The National Review Online’s funny-but-not-on-purpose blog The Corner is very funny today, but not on purpose. Haha. It seems one of their right-wing robo-typers wishes Attorney General Eric Holder would just be goddamn happy about all the progress blacks have made in America instead of pointing out how much more there is to be done, and there’s not really even all that much to do, says this guy. Oh, The Corner, you guys are priceless.
The writer in question, some guy named Roger Clegg, wrote this morning about Eric Holder’s speech at the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s 50th anniversary conference. He argues that while Holder’s speech praises the non-violent elements of SNCC, he omits that SNCC embraced militancy by the late 60s.
There is no mention of SNCC becoming increasingly radical (embracing Black Power and expelling its white staff members and volunteers) and, ultimately, rejecting nonviolence, with Stokely Carmichael replacing John Lewis as its head… .
Everyone can decide for themselves to what extent non-violence should be considered a principle or a tactic — an end or a means — but to drop Stokely Carmichael’s name as though he’s some kind of boogeyman figure perfectly illustrates the distorted mind-set of the right-wing in America. Carmichael’s views were seen by some as extreme — he coined the phrase Black Power, and MLK once vowed never to share a stage with him — but by 1967 he and King had reconciled enough of their differences to appear together to protest the Vietnam War at the Mall in DC. Clegg appears to believe that invoking Carmichael’s name should be enough to discredit an extremely important organization, which, more than anything else, shows his desire to reduce the Civil Rights movement to Good Guys and Bad Guys. Not coincidentally, that Manichean dichotomy pervades the right-wing approach to “The War On Terrorism” also.
There’s one other line of Clegg’s that deserves a closer look also. He writes:
I think it is also fair to say that Holder’s speech sees the civil-rights glass today as half-empty rather than 15/16ths full.
That’s really a remarkable sentence, especially if you read Holder’s speech in full. We’re to assume, then, that Clegg believes the “civil-rights glass” is 15/16th — or 94% — full. WE GOT AN “A,” GUYS! Hell, if I thought that America was 94% equal as far as jobs, housing, legal rights, access to quality education, etc, I’d probably not be that concerned about closing that 6% gap either. I mean, come on, 15/16 is one ounce away from a full pint. That’s pretty good.
That line of thinking also helps explain the data from the NYT/CBS poll from last week, in which 52% of Tea Party respondents answered yes to the question “In recent years, has too much been made of the problems facing black people?” There are all sorts of ways to explain that trend, but Clegg’s moronic claim that the civil rights glass is 15/16ths full goes a long way in understanding it. If you believe that our society is for all practical purposes fully equal, as Clegg and the conservative wing of the GOP do, then any attempt to right systemic wrongs is seen as “reverse racism” or “helping black people too much.”
In his speech, Holder said:
Over the last two years, we have faced the most serious financial crises in generations. Certainly, the recession affected Americans of every racial and ethnic group, class, and age – closing off both blue- and white-collar job prospects. However, the consequences for African-American communities have been far more severe than the national averages. Even today, as our nation emerges from the recession, joblessness for young black men, those between the ages of 16 and 24, has reached proportions not seen since the Great Depression. And young black women of the same age now have an unemployment rate of more that 26 percent, 11 points higher than the unemployment rate for all 16-to-24-year-old women.
He then goes on to talk about unfair legal practices that people of color are subjected to, and argues that the presence of a black man in the Oval Office doesn’t mean that we as a society have eliminated structural barriers to success for minorities. Clegg’s off-handed “everything is basically equal” statement is notable for how casually he throws it away. That America is 15/16th equal is self-evident to him, though Holder marshalls plenty of evidence to argue that isn’t the case.
It’s important to reiterate that what we’re talking about isn’t a case of opinions. As I mentioned in a post last week:
Simple ideas about structural domination – like the fact that the government incentivizes home ownership over renting, but blacks have historically been denied housing rights — do not permeate the Tea Party mindset.
Though blacks have protection from housing discrimination now, that doesn’t change the fact that black communities are still living in a the reality of a system that ghettoized them.
Holder also mentions that Congress is looking at legislation to change the absurd crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparities. That’s a good thing, but, again, it doesn’t change the fact that black men have faced odds of one in three that they will spend time in prison. That can destroy families and communities for decades, and passing this new legislation won’t be the magical “16th” ounce to fill the race glass.
To the NRO, these lasting inequalities as basically an unimportant afterthought to the Civil Rights movement. Good for Holder for treating them with the weight they deserve, and next time he should give a shout out to Stokely.