I’m worried about my country today. I’m worried because a fear I’ve spoken of for several years now is coming to fruition in a way that threatens to rip apart the fabric of our American society.
In 2012 I published Blackwards: How Black Leadership Is Returning America to the Days of Separate But Equal, in which I warned that our country was headed on a dangerous course marked by race and ethnic identification at the expense of the positive attributes we ascribe as being American citizens. In short I wrote: ”I believe this phenomenon is most pervasive in the black, dare I say African American, community. I believe that calls of racism and unequal treatment in the era of Obama has helped create a toxic climate that will spread unless we stop the stain that is spreading through our schools, offices, communities of worship and political discourse.”
The essence of heading blackwards has manifested itself in the events that have unfolded in Baltimore over the past few weeks. We still don’t know what happened to Freddie Gray while in police custody or the tragic events that led to the young man’s death. We’ve been told over and over again on television and on the radio that racism is the culprit at play for Gray’s death. Unfortunately facts no longer matter in our society today—slogans and efforts by those seeking “justice” for wrongs real or imagined are more important than a clearheaded and dispassionate search for the truth.
Consider the statement given by the Baltimore State’s Attorney late last week in charging six police officers with Gray’s death. Rather than disclose facts and assure the people of Baltimore she would proceed with prosecution based on solid evidence, Marilyn Mosby instead offered: “To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America, I heard your call for ‘No justice, no peace,’” she said. “Your peace is seriously needed as I seek to deliver justice to this young man.” “No Justice, No Peace” is a political statement to be used at a rally, not a comment that ought to be made by someone heading an impartial search for evidence to provide the basis for a conviction in a court of law.
As America heads blackwards, it is more important for those rallying under the banner of “justice” to provide separate rules and special treatment when the victim is black, rather than seek equal treatment under the color of law. We’ve been told incessantly that those who are aggrieved in Baltimore are victims of a racist society. In a majority black city run by a black mayor and a black city council that presides over a police department where more than 40 percent of its officers are black and under the supervision of a black police commissioner, the popular meme is that racism is the root cause for all that ails the community. And for those who decry that Baltimore is in dire need of funding for its schools, the city ranks second nationwide in per capita spending.
For all the talk of how Baltimore has been ignored by all levels of government, consider that the city received $1.8 billion from President Obama’s stimulus package—including $467.1 million in education funding and $26.5 million in crime prevention. Something else is at play here.
The notion that blacks are always victims at the hands of a racist society excuses poor choices and poor behavior. Where are the fathers in Baltimore who bring children into the world and abandon them to be overwhelmingly raised in a single-parent household? It is not racism to question the judgment of people who do so but common sense instead.
Yet prominent social commentators such as Michael Eric Dyson lament that Baltimore’s problems are social protests against racism, the riots that took place must be placed in proper context and that there is currently no future for young black men in the city. In Dyson’s telling, when talking of poor blacks in Baltimore, he says: “It’s easy to point a gun of analysis and shoot them with the bullets of our condemnation instead of saying we have to together find a way out of this.”
I have a different view. The critical lesson we must learn from calls of racial solidarity by some on the left in Baltimore is that such talk undermines our society and exacerbates the problem of racial and political polarization. In an intelligent, developed society such as ours there is no excuse for racial balkanization and a political system that falls along party lines. Democrats who pander to blacks based on the color of their skin and Republicans receiving single-digit support from African Americans are both inexcusable.
My conclusion from Blackwards nearly four years ago is prescient today as we seek to put events in Baltimore in proper context. “We don’t need a black agenda, a white agenda, or a Latino agenda to fulfill our destiny…We must not form racial and/or ethnic enclaves that, whatever they contribute to multiculturalism, promote isolated and segregated communities. The pioneers of the civil rights era would be appalled that the legacy of their brave work to eliminate segregation in the United States was instead used as a wedge to demand special, rather than equal, rights based solely on race or ethnicity from their fellow citizens.” We can and must do better.