Some sanity about civil rights

Shelby Steele writes in the Wall Street Journal about the current state of the civil rights establishment today, and unlike most of what I’ve read in the past week he states his case with both dispassion and compassion:

The purpose of today’s civil-rights establishment is not to seek justice, but to seek power for blacks in American life based on the presumption that they are still, in a thousand subtle ways, victimized by white racism. This idea of victimization is an example of what I call a “poetic truth.” Like poetic license, it bends the actual truth in order to put forward a larger and more essential truth—one that, of course, serves one’s cause. Poetic truths succeed by casting themselves as perfectly obvious: “America is a racist nation”; “the immigration debate is driven by racism”; “Zimmerman racially stereotyped Trayvon.” And we say, “Yes, of course,” lest we seem to be racist. Poetic truths work by moral intimidation, not reason.


In the Zimmerman/Martin case the civil-rights establishment is fighting for the poetic truth that white animus toward blacks is still such that a black teenager—Skittles and ice tea in hand—can be shot dead simply for walking home. But actually this establishment is fighting to maintain its authority to wield poetic truth—the authority to tell the larger society how it must think about blacks, how it must respond to them, what it owes them and, then, to brook no argument.

The Zimmerman/Martin tragedy has been explosive because it triggered a fight over authority. Who gets to say what things mean—the supporters of George Zimmerman, who say he acted in self-defense, or the civil-rights establishment that says he profiled and murdered a black child? Here we are. And where is the authority to resolve this? The six-person Florida jury, looking carefully at the evidence, decided that Mr. Zimmerman pulled the trigger in self-defense and not in a fury of racial hatred.

And here, precisely at the point of this verdict, is where all of America begins to see this hollowed-out civil-rights establishment slip into pathos. Almost everyone saw this verdict coming. It is impossible to see how this jury could have applied the actual law to this body of evidence and come up with a different conclusion. The civil-rights establishment’s mistake was to get ahead of itself, to be seduced by its own poetic truth even when there was no evidence to support it. And even now its leaders call for a Justice Department investigation, and they long for civil lawsuits to be filed—hoping against hope that some leaf of actual racial victimization will be turned over for all to see. This is how a once-great social movement looks when it becomes infested with obsolescence.

The plain fact is this- white folk were rightly expected to do something about the Bull Connors and the Lester Maddoxes and the George Wallaces in our midst- and we did. It was a long, painful process, and not entirely successful. Human nature is what it is.

But they no longer have any power to go with their bigotry.

I was raised in the Fifties and Sixties to never judge a man by his ethnicity, but by his character. So were most of my peers- and I grew up in a small North Georgia town.

Now it is time for the black folk to do the same to the haters and civil rights profiteers, the Al Sharptons and the Jesse Jacksons and the Reverend Wrights in their community. This is not an unfair or an unreasonable request. The plain fact is the black folks have to tend to their own business- they have to make the change. Otherwise we’ll continue down this bad road to a worse end.

Us creepy-ass crackers can’t do it for you, and rightly so. You need to clean your own house, and own the results.

Else, you really are going to own the results.