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Black culture revisited

Here's an interesting opinion piece by Thomas Sowell:

The Wall Street Journal

For most of the history of this country, differences between the black and the white population--whether in income, IQ, crime rates, or whatever--have been attributed to either race or racism. For much of the first half of the 20th century, these differences were attributed to race--that is, to an assumption that blacks just did not have it in their genes to do as well as white people. The tide began to turn in the second half of the 20th century, when the assumption developed that black-white differences were due to racism on the part of whites.

Three decades of my own research lead me to believe that neither of those explanations will stand up under scrutiny of the facts.

... Slavery also cannot explain the difference between American blacks and West Indian blacks living in the United States because the ancestors of both were enslaved. When race, racism, and slavery all fail the empirical test, what is left?

Culture is left.

... The counterproductive and self-destructive culture of black rednecks in today's ghettos is regarded by many as the only "authentic" black culture--and, for that reason, something not to be tampered with. Their talk, their attitudes, and their behavior are regarded as sacrosanct.

The people who take this view may think of themselves as friends of blacks. But they are the kinds of friends who can do more harm than enemies.

(This is a fairly good summary, but it's worth reading the whole article.)

I agree that ghetto black america is being held back more by its own culture than any other factor.

Allow me to illustrate why: Growing up, I knew a number of black kids who naturally excelled in school. These were good, smart kids who were friendly toward everybody. But as they went through jr. high and high school, most parted company with the academic crowd (who were primarily white / asian) in order to fit in with their non-academic black friends. The issue wasn't just an academic vs. non-academic one--it was primarily about race. A couple of kids even went from completely "acting white"--an expression I somewhat disagree with--to being entirely the opposite and totally losing interest in school, and in anyone who wasn't black. Their desire to impress their ghetto friends trumped everything else: interracial friendships, educational aspirations, religious convictions, parental hopes, and the desire for success. It's sad, but this is the sort of self-defeating behavior that continually occurs among black youth, and in my experience, among black males in particular.

These tragedies bother me to no end.

The unfortunate conclusion I draw from all of this is that--for most ghetto-raised american blacks--the pull of their self-defeating culture is stronger than their inner desire to make something of themselves.

What I wonder is how the cycle will ever be broken. To me, it seems that black celebrities and black churches are the best equipped to attack the problem. Unfortunately, it's celebrities (and sometimes churches) who are perpetuating these cultural failures. Black youth are taught that it's okay to excel ... but only as a belligerent rapper or athlete. Stick with those and you're fine, but don't go anywhere near law, medicine, politics, or business--those for sell-outs only.

Black churches also do more harm than good at times. Religiously, they're fine, but they also tend to be used as political tools, and the politics they preach are, for the most part, liberal: You can't achieve success without the government's (white man's) grace. You're too weak, too dumb, too incapable to do it yourself. But don't worry, we'll rig the system so you can compete. Remember though: Without us, you'll never get out of this rut.

What a shame. Black churches should part company with politics. They should stick to teaching the fundaments of Christianity, and exalting the virtues of accountability, self-sufficiency, education, civility, and hard work. They're uniquely positioned to do this because of the special influence they have within the black community. To a large degree, they are the black community. These churches have the potential to bring about a cultural rebirth--to transform black america into a community that looks down on the self-defeating behaviors that currently dominate so much of their pop-culture.

But they need the help of secular black leaders--celebrities--as well. Bill Cosby is a great example of this. He didn't mince words when he called for blacks to take more responsibility for themselves. It's something few others have been willing to do.

Fortunately, it wouldn't take an overt call to repentance, like Mr. Cosby's, to bring about change. It'd go a long way if Black celebrities would simply stop exalting the ghetto lifestyle. But, imagine the effect if they also began exalting the virtues of accountability, education, and hard work. Some, like Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman, are already doing this through the roles they take on, which normally portray the black man as independent and capable. But these men are exceptions. More black celebrities should followed suit.

In sum, I think the black community is equipped better than anyone else to bring about its much needed cultural transformation. But, a rebirth will only happen once the black leadership--both secular and ecclesiastic--steps up to the plate.

Wow. Just... wow.

Wow. Just... wow.

Bill Cosby vs. Jesse Jackson

I especially liked Bill Cosby's comments here:

"They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English," he exclaimed. "I can't even talk the way these people talk: 'Why you ain't,' 'Where you is'....And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk.....Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads....You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!"

Also, I read an article by L. Brent Bozell, President of the Parents Television Council about his original comments made at the Brown v. Board of Education anniversary party. Here's a quote:

It was no doubt additionally controversial when he proclaimed that many young black men in prison today are not "political criminals," but guilty of real crimes. "These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake and then we run out and we are outraged, [saying] 'The cops shouldn't have shot him.' What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?"

I thought it particularly ironic that the speech Mason referenced above was in front of a Rainbow/PUSH Coalition annual conference, which is headed by the master of pulling out the race card himself - Jesse Jackson. While Mr. Jackson accepted and reiterated what Bill Cosby said, he is one of the foremost leaders feeding the black community with the counterproductive 'victim' mentality. No matter how good his intentions, or those of other prominent national black leaders with similar tactics like Al Sharpton, their efforts do more harm than good for the very community they purport to be helping.

Thankfully not all leadership in the black community thinks like Jesse Jackson. Like we saw with Bill Cosby and others who have spoken out, like Charles Barkley, there are still many blacks who are thinking in the right vein of how to change this cultural stigma. Leaders like Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder of BOND (Brother Organization of a New Destiny) offer an opinion directly contrary to many of the tactics of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, etc. Check out his website and read some of the things he has to say. He has this to say about Jesse Jackson in particular:

Reparations for slavery, another illegitimate offspring of has-been civil rights "leader" Jesse Jackson, have hit the news.

The fading and desperate Jackson, who for over 30 years has built a lucrative career on the backs of black Americans, has paved the way for some of his "offspring" to push for reparations, a plot that if hatched will destroy the black community and divide our whole country. Among Jackson's chief "descendants" are trial lawyer Johnnie Cochran, Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree, and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., who, among others, have banded together on this unholy crusade.

Masterfully, they have performed the two tasks on Jackson's lifetime "To Do" list:

1. Indict contemporary white America for something of which it is not guilty.

2. Demand money, and lots of it.

I can almost see a single tear roll down Jackson's cheek.

I think the black community - or any group; racial or otherwise - is cutting the legs out from under themselves when they take on a passive victimhood stance, rather than an aggressive move toward real progression and accomplishment. I applaud the efforts of Bill Cosby et al. and wish more thought the way they do.

selling out

That term just gets me no matter what it is in refrence to! If you are a musician, and you are actually liked, and therefore making money... your a sell out. If you are an artist, and people buy your work... your a sell out. And, apparently if you are black, and successful... your a sell out!

Why is it a bad thing to be a sell out then? That is the part I don't get. Everyone in every profession, even if you are nothing more than a janitor, sales clerk, or the president of a company, is selling out. Everyone exchanges their time for something, usually money.

I will never understand why that term is negative. Especially in the sense of people pulling themselves out of a bad situation into something better for themselves.

I am glad that Mr. Cosby, and some other prominent black people, are trying to change it. However, I remember them getting harshly critized by others in their own race for being "too white".


The other day, I watched for a while a program in VH1 (I watch it sometimes for "I like the 70's/80's/90's", lol) called something like "The least hip-hop moments". The whole program was about black rappers laughing at white people trying to rap or black guys who weren't really "black". It was pathetic to watch those dudes making such racist remarks (yes, minorities can be racist too).

Anyways, the media also contributes to this problem.

Well, Kole, that's a vague co

Well, Kole, that's a vague comment if I've ever read one. =)

Would that be a good wow or a bad wow?

Sell out

The term sell out applies to abandoning your creative integrity(or other values) in order to make money. Reducing once creative music or art to a bland consumer driven marketing tool just like the offerings of so many would be artists. Selling out refers to the sale of values not time. A janitor is not a sell out unless he is opposed to cleanness and acts in opposition to his values to make money being a janitor. As far as its use in relation to 'acting white'- it's being used inappropriately. And it's unfortunate that ghetto culture has developed along these lines.

I once saw a documentary style show about a deaf family in which the father, mother and children(toddler age) were all deaf. They have developed a new surgery which would allow their children to gain the use of their hearing. The father viciously opposed it because it would cause them to miss out on 'deaf culture'. An interesting example of hostility towards the dominant culture without being racially charged. Is the hostility towards 'acting white' then a result of the underlying cultures radicating from Africa and the lower class areas of Western Europe as Mr. Sowell would have us believe or is it merely another example of a subculture lashing out against the dominant culture?

It's kind of like a... this c

It's kind of like a... this could cause a lot of controversy... wow.

Controversy wasn't what I was

Controversy wasn't what I was going for, but, yeah ... I see what you're saying.

So far nobody seems to be riled-up about this. Maybe I should add something in there about the church being true ... that might ruffle some people's feathers.

I just get a little nervous w

I just get a little nervous when a group of people that really have no idea what something is like attempt to talk about that thing or demand its change.

Amen Bro! Hallellujah!

Maybe I should add something in there about the church being true ... that might ruffle some people's feathers.


I am continually amazed to see how almost any discussion around here can morph into a long, drawn out, religious debate. It's unbelievable.

Assuming that we "really have

Assuming that we "really have no idea what [ghetto black culture] is like" may be a pretty safe generalization to make for BYU student's overall, but I'd say you're wrong in my particular case.

Also, T$, are you saying that we shouldn't discuss / criticize a particular person (or in this case, culture) without first walking a mile in their shoes?

What makes T$ wrong in your c

What makes T$ wrong in your case? You've lived in the ghetto?

Yeah, Mason, I think the

Yeah, Mason, I think the fact that most of us are in college, and, indeed, that college was always a probability for most of us makes us less capable of empathy. The loss of hope is a terrible thing, but even worse is hope never having been there in the first place. From what I've seen, most of us are incapable of empathy even toward people who grew up very much like us.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: Bill Cosby's reasoning is flawed. There is a lot more preventing people from becoming doctors than poor grammar.

Not in, but nearby.

Not in, but nearby.

I went to ghetto schools from 6th-12th grade. And by ghetto, I mean the poorest / most dangerous schools in all of Austin, TX (which has a metro area of 1 million people). They were "magnet" schools that drew part of their student bodies from all across the city. They do it to keep the schools diverse.

Yeah, Mason, I think the fact

Yeah, Mason, I think the fact that most of us are in college, and, indeed, that college was always a probability for most of us makes us less capable of empathy.

I agree.

The loss of hope is a terrible thing, but even worse is hope never having been there in the first place. From what I've seen, most of us are incapable of empathy even toward people who grew up very much like us.

Good point.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: Bill Cosby's reasoning is flawed. There is a lot more preventing people from becoming doctors than poor grammar.

Here's where we're disagreeing. What Cosby is saying is that it's useless for the black community to blame others for their problems--that the victim mentality they currently have is holding them back more than anything else. And he's right.

Yes, there is still some racism out there. Yes, life in America is not entirely fair. Yes, blacks were disadvantaged greatly by slavery.

While those things may be true, they're not what's stopping the black community from succeeding. It's a refusal to accept the fact that they are capable of controlling their own destiny--or in other words, their victim mentality--that's holding them back.

It's true that slavery is a lot of the reason they have this culture of victimhood in the first place. But, that doesn't change the fact that the culture of victimhood is the primary problem.

What I was saying in my original article is that the black community can only be fixed by the black community. By themselves. Yes, evil whites brought this victimhood problem upon them, but their modern-day equivalents (white america / the government) don't have the power to give back what was taken. They're the only ones who can do that.

How do you give someone self-confidence? Or a desire to succeed? Or a feeling of optimism? (Giving these things to a community is even more difficult.)

The change has to come from within. Special government assistance won't help things.

And that's why I say that the black community must undergo a cultural rebirth.


Also, to better explain myself, I don't think I have a true understanding of what it's like to be in the shoes of a ghetto-raised black man, but I don't believe perfect understanding is required before attempting to analyze / criticize something.

I'm curious to know what you think, T$: Are you saying that we shouldn't discuss / criticize a particular person (or in this case, culture) without first walking a mile in their shoes? Or not until we have a perfect understanding of their situation?

Hmm, good question, Mason. I

Hmm, good question, Mason. Its apparent that Christ wants us to learn how to be empathic; "and whoso is possessed of it at the last day" and whatnot.

But I also believe a big part of empathy is understanding that we really will never understand anyone at all. When I do this, I am much more adept at avoiding the missteps that prevent true Christlike love for a person.

However, I agree with you. Its always good to discuss, to gain wisdom and understanding, if not to criticize. I just personally feel unable to make a valid statement either pro or con in this instance. I apologize for assuming that you (or any of the other Pulsers) couldn't, either.

Nice thoughts on empathy. I'v

Nice thoughts on empathy. I've never articulated it that way, but yes, i think part of having true "mortal" empathy is realizing that ours is so imperfect.

And no offense taken, right? Just in case it came across the wrong way, Trey, I wasn't trying to slam you with my last comment.

No offense taken, Mason. I a

No offense taken, Mason. I always look forward to your comments. You defend your position, but do so without patronizing or insulting anyone. For example, you have never called anyone ignorant, even though in one discussion that word was used at a 1:1 ratio with every other word. Keep up the good work.