There are three principal myths that have forestalled the improvement of American race relations since the 1960s. The first contends that most white people, continuing in the tradition of a bygone era, oppose equal employment and educational opportunities for blacks.
A second, related myth holds that were it not for the injustices inflicted upon them by whites, blacks in this country would be relieved of most of the ills plaguing them. It is said, further, that a vast reservoir of white bigotry periodically “spills over” and expresses itself in acts of violence against blacks. To support such contentions, many civil rights activists can recite from memory a lengthy list of widely publicized white-on-black crimes allegedly motivated by racism. Asserting further that blacks themselves are incapable of racism, these activists characterize the black community's anti-white sentiments as nothing more sinister than the justifiable emotions of an oppressed people longing for freedom.
A third myth asserts that all past white-on-black wrongs – however long ago they occurred – continue to hinder blacks to this day. Accepting this premise, many claim that reparations in the form of preferential treatment or monetary payments constitute reasonable remedies for, among other things, the horrors of slavery. Maintaining not only that present-day blacks ought to be compensated for injustices inflicted upon their ancestors, advocates of reparations further claim that contemporary whites should be punished for the transgressions of their own forefathers. Such a view deems black anger at whites – ostensibly founded on a desire to retaliate for past affronts – understandable, if not righteous.
There are two principal classes of people who generate and disseminate our nation's racial myths. First there are those who, by their own long-term exposure to these fictions, have been molded into resolute believers. Such individuals' lack of clarity, however, is by no means due to want of intellect or education; many of them have earned high academic honors and hold positions of considerable prominence. They are blinded by their passionate devotion to a misguided ideology. A second class of myth makers, meanwhile, consists of opportunists representing themselves as messiahs whose leadership will steer the afflicted to a better place. Myths bemoaning societal inequities are the tools of their trade. The less their myths resemble reality, the harder these opportunists work to distort people's perceptions into conformity with those myths. They are individuals whose employment depends entirely upon their ability to lie effectively.
Beginning in the 1960s, the left sought to destroy the existing American order and replace it with a system wherein blacks would displace whites as the "privileged" and dominant race. Toward that end, leftists infiltrated and gradually took control of the civil-rights establishment, eschewing, in the process, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream of a color-blind society. As Dinesh D'Souza observed in 1995, "It is no exaggeration to say that a rejection of [King's' vision] of a regime in which we are judged solely based on the content of our character is a virtual job qualification for leadership in the civil rights movement today." Boston University law professor Andrew Kull concurred that "the color-blind consensus, so long in forming, was abandoned with surprising rapidity.” Promoting race-consciousness and identity politics, the civil-rights establishment has been led, in recent decades, by merchants of grievance who depict America as an irredeemably racist society that loathes and mistreats blacks as badly as ever.
One such individual is Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has a long, well-documented history of venom-laced references to the "white devils" and Jewish "bloodsuckers" who purportedly decimate America's black community from coast to coast.
In a similar spirit, Al Sharpton has built his entire activist career upon the foundational premise that every major American institution is racist to its core.
Another civil-rights icon, Jesse Jackson has done the same. At the 1995 Million Man March, for instance, an impassioned Jackson thundered to his huge black audience: "We're despised.... We're attacked for sport."
Mary Frances Berry, former chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, laments white people's persistent "belief in the inferiority of blacks."
NAACP chairman Julian Bond has condemned the continuing "pervasiveness of racial bias" in housing, education, criminal justice, and other areas of American life. “Everywhere,” says Bond, “we see clear racial fault lines which divide American society as much now as at anytime in our past.”
Such attitudes are echoed by a host of key figures in academia, the religious left, the media, and elsewhere.
In his book Faces at the Bottom of the Well, NYU law professor Derrick Bell claims that “few whites are ready to actively promote civil rights for blacks”; that “white society … condemns all blacks to quasi citizenship as surely as it segregated our parents”; and that “African Americans must confront and conquer the otherwise deadening reality of our permanent subordinate status.”
According to CCNY professor Leonard Jeffries: “Western civilization is nothing more than an institutionalized, sophisticated form of barbarism” founded on a “system of white supremacy,” characterized by “domination, destruction, and death.”
Writes Columbia University professor Manning Marable: “The main pillars of structural racism throughout American history as well as today have been white prejudice, power, and privilege. By ‘prejudice,’ I mean a deep and unquestioned belief in the natural superiority of white people over nonwhites…. In our [blacks’] daily lives, racism presents itself as a virtually endless series of ‘racialized moments,’ in which part of our humanity is stolen or denied.”
Ivy League professor Cornel West brands the United States a “racist patriarchal” nation where “white supremacy” still defines everyday life. “White America,” he writes, “has been historically weak-willed in ensuring racial justice and has continued to resist fully accepting the humanity of blacks.” Professor West attributes most of the black community’s problems to “existential angst derive[d] from the lived experience of ontological wounds and emotional scars inflicted by white supremacist beliefs and images permeating U.S. society and culture.” “It goes without saying,” he adds, “that a profound hatred of African people … sits at the center of American civilization.
Emory University lecturer Kathleen Cleaver has written that “racist and white supremacist and exploitative practices are engrained” in American society and government, and that the “inability to treat Black people in a humane fashion” has “become part of the identity of the United States.”
“Everybody of Caucasian descent,” says political scientist Andrew Hacker, “believes that we [whites] belong to a superior strain. Most white people believe that persons with African ancestries are more likely to carry primitive traits in their genes.”
The self-described "anti-racist activist" Tim Wise, who is white, chastises "rich white people" for their impulse to "blame the dark-skinned for [whites'] hardship."
Rev. Jeremiah Wright declares: “Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run!... We [Americans] believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.”
Thanks to the relentless drumbeat of this message -- emanating from podiums at civil-rights rallies, in university classrooms, and in houses of worship -- the notion that America is a land of unyielding white racism has become an article of faith for large numbers of blacks. As such, it has bred a sense of defeatism, bitterness, resentment, and victimhood in much of the black community:
A December 2006 poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation for CNN found that 84 percent of black respondents said that racism was either a "very serious" or "somewhat serious" problem in America.
A March/April 2008 poll conducted by CNN, Essence magazine, and the Opinion Research Corporation asked respondents this question: "How serious a problem do you think racial discrimination against blacks is in this country: a very serious problem, a somewhat serious problem, not too serious, or not at all serious?" Some 43percent of black respondents said that discrimination was a "very serious" problem in America, and another 44 percent called it "somewhat serious." Put another way, 87 percent of blacks viewed discrimination as a concern meriting the qualifier "serious."
These findings are at odds with the trends that social scientists have observed vis a vis white attitudes about race ever since the early 1940s. For example:
In 1942, a mere 42% of whites believed that blacks deserved an equal opportunity to compete on a level playing-field with whites in the job market. By 1963, that figure had risen to 83%, and in 2000 it was virtually 100%.
In 1942, just 30% of whites favored racial integration in American schools; the corresponding figure in 1963 was 62%, and in 2000 it was over 90%.
In 1942, only 44% of whites favored the integration of all public accommodations in the United States; by 1963 that figure had risen to 79%, and in 2000 it exceeded 90%.
In 1942, fewer than 20% of whites reported a willingness to live in the same neighborhood as black people of the same socioeconomic class; by 1963 that figure had risen to 64%, and in 2000 it stood at 85%.
In 1957, fewer than 40% of whites said they would be willing to vote for a black presidential candidate. By 2000, that figure had risen to 93%. And of course, in 2008 the U.S. actually elected a black President, Barack Obama, with an immense amount of white support.
In his 2001 article "What's Holding Blacks Back?," black professor John McWhorter writes that in the 1990s, which he personally viewed as an era "of bracing progress for my race," he himself "came to realize that this feeling made me odd man out among most black Americans." Adds McWhorter:
"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…. These beliefs, rather than what remains of racism itself, are the biggest obstacle to further black progress in today's America. And all are either outright myths or severe distortions of truth."
McWhorter laments the prevalence of "a deeply felt cult of victimology that grips the entire black community" and has "engendered a cult of black separatism."
The left today encourages blacks not only to view themselves as victims of intransigent white racism, but also to exploit the implied moral superiority conferred by that status. Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Shelby Steele, who is black, wrote in 2006:
"Possibly white guilt's worst effect is that it does not permit whites—and nonwhites—to appreciate something extraordinary: the fact that whites in America, and even elsewhere in the West, have achieved a truly remarkable moral transformation. One is forbidden to speak thus, but it is simply true. There are no serious advocates of white supremacy in America today, because whites see this idea as morally repugnant. If there is still the odd white bigot out there surviving past his time, there are millions of whites who only feel goodwill toward minorities."
A similar sentiment is expressed by the black Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson, who writes: "America, while still flawed in its race relations … is now the least racist white-majority society in the world; has a better record of legal protection of minorities than any other society, white or black; [and] offers more opportunities to a greater number of black persons than any other society, including all of Africa."
In modern America, whatever threat white racism may pose to the black community is inconsequential when compared to the damage that illegitimacy and fatherlessness have inflicted on it. For several decades, the black out-of-wedlock birth rate has hovered around 70 percent -- far higher than the national average among other demographic groups. Statistically, illegitimacy is the single most reliable predictor of children growing up in poverty; being abused or neglected; dropping out of school; developing behavioral problems; experiencing emotional disorders; having a weak sense right and wrong; being unable to delay gratification or to control their sexual impulses; being sexually active as teens; conceiving children out-of-wedlock; being on welfare when they reach adulthood; and spending time in state reform institutions or prison.
The left, however, characterizes such pathologies as nothing more than by-products of white racism. "Instead of admitting that racism has declined," observes Shelby Steele, "we [blacks] argue all the harder that it is still alive and more insidious than ever. We hold race up to shield us from what we do not want to see in ourselves."