Baltimore and the Betrayal of Black Dignity

The real losers in the Freddie Gray riots.

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine

Image #: 36434158    Baltimore firefighters battle a three-alarm fire at Gay and Chester Streets on Monday, April 27, 2015, in Baltimore. It was unclear whether it was related to ongoing riots. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun/TNS)
Image #: 36434158 Baltimore firefighters battle a three-alarm fire at Gay and Chester Streets on Monday, April 27, 2015, in Baltimore. It was unclear whether it was related to ongoing riots. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun/TNS)

[1]Baltimore is the latest American city to become a stage for the farce that is our national racial discourse. The swift, politicized indictment of 6 police officers for the death of Freddie Gray––which brought down, for now, the curtain on this performance by abandoning all the canons of procedural justice–– is a fitting end to this sorry spectacle.

The winners of this shameful display are obvious, as they always are after these riots. Local thieves, gangsters, and thugs; bourgeois white “anarchists” out on a lark; junior-high posers indulging adult-sanctioned destruction; well-heeled black politicians fanning the flames and leveraging the violence for career advancement; race-baiting vultures like Al Sharpton, and the sensationalist national media all benefitted. Most important, the false narrative of a national conspiracy of racist cops itching to murder innocent black men was yet again perpetuated by race hustlers and their progressive enablers.

The losers are the local black businessmen, the law-abiding black residents, the blacks trapped in ghetto hellholes, and the principle of social order as the necessary foundation for individual autonomy and advancement. Worst of all, black Americans have been betrayed by yet another spectacle that reinforces every racist stereotype blacks fought against during the decades of Jim Crow.

Legal segregation was based on the same rationale as slavery––the false assumption that all blacks were by nature incapable of achieving the level of civilization necessary for political freedom and personal autonomy. They were unsuited for freedom and autonomy because they lacked enough rational capacity to exercise impulse control and avoid the destructive behaviors that characterize barbarism, particularly sex and violence. As Aristotle, an important ancient source for this idea, put it, “He who participates in rational principle enough to apprehend, but not to have, such a principle, is a slave by nature.” Thus “it is better for them as for all inferiors that they should be under the rule of a master.”

Black Americans battling racism understood that their oppression was founded on the white assertion of their inability on their own to exercise virtue, especially self-control. Thus in their daily lives they strived mightily to explode these stereotypes by their own behavior. Education, deportment, proper speech, churchgoing, dignified public behavior were all daily challenges to the racist assumption that blacks could not be civilized because they lacked by nature civilizing virtues. In doing so blacks were not “acting white,” for many whites behaved in disorderly ways that bespoke a lack of virtue. Hence the Progressive eugenics movement in the early 20th century, speaking the language of Darwin rather than virtue, targeted poor whites and immigrant peasants as well as blacks. No, black people were acting civilized, and they refused to cede to whites the notion that civilization was color specific and exclusive.

Segregationists understood what blacks were doing, which is why they targeted black dignity, and attacked blacks who acted “uppity”––which included not just defiance, but speaking English properly, using a sophisticated vocabulary, displaying knowledge, and generally comporting themselves in a civilized and virtuous fashion, all of which made blacks dignified. If segregationists did not challenge that dignity, then the foundational idea of their racism was bankrupt. Blacks could be civilized, more so than many whites, and thus they deserved the political freedom and personal autonomy that defined American civilization.

That was an intolerable contradiction for racists, one battled not just with violence, but with daily ridicule and contempt. In contrast, black excesses of sex and violence, or vulgar and clownish public behavior, may have annoyed segregationists, but it did not challenge the justifying ideas of racism. Rather, such behavior was comforting, for it confirmed the notion that blacks acted that way because they lacked by nature the capacity of rational self-control. Long before the Civil Right movement, millions of American blacks had to fight every day for their dignity, and to assert their equal capacity to be civilized by behaving in ways that often called down on them contempt and humiliation.

But just at the moment the 1965 Civil Rights Act codified in law that idea for which blacks had struggled, for millions of blacks cultural developments began to undermine that achievement. Abetted by a decline in religious faith, the notion of virtue and self-control, reinforced by shame, guilt, and religious sanctions, began to retreat before the therapeutic hedonism epitomized in the chant, “If it feels good, do it.” As a result, impulse control, the most important virtue necessary for poor and historically disadvantaged people to improve their lot, was discarded, replaced by an idealized hedonism that glorified behaviors like sexual promiscuity and drug use guaranteed to hold back those trying to advance.

Second, the idea of Western civilization as a set of universal ideals and rights that transcend the accidents of race and ethnicity was attacked by identity politics. Now the particularities of race, ethnicity, and various spurious “cultures” were promoted by “multiculturalism.” An authentic identity could come only from the values, habits, and mores unique to one culture and incompatible with others. Hence the saying, “It’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand.” No matter the differences of privilege, education, region, or wealth, melanin and hair texture melded all blacks into one identity, just as the one-drop rule did to blacks under Jim Crow.

Moreover, Western civilization now was uniquely oppressive, marred by slavery, imperialism, colonialism, capitalist exploitation, and endemic racism. As such, assimilation to Western civilization became a betrayal of racial identity, and learning its language, history, and foundational ideals yet another act of cultural oppression. Once W.E.B. Du Bois spoke of reading Shakespeare and Aristotle as “crossing the color line.” Now it’s “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western civ has got to go,” as the privileged students at Harvard and Berkeley chanted. Those who attacked America whether through ideas or violence were romanticized as “revolutionaries” fighting for racial “liberation,” as well-heeled racial commentators[2] have done after the Baltimore and Ferguson riots. Or consider the new social media fad in which middle-class black kids stomp on American flags, in imitation of New Black Party college student Eric Sheppard, the self-proclaimed “terrorist toward white people” currently being sought by the authorities.

Finally, this new black identity assumed that being a victim was the core of blackness. No matter how rich or educated, every black American is still a victim who deserves some sort of redress, whether racial preferences and government jobs, or some form of redistributed federal tax money. Hence in the aftermath of riots like those in Baltimore we hear calls for “massive investments in urban communities,” as Obama puts it, despite the fact that Baltimore has been run by blacks for decades, and has enjoyed billions of dollars of federal aid. But even more dangerous, to predicate identity on victimhood and demands for reparations is to put inferiority at the heart of black identity, for it inculcates dependency, destroys autonomy, and frees people from personal responsibility and accountability. For as the African proverb has it, “The hand that gives is always above the hand that receives.”

The footage from the recent protests and riots all reflect this betrayal of respectable black Americans. Of course, there were peaceful demonstrations led by respectable community leaders, but they were obscured by the rioters and the race-baiters who peddled the old melodrama of evil white racists and helpless black people who lack the character to fight against joblessness, drugs, promiscuity, vulgarity, crime, and the slaughter of their black “brothers.” What we saw were images that would have warmed the heart of an old-school racist, and confirmed his belief that black people are barbarians, incapable of virtue and hence of civilization. That white leftists and privileged black opportunists enable and justify this narrative is a betrayal of black dignity.

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11 thoughts on “Baltimore and the Betrayal of Black Dignity”

  1. Rick Bonsteel

    I would have been more impressed with the so-called Mom-of-the-Year if she’d said to her kid, not “I don’t want him to be another Freddie Gray”, but rather, “That’s not how civilized people act; that’s not ‘social protest.'”

  2. If you want to understand the problem with African-Americans, just look at the average African in Africa today, or at any time in history. As a people, they simply fail to assimilate into a society that, despite years of advancements in civil rights, bends over backwards to help them advance. Even American universities lower their entrance score requirements when African-American is checked off on the admission form. This is unheard of in the rest of the world.

    But back to Africa; white Europeans in Africa advanced farming, industry, infrastructure and transportation. However everywhere the whites have been forced out by black Africans, those same farms have gone fallow, industries have ground to a halt, transportation and infrastructure is nearly non-existent. Where whites have moved out, black crime has risen and not just in the hinterlands of Africa, it’s true in Los Angeles, Detroit and now Baltimore.

    It seems clear that biologically, there are some groups which fail to advance at the same rate as others. This isn’t racist, it’s just a fact. It explains why native Americans hadn’t developed iron working, most African tribes didn’t have a written language and natives indigenous to the Amazon rain forest hadn’t even figured out the wheel. None of these things developed until they were introduced by white Europeans.

    As stated in this well written article from “Please Stop Helping Us” by Jason Riley;

    “Today (2014) blacks are about 13 percent of the population and continue to be responsible for an inordinate amount of crime. Between 1976 and 2005 blacks com­mitted more than half of all murders in the United States. The black arrest rate for most offenses — including robbery, aggravated assault and property crimes — is still typically two to three times their representation in the population.

    Blacks as a group are also overrepresented among persons arrested for so-called white-collar crimes such as counterfeiting, fraud and embezzlement. And blaming this decades-long, well-documented trend on racist cops, prosecutors, judges, sentencing guidelines and drug laws doesn’t cut it as a plausible explanation.”

    1. Stan Pakulla

      I am saving your well written note and adding it to my “well written” collection.

      Thank you for posting.

  3. Hoi Polloi Boy

    This gist of this article reminds me of some lyrics from Bob Marley’s Redemption Song:

    Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds!

  4. What’s good about the President Johnson thru Obama parade, is to learn what doesn’t work: The Progtard Control worldview. It is a nasty worldview that blinds the K-12 folk taught it, then injects hubris at university.

    What works? The Freedom-Liberty worldview of Natural Law, wherein the right to carry a knife is honored.

    Natural Law is such a crazy idea… it just might work! If followed, Freddie Gray would breathe air today!

    Further, the Freedom-Liberty worldview learns from mistakes, Progtard Control DENIES enlarging mistakes.

  5. Pingback: The real losers in the Freddie Gray riots. by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine | controvercity

  6. I’d highly recommend Shelby Steele’s new book “Shame” for those interested in this topic. I’ve read nothing better for illuminating the source of this problem and explanation of how things changed in the 1960’s regarding the loss of moral authority (due to the incongruity of the founding principles with the history of slavery and segregation thus casting America as a uniquely hypocritical nation) for the white majority and their subsequent inability to demand or expect civilized behavior from blacks since then. Fifty years of a lack of outside pressure to control themselves, combined with government largesse cast as repayment for past sins, has led a substantial segment of the black community in America to dig themselves into a deep cultural hole that leaves them without any of the necessary habits one requires to better their situation in life. Essentially, blacks lead a consequence free existence up until they commit serious crimes or become hopelessly enmeshed in social dysfunction, While they are not above the law, they are most definitely above the constraints of civilized social convention for fear of public racist rebuke towards any who dare to question them…

  7. My grandmother was a strong proponent of civil rights. She was lifelong member of the NAACP – back when it was a more respectable organization – and even dated black men during a time when interracial fraternization, even in the sleepy corner of the northwestern United States where we lived, was still frowned upon. One of her boyfriends later became a multi-state coordinator for Federal affirmative action programs and remained a lifelong friend of our family. He was an intelligent man who grew up in Kansas during the 1930’s. Photos of his youth showed him to be a handsome football player, and he once told me that he had had dreams of becoming an civil engineer. But like so many young black men at this time, these opportunities were all but none existent. He introduced me to the biography of Frederick Douglas and to Langston Hughes’ poetry and to the music of Charles Mingus and John Coltrane, which gave a deeper appreciation for the brilliancies of black artists. Despite his own Dream Deferred, he was not a bitter man. He had helped thousands of blacks gain opportunities and contributed to ascension of the black middle class.

    I have a hard time squaring up the respect I have for him and for what his generation endured with what is going on in Baltimore today. The rioters there have never suffered the humiliation of being turned away from a segregated lunch counter or ever had their state’s governor block the entrance to a state funded university purely because of their skin color, yet they trash, loot and burn their communities at the slightest provocation. I’m not trying to say all people in these communities are thugs and morons. If 25% of black males are either in prison or have done time then the remaining 75% must be decent law abiding citizens, but we mustn’t be cowed by political correctness in to sugar coating the major causes of the problems that plague the inner city – i.e. skyrocket illegitimacy rates, high school drop out rates, and crime rates – by excusing this pathological behavior with the predictably lame anachronistic arguments of systemic white racism and, also, by denying the 50 years of human and financial capital that has been spent addressing them. If the Golden Mean of virtue is not aspired to by a consensus of people in Baltimore, there really is no hope for them. If you think only a Klansman could speak such nonsense, then ask yourself this question: why was there not a legion of Baltimore mothers, instead of just one that we know of, marching down to extract their sons from the mayhem they were causing and presumably kicking their butts all the way home?

    After the 2014 mid-term elections, Barak Obama blamed the devastating Democrat losses on low voter turn out from his base. This included a large number of African Americans who had voted in droves to defeat Mitt Romney in 2012. As a “race-baiting vulture like Al Sharpton” is also a frequently honored guest and political strategist at the WH, I can’t help but wonder if all the well coordinated and often violent demonstrations against the Police that have instantly cropped up in Ferguson, New York, L.A. and Baltimore and which follow the contrived “War on (fill in the blank)” false narratives of the past are really just a cheap, premeditated way to excite his base for 2016? People may recall that Obama made a point to directly blame the Republicans for the riot, while being careful to distance himself from the useful idiots on the street who were doing his bidding for him.

    If violence and mayhem, disguised as a justice and virtue, becomes the favored tactic to win political elections, then Barak Obama will have succeeded in “fundamentally transforming” America.

  8. White guilt over a history of white racism toward blacks has blinded many well-meaning whites to such race hustlers as Al Sharpton, Jessie Jackson, etc., and, to the top race hustler of them all today, Barack Obama.

  9. When the self controlled, independent, and industrious among our society see the hatred, the violence, the lack of dignity and respect, the self entitled attitude, the mob mentality, and the false unwarranted pride of others and react to that, it isn’t racism at all. It is merely disgust. It is ignorance and a lame excuse to call it racism.

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