Drawing the Line

Like Ambra, who breaks it down beautifully, I'm more of a pragmatic conservative than an ideological one. My politics is probably actually more like the way I play baseball: I field left but swing right. So when it comes to issues of race, I can almost always "feel" where the activist is coming from, to a certain degree. Somebody wants to argue for reparations or affirmative action or whatever, up to a point, they're not going to get any argument out of me, while somebody who would categorically deny either of those may provoke me to speak. When it comes to action, however, that historical perspective is a limiting factor. Samantha does a good job of illustrating that in The New Black Freedom Fighter. She writes,
This all strikes me as being totally ignorant of what black folk have achieved in this country DESPITE slavery and racism. When the white mobs got together to burn down black neighbourhoods they were not burning down shantytowns rife with crime, homelessness, illegitimacy, and broken families. They were burning down thriving businesses, well kept homes, churches, and displacing intact families. Why did the white mobs feel the need to carry on in this fashion? Because of the very fact that thriving black neighbourhoods existed. You can’t very well go around insisting that black folk can’t do nothin’ and are less than human with evidence to the contrary staring you right in the face now can you? So you go on crying about reparations, the negative legacy of slavery, how we got shafted, and everything else. As for me and my house, we will continue to strive for excellence in all that we do. We will not look for excuses to explain away our failures but we will learn from them and not repeat them. And we will continue to be inspired by those who came before us who refused to be stopped by the roadblocks placed in their paths.
This is pretty much where I draw the line and why I stand on the side I do. I can't really watch movies like Rosewood because they make me want to put on a black leather glove and start smacking people upside the head, but when I read about what happened in places like Rosewood or Black Wall Street in Tulsa, I'm reminded that those people were about getting it done. Forget about the governments refusal to grant them reparations, even though many of them had actually lived during physical slavery, the government was openly hostile to them and actively denying them justice. So what did they do? They got out there and did. I'm right with the activist on some things, but I step to the right when it comes to the solutions. The government is not going to do it; most things, the government couldln't do, even if the willingness was there. I mean, I can understand the thought process that says "since the government was complicit in doing things to the detriment of Blackfolk, the government should put forth the same effort in redressing those wrongs." For some folks, affirmative action and welfare (?!) represent that government redress. (Being that Blackfolk aren't the majority beneficiaries of either one of those, I don't see how that can be the case.) Whatever. Whether you think it's owed us or not, we ain't gettin' it. And this is not an ideological capitulation, it's just being pragmatic. Look, racism isn't going anywhere. Hate to say it, but that's just a part of our national fabric. And even at that, it's certainly not what it used to be, but as long as there is material gain to be had by using race as a factor in some decision-making process, racism and all those other -isms will remain. So if Black folks are supposed to wait for the last vestiges of racism, individual or structural, before we make a major move, we might as well quit now. Of course that's not the solution, and my activist friends know that too. It's the brothers and sisters with the PhD's that give the worst reports. What kills me is, they do one thing but say something else, dismissing their own accomplishments as atypical; "I've been more fortunate than the average Black person." Yeah, and you made some better decisions, too. Racism and the legacy of slavery and jim crow and whatever other historical events we'd like to point to can't explain away everything. My kids didn't not-know 12*12 because of some unseen link to their ancestors, they just didn't study. Instead of running off a list of why "the rest of us" can't, maybe it's time for us Black folks who have achieved something to focus more on why "we" did and try to break down the barriers between the two. Just a thought.