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Why We Won’t Talk Honestly About Race By Harry Stein

Harry Stein

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On February 26, 2014
Last modified:February 25, 2014


This is not a politically correct book. It is a book that will challenge beliefs and confirm suspicions, which is reason enough to recommend it to others, whatever their political persuasion. It is a book that needs to be read.

raceIn the introduction the author explains that his aim for writing the book was “to talk honestly about race,” to convey views, however legitimate or widely held, branded as racist by defenders of the status quo and banned from public discourse.

The author dedicated his book to others similarly engaged.

To black conservatives everywhere, shock troops in the battle for America’s soul.”

The left cannot easily accuse black conservatives of racism, but they are pilloried just the same, often viciously, for daring to think outside the liberal box. Just ask Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice, Walter Williams, Herman Cain or Shelby Steele, to mention a few members of that courageous honor roll.

Even some who mistrusted candidate Obama’s politics celebrated his election on a symbolic level. But instead of optimism and unity, Obama is the most divisive president in American history. Despite, Stein points out, having garnered more votes from whites in 2008 than were given to Al Gore or John Kerry, Obama uses his office to endorse and perpetuate the culture of black victimization.

Stein explains how the left uses white guilt to promote policies that hurt the very people they claim to be helping. The president is aided and abetted by the NAACP and other “social justice outfits” whose power and influence depend upon keeping the specter of racism alive. And, more to the point, preserve their ability to extract government cash and leverage corporate capital. Foremost in this pantheon of shame is Al Sharpton, best remembered for perpetuating the Tawana Brawley hoax and now reinvented as presidential advisor.

Bluntly stated by Kevin D. Williamson in a recent issue of National Review…

The left needs racism, because unlike their good, old-fashioned Marxist forebears, the post-modern left’s politics is not rooted in economics or history but in narrative–the most adolescent narrative: Good guys and Bad guys.

It is commonplace for opponents of liberal/progressive policies to be accused of making a remark with hidden racist overtones – so well hidden that only the affronted can perceive them. Yet the accused, instead of exposing the accusation as delusional, immediately issues a mea culpa. Not only does this perpetuate the lie, it feeds the pervasive self-censorship that makes honest dialogue between the races impossible.

Or as radio Host Chris Plante remarked:

The definition of a racist today is anyone who is winning an argument with a liberal.

Stein is as grateful to black conservatives for their bravery as he is angry about the widespread reluctance to confront race mongers. He explains the source of that reluctance by referencing Shelby Steele’s book, White Guilt.

It is the widespread guilt over the terrible inequities of the past (and to a lesser extent, the obvious hardships faced by many blacks in the present) that causes white people, especially those who identify themselves as “enlightened ” or “progressive” to over and over ad infinitum, give blacks a pass on behaviors and attitudes they would regard as unacceptable and even abhorrent in their own kind. This guilt has repeatedly, in fact, induced liberal whites – and even some not so liberal – to embrace policies that institutionalize not fairness but it’s opposite so as to appear to be on the right side of the racial divide. ‘The great ingenuity of interventions like affirmative action,’ Steele writes, ‘has not been that they give Americans a way to identify with the struggle of blacks, but that they give them a way to identify with racial virtuousness quite apart from blacks.’

Stein marshals little known facts to reveal how these policies have undermined “behavior and cultural norms–attitudes about work, frugality, marriage and family–that are essential to self-respect and life success.”

‘Even in the antebellum era when slaves often weren’t permitted to wed most black children lived with the biological mother and father,’ Jason Riley observed in the Wall Street Journal. ‘During Reconstruction and up until the 1940s, 75% to 85% of black children lived two-parent families.” indeed as recently as 1965, when the story Voting Rights Act was signed, the black illegitimacy rate was 24%, a third of what it is now.’

The so-called war on poverty begun by Lyndon Johnson in 1964 produced the usual unforeseen but predictable consequences. The increase in black legitimacy rates in 1965 compared to 1950 went from 18% to 24%. Fifteen years later in 1980, fully half of blacks were born out of wedlock, and that figure has steadily increased to the nearly three fourths today.

Black economist Walter Williams summed up:

The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery couldn’t do, what Jim Crow couldn’t do, what the harshest racism couldn’t do. That is to destroy the black family.”

Counter-intuitive as it seems, the evidence is overwhelming that at a time black people were systematically subjected to the most stringent dehumanizing imaginable discrimination, self-respect and self-reliance were far more the norm in black America than is the case today the victim mindset did not take full hold until the modern era after the civil rights battles had been won.

Booker T. Washington, an early black hero, seldom, if ever, quoted by the “victims are us” crowd, had something to say about making grievance pay.

Reading Washington, one is repeatedly struck by his startling prescience. There is a ‘class of colored people will make it a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public,’ he observed in 1911, more than half a century before anyone had heard of Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. ‘Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs – partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.’

In response to the depredations of the welfare state, the Personal Responsibility and Work Responsibility Act was passed during Bill Clinton’s presidency. The Act was accompanied by the usual predictions from the left whenever their initiatives are threatened: mothers and little children would die in the streets, old ladies pushed off cliffs.

But welfare reform was a huge success. Stein reports it reduced the welfare rolls by 2.8 million or nearly 60%, accompanied by striking decreases in the rates of poverty of single mothers and children. Equally important, linking welfare to work changed the way many people thought about themselves and their possibilities, “thus breaking what had seemed an endless cycle of poverty.”  When Clinton signed the bill he said it would end welfare as we know it. But he didn’t reckon on Barack Obama.

In 2012, Obama unilaterally dumped the work requirements by declaring that the states no longer had to follow them. For a full account see Robert Rector’s column in the Washington Post.

Stein also takes on the liberal shibboleth of affirmative action. He explains that a little known section of the Affordable Health Care Act confers federal grants on medical and dental schools that enroll “individuals who are from unrepresented minority groups.” Thus providing economic incentives for schools to lower admission standards.

Stein questions even a liberal’s enthusiasm for a heart transplant performed by an affirmative action surgeon. But it is no joke to realize that the ugly consequence of affirmative action is a perception that blacks lack the requisite skills to have achieved their positions on their own.

Then there is the other face of affirmative action. Until the 1996 passage of  California Proposition 209, prohibiting state agencies from considering race, sex, or ethnicity in public employment, public contracting or public education, Asians with exemplary academic records were classified as an “overrepresented minority” and denied admission to Berkley and UCLA. A bitter joke circulating at the time was that Asians were the new Jews, a reference to elite universities 1920’s admission policies designed to keep high achieving Jews out.

In the aftermath of 209, Asian enrollment went up, white stayed about the same.  Not publicized is that blacks are possibly the biggest beneficiaries of Prop. 209. Instead of dropping out in large numbers at the elite campuses for which they were unprepared, Blacks attending California’s less demanding state and community colleges flourish. Conversely, blacks admitted on their merits to the elite schools graduate at rates comparable to their white and Asian peers.

Excellence is always a matter of pride and self-belief, the very qualities racial preferences undermine by definition.  If there is no need to out-hustle one’s competitors, and no expectation that one will, why even try? Perpetually focused on past inequities rather than future possibilities the victim mindset epitomized by affirmative action not only saps energy and initiative, it justifies the absence of energy and initiative.

Emigrants, among them members of Stein’s family, came here because America offered a better life. They overcame language, lack of education and cultural deficits by mastering mainstream behaviors and values. They worked hard and prospered. The suspicion and antagonism of earlier arrivals were not so much stumbling blocks as they were obstacles to overcome. And overcome they did. Their children and grandchildren became productive and often affluent citizens in fields as varied as medicine and the movies. The lesson, in Stein’s account of family history, has nothing to do with race and everything to do with attitudes and values.

It should be noted that, in his dedication to this book Stein credited conservative black Americans for being in the forefront “of the battle for America’s soul.”

In an America where welfare state policies have eroded the prideful individualism and can-do resilience that sustained this country for the first two hundred years of its existence, their fight to drag their fellow blacks kicking and screaming toward their own self-interest, is, indeed, a fight for all America.

Blacks may be the first casualties of progressive policies, but they will not be last. The dedication infers that we are engaged in a cultural war that we dare not lose. If Obama and his cohorts continue to foster dependency in the name of economic justice –while his policies destroy existing jobs and stifle the creation of new ones–the result will be a growing underclass comprised of all ethnic groups that will manifest the totality of destructive behaviors produced by fractured families, resentment, crime, and an undeveloped work ethic.

The left is outraged because Stein dared to confront and refute the notion that racism is to blame for perpetuating the black underclass. He insists that what must be faced– above all, by its victims – is that the real problem is the policies crafted by “compassionate” liberals and the destructive attitudes and behaviors they spawn, not racism, that block the way to a better life.

This reviewer does not doubt that compassion was the original impetus. But continued insistence on nostrums that have produced decades of disastrous results is reason to question motives.

Stein suggests that “a relationship between the civil rights movement and the Democrat Party that at its inception was largely grounded in high principle has long since been reduced to a corrupt bargain; the race baiters posing as champions of social justice receiving legitimacy and consistent infusions of public money in return for assured and overwhelming black electoral majorities.“

“I’ll have those niggers voting Democratic for the next 200 years.”
– Lyndon B. Johnson

Obviously, this is not a politically correct book. It is a book that will challenge beliefs and confirm suspicions, which is reason enough to recommend it to others, whatever their political persuasion. It is a book that needs to be read.


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