Who's Really Authentically
by Darryn "Dutch" Martin
A New Visions Commentary
paper published July 2003 by The National Center for Public Policy
Research, 501 Capitol Ct., N.E., Washington, DC 20002, 202/543-4110,
Fax 202-543-5975, E-Mail Project21@nationalcenter.org,
Reprints permitted provided source is credited.
Black leaders in America have an unflinching
allegiance to the political left and are part-and-parcel to the
Democratic Party. They see no reason to change or reform existing
race-based affirmative action programs. They are also out of
step with the times.
This is the premise of University of
California-Berkeley Professor John McWhorter's new book, Authentically
Black: Essays for the Black Silent Majority. It picks up where
his bestseller Losing the Race left off. It's a series of essays
that argue - rightly, in my opinion - that the civil rights era
is over, and that the new battleground against racism requires
individual initiative as opposed to collective action.
McWhorter critically dissects the icons
and issues of black leadership from Randall Robinson's reparations
book The Debt to Jesse Jackson's lucrative shakedown deals for
himself and his wealthy black friends (as reported in investigative
journalist Kenneth Timmerman's book Shakedown) to Al Sharpton
for perpetuating notions of victimhood.
According to McWhorter, African-Americans
in this country still remain "a race apart" nearly
40 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. He believes
that modern blacks internalize a tacit message: "authentically
black" people stress initiative in private, but publicly
cloak our race in victimhood to protect black people from an
ever-looming white backlash. This done, he says, so as to not
let white America "off the hook."
This thesis is the focus of McWhorter's
opening essay, in which he identifies this "New Double Consciousness"
in homage to W.E.B. DuBois' description of a different kind of
double consciousness in blacks a century ago.
In one of the most important themes of
Authentically Black, McWhorter asks us to stop emphasizing and
exaggerating our plight and misery while treating our successes
as anecdotal "exceptions" (a constant theme in more
liberal black American discourse these days). In other words,
he suggests, let's focus more on the ubiquitously palpable examples
of black American achievement, two notable examples of which
are our nation's secretary of state and our national security
Another McWhorter target is oxymoronic
ways of thinking that are central to the political left and modern
black "leadership." He reiterates a point he made in
Losing the Race - that black American success stories nowadays
are not longer "exceptions." Black success is now the
McWhorter observes that we cannot continue
to stress how strong we are while still going to pieces in public
displays of emotional histrionics - as some blacks are apt to
do - upon hearing the word "nigger" uttered by a white
person (no matter the context).
John McWhorter proves he is not afraid
to turn the microscope on black America, forcing us to take a
hard look at how current radical groupthink hinders us from being
the absolute best that we can be. Asian, Jewish, African and
Caribbean immigrants serve as his examples of what a strong work
ethic and love for education can accomplish. For this reason,
however, black "flaming leftist" critics like Ishmael
Reed resort to such childish tactics as labeling him "a
rent-a-black who only writes and says what conservative whites
want to hear" instead of trying to offer thoughtful rebuttals
to his arguments.
Critics can't refute him, quite frankly,
because they know deep down that McWhorter is telling the truth.
In Authentically Black, John McWhorter
presents the most refreshing and eye-opening contribution to
the dialogue on American race relations since Thomas Sowell and
Shelby Steele gained prominence. Learned men like these, who
dare challenge "sacred cows" of political and social
thought in our community, are not sellouts. They are heroes.
Ours is a better, more enlightened society because of their scholarly
(Darryn "Dutch" Martin
is a member of the National Advisory Council of the African-American
leadership network Project 21 and a foreign service officer.
Comments may be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org.)
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author,
and not necessarily those of Project 21.
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