Social & Domestic Issues

Cult of the True Racists

Just as a scientist who insists that the sun revolves around the Earth must make erroneous and unsustainable claims to support his flawed premise, so it is that insisting that America is a racist nation requires syndicated columnist Bob Herbert to write things that anyone but a member of the same cult—the cult of the true racists—would instantly recognize to be false.

A perfect example was Herbert’s recent column about the mayor’s race in Washington, D.C.

Herbert begins by scorning the concept of “post-racial” politics, calling defeated D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty “one of the so-called post-racial black leaders,” then calling President Obama “the most prominent of the so-called post-racial types.” 

A truly post-racial world poses a mortal threat to the income and influence of race hustlers like Mr. Herbert, Jesse Jackson, Jeremiah Wright, and Maxine Waters. After all, if the bogeymen of pervasive white (or just non-black) racists were to disappear, what would they have to write, drone, preach, or campaign about?

So, in case we didn’t get Herbert’s point the first time, he adds: “The idea that we had moved into some kind of post-racial era was always a ridiculous notion.”

While Herbert has a point that “post-racial” politics is hard to find in American cities with large black populations—and impossible to find in the White House—Herbert and his fellow travelers are not simply observers of the difficulty to get past racial strife; they are cheerleaders for maintaining it.

Like a 17th Century priest denouncing Galileo—promoter of inconvenient truth and progress—to the Inquisition, Herbert embarks on a divisive, racist commentary designed to demonize white and Asian Americans, to blame anyone but black politicians (at least non-post-racial black politicians) for the troubles in black communities, and to stoke the fear of racism which Herbert and friends require to keep their race-baiting careers from suffocating in the reality of a nation making steady progress toward Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a race-blind society.

One of the few recent positive developments for Washington, D.C., was the 2007 hiring of Michelle Rhee as their public school system’s chancellor. Controversial and aggressive, Rhee has been a large thorn in the side of the D.C. public education establishment, particularly the teachers’ union, which has given us one of the nation’s worst public school systems—but at least it’s one of the most expensive. At over $28,000 per student, the D.C. public school system spends as much to fail to educate a student as it costs (tuition only) for an out-of-state student to attend the University of Colorado or the University of Virginia. (In-state residents, perhaps a better comparison, pay 1/3 of that amount at UVA and 1/6 as much at Colorado.)

As D.C.-based writer Natalie Hopkinson noted, “This spring, Rhee negotiated among the most revolutionary teacher’s contracts in the country, which essentially broke the union, loosening tenure protections in exchange for the potential for teachers to make more money and earn performance bonuses. D.C. is being hailed as a model in urban education reform, and there are plans to replicate this model.”

Vincent Gray, the teachers’ union-supported mayor-elect of D.C. seems likely to fire Michelle Rhee. But according to the twisted logic of Bob Herbert, it was the “ham-handed approach to governing” of Fenty and Rhee which will now be responsible for “the children they claimed to care so much about…still be(ing) locked in a lousy school system.”

According to Herbert, Fenty was “cheered by white supporters for bringing in the cold-blooded Michelle Rhee.… Blacks responded by voting overwhelmingly for Fenty’s opponent.” 

It’s nothing more than an implicit “not black enough” argument, and it is particularly insulting to black voters, implying that they would rather have D.C. public schools destroy another generation of black youth than allow a non-black chancellor to attack the problem. 

But if Washingtonians didn’t care about improving their kids’ educations, the former D.C. Opportunity Scholarship voucher program would not have been overwhelmingly supported by the District’s residents. That program, which allowed thousands of poor children to attend private schools, was terminated by Democrats in 2009 with the acquiescence of Barack Obama. One has to wonder if Bob Herbert thinks that sentencing many of these children to a life of underachievement and poverty makes Obama sufficiently attentive to “black concerns.”

Herbert ends his article by projecting on to Americans the racism that he feels—and hopes, for his career’s sake, to make the rest of black Americans feel: “When you have to tiptoe around absolutely anything that has to do with blacks, it can leave the insidious impression that there is, in fact, something wrong with being black, something to be ashamed of.”

No, Bob, it leaves the impression that people like you will call anyone who goes near a “black” issue a racist unless his approach excludes the participation of non-blacks (like Michelle Rhee, whose parents are Korean). It leaves the impression that there’s no victim you’re unwilling to blame.

The greatest impediments to racial harmony in this nation are race profiteers like Bob Herbert who, like flies flocking to a bleeding wound, get fat off the misfortune of others. If black “leaders” go out of their way to harm “their” people’s future—and if those people willingly go along with self-destructive change—how can the rest of us be expected to help?

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