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Me and Black America



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The dumbest and most common liberal response to my column is the smirking rejoinder, “Oh sure, and why should we listen to Jonah Goldberg about black life in America.” Or as Eric Boehlert, the chief intern at Media Matters tweeted: “again, because who knows more about being black in America than National Review writers like @jonahNRO?”

The problem with this response is that it’s a non-response. Worse, it’s a dumb non-response. Even worse than that, it’s a damning dumb non-response. Let’s go in order.

First, I never claimed to have intimate knowledge of black America. If anything, I’m dubious of the idea (or desirability) of a monolithic “black America.” Second, nothing in my column requires an intimate personal knowledge of black America. All I did was make the case, based on the sort of empirical data the self-proclaimed “reality-based community” relies upon, that violent, never mind homicidal, white racism is hardly the chief threat to African-Americans. Nor do I believe that most African-Americans believe that to be the case, at least not from the polls I’ve seen over the last ten years or from what I’ve read and heard from black thinkers and friends. As Nicole pointed out yesterday, a chief concern of black mothers in New Orleans is to get their sons out of that pocket of black America safely and educated.

The gist from my harshest e-mailers seems to be that I simply have to take Charles Blow and Jesse Jackson as the final word on black America’s wants and needs. Sorry, I don’t recognize that authority. I’m open to arguments from them, sure. At least in the case of Blow, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s honestly expressing his views (It’s much harder to take Jackson in good faith). But I don’t have to find their unpersuasive arguments and assertions persuasive simply because they’re black.

But let’s say that this sort of identity politics nonsense is valid. Does this mean Blow, Jackson and Sharpton can never, ever, speak about the tea parties with any authority? The tea parties aren’t as white as their liberal detractors claim (or as Occupy Wall Street, I gather), but let’s also take those claims seriously. How dare Blow ever write about the motives and concerns of a (allegedly) “white” movement? How dare Sharpton sit there on MSNBC and analyze the views of the Republican candidates, particularly now that Herman Cain is out of the race? What does he know about “white America”?

You see how stupid that argument is? How condescending white liberals can be?  Black Americans can be wrong in their analysis of what black America’s biggest problems are. If you don’t believe that to be the case then you have to believe that all blacks think the same way and believe the same things, and that kind of “they’re all alike” argument sounds awfully racist to me.



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