chances are, you’d choose a neighborhood with affordable housing, good schools and the like. Chances are, you’d also be moving into a predominantly white neighborhood with neighbors who were convinced that you’d bring with you crime, disruption and a lowering of property values. Inevitably, after resistance, one of two things would happen: either the black presence would be repelled back to acceptable black neighborhoods, or the black presence would reach a tipping point and white people would move out, first to the old inner-ring suburbs and then out into the former boonies and now the places where the malls are at. White resistance and white flight created the very crime-ridden, poverty-stricken communities they feared, and now Pat Buchanan and his ilk get to sit back and lecture the black community on the plight they created.
Ever wonder why suburbs have nicer roads (in fact, roads to them at all)? Why they’re often so carefully tailored and drawn as to avoid any connection with areas that lack the same racial hegemony? The great welfare fight of the past 40 years has been (in the public mind) over black people getting public money to live in shitty urban housing and take the bus; the untold welfare story of the same time period has the great public subsidization and restructuring of society to allow white people the ability to avoid black people. The highway system, the placement and scope of public housing, the grading of neighborhoods for FHA loan approvals, the constant new incorporation of microtowns with their own tax bases, so on and so forth – black people didn’t choose the ghetto, the ghetto was chosen for them.
There is responsibility that needs to be taken, by everyone in American society. But we’re not going to be able to improve the black community until the great deprivation of resources that shaped it is admitted and rectified in way that doesn’t place shame on black people for needing help to get to even ground.