LPA Foundation
Advisor Victor Davis Hanson

Advisor Victor Davis Hanson — LPA Foundation

View all Articles by Victor Davis Hanson

The Tragic and Complete Collapse of Racial Relations

August 16, 2015

Why do polls show that racial relations have gotten much worse under Barack Obama, who won the White House with over 95 percent of the black — and 45 percent of the white — vote?

A recent New York Times/CBS News poll just revealed that about 60 percent of Americans feel race relations are not good. Some 40 percent think that they will become even worse. Yet when Obama was elected, 66 percent of those polled felt race relations were generally OK. All racial groups, according to recent polling, believe that Obama’s handling of racial relations has made things worse since 2009. Another recent Pew poll confirms these tensions, and suggests whites are now about as pessimistic as blacks.

What has happened to racial relations?

Crime. A small cohort of urban African-American males under 50 — no more than 3-4 percent of the general population — is responsible for about 50 percent of many of the violent crimes committed. Blacks are 5-8 times more likely to commit rather than suffer an interracial crime, which makes up less than 10 percent of most violent crime. Both the analysis and solution have become taboo subjects. Writing the above is a near thought crime.

The non-African-American community of all races largely feels that if blacks were committing crimes commensurate to their percentages in the general population, the police would come into contact with young black males with much less frequency, diminishing the opportunities for jaded police-community flare-ups. In turn, would crime decline in the inner city if there was more emphasis on curbing illegitimacy, drug use, and single-mother families, while privileging study and academic excellence over sports and the cult of machismo?

Black leaders counter that racism is still the engine that drives a sense of despair, which insidiously is at the root of all pathology. Equality-of-result federal programs are ultimately seen as the answer that will catapult the disadvantaged into the middle class. The legacy of slavery and Jim Crow is said to trump the horrors that other immigrant and minority groups experienced — the Irish who were declared to be inhuman by mid-19th-century essayists; the Asian exclusionary laws and the Japanese internment; the Holocaust and the deliberate polices of the State Department and War Department to refuse entry of Jews fleeing the gas chambers; the Native Americans who lost their tribal landscapes; and on and on.

One can see why this back-and-forth argument about cause and effect has no solution by reading a typical story about black crime in any online mainstream newspaper or wire-service report. The journalistic narrative is embedded within politically correct tip-toeing around the race of the perpetrator, with interviews of family members attesting to complete astonishment that a son, brother, or friend, with a previous arrest or criminal record, would ever do such a heinous thing. Police overreaction is thematic. Crimes such as assault are downplayed. Little concern is accorded to a victim who was robbed, murdered, or raped. The news accounts of black crime are the written versions of the edited George Zimmerman 911 tape, his photoshopped picture, and his new identity as a “white Hispanic.”

But read what follows these daily crime stories in the online comments section. (Do the usually censorious PC editors encourage uncensored commentary in their news websites, in the sense of bread-and-circuses entertainment or efforts to gin up sagging readership?) The readers’ editorialization could come right out of the Old Confederacy. If elites doctor our news to massage racial themes, the mass displays a furor at the political correctness and lying. And in their wrath, online commentators ironically end up confirming stereotypes that many whites are getting angry to the point of becoming racists.

Obama never seriously raised the topic of inordinate black crime other than a few ephemeral pre-election throat-clearings about personal responsibility. We were left instead with his administration’s cheap editorializing on Trayvon, Ferguson, “nation of cowards,” and “punish our enemies.” Few see resolution of the half-century-old argument, except that much of non-white America (Asians, East Asians, Arabs, Latinos, etc.) does not yet see racism as the cause of a lack of parity; e.g., so far there is not a Korean Al Sharpton, a Latino Jesse Jackson, or a Punjabi Louis Farrakhan.

As the country moves beyond the old 90/10 percent white/black binary, race becomes more complex, and the charge of racism less effective as an exegesis for pathology. We fear the familiar script of 2014-15 will play out for the rest of our lives: a young Michael Brown-like inner-city African-American, with a past record of felonies and often unarmed, will be manhandled or perhaps even shot during a police encounter, usually as a result of either resisting arrest or attacking the officer. He will be immediately lionized as “gentle” or “on his way to college,” and become emblematic of reckless government violence in a way hundreds of murders each month of blacks by blacks are not indicative of inner-city pathologies. Mention of rap sheets will remain taboo. The media insists that more numerous examples of police shooting whites (who comprise a larger population, but are far less likely on a percentage basis to be arrested for suspicion of committing a felony) are irrelevant; so are black-on-white instances of crime, or black officers killing those of other races. Police will react by pulling back from the inner city in fear their careers will be ruined should they use greater force to counter initial force. Black community leaders will fire back that derelict racist officers are not protecting the community. Police will re-enter the inner city in proactive fashion. Another Freddie Gray or Michael Brown case will follow, with demands that police leave the community alone.

The cases quickly become iconic and mythographic: Obama evokes “Ferguson” as an example of racism, without any context that Michael Brown resisted arrest, was under the influence and walking down the middle of the street — after recently committing a felony. If the president’s own attorney general can exonerate Officer Darren Wilson and the president can still persist in referencing Ferguson, racial relations, as the polls suggest, are going to get even worse.

So far we have read only in the elite media about black furor over white privilege. Yet the white elite that most certainly has Ivy League pedigrees, Washington/New York insider leverage, and corporate/Wall Street Clintonian-like help seems to encourage black anger as a sort of personal penance. Yet the elite has no clue of the growing anger of the white middle class and underclass that has no white privilege, and is tired of hearing that it does and being smeared as Neanderthal racists. When those who have no privilege hear “white privilege” from those who most certainly enjoy it, their reaction is similar to Denzel Washington’s in Man on Fire, who tires of hearing ad nauseam only “I’m just a professional.”

Jobs. A second problem is the static pyramidal Obama economy that has made labor participation historically low. Overregulating and overtaxing are fine for elites, who have enough money to either pay or find ways to avoid higher taxes. They don’t care much if their power, gas, or health costs go up — at least if they are led to believe that is the proper green atonement to pay for cooling the planet, putting a bait fish back into a delta, or shutting down a coal plant. Obama, in recompense for favoring the aristocratic elite, feels that by expanding food stamps, disability insurance, housing, legal, and education subsidies, etc., the lower classes will be satisfied in lieu of a high-paying job on a fracking rig, in construction, or welding on the Keystone pipeline.

Yet in such a fossilized European system, the subsidized lower classes still see little chance of getting all the stuff they see advertised on television and computers, or the opportunities of the middle classes, and don’t wish to accept that their smart phones, Kias and air conditioning make them princes compared to the wealthy of 1970. Throughout history, the absence of parity, not the lack of means, has been the criterion for revolution. I’d go further: the more affluent the consumer underclass becomes due to Chinese-made goods, inexpensive high-tech appurtenances, and federal and state largess, the angrier it become that others have even more. Looters focus on sneakers and electronic goods, not flour and vegetables. Should Obama cut taxes, lift regulations, become pro-energy and pro-growth, and reform entitlements and the tax code to expand the economy at 5-6 percent growth per annum, would not all sorts of new opportunities open up for African-Americans?

If 1 million illegal aliens a year were not pouring across the border, would not employers vie for labor rather than seek to import it cheaply? Instead, the Democratic Party is mostly about an elite on top that, as penance for its privilege, supports subsidies for the mass below that remains distant and out of sight and mind. By that cheap fillip, I mean the Obama daughters don’t walk into the inner city any more than Chelsea Clinton lives in Jamaica, Queens, or Barbara Boxer has a granddaughter in the Madera city schools.

The Implicit Bargain. African-American elites envision the urban underclass the same way that some La Raza third-generation Latinos view impoverished illegal immigrants from Oaxaca. Social disparities among the poor become arguments for affirmative-action leverage for elites, as if Barack Obama getting into Harvard Law or Lisa Jackson serving as EPA administrator will lower the crime rate in Baltimore or help change attitudes about illegitimacy in Oakland. Until we confess class is a greater barometer of privilege than race, I see no solution to the escalating tensions. How odd that upscale, one-percent African-Americans at NPR, the New York Times, and MSNBC monotonously blast white privilege, as if their own lives are always far more hurtful than those in Appalachia or rural Oklahoma.

Progress is Impossible? Ta-Nehisi Coates writes that he has no affinity with the firemen and police who were incinerated on 911, given his grievances over endemic racism and the inability of blacks to gain parity with the majority due to systematic exclusion, formerly overt, today insidious. Currently, blacks make up about 12 percent of the population. The president of the United States, the present (and former) attorney general of the United States, the secretary of Transportation, the secretary of Homeland Security, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the head of NASA are African-American. Twenty-one percent of the Postal Service employees are African-American; 17 percent of the entire federal work force is black. Seventy-eight percent of the NBA are African-American. Sixty-seven percent of NFL players are black. Sixteen percent of the teams have African-American head coaches; 24 percent of the teams have black general managers. Has the definition of diversity become that overrepresentation in some areas (the Left’s word, not mine) of African-Americans, based on percentages in the general population, is still diversity, while underrepresentation of blacks in the physics department at Caltech is proof of endemic racism? Or does a physics professor enjoy more perks and money than an NFL general manager?

We are asked to believe that Mr. Coates encounters crippling racism more so than my quite dark, quite accented, and quite turbaned Punjabi neighbor, who lives in a sea of non-Punjabis. We are asked to believe that an entire generation of lower middle-class white and mixed-race Americans who came of age not during Jim Crow and the civil rights movement, but during the half-century of affirmative action and diversity set-asides are guaranteed winning slots in American because of their  “white privilege.”  When I see the local, broke, and white tire-changer, somehow I don’t think his coming of age in the 1980s was easier than that of Jeh Johnson or Eric Holder. When I see a video in which a privileged young white elite at $65,000-per-year Wellesley or Amherst confesses to “white privilege,” I wonder how many hours he has welded in Tulare or she has done data entry in a carrel in San Jose. Many of our problems derive from black elites feeding off the guilt of compatriot white elites of a like class in a similar landscape, who claim to speak for all whites, as if they shared something when in fact they share nothing much at all. I suspect that more white males feel an affinity, a stronger one based on shared ideas, with Ben Carson than any affinity on the basis of race with Hillary Clinton or John Kerry.

Because of our dishonesty on matters of race and the elite’s use of it for their own privilege, we will see not only little progress, but also much retrogression. Look at the world abroad: anytime a man or woman identifies by race, violence mounts and chaos follows. The times they are a-changing — for the worse.

This article originally appeared at PJMedia.com.


Issue Categories : American Exceptionalism