At the most recent session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) meetings in New York, committee members pressed countries on abortion in the guise of talking about maternal mortality, family planning and contraceptive prevalence. Lithuania, Nigeria, Finland, the United Kingdom and Slovakia were all questioned on their abortion laws during their reviews by the committee.
While abortion is not mentioned in the treaty, in recent years the CEDAW Committee has questioned more than 60 nations on their abortion legislation. The committee has even gone so far as to create their own "general recommendation" that reads abortion into the text, even though the nations that negotiated the treaty made sure the controversial issue was never mentioned. Delegations often go along with the committees' line of questioning on abortion by providing data and answering queries on the subject during their reviews.
During Lithuania's review, committee members pressed the government delegation on access to contraception and on proposed legislation that seeks to defend prenatal life and would pose restrictions on access to abortion. Japanese committee member Yoko Hayashi stated that governmental restrictions on abortion "contradict the full enjoyment of women's reproductive health rights that are protected by CEDAW." The CEDAW document is, however, silent on "reproductive health rights."
The United Kingdom was similarly taken to task by the CEDAW committee because of concerns over access to abortion in Northern Ireland. In response to committee queries over whether there was a possibility of changing the abortion legislation, the Irish representative responded that abortion was a matter of criminal law and that no change in legislation could occur in Northern Ireland without consent from all parties.
One committee member fired back that the government was not adequately addressing the abortion issue and that not taking action on the matter is "incompatible with obligations under the CEDAW convention."
Sylvia Pimentel of Brazil took exception to Slovakia's concordat with the Holy See, particularly on the right of health care workers to conscientiously object to performing or aiding in abortion. Pimentel claimed that it is "discriminatory to refuse to legally provide reproductive health services to women" and that CEDAW state parties "must refrain from obstructing women from pursuing their health goals."
While the rulings of the Committee are technically non-binding, abortion activists have brought litigation throughout the world citing CEDAW Committee rulings in support of overturning laws against abortion. Such arguments helped convince the Colombian constitutional court to liberalize that country's restrictions on the practice.
Under the topic of non-discrimination, CEDAW committee members questioned states on homosexual rights issues. During Finland's review, committee members questioned legislation that prevented lesbian adoption. Slovakia was questioned on medically assisted reproduction and "discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation" against lesbian women who wanted to undergo the procedure.
At the end of the month, official representatives of States parties to CEDAW are scheduled to elect 11 members of the Committee that will serve from January 2009 to December 2012. The CEDAW Committee will next meet again in Geneva in October to review the reports from Bahrain, Belgium, Cameroon, Canada, Ecuador, El Salvador, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Mongolia, Myanmar, Portugal, Slovenia and Uruguay.
The AP's New Man on the 'Race and Ethnicity' Beat
The Associated Press just announced an important change in a high-profile news beat that's overseen by its national desk -- a beat called "race and ethnicity." AP's editors, perhaps sensing a racially charged presidential election at hand, picked a writer from 449 candidates they'd been considering for their new "race and ethnicity" writer. And last week, they named the lucky writer, a long-time AP staffer named Jesse Washington. Previously, the 39-year-old journalist was the "entertainment editor" at America's most influential news outlet, the source from which most Americans get their news from outside the areas covered by their local newspapers and TV and radio stations.
Earlier in his career, Washington was an editor at two prominent hip-hop magazines. And recently, he published his first novel: "Black Will Shoot," which is about America's hip-hop culture. Its cover jacket calls it a "compelling look at the most impactful (sic) and influential cultural movements of the past thirty years."
For AP's editors, the race and ethnicity beat is obviously important. An opening on the beat occurred due to the resignation of AP writer Erin Texeira. Interestingly, the AP gave no reason for her resignation. Among the headlines of some of her memorable stories: "Duke Rape Scandal Reopens Old Wounds For Black Women"; "Slavery Reparations Gaining Momentum" and "Black Men Fight Negative Stereotypes Daily."
So what does the AP's "race and ethnicity" beat mean for the type of news coverage Americans can expect? In the good old days of American journalism, reporting beats had pretty mundane names: police, city government, national politics, etc. But in the post-modern journalism world, beats like "race and ethnicity" have become popular. And in a sense, they often feed the perception -- the false perception -- that America's race relations are in the dire state that's usually portrayed in the mainstream media's stories.
How come? First, consider the very first bias that invariably creeps into a news story: It's that reporters and editors even choose to write a story about something; and in the case of a news beat, they have to produce stories on a particular issue on a regular basis. By itself, the decision to create a news beat says a lot; for it defines a particular subject as being an issue -- one worthy of news space and air time. And a news beat also places a certain onus on reporters and editors.
Those covering "race and ethnicity" beats, for instance, are expected to flesh out the basic elements of a story. And the very best stories, of course, invariably revolve around conflict and controversy. But what if no obvious conflict or controversy exist? Well, for clever reporters entertaining a certain worldview, it's usually easy to come up with something.
A beautiful sunset over an orderly middle-class suburb in Chicago or Los Angeles is not necessarily what it seems: It's merely the calm before a Perfect Storm of racial grievances. Basically, that's what's often going on at places like the AP and New York Times in respect to its ongoing and obsessive coverage of "race and ethnicity" in America.
And so then, the "news beats" created by editors say much about what those editors think is important, reflects the potential conflicts they believe are festering all around them. According to his memo on Washington's promotion, published at trade magazine Editor & Publisher, AP's manging editor of U.S. news, Mike Oreskes wrote:
Few subjects permeate every corner of American life more fully than issues of race and ethnicity. So, few assignments have more potential to expand our understanding of America than writing about race and ethnicity. That is why we have conducted an extensive search for a new national writer to cover this important and complex territory. That search, ably led by John Affleck, brought in 449 applicants. There were many strong candidates.Does race in fact "permeate every corner of American life" as Oreskes claims? There is good reason to believe that it does not, at least not in the way Oreskes and his AP colleagues think it does. And certainly not in the way Barack and Michelle Obama may say or imply. And definitely not the way that's described by Obama's former hate-filled minister and spiritual mentor, Jeremiah Wright, who recently resigned as pastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ.
It turned out the top choice-and a very exciting one-was right here at home. I am very pleased to announce that our new national writer on race and ethnicity will be Jesse Washington, currently the AP's Entertainment Editor.
Put aside these issues for a moment, however, to consider some things about the AP's new "race and ethnicity" writer. No doubt, Jesse Washington was thanking his lucky stars upon hearing of his promotion. In recent months, after all, thousands of editors and reporters have lost their jobs as the newspaper industry has suffered its worst-ever downsizing bloodbath. Even top people at the New York Times and Washington Post are being shown the door.
Yet Washington, rather than considering himself a lucky insider, considers himself an outsider, at least if Oreskes' memo is anything to go by. The memo not only calls attention to Washington's considerable achievements, it portrays him as something of a scrappy contender - and even a victim. According to Oreskes' memo:
Jesse brings to this new assignment more than just a resume of achievements. He has lived the subject of race and ethnicity every day of his 39 years. Son of an interracial marriage, Jesse is, as he puts it, "a kid from the projects who went to Yale and married a doctor. I'm a person who fits in everywhere and nowhere." He and his wife live in suburban Philadelphia with their four children.Given the AP's evident preoccupation with race and ethnicity, it's interesting that Oreskes' memo makes no mention of Washington's own racial or ethnic background; but a photo of him posted with the AP's online news release reveals what is all but obvious: he appears black.
But perhaps the failure of Oreskes' memo to mention Washington's race is consistent with some of the AP's news coverage. Recent AP articles about gang violence in the nation's inner cities, Chicago in particular, made absolutely no mention of the racial or ethnic background of the young thugs rampaging through city streets with high-powered weapons. It took a little Googling to learn that Chicago's gangbangers are part of the city's dysfunctional black culture.
Washington himself has been guilty of such oversights during the early part of his AP career in the mid-1990s. Writing in October, 1993, about Detroit's annual "Devil's Night" -- an arson spree occurring on Halloween -- Washington made no mention of the ethnic or racial backgrounds of the young thugs torching vacant buildings during a night of mayhem that "added insult to the city's already injured reputation." ("Detroit Hopes to Stifle Devil's Night Fires Again," AP, Oct. 1992.) Then again, maybe the story Washington submitted did mention such things, only to have them deleted by a politically correct AP editor.
According to a check of Factiva, the news archive, Washington wrote a variety of stories while assigned to the AP's national desk in the 1990s, the kinds of stories one might expect on the national beat -- crime, political scandals, etc. But he returned repeatedly to stories about race. And invariably, the stories on race that really "moved" on the wires (get picked up by lots of newspapers across the country), involved those that highlighted an earlier period of racism in America's history.
Washington wrote one such story in mid-July of 1991: "White schoolmarm challenged New England's anti-black stance." Reporting from Canterbury, Conn., he began:
When a strong-willed white schoolteacher in 1833 opened New England's first academy for black girls, she was tormented by her neighbors, made an outlaw by the state Legislature and even jailed. Today, the clapboard house where Prudence Crandall operated her boarding school is a museum, a monument to one woman's courage and a reminder of a troubling episode in Connecticut history.Americans, of course, ought to reconsider their history and look back on their past. But in the post-modern journalism world, the approach to news coverage that does that inevitably has a cynical tone -- the equivalent of repeatedly tearing a scab off an old wound. And invariably, progress in the nation's race relations is never noted; it never stresses what America has accomplished, thanks to Americans of all colors working together. Instead, news stories are invariably about white Americans have done to black Americans; no matter if most white Americans today display little if any racial animus, an issue that Linda Chavez recently highlighted in a perceptive and lengthy piece in the magazine Commentary.....
The financial irresponsibility of the British Left
For an economic historian brought up in Kirkcaldy, Gordon Brown seems remarkably indifferent to the writings of that town's greatest son, Adam Smith: "It is the highest impertinence and presumption in ministers to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expense," Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations. "They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society." In his wildest dreams, Smith could not have imagined just how spendthrift they could be. UK public sector net borrowing for the first three months of the financial year was at $48.8 billion, the highest quarterly since records began in 1946.
When a country, like a household, is in financial difficulties, it has two options: to increase income or cut spending. Labour has decided to do the former by simply borrowing the money, which will make the necessary correction worse when it comes in the form of higher taxes (though presumably they think that will be the Tories' problem, a sort of economic scorched earth policy). What Labour is incapable of is the other option: cutting the spending - not just by paring back programmes that add nothing to the wealth of the nation, but by eradicating the mind-boggling waste.
It went almost unnoticed last week when the National Audit Office refused to sign off the annual accounts of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) because of massive losses on the tax credit scheme. These amounted last year to overpayments and fraudulent claims of about $3 billion. We have come to a pretty pass where a loss of $3 billion and the admonishment of the public auditor can be virtually shrugged off. Have we become so inured to waste on such a colossal scale that we no longer care? Or are the numbers too big for us to grasp? Add to that $3 billion the $8 billion bill the taxpayer may now have to pick up as a result of the inquiry into the shambles at Equitable Life.
Much of the blame for the shortfall in the funds of policyholders can be laid at the door of the society's board for running an over-generous, and ultimately unpayable, annuities scheme over many years. But Ann Abraham, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, was emphatic in her view that culpability could also be attached to the Government for its failure to regulate the company properly, not least when it was aware of what was happening in the late 1990s. At the time, the individual in overall charge of the regulatory system, indeed, the person who had established a new one under the auspices of the Financial Services Authority, was our old friend from Kirkcaldy (Mr Brown, not Mr Smith).
If we are generous, and say that one quarter of the eventual bill to compensate Equitable Life losers can be attributed to the regulatory failures on Mr Brown's watch, that's another $2 billion in the waste column. So, in one week, $5 billion went west. That is a sum equivalent to the fall in tax receipts over the first three months of this year. Over the same quarter, spending rose by $17.6 billion.
The tax credits losses for last year, however, are a drop in the bucket compared to the accumulated additional costs of the system, caused by poor political direction, shoddy administration and failed computer systems. The grand total wasted in overpayments, underpayments or fraud is at least $20 billion since they were introduced in 2003, again by the Kirkcaldy maestro. They were meant to subsidise poorly paid work through the tax system, remove the stigma of benefits, and make work pay. Yet within months of their introduction, they were the subject of more complaints to MPs, the Inland Revenue, the Ombudsman and citizens' advice centres than any public policy in history.
Years later and the system is still in chaos. The Parliamentary Ombudsman and Citizens Advice Bureaux continue to report an inundation of complaints. Though it was Gordon Brown's personal creation, he appears to have emerged remarkably unscathed from the botched implementation and the incessant, almost compulsive, tinkering.
Frank Field, the former welfare reform minister, once compiled a list of changes to the system made by the Kirkcaldy wizard: over a four-year period from 1999, the Government abolished family credit, introduced working families' tax credit, introduced the disabled person's tax credit, introduced a childcare tax credit, introduced an employment credit, abolished the married couple's tax allowance, introduced the children's tax credit, introduced a baby tax credit, abolished the working families' tax credit, abolished the disabled person's tax credit, abolished the children's tax credit, abolished the baby tax credit, introduced a child tax credit, abolished the employment credit and introduced a working tax credit. As Mr Field said: "It was like gardeners going round pulling up their plants all the time to see whether the roots are still there."
Last week, after the NAO refused to sign off the Inland Revenue accounts, ministers said the system was undergoing "teething problems". What? After five years? In any case, why take money off people to use to administer a system that gives them the money back; why not give them tax cuts to start with?
Given that the implementation of the policy was such a shambles, and payments were so erratic, that many of our poorest people were reduced to misery, how can it be considered anything other than a disaster?
Here was a classic example of an attempt by Whitehall to make things better that simply made them worse. It combined the micro-managerial, social engineering obsession of Gordon Brown with an ineffective IT system and conspired to cause hardship that was not there before. The scale of official error was completely unacceptable, yet nobody took the rap.
I don't know about you, but I am getting heartily sick seeing my hard-earned cash squandered on an almost daily basis without anyone responsible actually feeling any pain at all. It's time somebody did, and I think we all know who. A reckoning is due.
Is African-America Awakening?
By Myron Magnet
The conversation about race that Barack Obama says America needs is already in full swing--and it is a conversation among blacks. Its spark was a speech that TV star Bill Cosby gave at the NAACP in 2004. In books and articles, on talk shows and in town meetings, at barbecues and barber shops, African-Americans have been arguing over his words ever since. Their impassioned discussion is the most hopeful development in race relations in years.
With a 50 percent high school dropout rate and a 70 percent illegitimacy rate, with African-Americans committing half the nation's murders though only 13 percent of the population, black America--especially the poorer part of it--is in trouble. "We cannot blame white people," Cosby asserted in his incendiary speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board school desegregation decision. "It's not what they're doing to us. It's what we're not doing." As Jesse Jackson used to say, Cosby recalls, "No one can save us from us but us."
Sure, racism hasn't vanished, Cosby acknowledges in his 2007 book Come On People, a follow-up to his speech written with Harvard psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint. "But for all the talk of systemic racism and governmental screw-ups, we must look at ourselves and understand our own responsibility." Even with lingering discrimination, "there are more doors of opportunity open for black people today than ever before in the history of America," and "these doors are tall enough and wide enough" for just about all black people "to walk through with their heads held high." So while "there are forces that make the effort to escape poverty difficult," African-Americans are by no means merely the playthings of vast forces and helpless victims of racism. "When people tell you, 'You can't get up, you're a victim,' " Cosby warns, "that's when you know it is the devil you're hearing."
Why do so many blacks, especially men, find it so hard to grasp the opportunity that is theirs for the taking? Why are "so many of our black youth squandering their freedom?" Cosby and Poussaint's answer is that the social structure and culture of poor black neighborhoods distort the psychology of the children who grow up there, often shackling them in "psychological slavery." The authors zero in on the permanently destructive effects of fractured families and slapdash child rearing--much more slapdash than middle-class parents, with their years spent nurturing, encouraging, and cajoling their children, could easily imagine. "In the neighborhood that most of us grew up in, parenting is not going on," Cosby told the NAACP. "You have the pile-up of these sweet beautiful things born by nature--raised by no one."
Certainly their fathers aren't raising them. That 70 percent illegitimacy rate, troubling in itself, isn't evenly distributed but is concentrated in poor neighborhoods, where it soars above 85 percent and can approach 100 percent. "A house without a father is a challenge," Cosby and Poussaint write. "A neighborhood without fathers is a catastrophe." That's because mothers "have difficulty showing a son how to be a man," a truly toxic problem when there are no father figures around to show boys how to channel their natural aggressiveness in constructive ways. Worse still, the authors muse, "We wonder if much of these kids' rage was born when their fathers abandoned them."
To come into the world already abandoned by your father is damaging enough, but Come On People teems with children abandoned by their mothers as well. Many end up among America's half-million foster children, two-thirds of whom--more than 300,000 abused or cast-off souls--are black. We meet a Kentuckian born in a housing project and taken away from her jailed, drug-addicted mother at the age of six. After a string of foster homes and group facilities, she began doing "drugs, alcohol, shoplifting, gangbanging, hustling. I was in and out of jail," she says. "I was angry. I would fight at the drop of a dime." We hear of an eight-year-old smash-and-grab burglar abandoned even more abruptly. A cop tells the authors about catching him. The boy wouldn't say one word, beyond the address of his housing-project home. The officer drove the boy there, followed him into his apartment, and saw his mother on the sofa. The boy finally spoke. "She's dead, ain't she?" And she! was, with the needle that killed her lying on the floor. The boy calmly ate a bowl of cereal as he watched the cop deal with the body.
We hear of children abandoned emotionally if not literally. Another cop tells of a seven-year-old he picked up for bashing out car windows. "I'm very good at making these kids cry," the cop said. "But this one, I couldn't touch him." He drove the kid home to what looked like a shack. The boy opened the door, and there was his mother on a mattress on the floor, having sex. The boy walked past the couple "and sealed himself off behind a curtain." The man fled; the mother signed the form the cop held out to her, "pulled the covers over her head, and left her son standing mutely behind the curtain."
These are the extreme cases, but even among normal poor black single-parent families Cosby and Poussaint find child-rearing patterns that prime kids for failure. Since the authors believe that too many black adults "are giving up their main responsibility to look after their children," they make a portion of their book a child-raising handbook--an inner-city Dr. Spock--whose sound, simply stated advice makes clear what they think is going wrong in numerous ghetto families. Their optimistic, encouraging precepts, in spite of themselves, lift the curtain on a world of heartrending childhood sorrow and suffering, which ordinarily no one comes to help or comfort, and which leaves scars that never heal.
Above all, they counsel, spare the rod. "Many black parents use physical punishment--not just spanking, but also hitting, slapping, and beating kids with objects," they report. Indeed, "many black parents have told us that physical punishment is part of black culture." But, Cosby and Poussaint warn, "when they beat their kids they are sending a message that it is okay to use violence to resolve conflicts," rather than helping them develop self-control and a sense of right and wrong. Too often, physical punishment turns into child abuse; too often, parents (or caregivers, especially the mother's boyfriend) "beat their kids, not to discipline them, but to exorcise their own demons. . . . They take their anger out on the child," who "serves as a 'whupping' object for peevish adults. . . . These beatings often produce angry children who treat others as violently as they have been treated." The prisons are bursting with grown-up abused children.
In addition to physical abuse, Cosby and Poussaint observe, we've all cringed at hearing inner-city mothers abusing kids verbally as well, making them feel worthless and unwanted. "Words like 'You're stupid,' 'You're an idiot,' 'I'm sorry you were born,' or 'You'll never amount to anything' can stick a dagger in a child's heart." Single mothers angry with men, whether their current boyfriends or their children's fathers, regularly transfer their rage to their sons, since they're afraid to take it out on the adult males. "If they hear their mom say, 'Black men ain't worth s---,' the boys wonder whether that includes them. When their moms yell, 'You're no good, just like your father!' all the doubt goes away." When such racially tinged verbal abuse takes the form of " 'Nigger, I'll kick your f------ black a--,' " the child ends up ashamed of being black, as well--a danger anyway in a society where rumors of black inferiority still echo, if more faintly.
One of black America's most disabling problems, Cosby and Poussaint think, is this wounded anger--of children toward parents, women toward men, men toward their mothers and women in general. Some try self-sedation, whether by "wallowing in sedated victimhood," by music "loud enough to wake the dead," by "a lover or some crack or, if nothing else, a bag of burgers." Another way that "black men have tried to maintain their dignity and to keep control of their anger is by being 'cool.' . . . Many who feel abandoned by a parent protect themselves from being hurt by putting on a cool detachment." Trouble is, beyond becoming emotionally frigid, they too easily lose their cool and explode in violence. Still, their effort is better than the hotheadedness of today's young black gangstas, as touchy and ready to duel to the death as the Three Musketeers. "He dissed me so I shot him" is now a common ghetto refrain, Cosby and Poussaint report. Hence African-Americans account for 44 pe! rcent of U.S. prisoners; six out of ten black high school dropouts have been in prison before they hit the age of 40; and what Cosby and Poussaint call "a culture of imprisonment devastates black families and communities."
We are celebrating a great civil rights victory, Cosby told the NAACP. People actually present in the audience "marched and were hit in the face with rocks" so that black kids could get a decent education. But now? "What the hell good is Brown v. Board of Education if nobody wants it?" What did those brave marchers achieve if, 50 years later, half of African-American kids drop out of high school and can't speak standard English--especially since all it takes to get started in today's more open America is a high school diploma and the ability to impress potential bosses as articulate, polite, and dependable?
This failure, too, is largely a failure of parenting. Yes, ghetto schools are bad, Cosby and Poussaint acknowledge, and parents can't fix them. "But you can make the best use of what you have to get the best you can for your child," they advise. You can make sure he does his homework and pays attention in class. And much of what a kid learns he learns at home, after all--especially in his crucial first five years. "Talking and reading to infants and children help lay down the physical structures in the brain to develop skills in language," the authors point out.
But many ghetto moms aren't imparting the language and cognitive skills without which children can't succeed once they get to school. "Teachers report that in poor neighborhoods children often begin school not knowing their colors or the letters of the alphabet," Cosby and Poussaint write. "Some have limited vocabularies and little knowledge of numbers. Some don't even know that sheep go 'Baaa.' " These deficits are hard to correct later on. Indeed, "sharp-eyed teachers can identify the children who will become high school dropouts the day they walk in the kindergarten door." The damage is already done.
Readers of Come On People and the thousands who waited for hours to hear Cosby press home his message in dozens of free town meetings nationwide will surely profit from his levelheaded advice. They, and thousands more like them, will talk to their kids (in standard English and in a tone that doesn't "sound like a prison guard"), listen to them, read to them, encourage them, discipline them with gentle firmness, limit their TV watching, and never give up on them. But these are the caring parents. The problem is the ones who don't care--who don't understand, as a California doctor tells Cosby, that "you have a choice as to whether to have children or not" and to "decide who gets to be your baby's daddy," and that once you've made that decision, "both of you are supposed to have something to do with that child for the rest of its life." The problem is the girls who view sex, in Cosby's terms, as "You see me. I see you. You want it. . . . We're both hot. Now let's do i! t"--the girls who have "five or six different children--same woman, eight, ten different husbands or whatever."
What will become of all these "kids with different fathers," who "compete, often unequally, for whatever attention is going around," so that (as with the offspring of polygamous sheikhs) "there is bound to be bad blood"? What can we expect from families with "grandmother, mother, and great grandmother in the same room, raising children, and the child knows nothing about love or respect of any one of the three of them"? How much of the cultivation of civility and virtue, which makes strong families the building blocks of a strong society, can happen here? "When we see these boys walking around the neighborhood," say Cosby and Poussaint, "we imagine them thirty or forty years down the road wandering around just as aimlessly, and we want to cry." For they are lost.
Black conservatives have said such things for years, only to be unthinkingly ostracized as race traitors for breaking with orthodoxy. But no one could dismiss the lovable Cosby: African-Americans are proud of his success and admire his munificence to black charities. What's more, as Princeton prof and sometime rapper Cornel West put it, the TV star "is not in the right wing. He's not Clarence Thomas. He is not Ward Connerly." Nor could anyone dismiss National Public Radio's respected Juan Williams when he emphatically endorsed Cosby's views in a 2006 book, Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America--and What We Can Do About It. When a longtime liberal like Williams embraces these ideas, something important is changing in the black mainstream--despite racial arsonist Al Sharpton's effort to demonize Williams as "the black Ann Coulter."
It requires explanation that black leaders don't mob Cosby with support, Williams points out, because he is so obviously right. Of course today's African-Americans have full civil rights and ample opportunity. Look at how immigrants from far-flung Ethiopia and Nigeria--no less black--succeed in their new land of opportunity. Moreover, notes Williams, Cosby's views mirror those of the civil rights greats of old. Booker T. Washington similarly urged education and self-reliance and cautioned that "we should not permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities." W. E. B. Du Bois, despite differences with Washington, shared his "goal of black self-reliance." Martin Luther King "said he wanted above all else to get black people to shed the idea that they did not control their destiny." And from the moment of emancipation, "education was a radical tool of liberation for black people so recently enslaved and purposely denied the chance to learn." From the founding of ! the Tuskegee Institute to Thurgood Marshall's Brown v. Board victory to James Meredith bravely entering Ole Miss in 1962, the right to education was central to the civil rights movement. As for out-of-wedlock childbearing, married couples headed 78 percent of black families in 1950, compared with 34 percent today.
In the 1960s, this can-do worldview changed. A vast transformation of American culture combined with the black-power movement and the War on Poverty to brew a toxic new orthodoxy among black leaders, who remain stuck in that era to this day. "Very few new ideas are allowed into this stifling echo chamber," Williams reports. Despite startling African-American progress in the intervening half-century, "the official message from civil rights leaders remains the same. Black people are victims of the system, and the government needs to increase social spending. . . . Even the most dysfunctional and criminal behavior among black people is not to be criticized by black leaders" but must "be denied and hidden in the name of protecting the image of blacks as disadvantaged, oppressed, and perpetually victimized." Dissent, and you're an "Uncle Tom and a sellout."
That half-century of progress, though, makes it hard to profess the orthodoxy in good faith. Some, such as Barack Obama's ex-pastor Jeremiah Wright, whose "black liberation theology" is pure sixties black-power political radicalism preserved in amber, still spout it sincerely. But Williams's view of most of today's black leaders recalls Eric Hoffer's dictum that great causes often start out as movements but degenerate into rackets. Today's leaders have made lucrative careers out of preaching a crippling ideology that ensures that they will never run out of poor blacks to agitate for. As Cosby quipped in one of his town meetings, "There are people who want you to remain in a hole, and they rejoice in your hopelessness because they have jobs mismanaging you."
Williams presents a rogues' gallery of African-American leaders who harm the people they claim to serve by blinding them to the opportunity all around them and stoking resentments that serve as excuses for wrongdoing. Jesse Jackson, "the unofficial president of black America," takes pride of place, with Al Sharpton as runner-up. Williams "detects a smell of extortion" about them; their main business, he says, is "staging phony protest marches for money." What blacks has Jackson benefited, except for two of his sons, whom his pressure tactics helped win a multimillion-dollar beer distributorship? Sharpton, Williams thinks, is lower still: he took a campaign contribution from a GOP operative who aimed to weaken the Democrats by keeping so polarizing a figure in their 2004 presidential primary.
When black politicians actually have won power, their politics of victimhood has often proved a rationale for not even trying to help the black masses but rather for decrying the white racism that supposedly causes their plight. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, for instance, spewed charges of racism to block officials from reforming a dysfunctional (and now closed) Los Angeles hospital that had become a high-paying jobs program for some blacks but whose poor care was harming its many black patients. Mayors Sharpe James of Newark and Marion Barry of Washington, Williams says, "saw political opportunity in making themselves masters of large pools of black people dependent on state and federal poverty programs." The money flowed in, mayoral aides stole it and went to jail, the schools got worse, crime festered, and finally prosecutors nailed James himself for rigging the sale of city property to enrich his mistress. By contrast, Cory Booker, James's successor, is (so to speak) the Bill Cosby of urban governance, exemplifying the right way forward for African-American pols.
If black leaders really wanted to help the black poor, Williams argues, they'd combat the "cultural belief that being 'authentically black' does not allow for high quality intellectual engagement in school," as columnist Joseph H. Brown put it. They'd demand radical school reform, including vouchers. It's a hopeful sign, Williams thinks, that New York Times editorialist Brent Staples, normally part of black orthodoxy's amen choir, has declared that if the civil rights establishment doesn't push hard for real school reform, even if it "would discomfort the teachers among its supporters, . . . it will inevitably be viewed as having missed the most important civil rights battle of the last half-century."
If black leaders really wanted to help the black poor, they'd stop decrying "police brutality and the increasing number of black people in jail" and focus instead "on having black people take personal responsibility for the exorbitant amount of crime committed by black people against other black people" (which accounts for the exorbitant number of African-Americans in jail). But they don't. As Cosby pointed out to Williams, the NAACP has its headquarters in murder-ridden Baltimore, but "I've never once heard the NAACP say, 'Let's do something about this.' " Indeed, Williams notes, "they never marched or organized, or even criticized the criminals." Nor did they exhort poor black people to stop smoking crack.....
The debate raging throughout black America is the more historic because it is also raging within the soul of America's first black presidential nominee. Which Obama will prevail? The old-orthodoxy Obama, who sat for 20 years listening to Reverend Wright saying "God damn America" and claiming that the government purposely infected the ghetto with AIDS, who brought his daughters to hear him, and who named a book after one of his sermons? The Obama whose wife, in her grievances and resentments, her whine that America is "just downright mean," uncannily embodies the black bourgeois attitudes that Ellis Cose described 15 years ago as The Rage of a Privileged Class? Or will it be the Obama who will truly usher in the age of postracial politics, as he seemed to promise when he first emerged as so fresh and attractive a candidate? The Obama who marked Father's Day with a moving speech on black America's need for responsible fathers that Bill Cosby would cheer?
At the very least, his nomination, as he himself has said, shows how much progress black America has made. Let's hope the African-American majority will take the lesson to heart.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
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