Complaints about racism still dominate media discussion of the disparity between black and white success. Comedian Chris Rock tells white audiences, "None of ya would change places with me! And I'm rich! That's how good it is to be white!"
I assumed that the success of Barack Obama, as well as thousands of other black Americans and dark-skinned immigrants -- many of whom thrive despite language problems -- demonstrates that America today is largely a colorblind meritocracy. But a white campus lecturer, Tim Wise, gets tremendous applause from students by saying things like, "[W]hite supremacy and privilege continue to skew opportunities hundreds of years after they were set in place" and in America, "meritocracy is as close to a lie as you can come." His message is in demand -- he is invited to more than 80 speaking engagements a year.
But black writer Shelby Steele argues that whites do blacks no favors wringing their hands about white privilege.
"I grew up in segregation," Steele told me. "So I really know what racism is. I went to segregated school. I bow to no one in my knowledge of racism, which is one of the reasons why I say white privilege is not a problem."
Steele claims, "the real problem is black irresponsibility. ... Racism is about 18th on a list of problems that black America faces."
Whites' preoccupation with guilt and compensation such as affirmative action is actually a subtle form of racism, writes Steele in his book "White Guilt". "One of the things that is clear about white privilege, and so many of the arguments for diversity that pretend to be compensatory, is that they advantage whites. They make the argument that whites can solve [black people's] problems. ... The problem with that is ... you reinforce white supremacy. ... And black dependency.
"White privilege is a disingenuous idea," he adds. In fact, now there is "minority privilege."
How much is this glorification of black victimhood hurting blacks? Well, it would be interesting to look at the scientific data. But even asking such questions appears to be out of bounds and the victimhood pimps fight tooth and nail to prevent that information from being collected:
Americans have been debating the fairness and efficacy of racial preferences in college and graduate school admissions for more than 30 years. Now a UCLA professor is seeking to test his hypothesis that affirmative action programs actually hurt the career prospects of minority law school graduates. But he has been hampered in his research by the indefensible failure of the State Bar of California to provide the statistics he needs.
The professor, Richard H. Sander, has requested data about the performance of white and minority law school graduates on the bar examination, along with information about the schools they attended and their grades. In resisting his request, bar officials cite the need to protect the privacy of test takers and to honor an agreement that test material will remain confidential. At the same time, some defenders of affirmative action have argued against releasing the data because they think Sander's project could have only one purpose: to discredit the idea of racial preferences.
In the holy book of leftist belief, "victimhood" is the most celebrated quality deserving of attention and pity. This is in part because many on the political left have a pathologically narcissistic need to see themselves as "champions of the oppressed", hence the constant preoccupation with identifying and maintaining 'oppressed' groups of people to champion. It is not a coincidence that their most sacred belief also happens to dovetail nicely into the the whole Marxist dialectic nonsense that underlies their ideology. The world is divided up into two groups, you see: the oppressors (i.e., white, male, heterosexual, Republican, Americans or Israelis) and the oppressed (everyone else).
Shelby Steele has also written eloquently in the past about one of the highly negative consequences of the Civil Rights movement of the 50's and 60's. That unintended consequence was the mainstreaming of victimization, which became a necessary claim for indisputable moral authority and a thereafter a bludgeon to be used to obtain political power. "Community organizers", such as Barack Obama early in his rise to political stardom, has made a career--and a run for the White House-- out of exploiting this connection.
The culture of victimhood has trapped many blacks within its narrow and infantalizing world view; and the political left is, of necessity, very wary of any person from one of their "designated victim groups" who dares to break out of the procrustean bed of the victimhood mindset. Every successful black person or woman who succeeds without their intervention; or by eschewing the victimhood role, is a potential whistleblower exposing the con.
We see this dynamic in the "race-traitor" talk that the left unleashes on any successful black (Clarence Thomas, Condi Rice, Thomas Sowell) or woman who does not conform to holy leftist dogma. We see it in the unmerciful feminist trashing of successful women like Sarah Palin who dare, DARE, to think outside the Marxist feminist box. There is even a carefully constructed socialist food chain that determines how to decide which victim is 'better' than another (i.e., determining which one to support in any conflict so as to optimize political mileage and power).
The entire leftist scam is really quite clever from a psychological perspective. It offers your typical leftist minion who mouths the slogans and mindlessly makes decisions based on race, gender and the proper ideology with positive reinforcement about their moral superiority in "standing up" for the downtrodden and oppressed; while insuring that the downtrodden and oprressed stay that way and remain eternally grateful for the crumbs the left throws their way.
That's why you see leftists and Democrats squealing mightily when any scientific research on the effectiveness or ineffectiveness their lovely programs is proposed:
There's every indication that preferences may be hurting the intended beneficiaries, but affirmative action proponents are struggling mightily to keep the evidence from public view.
Who the hell cares as long as those beautifully conceived (but infantalizing and dependency-promoting programs) continue to stoke the moral righteousness and sense of superiority of the oh so compassionate leftist elite? Science? We don't need no stinkin' science--we know we're right; we feel it deeply. Creationists have nothing over these leftist true believers.
Steele is very kind to call it "subtle racism" (I suspect he believes that the left means well), but it is actually a particulary virulent form of overt racism--or sexism as the case may be.
Racism and sexism certainly exist in our society today, but the political left has merely hidden its own deeply entrenched ideological racism and sexism under a cloak of perverse moral posturing. When they open the cloak in the exhibitionistic style to which we have all become accustomed, they only manage to expose the ugliness, hate and prejudice of their own souls.
Stossel notes, and I wholeheartedly agree with him: There is black privilege -- and white privilege. It's time to stop complaining about past discrimination and to treat people as individuals, not as members of a certain race.