A Dismal Reality

It Wasn't Supposed To Be This Way

September 7. 2005

I was traveling in China when pictures of the looters in New Orleans began to appear on CNN. They were black of course. Looting and raping and burning are what blacks do when the lid loosens. Yes, I could phrase this more cautiously: These things are what some blacks, etc. or, more cutely, not all blacks are looters, but all looters….blah blah.

Yet it happens time and again. There was Los Angeles, burned in 1992. There have been Cincinnati, Miami, Seattle, Washington DC, Chicago, Detroit, Crown Heights, Watts, Newark, on and on and on. When the law loses its grip, the looting begins.

We have come to expect it. Members of my tour group in China to whom I spoke assumed that the looters were black before watching. They had seen it before. I knew it before I saw the pictures. The looters are always black except when, occasionally, they are Latino. If they were looting for food it would be understandable. But that isn’t what is happening. Few of us eat television sets. Nike’s running shoes are not particularly digestible.*

With the dismantling in the Fifties of apartheid in the United States, many hoped that blacks would rise, study, progress, and become genuinely as distinct from formally integrated into the country. I hoped it too, though my expectations were low. Southerners said it would never happen, but were dismissed as prejudiced. They were right.

The melding of the races just hasn’t worked and, if examined honestly, shows few signs of working. Fifty years after the Brown decision, blacks remain unassimilated. They appear to be unassimilable. This, after endless programs, after the nation has turned itself on its head trying to encourage, promote, force, or imagine assimilation.

Integration of the schools degraded the schools, but did little for blacks. Operation Head Start didn’t work. Racial quotas in the universities didn’t work, nor did the awarding of unearned degrees or the establishment of departments of Black Studies. Compulsory integration of restaurants didn’t work. Quotas in hiring, enforced by the federal government, didn’t work. Welfare didn’t work. “Hate-crime” laws didn’t work. Nothing has worked.

These attempts have not been without results, but assimilation of blacks into the country has not been one of them. Compelled hiring by race instead of merit has produced a black middle class, but those so hired are regarded as a sort of tax, a cost of doing business. Saying this aloud is a firing offense, so no one says it in the office. They say it later over a beer. This was not the intended outcome. It is what we got.

Neither race shows much inclination to associate with the other. Left to themselves, they quickly segregate, in housing, on campus, in night clubs. Only heavy federal pressure produces an appearance of togetherheid.

As a police reporter frequently in the hearts of the big cities, I saw the failure with a clarity available to few. The black regions are huge, and they are purely black. Their denizens share little with a society of European derivation. In particular, with not enough exceptions, they seem to regard laws as restraints externally imposed instead of internally felt: When the police go away, so do restrictions on behavior. So do televisions. God help you if you are a white woman. If you don’t believe this, check the Uniform Crime Reports of the FBI. They are on the web.

I am not sure with what instrument one measures passivity, but passivity is what I sensed in the moldering dark regions—people just waiting, for what neither I nor they knew, just going from day to day, except for the gangs, who killed people. There was a smell of violence awaiting its chance. If you think I am imagining this, reflect on the looting and burning that erupt when the lid grows loose. Always there is another city with young blacks carrying television sets from stores.

I do not say these things with rejoicing. Morally it is saddening. For blacks, for whites, for the country the best thing would be that blacks genuinely flourish. They do not.

Something seems inherent in the race, or perhaps embedded in the culture, that does not understand success or morals or responsibility as others understand them. Perhaps, as many suggest, a history of being wards of the state, of being given special aid and special privilege, of having nothing expected of them, has inculcated passivity. Perhaps the persistently noted difference in measured IQ is the explanation. Be that as it may, the blacks of the rioting regions seem to labor under a crippling torpor and a dull, paralyzing lack of concern for those things that define European societies. Or, for that matter, Chinese or Japanese societies. Scholarship, reading, study do not seem to appeal. In Washington, I almost never saw blacks in the art galleries, the museums, or the public libraries. The races do not appear to want the same things, do not value the same things.

Writers speaking of the looting in New Orleans regularly say that poverty causes looting, and that as a society we should do something about it. But why are blacks poor, and what could society do that it has not already tried? Blacks are always poor, in Africa, in Haiti and Jamaica, in New Orleans. It is a global pattern. Would that it were not, but it is. No one knows what to do about it.

With the inevitability of gravitation, commentators attribute the incompatibility with what we think of as civilization to oppression or neglect by whites. Oh? In Washington, the mayor is usually black, along with a majority of the city council and school board. The principals are black, as are most of the teachers, almost all of the students, and their parents. The funding per student is high. Yet the schools are horrifically bad.

Washington could have any schools it wanted: It is hard to imagine anyone denying blacks better textbooks or forbidding the assignment of more homework. I conclude that they do have the schools they want. Perhaps they don’t want schools at all.

Yes, there are exceptions, and they too flee the city’s schools. Unfortunately the exceptions are exceptions.

I will receive mail from blacks telling me that what I am saying is wrong. I wish it were. Yet the riots continue decade after decade and the academic necrosis never clears. The unseen downtowns wait, dead in the water, profoundly isolated from America by their size and homogeneity. From time to time they have exploded, and will explode.

Years back Carl Rowan, the black columnist, wrote a book called “The Coming Race War in America.” It couldn’t quite be ignored, but could be ignored mostly, and was. Though he had moved extensively among whites, Rowan had little grasp of how whites think. He believed that they wanted to grind their heels in black faces. That he was wrong doesn’t matter. If he believed it, one may imagine what the young black males of East St. Louis think. Rowan wrote also of the anger and hatred seething in such places. He had seen it. I have seen it.

What will happen if, or when, the economy weakens under rising Asian competition, if good jobs are shipped to India and gasoline hits unheard of prices and the standard of living falls hard? Under the imposed amity of today there lurks powerful resentment on both sides. Prosperity has held things together. A flourishing nation can afford affirmative action. But when prosperity goes so will the amity. I can think of no solution other than a passport and a Euro account.

*A black's perspective