America is Still Impacted by the Sickness of Racism – Or Not The (failed) NFL protests may be a harbinger of change.

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Jan 15, 2018 No Comments ›› admin

By Lynn Woolley

It’s been half a century since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated for equal rights and judgment by content of character – and got shot for it.

As I write this on MLK Day 2018, opinions, even inside the black community, are varied.

Barber (right) speaking at a Moral Mondays rally in 2013 (Wikipedia)

The Rev. William J. Barber, a civil rights leader in North Carolina, delivers what he calls a “warning cry” about a “greater moral malady” in America of which he says President Trump is a symptom.

Shelby Steele, a senior fellow at Stanford specializing in race relations, says the NFL kneelers missed a simple truth. Steele says the oppression of black people is over with.

Rev. Barber and Dr. Steele are both black men – but with very different perceptions. Where Barber sees continued racism and classism, Steele sees an end to a victim-based approach to racial equality. Steele says the NFL protests may be a harbinger of change.

Rev. Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign.

Barber is a Social Justice warrior who gave an impassioned speech on behalf of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic Convention in 2016. Politically, he is a leftist, but try to put that aside, and ask yourself whether he is right.

In a Dallas Morning News article, written by Michael Granberry, Barber says he will not call this the Era of Trump:

“Because I’m a person of faith, I declare every era the Era of God. Trump is the symptom of a greater moral malady in America right now. Dr. King, in his last years, talked about America being sick with racism and classism, and materialism and militarism. We are still deeply, deeply impacted by that sickness.”

Barber wants Congress to pass an “Economic Bill of Rights” for the poor (presumably in addition to welfare – a program that already keeps them in bonds) that would guarantee income, equitable housing, and funds for poor communities. Some would call this idea socialism, but Barber claims it would unite disenfranchised groups regardless of class, color, or gender. He calls it “a national call for moral revival.”

Barber also says he believes Dr. King would be standing with DACA/Dreamers, would have opposed the new tax reform bill, would be dealing with healthcare issues and the re-segregation of schools, and would challenge a nation that spend 54 cents out of every dollar on the military.

Dr. Shelby Steele (Eric Luse)

Strangely, Barber seems to place little value on “content of character,” or personal involvement with one’s own advancement. He looks to government for all that. No character needed, and no effort required in Barberworld. Just government to even all things out.

Shelby Steele and what we learned form the National Football League protests.

Steele’s column in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Black Protest has Lost Its Power” makes it clear that his thought process is a world apart from where Barber’s is. Steele says the recent NFL kneeling protests were a miserable failure by players that seemed duty-bound to join in – essentially for the sake of protest.

Steele says they were being loyal to a tradition of black protest that had already run its course:

What they missed is a simple truth that is both obvious and unutterable: The oppression of black people is over with. This is politically incorrect news, but it is true nonetheless. We blacks are, today, a free people. It is as if freedom sneaked up and caught us by surprise. Of course this does not mean there is no racism left in American life. Racism is endemic to the human condition, just as stupidity is.

As you mull the words of Barber and Steele – and decide which one you think is on the better track, consider this. Steele maintains that sometimes you get what you wish for – and with that victory comes repercussions:

Freedom came to blacks with an overlay of cruelty because it meant we had to look at ourselves without the excuse of oppression. Four centuries of dehumanization had left us underdeveloped in many ways, and within the world’s most highly developed society. When freedom expanded, we became more accountable for that underdevelopment. So freedom put blacks at risk of being judged inferior, the very libel that had always been used against us.

That’s quite powerful. With freedom and codified equality comes responsibility. It’s like that caption in the final panel of the first Spider-Man story (Amazing Fantasy #15) when Peter Parker given his new powers, squanders them and allows his Uncle Ben to be murdered by a criminal that he could have stopped. The final panel reads:

“…with great power there must also come — great responsibility!”

Those words, written by Stan Lee or possibly Steve Ditko, could easily be rewritten to say…

“… with freedom there must also come – at least some responsibility to stay out of gangs, stay off drugs, learn a trade, get an education, make a living, and generally contribute to society without depending on taxpayers to take care of you.”

I know. It’s not as catchy as it might be. But it works. And for Steele, that freedom signals the end (at some point) of victim-based black protests such as those staged by Black Lives Matter. He says some things can’t be blamed on someone else – such as the continued violence on the south side of Chicago:

To hear, for example, that more than 4,000 people were shot in Chicago in 2016 embarrasses us because this level of largely black-on-black crime cannot be blamed simply on white racism.

The NFL protests and their aftermath. 

San Francisco 49ers Eli Harold (58), Eric Reid (35) and Colin Kaepernick (7) take a knee during the National Anthem prior to action against the Dallas Cowboys during an NFL football game Saturday, Oct. 2, 2016, in Santa Clara, CA. (Photo: Daniel Gluskoter/AP Images for Panini)

Barber, still in victim mode, sees the sickness of racism as the root of black poverty. Steele sees freedom as the springboard to self-reliance.

The fact that the NFL lost ticket sales and TV ratings may be the best indication that Steele is on the right track.

Virtually all the white people I know wish only the best for the black community. They believe all Americans should have equal opportunity.

But that does not mean equal outcomes. How one’s life pans out across the years is most often the results of choices that person made.

Racism is so twentieth century.

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