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Cynique

If "Truth" Be Told...

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A provocative article by one of America's premiere black Conservative spokesman.

 

Black Protest Has Lost Its Power

            by 

Shelby Steele
Jan. 12, 2018 6:40 p.m. ET
 
 

The recent protests by black players in the National Football League were rather sad for their fruitlessness. They may point to the end of an era for black America, and for the country generally—an era in which protest has been the primary means of black advancement in American life.

There was a forced and unconvincing solemnity on the faces of these players as they refused to stand for the national anthem. They seemed more dutiful than passionate, as if they were mimicking the courage of earlier black athletes who had protested: Tommie Smith and John Carlos, fists in the air at the 1968 Olympics; Muhammad Ali, fearlessly raging against the Vietnam War; Jackie Robinson, defiantly running the bases in the face of racist taunts. The NFL protesters seemed to hope for a little ennoblement by association.

And protest has long been an ennobling tradition in black American life. From the Montgomery bus boycott to the march on Selma, from lunch-counter sit-ins and Freedom Rides to the 1963 March on Washington, only protest could open the way to freedom and the acknowledgment of full humanity. So it was a high calling in black life. It required great sacrifice and entailed great risk. Martin Luther King Jr. , the archetypal black protester, made his sacrifices, ennobled all of America, and was then shot dead.

For the NFL players there was no real sacrifice, no risk and no achievement. Still, in black America there remains a great reverence for protest. Through protest—especially in the 1950s and ’60s—we, as a people, touched greatness. Protest, not immigration, was our way into the American Dream. Freedom in this country had always been relative to race, and it was black protest that made freedom an absolute.

It is not surprising, then, that these black football players would don the mantle of protest. The surprise was that it didn’t work. They had misread the historic moment. They were not speaking truth to power. Rather, they were figures of pathos, mindlessly loyal to a black identity that had run its course.

What they missed is a simple truth that is both obvious and unutterable: The oppression of black people is over with. This is politically incorrect news, but it is true nonetheless. We blacks are, today, a free people. It is as if freedom sneaked up and caught us by surprise.

Of course this does not mean there is no racism left in American life. Racism is endemic to the human condition, just as stupidity is. We will always have to be on guard against it. But now it is recognized as a scourge, as the crowning immorality of our age and our history.

Protest always tries to make a point. But what happens when that point already has been made—when, in this case, racism has become anathema and freedom has expanded?

What happened was that black America was confronted with a new problem: the shock of freedom. This is what replaced racism as our primary difficulty. Blacks had survived every form of human debasement with ingenuity, self-reliance, a deep and ironic humor, a capacity for self-reinvention and a heroic fortitude. But we had no experience of wide-open freedom.

 

Watch out that you get what you ask for, the saying goes. Freedom came to blacks with an overlay of cruelty because it meant we had to look at ourselves without the excuse of oppression. Four centuries of dehumanization had left us underdeveloped in many ways, and within the world’s most highly developed society. When freedom expanded, we became more accountable for that underdevelopment. So freedom put blacks at risk of being judged inferior, the very libel that had always been used against us.

 

To hear, for example, that more than 4,000 people were shot in Chicago in 2016 embarrasses us because this level of largely black-on-black crime cannot be blamed simply on white racism.

We can say that past oppression left us unprepared for freedom. This is certainly true. But it is no consolation. Freedom is just freedom. It is a condition, not an agent of change. It does not develop or uplift those who win it. Freedom holds us accountable no matter the disadvantages we inherit from the past. The tragedy in Chicago—rightly or wrongly—reflects on black America.

That’s why, in the face of freedom’s unsparing judgmentalism, we reflexively claim that freedom is a lie. We conjure elaborate narratives that give white racism new life in the present: “systemic” and “structural” racism, racist “microaggressions,” “white privilege,” and so on. All these narratives insist that blacks are still victims of racism, and that freedom’s accountability is an injustice.

We end up giving victimization the charisma of black authenticity. Suffering, poverty and underdevelopment are the things that make you “truly black.” Success and achievement throw your authenticity into question.

The NFL protests were not really about injustice. Instead such protests are usually genuflections to today’s victim-focused black identity. Protest is the action arm of this identity. It is not seeking a new and better world; it merely wants documentation that the old racist world still exists. It wants an excuse.

For any formerly oppressed group, there will be an expectation that the past will somehow be an excuse for difficulties in the present. This is the expectation behind the NFL protests and the many protests of groups like Black Lives Matter. The near-hysteria around the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and others is also a hunger for the excuse of racial victimization, a determination to keep it alive. To a degree, black America’s self-esteem is invested in the illusion that we live under a cloud of continuing injustice.

When you don’t know how to go forward, you never just sit there; you go backward into what you know, into what is familiar and comfortable and, most of all, exonerating. You rebuild in your own mind the oppression that is fading from the world. And you feel this abstract, fabricated oppression as if it were your personal truth, the truth around which your character is formed. Watching the antics of Black Lives Matter is like watching people literally aspiring to black victimization, longing for it as for a consummation.

But the NFL protests may be a harbinger of change. They elicited considerable resentment. There have been counterprotests. TV viewership has gone down. Ticket sales have dropped. What is remarkable about this response is that it may foretell a new fearlessness in white America—a new willingness in whites (and blacks outside the victim-focused identity) to say to blacks what they really think and feel, to judge blacks fairly by standards that are universal.

 

We blacks have lived in a bubble since the 1960s because whites have been deferential for fear of being seen as racist. The NFL protests reveal the fundamental obsolescence—for both blacks and whites—of a victim-focused approach to racial inequality. It causes whites to retreat into deference and blacks to become nothing more than victims. It makes engaging as human beings and as citizens impermissible, a betrayal of the sacred group identity. Black victimization is not much with us any more as a reality, but it remains all too powerful as a hegemony.

 

 

Mr. Steele, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, is author of “Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country” (Basic Books, 2015).

Appeared in the January 13, 2018, print edition of The Wall Street Journal.

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If your compliment was  inspired by the article above, Jason, the accolades go to Shelby Steele, the black conservative columnist who wrote it, -  not me.

 

But thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

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@DelDoes the article say racism has ended?  I think the gist of this commentary is that freedom is relative.  I captioned this commentary "If truth be told"  and "truth" is the operative word.  The truth is also relative.   

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I didn't know Shelby Steele was still around....
Must be hanging out with Armstrong Williams, lol.
 

We blacks have lived in a bubble since the 1960s because whites have been deferential for fear of being seen as racist.


If he can say this while the current President is making racist statements like calling African nations "shit holes"..... then THAT negro is the one in a damn bubble.

Either that, or he's a coward who has taken refuge in denial.

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Donald Trump made it permissible to be a racist again, when he ran for office in 2017.  Before then, the stigma of being labeled a racist, which did date back to the 1960s civil rights era,  inhibited whites from bursting the black bubble. Now all of the racists are coming out of the walls,  publicly displaying their bigotry, and blacks are left to fall back and re-group.          

 

BTW, as a black man, why don't you agree with Shelby Steele??

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Deep article.  

 

As you know I have always decried the ineffectiveness on the NFL boycott, largely because we did not really sacrifice anything -- we refused to boycott, and the NFL and media controlled the narrative.  The protest and Colin were easily dispatched.  Random House will profit from a related book deal and I'll generate some commissions but football will go on and the brutality against Black people will continue...

 

MY GOD! Have 4,000 people been shot in Chicago!?!  I just looked it up and I see the number was actually 4,349 resulting in 771 murders!  That is an astounding stat. In contrast, NY City with more than 3 times the population of Chitown had 231 murders in 2016 (the number will be well under 200 for 2017).  I'm sure, but did not check, that murders in both cities were disproportionately Black on Black.

 

In 2016, less than 260 Black people were killed by police -- nationwide -- Chicago's citizenry beat that before the summer was over. Of course some of the Brothers killed by police were unarmed and the shootings were unjustified.  

 

At any rate, I agree wholeheartedly with the idea that "...oppression left us unprepared for freedom." The word "Freedom," used 18 times in Shelby Steele's article, is key. We largely don't exercise freedom in the Black community.  This is no different than what Carter G.Woodson wrote  almost 90 years ago; "if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit."

 

I had not really thought about the protest in the content of freemdon before. Thanks for sharing the article (next time post an excerpt and link to the full article).

 

_____________

BTW Jason, @Cynique is Brilliant nonetheless. In an alternative universe where wisdom and experience were revered more than youth and celebrity,  people like Cynique would be more widely known.

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@TroyI'm not brilliant.  I am just a natural born skeptic. This is not an acquired trait; it dates back to my childhood.  i never believed in fairy tales,  And i was always suspicious about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and was well aware that my parents were the tooth fairy.  I rejected religion early on because i soon discovered that most of it called for having blind faith in what someone told you to believe or - God would get you. As a free thinker, this was a form of oppression i could do without. By the time i reached adulthood, the first question that always popped into my head when people were adamant about their views, was to say "but what if"? This made me a thorn in the side of both  friends and foes, who were usually  hard pressed to defend their views. (It was amazing that i had as many friends as i did.)  Yet there was also many who were able to give credible rebuttals to my arguments and this was an education in itself. So I learned from being a polemicist.  I'm an old lady now, and i find it amusing how many folks there are who want everybody to get along and for people like me to just shut up in order to keep the peace.  But i never met a debate i didn't like.  Buddha says "question everything" and i do. Not surprising that in my search for the truth  it is, indeed, the journey that enlightens on the way to my elusive destination. 

 

i thought Shelby's article was very incisive and exemplified that old saw about "the truth hurting", especially when he dissected the motives of this  generation of black protesters and how  abstract freedom is.  i also found that he and i were in sync about what knee bending accomplished. It did shake up the NFL establishment, and did make white Americans uneasy to have to acknowledge that their beloved flag was part of the problem not the solution.  They showed their true colors by ignoring this, and freed themselves from pretending to be concerned about black grievances. 

 

I wasn't aware of how  high the number of shooting victims is in Chicago.  But it figures since not a day goes by that some black or hispanic person doesn't shoot or murder another one.  White people pretty much restrict their killings to family disputes.  Oh well, winter is here.  

 

 

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Humm your description of yourself puts you into a rare category amongst the rest of us.  It is one thing to be a polemicist, but what distinguishes you is that you often bring a insight that is unique.  

 

I'm a skeptic at heart too.  I also know if you consumer just 1, 2, or three different sources of information you are being lied to.  The idea that a majority of Americans get their news from social media is actually quite disturbing if not downright scary, seemingly very few ask what if.

 

I saw talking to someone the other day about something they read on social media.  They had very strong opinions about the subject. However, when I probed, I was surprised to learn they never read the source article and was basing their opinion one the title of the "newsbyte" and the subsequent commentary from family and friends.  It was obvious they were quite comfortable forming very strong opinions with very limited information.  Brilliant people do not do this.

 

Culturally we are becoming less "brilliant." As result @Cynique you stand out. 

 

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Cynique
 

BTW, as a black man, why don't you agree with Shelby Steele??


Because those aren't Shelby Steele's opinions....as a Black man.
Those are the opinions of his benefactors that he's PAID to prmote.



I'm not brilliant.


Yet again.....we agree, lol.

 

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@Pioneer1As usual, you are substituting your opinion for fact. Thank goodness there's nobody around  who'd pay you to write all of the drivel you express in your self-appointed role as the mouthpiece for black men.
 

The difference between you and me is that you don't know that you aren't brilliant.  You are convinced every foolish thought your brain spits out is profound wisdom, instead of silly saliva.   

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