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On Race, the Left Should Look in the Mirror
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Let’s be frank; not many people feel comfortable discussing the subject of race.
Considering what happened to Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown, among others, the hows and whys of this situation should go well understood. However, even after America’s legal system exonerated those who killed the aforementioned, millions still yearn for physical retribution.
Their desires, sadly enough, boil down to collective hatred of white society for perceived injustices against blacks.
Such feelings of raw hatred are too complicated for words. This can be said, though: Even as race relations have improved over the last half-century, no small number of people amassed reservoirs of malice. This rage does not show its face easily, preferring to take a deep-seated position while cooler sentiments prevail in ordinary situations.
When something like Ferguson takes place, however, animosity surges like lava from Mount St. Helen’s. How can so many have become so angry while so much progress has been made in so little time?
If ever there was a question with no simple answer, this is it.
“While racism certainly still exists in contemporary America, is by no means the fundamental impediment to black achievement; indeed, it has become the all-purpose excuse for failure - as well as the excuse for not facing up to the real reasons why so many blacks continue to lag behind economically and socially,” progressive-turned-conservative author and journalist Harry Stein once explained to me.
Stein has written volumes about our nation’s social fabric, political scene, and, needless to mention, race scenario. In one of his more recent publications, the aptly titled “No Matter What... They’ll Call This Book Racist: How our Fear of Talking Honestly About Race Hurts Us All,” he delivers on that honest conversation Eric Holder now-infamously requested.
Stein contends that race relations are bogged down not by those on the right, but the left. His argument is evidenced by the all too familiar trials and tribulations of notable black conservatives like Clarence Thomas and Condoleeza Rice.
He also brings up the unfortunate realities of single parenthood, affirmative action gone awry, and the strongly negative impact of both on minority communities.
“(A)cknowledging that doing things the way we have has tended to do them has been disastrous,” Stein also mentioned. “It has not only divided us by race but has bred, especially among younger black people, both resentment and a bottomless sense of entitlement. How to address it? By insisting on the same high standards of behavior for all Americans, making excuses for no one based on the superficials of race or ethnicity.
“To take an obvious case in point: once, within memory, having a child out of wedlock in this society was stigmatized, a mark of disgrace, and properly so, since it is a given that when kids are born out of wedlock their chances of life success plummet. Yet in today’s America, almost no one will risk aggressively making that case or otherwise giving offense to unwed parents, because to do so is almost sure to be characterized as racist.”
Regardless of one’s political views, who can seriously deny a word of this?
Keeping things in perspective, though, I could not help but sense that Stein is blinded somewhat by his allegiance to right-leaning politics.
While the left shamelessly profits over contemporary racial strife, rightists hardly offers a plethora of tried-and-true solutions. This is not to say that Stein himself does not - as a matter of fact, he writes about more than a few - but none seem especially groundbreaking.
“No Matter What” is a fine book, and one that champions the earnest, positive message of lending a hand up rather than a handout. Will it convince those on the left and in the center that the modern right is the way to go for alleviating the awful pressures of divisive racial politics?
Not a chance.
However, it might begin a productive discussion, which is good enough for me. Its author has the best of intentions, and these are what twenty-first-century America direly need.
Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at