The recent murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis was ghastly and reminds us of the hideous racial injustice directed against black Americans in the nation’s past. In this essay, I will examine American racism in a worldwide context, and then seek a panacea for this devastating scourge. We seek “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” We will not be content with partial truths. We want the full truth…no matter how painful it might be.
Brutal Racism in American History
At Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Booker T. Washington’s staff maintained an archive of newspaper clippings about lynchings. Newspapers, generally in the South, sometimes covered “spectacle” lynchings, where crowds of white people gathered to picnic and watch a black victim tortured and or burned to death. Between 1882 and 1944, there were 3,417 such recorded instances. This figure does not include the huge number of clandestine, unrecorded lynchings of black Americans during those years.[i] A representative example was the case of Mary Turner in Georgia in 1918. Her husband, most likely innocent of any crime, had been lynched by a white mob. She vigorously proclaimed his innocence and vowed to gain justice. A white mob dragged her–eight months pregnant–into the woods, hung her upside down by the ankles, stripped her naked, doused her in gasoline, and roasted her to death. Before she died, a white man ripped open her womb with a hunting knife–the infant fell out, gave a cry, and was immediately stomped to death.[ii]
Related, there were many riots in which white mobs burned down black communities and killed numerous innocent blacks. In the Tulsa Race Riot of May 31-June 1, 1921, for example, a racist mob assaulted the Greenwood section of the city. Greenwood was a prosperous black neighborhood, home to many professionals and to a bustling business district known as “the Black Wall Street.” Triggered by a minor incident involving a black teenager and a white woman, a horde of whites invaded Greenwood, burned large swathes of it to the ground, looted and burned over 1200 homes, destroyed churches, a school, a library, a hospital, and numerous businesses–and killed dozens of black citizens. No perpetrator was ever brought to justice.[iii]
Tragically, the Tulsa atrocity was hardly an isolated example. The Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 was equally horrific. By 1898, Wilmington, North Carolina was home to numerous successful black businesses, influential newspapers, and prominent local politicians. White racists bristled at the success and influence of educated, affluent blacks. They vowed to “take back” the town from black influence. Former Democratic Congressman, Alfred Waddell, for example, swore: “We will not live under these intolerable conditions….We intend to change it, if we have to choke the current of Cape Fear River with negro carcasses.”[iv] They very nearly did so. Using armed violence and intimidation, they dominated the elections of 1898, ousting from office many blacks and Republicans. A white mob then invaded the black community, burned to the ground the building of an influential black-owned newspaper, and attacked black citizens indiscriminately, murdering some twenty-five of them. Thousands of blacks fled the city. “A white mob now ruled Wilmington, and its leader, Alfred Waddell, had just appointed himself mayor.”[v]
Such atrocities barely scratch the surface of the many similar incidents that could be presented. The American South under the regime of Jim Crow (legalized, state-enforced segregation) and other, similar policies was a system of institutionalized racism. Black American citizens, including U.S. military vets who had fought and bled for their country, were generally legally restricted from attending white schools, from enrolling in white universities, from living in white neighborhoods, from marrying a white man or woman, from being served in white restaurants or stores, from holding political office, and from voting. Above all, honest black citizens could not count on police protection in any conflict with violent white men or mobs.
Anyone arguing that, though much of its history, the United States was a deeply racist society has an abundance of evidence to support that conclusion.
Progress in the United States
This began to change with the rise of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Such heroes as Medgar Evers, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and numerous others risked–and, in many cases, lost–their lives in the cause of justice for black Americans. The struggle against institutionalized racism, legalized segregation, the Ku Klux Klan, lynchings, and other such horrors was bitter, long, and ultimately, to a significant degree triumphant. From my early years, I can still remember George Wallace, newly elected governor of Alabama, fulminating on national TV during his inauguration speech in January 1963: “I say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”[vi] Wallace and other Southern political leaders used brute force to impose these policies, terrorizing the black community, refusing to allow them to exercise even their basic American right to vote.
One example of the struggle was the famed Selma to Montgomery, Alabama march led by Dr. Martin Luther King in March 1965 on behalf of voting rights. Both racist thugs acting as vigilantes and state troopers under orders from Governor Wallace assaulted the group of marchers with tear gas, whips, and clubs, turning peaceful protest into bloody carnage. The brutal scene was broadcast on national television. Millions of Americans around the country were confronted with a hideous reality that they had long been aware of but regarding which had persistently refused to take remedial action. Finally, the conscience of America was awakened. Hundreds of Americans headed to Selma to join the voting rights march, and thousands awaited the marchers triumphant arrival in Montgomery. President Lyndon Johnson, a long-time segregationist Texas Democrat, introduced into Congress a bill that would pass that August: The Voting Rights Act of 1965. It instituted policies that, in effect, prevented state governments from denying black citizens the right to vote. In conjunction with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it ensured that the basic rights of black American citizens would now be more widely protected. And slowly, Jim Crow began to die.[vii]
Do we see salutary results from these advances? Indeed, we see many. By far the most important is the rise of an educated, affluent black middle class. In 1997, Stefan and Abigail Thernstrom published a comprehensive study of race in America. It was titled, America In Black And White: One Nation, Indivisible. Although the authors made clear that much more progress could and needed to be made, their impressive array of data conclusively established that enormous progress had been made.
“In 1940, 87 percent of black families were in poverty; the figure was down to 47 percent in 1960 and 26 percent in 1995. The black college population has grown from 45,000 in 1940 to over 1.4 million today, a thirtyfold increase….One of the best-kept secrets of American life today is that more than four out of ten African-American citizens consider themselves members of the middle class (as compared with nearly two out of three whites). The number of blacks practicing…law…is eighteen times what it was [in 1949]. There are nineteen times as many African-American editors and reporters as there were in 1950, and 33 times as many black engineers. In 1949 no sizable city in the entire country had a black mayor, and just two African Americans were members of the U.S. Congress. Today most of our largest cities have–or have had–a black chief executive, and more than forty blacks hold seats in the House of Representatives.”[viii]
Further, subsequent to the Thernstroms’ landmark study came the Obama phenomenon. In 2008, the hoopla surrounding the Obama candidacy surpassed anything I have seen in American politics in my lifetime. Not John Kennedy, not Ronald Reagan, no presidential candidate, regardless how charismatic, ginned up the kind of excitement that did Barack Obama in 2008. In that election, he won 43 percent of the white vote, 54 percent of young white voters, and “won the largest share of white support of any Democrat in a two-man race since 1976…”[ix] His first term in office can generously be described as mediocre: The stagnant economy he inherited from Bush remained stagnant. After promising the most transparent administration in history, he conducted a series of tawdry backroom deals to secure Senatorial support for his proposed “Obamacare” legislation. Several months before the 2012 election, he refused to deploy U.S. military assets to Benghazi, thereby permitting the American Ambassador to be murdered by Libyan jihadists. Nevertheless, he still received 39 percent of a white vote which constituted 72 percent of the U.S. electorate.[x] The white Obama supporters in each election constituted tens of millions of voters. Would this have been possible in the 1950s? In the 1960s? Even in the 1980s? The answers are: No, no, and extremely unlikely.
Related, my black friends and students often remind me that, as a white man, I cannot experience American life in the way that blacks do. Fair enough. But I remind them that, as a white man, I experience American life in a way they cannot. Specifically, I remember as a kid during the 1960s, endless anti-black racism expressed to me by many whites, presumably on the ground that as a white person I would agree or, at least, understand. (And this was in Brooklyn, New York, not in Jackson, Mississippi.)The truth is that today and for several decades previously I hear and have heard vastly less racist sentiment expressed to me, including in private where closet racists may feel comfortable venting their deepest feelings; this includes my year in South Carolina (at Clemson University) in 2013-14. This is mere anecdotal evidence, it is true. Nevertheless, it is one more data point indicating a profound diminution of anti-black racism on the part of white Americans.
Indeed, black libertarian talk show host and author, Larry Elder, made the bold claims in 2000: “Blacks are more racist than whites….To put it more bluntly, many blacks simply despise whites. They assume white bigotry and hostility toward blacks, and feel–against all evidence–that ‘white racism’ remains an intense and formidable obstacle.”[xi]Hopefully, Elder is wrong regarding black racism–although I suspect that, sadly, he is right. But the good news he points out is that white racism has been declining steadily in America for many decades.
Supporting Elder’s opinion is a 2017 Pew Research Center poll regarding American attitudes on inter-racial marriage. Among whites, 39 percent said it is a good thing; 52 percent thought it makes little difference; only 9 percent thought it is bad. Among blacks, 36 percent thought it is good; 46 percent thought it is indifferent; and 18 percent maintained that it is bad. Given the historic persecution of blacks in America, that 18 percent of black Americans reject inter-racial marriage might be understandable. But that only half that number of white Americans feel that way is encouraging.[xii]
Additionally, I conducted an informal survey among my black American friends regarding their experience in our country. Here are typical responses. Skyler Saunders, a USMC vet, said: “”I’m generally treated justly by whites.” Dr. Aaron Briley, who holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy, told me: “In my experience, anti-black racism has certainly diminished.” A young man who desired to remain anonymous wrote to me: “I don’t even know if I’ve even encountered it [racism]…it’s been that insignificant of an obstacle for me.” Nehemiah Leftwich said: “I would say that overt and exclusionary white racism has virtually disappeared from the scene.” Antonio Barzey, U.S. Army veteran, wrote to me: “I have never felt held back by racism, which is not to say I’ve never encountered it….But in my experience…it is incidental, not central to the lives of most blacks. It happens here and there…but not as a pervasive aspect of our lives.”[xiii] Various black commentators on YouTube, including but not limited to The Officer Tatum, report the same experience.[xiv]
For certain, this is again anecdotal evidence, and a small sample at that. And for every black American individual who says that racism has been but a minor part of his/her life, there may be many who have experienced it more egregiously. But the claim here is not that white racism has died–but that it is dying, that it is severely diminished. We can wonder how many black Americans sixty years ago could have honestly claimed that racism played little or no role in their lives. Presumably, such individuals would have been hard to find.
The history of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a violent homegrown organization of white racist terrorists, also provides relevant information. “It [the Klan] claimed more than one million members by early 1922….By 1925, it had anywhere from 2 million to 5 million members and the sympathy or support of millions more.” (Joshua Rothman, “When Bigotry Paraded Through the Streets,” The Atlantic, 12/4/2016, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/12/second-klan/509468/. Accessed on June 21, 2020.) In recent years, this murderous organization has been drastically reduced. According to the Anti-Defamation League, “Despite their diminishing numbers, there are still approximately 3,000 Klan members nationwide, as well as an additional but unknown number of associates and supporters.” (“Tattered Robes: The State of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States,” https://www.adl.org/education/resources/reports/state-of-the-kkk. Accessed on June 21, 2020.) We should bear in mind that, in 1920, the total population of the United States was roughly 106 million. (“1920 United States Census,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1920_United_States_Census. Accessed on June 21, 2020.) Whites were slightly less than 90 percent of the total population, so the white population was almost 95 million. (“Historical racial and ethnic demographics of the United States,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_racial_and_ethnic_demographics_of_the_United_States. Accessed on June 21, 2020.) More recently, “white people [including white Latinos] constitute the majority of the U.S. population, with a total of about 234,370,202 or 73% of the population as of 2017.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States. Accessed on June 21, 2020.) This means that in the past century, as the white population has substantially more than doubled, this white terrorist organization has dwindled from millions to thousands of members. Today, the percentage of white Americans who support this murderous organization is miniscule.
One final data point is the contrast between black immigration into the U.S. and the black expat movement. According to the Pew Research Center, by 2016 there were 4.2 million black immigrants living in the United States, up from 816,000 in 1980. Since 2000, the number of black immigrants is up 71 percent. Today, roughly 9 percent of black Americans are foreign born, whether in Africa or the Caribbean.[xv] Another source states: “Although far outnumbered by nonblack Hispanic and Asian immigrants, the number of black immigrants is growing at a remarkable rate.”[xvi]
At the same time. there is the phenomenon known as “Blaxit,” a black exit from the U.S. One writer states: “While ‘Blaxit’–the term used to describe the migration of Black Americans to other countries to escape U.S. racism–has been more modest than expected in the wake of the 2016 election, the number of African Americans relocating to Accra, the capital of Ghana, is on the rise with up to 5,000 Black American expats living there now.”[xvii]If I understand these numbers correctly, millions of blacks want to immigrate to America while thousands want to emigrate. Given how difficult it is to immigrate to the United States in our day, and how welcoming Ghana is to black U.S. expats, the disparity between wannabe black immigrants and successful emigrants is probably even greater. The same is true of non-white Latinos: Many more desire to live in the United States than desire to leave it. When people of color vote with their feet, the United States is a destination they clearly prefer.
But our focus is on white racism: In this context, the most important point is how Blaxit relates to remaining white racists. If anti-black racism was still dominant among 230 million white Americans, it is logical to expect the rise of a white organization of many (perhaps tens of millions of) supporters offering to donate money to buy black Americans a one-way ticket to Accra (or any destination of their choice). This would be a bloodless way to create the “white ethno-state” desired (in reality) by only a handful of white racists. The good news is that, in fact, there is little or no support among white Americans for “Blaxit.”
The evidence, from numerous sources, is overwhelming that white racism is dying in the United States.
It will be important subsequent in this essay to understand the factors in American culture that made possible this steady diminution of anti-black racism among white Americans. But first other issues must be addressed.
Around The World
We have learned from Ayn Rand in her writings on epistemology (study of how human beings gain knowledge) that, in order to fully understand any phenomenon, call it x, we must see how it fits into a broader frame of reference; we must integrate; we must understand phenomenon x in as wide a context of knowledge as is available to us at any moment in human history. We must see the big picture.
What do we know about racism around the world? Let’s first get a definition. Racism is the theory that an individual’s traits of character and/or intellectual ability are hard-wired into him/her by the biological group–the race, the tribe, the nation–into which he/she is born. A human being is not first, foremost, and always an individual, who shapes his own character by virtue of the choices he makes. No, rather, an individual is first, foremost, and always, a member of a racial collective (group), and is to be judged not by reference to his/her moral choices but by reference to racial or tribal membership. For example, to the Nazis, an Aryan criminal was morally superior to any Jew, regardless an individual Jew’s manifest virtues or achievements. To an inveterate racist, race matters; race matters more than anything; moral characteristics are, to invoke a Nazi sentiment, “in the blood.”
What do we know about racism around the world? Let’s begin with examples and see the conclusion that follows logically from them.
In 1994, in what became known as the Rwandan Genocide, members of the Hutu tribe butchered some 937,000 members of the Tutsi tribe–men, women, children, infants–often with machetes as the weapon of choice.[xviii]
Also on the African continent, a resurgence of human slavery has occurred in Sudan. In this zealously Islamic nation, black Christians have been enslaved by the thousands, largely by Baggara Arab Muslims. In 1999, the New York Times published an article describing these events: “The train pulls in and the refugees are herded out. Then they are sold…into slavery. Slavery, not forced labor or some such euphemism….The number in Sudan [of slaves] can only be estimated–tens of thousands. Only owners take precise slave counts.”[xix]
Indeed, Islam has a long history of enslaving blacks. The Islamic slave trade of black Africans began some eight centuries before the European slave trade, continued in full-force during the European era, continued after the Europeans ended their involvement, was curtailed solely by European (British) intervention, and, to this day, continues in Sudan and Mauritania, where likely hundreds of thousands of black Africans are still enslaved. The Islamic version enslaved an estimated 18 million black Africans, compared to 16 million by the Europeans, under conditions equally horrendous.[xx]
Nor did North African Muslims limit their enslavement to sub-Saharan blacks. Perhaps as many as 1.25 million white European Christians were enslaved by the Barbary Pirates, satraps to the Ottoman Sultan during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries…and the phrase “white slavery” became a commonplace.[xxi]
In 1915, during World War I, in the Ottoman Empire (present day Turkey) Turkish Muslims slaughtered a minimum of one million innocent Armenian Christian civilians. To this day, 105 years later, the Turkish regime denies what is known, accurately, as the Armenian Genocide.[xxii]
In the Holocaust, during World War II, the Nazis annihilated 5.1 million Jews in a brutal attempt to wipe out the entire European Jewish population.[xxiii]
Japan is a relatively-free, well-educated, and extremely prosperous society–and, in many ways, to be admired. But it is also a deeply racist society, although so far non-violent. For example, in 2017 a story broke regarding a Japanese cosmetics shop posting a sign in its window announcing that no Chinese were allowed to enter. An author who is an advisor to the government on education wrote that she favors an apartheid-type system in Japan that keeps the races separate. The Japanese Defense Minister received donations from an anti-Korean group; she was also pictured in a meeting with the head of the Japanese Nazi Party. Immigration is kept to a minimum and there is a strong sentiment among both the government and the majority of the population to maintain a mono-culture by retaining a single race in Japan. [xxiv]
The Balkans in eastern and central Europe have long been a confused (and confusing) hotbed of nationalist, ethnic, and religious conflicts between Serbs (generally Orthodox Christians), Croats (generally Catholics), and Bosnians (generally Muslims). In the early 1990s, this region again exploded into sectarian violence; the resulting so-called “ethnic cleansing” resulted in tens of thousands of people killed and millions displaced from their homes.[xxv]
If there is a place where relentless ethnic and religious violence is more confusing than in the Balkans, that place is the Indian subcontinent, where Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and Buddhists are locked in death-dealing conflict–and assorted ethnically disparate groups, as well. For example, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 by a Hindu fanatic opposed to Gandhi’s call for religious toleration.[xxvi] Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (no relation) was assassinated in 1984 by her Sikh bodyguards because she had deployed the Army to forcibly suppress a violent uprising in support of an independent Sikh state.[xxvii] In neighboring Pakistan, in 1971, the government carried out genocidal assault on the large ethnic Bengali population, murdering some 1.5 million of them.[xxviii] The bloody violence resulted in the establishment of the new state of Bangladesh. Back in India, in the province of Assam, the Bengalis were also involved in bitter ethnic conflict in 1983 that left 4000 dead and 200,000 uprooted from their homes.[xxix] And the beat goes on: Bloody sectarian violence, often between Hindus and Muslims, continues in India to this day.[xxx] Indeed, this beat of religious-ethnic slaughter goes back at least one thousand years: The superb historian, Will Durant, describes the Muslim conquest of India dating back to roughly 1000 A.D. as “probably the bloodiest story in human history.”[xxxi] Durant claims that one Islamic Sultan “killed so many Hindus that…there was constantly in front of his royal pavilion and his Civil Court a mound of dead bodies and a heap of corpses.”[xxxii] One Indian historian maintains that, due to slaughters at the hands of Muslim invaders, the Hindu population of India “decreased by eighty million between the year 1000 and 1525, probably the biggest holocaust in the world’s history.”[xxxiii] (Emphasis added.)
In North America, in the centuries before the arrival of Europeans, Iroquois warriors invaded lands previously controlled by Algonquins, proceeding to slaughter their enemies in a genocidal mania. It was only the arrival of the French, who needed Algonquin guides and armed them with rifles, that saved the Algonquin Nation from total annihilation. The Hurons, also detested by the Iroquois, were not so fortunate; very few of them survived the genocidal onslaught. [xxxiv]
A litany of racial/tribal slaughters can be recounted endlessly. But one more example will provide us with the last piece of evidence necessary to draw a conclusion. It goes back almost to the dawn of modern man as we know him. When I was a child, we were taught that the Neanderthals were a sort of “missing link,” an evolutionary development along the road from simpler primates to modern man. We know today that this view is false: Neanderthals were as fully human as are we, Sapiens. There were different species in the broad family Homo or man. Why shouldn’t there be? For example, tigers, jaguars, lions are differing species of the broad cat family. “The truth is that from about 2 million years ago to about 10,000 years ago, the world was home, at one and the same time, to several human species.”[xxxv]
Neanderthals were, roughly 70,000 years ago, the dominant human species in the Middle East and in Europe. (There were other human species in different parts of the world.) What happened to them? Since Neanderthals and Sapiens were both humans, they could and did inter-breed, just as the mating of a male lion and a female tiger produces, as offspring, a liger. Today, humans of Middle Eastern and/or European descent have, on average, 1-4 percent Neanderthal DNA. The most likely scenario for the disappearance of Neanderthals? “Another possibility is that competition for resources flared up into violence and genocide. Tolerance is not a Sapiens trademark….It may well be that when Sapiens encountered Neanderthals, the result was the first and most significant ethnic-cleansing campaign in history.”[xxxvi] The Neanderthals, as human as we are, were presumably no less aggressive than us. They just lost the to-the-death species war.
What conclusion follows logically from this massive array of evidence?
It is a racist world, including the United States, and always has been.
This is a horrifying identification for us, as human beings, to face. But it is true. The questions that every honest human being must raise are: Can we fix it? And if so, how?
Let’s start with a movie example: the 2016 film, The Promise, the story of a fictional love triangle set during the real-life Armenian Genocide. In one telling scene in the story, Talaat (the chief architect of the Genocide, the real-life Hitler of this massive crime) says to Henry Morgenthau, U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire: “You’re a Jew. What do you care what happens to these Armenian Christians?”
In other words, it’s not your tribe being annihilated. Why should you care? On this way of “thinking,” a human being is first, foremost, and always a member of a tribe, fundamentally distinct from all other tribes, and a person’s allegiance should be, properly, to his own ethnic/racial group. And the others, fundamentally different from us, are potentially and often the enemy…or, at best, of no concern.
But there is another, vastly more benign way of understanding racial and ethnic differences between and among us. The great Roman dramatist, Terence, phrased it perfectly: “I am human. I consider nothing human alien to me.” That is: Each person is an individual member of the human race. Every individual is unique and unrepeatable. We are not interchangeable parts of a tribal whole. An individual human life–regardless of race or tribal membership–is sacred, it has great worth in and of itself. An injustice perpetrated against an individual of a differing ethnic group is of great concern to me; for, as a human, nothing human is alien to me. These are my human brothers and sisters.
Individualism is the theory of human nature that states: Individuality is real, it is important, and each individual has the inalienable right to life, liberty, to earn and to own property, and to pursue personal happiness. On such a theory, we recognize that racial and ethnic differences are real–but we also recognize that they are trivial differences between and among us, akin to the differences in hair and eye color among many white people. Of central importance: We recognize that individuals make moral choices, and we judge them based on these choices, not based on the ethnic group into which they happened to be born.
To put it simply: As a white man, it is much better for me to have honest black, Asian, or Latino friends than it is to have as “friends” unscrupulous white men. Biologically, the greatest differences between us, by far, are based in gender, not race. Biologically, I have much more in common with a black or Asian man than with a white woman. But even leaving aside romantic love, it is much better for me to have trustworthy women rather than untrustworthy men as friends, neighbors, colleagues.
To a rational human being, race doesn’t matter–and, morally, neither does gender. Biology has zero correlation to morality, by far the most important human characteristic.
Somehow, we need to throw off the racist chains of history and teach our human brothers and sisters that color-blind individualism is the panacea for the timeless scourge of racism. It is inexplicable that some people who claim to oppose racism reject color blind individualism. Let me point out to them that if an oppressive racial majority sincerely adopts this philosophy–and only if it does–will it then cease to victimize an oppressed racial minority.
Philosophically and historically, the United States has been a seething contradiction on this issue. Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner, wrote the individualistic principles of the Declaration of Independence. James Madison, a slave owner, wrote the individualistic principles of the Bill of Rights. Slavery, Jim Crow laws, and ongoing persecution of blacks are policies based in our commonly-shared racist human heritage. The principle that an individual human being has an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is a distinctively American revolution.
The principle of individual rights promulgated by our Founders constitutes a moral revolution. But we have not yet been able to throw off the virulent racism tormenting human life. We have not yet applied our life-giving individualistic principles consistently and universally. Our spirit soars toward the heavens, but our body is mired in the filth. We must condemn American hypocrisy and embrace American principles.
The principle of individual rights, distinctive to the United States, is what makes it the best hope to become the world leader in combating racism.
America the World Leader
Thousands of years ago, the great Chinese philosopher, Confucius, said “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.” The proper name for the U.S. Civil Rights Movement is the individual rights movement for black Americans–and long overdue.
What enabled the Civil Rights Movement to make significant advances is its full congruence with the country’s founding principle. Why is it wrong for a crazed mob to lynch a black man or woman? Because an individual has an inalienable right to his/her own life. Why is it wrong to enslave black human beings? Because an individual has an inalienable right to liberty. Indeed, an organized abolitionist movement arose for the first time in history in 18th century Great Britain as a direct application of the principle of individual rights birthed during the 18th century Enlightenment.[xxxvii]Why is it wrong to burn down a black man’s home, to legally restrain an honest black man or woman from buying a home in a white neighborhood, or from marrying a white person? Because an individual has an inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, including the right to earn and to own property.
Conversely, what would it take to abolish slavery in Sudan? There is no principle of individual rights in the nation’s history–and Islam, the dominant religion, permits slavery of non-Muslims.
Keith Richburg, a black American journalist, was the Washington Post’s Africa bureau chief from 1991 to 1994. He discusses the tribalism rampant in so many African nations, the simmering hatreds and brutal conflicts, and the endless problems caused by tribalism (and not just in Rwanda or Sudan). “In Africa, you belong to a tribe; without a tribe, you don’t belong.”[xxxviii] What would it take to end this? Again, there is no principle of individual rights in the cultural heritage.
And so on in the Balkans, in India, and in so many places around the world. Racism, tribalism, and fervent religious bigotry are deeply engrained in the cultures. These other countries are not equipped with the philosophic-moral principles to effectively combat racism.
Without U.S. involvement in World War II, the Axis powers could not have been defeated. Without U.S. opposition to Communism, the Soviets could not have been prevented from swallowing Western Europe. Twice in the past eighty years, Americans have been the driving force protecting freedom and defeating totalitarianism. America has defeated both National Socialism and Communism.
Today, it must once again marshal its strength and stand up to another menace. This is a battle in which its most powerful weapons are not its army, its navy, or its nuclear arsenal. In this battle, its most powerful weapon is its founding principle. The greatest country of history is called upon to take the lead in fighting the worst scourge of history. There is no one else to do it.
The Main Danger and Some Suggested Solutions
But a new menace to U.S. racial harmony has emerged in recent years: The claim that white racism, including and especially among the police, is the biggest obstacle to black American advance. Let’s examine some facts.
The most definitive form of stopping someone’s advance is to terminate his/her life, so let’s look at this first.
Barry Latzer, emeritus professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, points out: “In the contemporary period, from 1976 to 2014, it is estimated that 198,288 African Americans died nationwide at the hands of black killers. That’s 5,218 deaths per year on average, roughly 19 times the annual number of deaths of African Americans in confrontations with police.”[xxxix]
Taleeb Starkes, in his courageous book, Black Lies Matter, quotes journalist John Fountain: “The national tally of black males 14 and older murdered in America over a 30-year period from 1976 through 2005, according to the Bureau of Justice statistics: 214,661….For every Trayvon Martin killed by someone not black, nine other blacks were murdered by someone black.”[xl]On the back cover of Starkes’ book, he writes: “In fact, since 1980 blacks have routinely accounted for almost half of America’s annual homicide victims, and more than half of its perpetrators–all while being a minor thirteen percent of the national populace.” Clearly, this is an enormous problem, a life-and-death problem for many honest black men, women, and children.
In fact, this is a holocaust. There is a holocaust of black murder victims in this country.
We’re looking for the full truth, no matter how difficult or painful. What are the cause(s) of this appalling body count? A racist claim that violent criminality is hard-wired into the psyche of black Americans is obviously false. First, such a theory cannot and does not explain the millions of honest black Americans, often the victims of the criminals. Second, it is a determinist theory, rejecting the truth that human beings–all of us–make moral choices, a truth readily apparent via introspection.[xli]
Some claim that white racism, in part or in whole, is responsible for creating black poverty, slum neighborhoods, poor schools, and few career opportunities, thereby creating a breeding ground for criminals. But if white racism was still this powerful, why did it not stop millions of hard-working black Americans from getting an education and working their way into the middle class? How could we explain the rise of an educated black middle class in a society of pandemic anti-black racism? This theory cannot and does not explain these facts.
Traditional white racism of the Jim Crow variety is dying in this country. It has lacked cultural power for decades and is too weak to prevent a determined black individual from gaining an education or achieving career success. The experience of black Caribbean immigrants is especially relevant in this context. Thomas Sowell reminds us: “Second generation West Indians [Caribbeans] have higher incomes than whites.”[xlii]
The cause(s) of the horrific violence may be complex, and I do not profess to understand them. But the effects are clear. There are violent street gangs in many black urban neighborhoods that war to the death against rival gangs. Sometimes the homicides are so grisly as to be unspeakable. For example, in July, 2014, in Inkster, Michigan, a Detroit suburb, a gangbanger walked onto a house porch where sat a rival gang member and his two-year-old daughter, Kamiya French. The gangbanger shot Kamiya in the head, killing her, to make her father watch and suffer.[xliii] In November, 2015, in Chicago–sometimes referred to by the cops as “Chiraq” for the warlike conditions of some neighborhoods–a gangbanger shot nine-year-old Tyshawn Lee in the head, killing him to punish the child’s father. The murderer composed a rap song afterward to commemorate the murder. One of the lines was: “Shorty couldn’t take it no more–Shorty couldn’t take it no more.”[xliv] And still, the beat goes on–“urban terrorists,” as Taleeb Starkes calls them, wreaking horrendous violence on black victims, including children.
The white population of the United States, including white Latinos, is roughly 72 percent of the population. This is well over 200 million individuals.[xlv] If the charge of pandemic white racism was true, this represents an enormous number of potentially murderous racists, and we should expect to see an endless procession of lynchings, white race riots, and other such hideous violence to match the atrocities of the Jim Crow era. But we do not.
Nine out of ten black murder victims are killed by black thugs. A vastly smaller number are killed by non-blacks and/or by police officers of any race. A small minority of the population–blacks–kills a vastly larger number of black murder victims than does the huge white majority. Whatever is the cause of this ongoing slaughter, pandemic white racism it is not.
Rationally, factually, objectively it is clear who is the main danger to black American lives. If black lives matter to us–as they should–why aren’t we talking about this? Why aren’t we taking action to remediate this holocaust? Why are we blaming white racists and/or violent racist cops? Let’s examine the overwhelming danger. What can we do about the urban terrorists? Here are several policy recommendations.
- Legalize Drugs: The violence that surrounds the urban drug trafficking is appalling. There are good reasons to legalize drugs and several benefits. Morally, it is the right of a legal adult living in a free country to choose the substances he ingests into his own body. Also, given the current widespread availability of drugs, it is unlikely that drug use will rise when they are legalized. Did alcohol consumption rise when Prohibition was repealed? Nobody knows for certain, but given the widespread availability of booze during Prohibition, it seems unlikely. Further, a legal war on drugs can be replaced by a moral-philosophic war on them, not forcing people but appealing to their reason regarding the opportunities for healthy clean livers in education, career, romantic love, family, and friendship–and the life-threatening dangers of toxic drug use. And then we accept that people make their choices. One point seems certain: The homicide rate will come down. Economist Jeffrey Miron estimates that “eliminating drug prohibition would reduce homicide in the United States by 25-75 percent[!}”[xlvi] The urban terrorists make a deal of money dealing drugs. Violence is often turf wars over lucrative territories. Legalizing drugs, and permitting them to be trafficked by honest businesspersons and sold in non-pharmaceutical drug stores, disenfranchises the gangbangers, in a way that repeal of Prohibition did Al Capone and other bootlegging thugs. It reduces their wealth, their power, their prestige, their appeal.
- Gangs may still be appealing to kids for other reasons. There is something more important that must be done. It is hazardous in the extreme, and takes great courage. In this regard, let’s recall the greatest accomplishment of Jim Brown, greatest football player of history and a decent actor after retirement. He ventured into gangland and tried to bring peace between warring factions. Brown worked with the Crips and the Bloods, he founded the Amer-I-Can Foundation, he fought for the souls and the minds of kids on the streets, and he saved lives. This is a life-saving enterprise: Good people all over the country (and the world) can donate time, money, free publicity to this cause; great black athletes have credibility in the urban neighborhoods, and can do a lot of good by reaching out. This is a movement that must be supported by everyone who cares about black lives.[xlvii]
- The American Public Schools are a Shambles. This is true all over the country, perhaps especially true in black urban neighborhoods. This will take massive amounts of effort to improve–and I am writing a book on exactly this topic. But one thing can be done immediately that will help all American kids: Use phonics and only phonics to teach reading. Definitively, now and forever, repudiate all versions of the failed whole word method–and deploy phonics, the sole method that works. There is no need to wait until age six and first grade. At age five, in kindergarten, using adventurous stories that kids will enjoy–Peter Pan, for example, or The Secret Garden, or a tale of black heroes overcoming obstacles to reach great achievements–teach them how to read. Mix in such exciting stories with other fun activities, playing ball or romping in the sandbox and so forth. Using phonics, kids learn how to read in, at most, a couple of months. Exposed to robust stories, they realize that books can be fun, and are thereby motivated to read. The whole world of books is now open to them. This is vital for all American kids, but nowhere more so than in black urban neighborhoods, where young boys and teenage males often reject education as “acting white.”
- Promote a Black Renaissance. Black American philosopher, Aaron Briley, discusses the baseline of such achievement: “It may be politically incorrect to suggest that some cultures are better than others — but it is absolutely correct. Just as the Renaissance that brought us out of the Dark Ages was better than the Dark Ages, so it is possible for the black inner city to have a far better culture than its current dark ages.
“I will be writing much more about this needed Black Renaissance in the future but for now I think it’s important to just start the discussion with a call for basic, civilized behavior: the abolition of violence in social interaction, the willingness to be a productive member of the workforce, respectful treatment of women, and the valuing of education.”[xlviii]
There is a wealth of untapped mind power in urban street gangs, as exhibited by the colorfully robust language, the vivid metaphors, the often clever rhyme schemes of rap music (which I do not like). When we teach kids to read in kindergarten, they realize the efficacy of their own minds. Human intelligence is the real superpower. It is that which enables us to design homes and cities, compose novels and symphonies, cure diseases, develop agricultural science, invent computers and the Internet, and much more. When black kids learn at ages five and six to have confidence in their own minds, more of them will choose education and fewer will repudiate it as something only for whites and Asians. Then we will see many more such great minds as George Washington Carver, Madam C.J. Walker, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, Duke Ellington, Thomas Sowell, Condaleeza Rice, Dr. Ben Carson, and so forth.
- Encourage Outreach Between Leaders of the Black Community and the Police Departments. There is no way to curtail the violent behavior of the urban terrorists without the involvement of the Police Department. For all the honest, non-racist cops–and most are–it is a brutal undertaking to protect innocent lives in the high-crime areas. It is both hazardous to their own lives and heart-breaking to witness the carnage they do on a daily basis. A first step is for responsible black leaders–the ministers, the merchants and businesspersons, the teachers, the doctors, any honest politicians, and so forth–to dialogue with the cops, to come to a meeting of minds and hearts, and develop best policies for protecting innocent black lives in the community.
A lot of this is already done. Much more of it needs to be.
The New Racism
The main impediment to protecting innocent black lives is the new racism that claims the main danger to black lives is white racism and/or violently racist cops. This is not only unjust in blaming whites for problems not primarily of their doing, but by ignoring or denying the real danger it leaves innocent black lives perennially in harm’s way.
For those white racists still with us–civilians or cops–you must learn, understand, and act on the theme of this essay: Color blind individualism is the only rational policy for human beings to enact. If you do not learn this, then you must be morally condemned, socially ostracized, and, if you’re a cop, fired from your job. There is no place for white racism in a nation founded on the principle of individual rights.
But the old racism has been dying for decades. To the new racists, as exemplified by Black Lives Matter (BLM), I say this: I don’t think you care about black lives. But if you do, here are things you can do to help:
- Reject the vicious recommendation to “defund the police.” Such a policy is, in fact, Criminals’ Lib. The worst victims of it will be honest members of the black urban neighborhoods, already dying under the onslaught of urban terrorists. I say to you: Defund the criminals. Legalizing drugs will go a long way to that end.
- Repudiate your egregiously mistaken call to terminate capitalism. Capitalism is the only system that enables millions of poor persons, including black Americans, to rise out of poverty and into middle class affluence. If you care about black lives, celebrate individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism.
- Stop blaming the white man. He was the prime cause of black problems decades and centuries ago. He is, at worst, a secondary problem now. Acknowledge that white racism is dying. Reject your racist beliefs. They’re false. We know what are the main problems in the black American community today. Address them. Act like, to you, black lives matter.
Individualism is the only cure for racism. America is the best hope to lead the world in this fight. Embrace both.
We have a stark choice confronting us: As Americans, we can end racism…together. Or as white versus black persons, we can die together in the race war you’re fomenting. We can embrace the individualist revolution, and flourish–or we can die together enacting our brutal racist past. The choice is ours.
[i] Philip Dray, At The Hands Of Persons Unknown: The Lynching Of Black America (New York: The Modern Library, 2003), vii-xi.
[ii] Dray, At The Hands Of Persons Unknown, 246.
[iii] Scott Ellsworth, “Tulsa Race Massacre,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=TUO13. See also: “Tulsa Race Massacre,” The History.com Editors, www.history.com/topics/roaring-twenties/tulsa-race-massacre. Accessed June 5, 2020.
[iv] Dray, At The Hands Of Persons Unknown, 123.
[v] Dray, At The Hands Of Persons Unknown, 122-127, quote on 127.
[vi] “Segregation Forever: A Fiery Speech Forgiven, But Not Forgotten,” https://www.npr.org/2013/01/14/169080969/segregation-forever-a-fiery-pledge-forgiven-but-not-forgotten. Accessed June 5, 2020.
[vii] “Selma to Montgomery March,” https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/selma-montgomery-march. Accessed June 5, 2020.
[viii] Stefan Thernstrom and Abigail Thernstrom, America In Black And White: One Nation, Indivisible (New York: Touchstone Books, 1999), 18, 183.
[ix] David Paul Kuhn “Exit Polls: How Obama Won,” 11/05/08, https://www.politico.com/story/2008/11/exit-polls-how-obama-won-015297. Accessed on June 6, 2020.
[x] “How Groups Voted in 2012,” https://ropercenter.cornell.edu/how-groups-voted-2012. Accessed June 6, 2020.
[xi] Larry Elder, The Ten Things You Can’t Say In America (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000), 1, 2.
[xii] Gretchen Livingston and Anna Brown, “Public views on inter-marriage,” May 18, 2017, https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2017/05/18/2-public-views-on-intermarriage/ Accessed June 9, 2020.
[xiii] All Facebook correspondence to the author, June 12-16, 2020.
[xiv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88-dV9K_cHE&list=PLv7zcBPxDxVrMnjbpnVYppjS_pwgHYBQR&index=16&. Accessed June 17, 2020.
[xv] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/01/24/key-facts-about-black-immigrants-in-the-u-s/. Accessed June 16, 2020.
[xvi] https://www.prb.org/blackimmigration/. Accessed June 16, 2020.
[xvii] Kirsten West Savali, “Is Moving To Another Country The Answer?” Essence, 1/26/20. https://www.essence.com/news/is-blaxit-for-you/. Accessed June 16, 2020.
[xviii] Matthew White, Atrocities: The 100 Deadliest Episodes in Human History (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2012), 519-522.
[xix] Quoted in Ronald Segal, Islam’s Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2001), 220. See also: “Slavery In Sudan,” https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/slavery-sudan. Accessed June 8, 2020.
[xx] Segal, Islam’s Black Slaves, passim.
[xxi] On widespread white slavery in North Africa, see: Giles Milton, White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellew and Islam’s One Million White Slaves (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006). See also: Robert Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).
[xxii] Vahakn Dadrian’s The History of the Armenian Genocide is the definitive examination of this atrocity. (New York: Berghahn Book, 1995), passim. See also, Andrew Bernstein, “Lessons of the Armenian Genocide,” The Objective Standard, Vol. 10, No. 2, Summer 2015, 48-57.
[xxiii] “Raul Hilberg’s The Destruction Of The European Jews is the authoritative account of the Holocaust. (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1985), passim.
[xxiv] Julian Ryall, “Why is racism so big in Japan?” 12/9/17, https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/2123539/no-chinese-why-anti-china-racism-so-big-japan. Accessed June 8, 2020.
[xxv] “Ethnic Cleansing in the Bosnian War,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_cleansing_in_the_Bosnian_War. Accessed June 7, 2020.
[xxvi] Richard Cavendish, “The Death of Mahatma Gandhi,” https://www.historytoday.com/archive/months-past/death-mahatma-gandhi. Accessed June 7, 2020.
[xxvii] “The prime minister of india is assassinated, https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-prime-minister-of-india-is-assassinated. Accessed June 7, 2020.
[xxviii] White, Atrocities, 481-483.
[xxix] “Ethnic and Religious Conflict in India,” https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/ethnic-and-religious-conflicts-india. Accessed June 7, 2020.
[xxx] “Inside Dehli: Beaten, lynched and burnt alive, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/01/india-delhi-after-hindu-mob-riot-religious-hatred-nationalists. Accessed June 7, 2020.
[xxxi] Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. 1, “Our Oriental Heritage,” (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1954), 459.
[xxxii] Will Durant, “Our Oriental Heritage,” 461.
[xxxiii] Francois Gautier, Rewriting Indian History (New Dehli: India Research Press, 2003), 38.
[xxxiv] Clark Wissler, Indians of the United States (New York: Doubleday, 1940), 69-70, 127-132.
[xxxv] Yuval Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (New York: HarperCollins, 2015), 8.
[xxxvi] Harari, Sapiens, 17-18.
[xxxvii] Andrew Bernstein, The Capitalist Manifesto: The Historic, Economic and Philosophic Case For Laissez-Faire (New York: University Press of America, 2005), 261-289.
[xxxviii] Keith Richburg, Out Of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 1998), 110 and passim.
[xxxix] Barry Latzer, “The Need to Discuss Black-On-Black Crime,” December 5, 2019, https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2019/12/22/the-need-to-discuss-black-on-black-crime/. Accessed June 8, 2020.
[xl] Taleeb Starkes, Black Lies Matter: Why Lies Matter to the Race Grievance Industry, 2016, 30.
[xli] For a validation of free will, see “A Challenge to Determinism,” in Andrew Bernstein, Heroes, Legends, Champions: Why Heroism Matters (New York: Union Square Publishing, 2020), 142-158.
[xlii] Thomas Sowell, Ethnic America (Basic Books, Inc., 1981), 220.
[xliii] Starkes, Black Lies Matter, 56.
[xliv] Starkes, Black Lies Matter, 60-61.
[xlv] “White Americans,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Americans. Accessed June 9, 2020.
[xlvi] Jeffrey Miron, Drug War Crimes: The Consequences of Prohibition (Oakland, California: The Independent Institute, 2004), 51.
[xlvii]Michael O’Keefe, “Former L.A. gang member, mentored by NFL Great Jim Brown, giving back through hoops, New York Daily News, November 5, 2011, https://www.nydailynews.com/sports/basketball/gang-member-mentored-nfl-great-jim-brown-giving-back-hoops-article-1.972791. Accessed June 8, 2020.
[xlviii] Aaron Briley, “Black Lives Matter is Focused on the Wrong Culprit and the Wrong Solution,” November 30, 2016, https://www.capitalismmagazine.com/2016/11/black-lives-matter-2/. Accessed June 9, 2020.