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There is a well-documented phenomenon of high-achieving students in inner-city schools being accused of “acting white”, a crippling, pervasive notion that “authentic” black identity requires a rejection of academics and of a broader constellation of positive behaviors as “white.” The wokerati deny this is an actual phenomenon and that in any case, it would be the canonical sin of “blaming the victim” to notice it even if true. There is also the pseudo-empirical response that this is no different from white nerds being ostracized by cooler but academically average white kids. Of course, white nerds are not accused of being a traitor to their community and their race.
The always thought-provoking John McWhorter recently wrote about the “acting white” problem and Stuart Buck’s book Acting White (2010) in which Buck describes in detail the way in which heavy-handed school desegregation plans thrust black kids into a foreign and often overtly hostile environment. That brought about the “acting white” notion as a reaction. McWhorter then raised the hard question: What can be done about adverse behavior patterns among blacks that evolved in response to tangible, real forms of racism now that those external racist pressures are long gone?
Chasing an invisible new contrived form of racism as the solution is clearly not the answer and unquestionably makes it worse. The genuine residual damage from racial injustice is now situated in a place and manner that neither legislation nor contrived white good intentions can reach.
Rather than start with a clear-headed assessment, we are instead living through a period of insanity in which white people are actually espousing the astonishingly condescending and overtly racist belief that patterns of self-destructive, self-defeating, antisocial behavior comprise “authentic” black culture while also declaring that virtually all of the habits and dispositions that foster academic, financial and personal success should remain unique to white people.
Having then constructed a hopeless, eternally unjust, and very weird new ideational apartheid, the new woke religion compels white people to escape and transcend their whiteness as a spiritual duty. In so doing, they become beings free of all cultural, historical, and social ties with their inherent evil. In stark contrast, black people are obligated to remain in their sanctified victim status–they cannot be woke and cannot join white people on this new higher plane of moral and mental existence because they never committed the original sin of racism and are thus ineligible for redemption and enlightenment. In the new openly racist “antiracist” religion, white people can transcend their whiteness into an enlightened state (and keep their lifestyles intact) but black people stay in victimhood forever.
My father was a DOJ attorney in the DOJ Civil Rights Division in the 1960s. For a good part of my teen years, he was traveling back roads in rural Tennessee and Mississippi documenting details and conducting interviews for the federal actions that he and others brought. He told me about all the alternative plans and suggestions that were rejected as a matter of law and policy—like integrating early grades first or various voluntary or other gradualist plans. As a matter of law, most of that was not possible even though the social dynamics and likelihood of adverse outcomes were well understood. For example, everybody knew that there was a threshold percent threshold of new black students that once crossed would trigger white flight. That threshold number varied by community but it was always there.
And everybody hated busing. Invariably poor whites, not the children of white doctors and lawyers wound up on the bus. [As an aside, I always thought the notion that black kids in Boston would be academically uplifted by being in class with the kinds of kids I knew from Southie (instead of the offspring of the Harvard faculty) was vaguely insulting.]
But the law was the law. And whatever the price, segregation had to go. And even with 20-20 hindsight, I don’t see many viable alternative solutions to the problem as it existed and was understood at that time. It was time to end the old order.
It always irritates me when I hear vapid statements about the alleged lingering effects of slavery and Jim Crow when the problems under discussion as usually more likely to be the aftereffects of badly conceived and executed policies intended to help. It also irritates me because that formulation of the problem is invariably used to justify a stupid solution.
I don’t have all the answers but I do know that this is one area where we don’t need to join the rich woke fantasy life that will only make things worse while making us stupid. We need ruthless honesty in equal measure with compassion and patriotic common cause for our mutual well-being. Maybe the conspicuous sheer stupidity and immediate harm of wokitude will inadvertently hasten that needed outcome. It is time.