Blacks are also still dealing with a culture of illiteracy, which grew out of slavery. I have witnessed this first-hand, and if the example I am about to give earns me an accusation of triggering the racist air siren, never mind dog whistle, then so be it. Many years ago I attended a self-help group for a challenge I was dealing with. People would have meetings at different times and places in Washington, D.C., and often read aloud out of the founding organization’s literature. I attended meetings all over Washington, in black neighborhoods and white ones. And more often than not, blacks had more trouble reading than whites. I don’t care what anyone says, or what it costs me, this is the truth. And it is heartbreaking. To hear an adult struggle through a passage while being encouraged by others — “take your time, you can do it” — is to be confronted with the fruits of 500 years of oppression. Slaves were not allowed to read, and once freed, blacks were discouraged from doing so. The effects are still obvious. It has nothing to do with intelligence. They were just not given basic tools at home and in school.
Conservatives are right when they argue that we are all individuals, and that the best way to pick yourself up in modern America is, well, to pick yourself up. They are equally accurate in observing the insufferable liberal condescension toward black people — that We Are the World smugness that allows lefties to think of themselves as righteous protectors when they are really only bolstering their self-esteem by using black people. Furthermore, conservatives show genuine compassion in their attempt to break teachers unions so that it’s possible to get qualified — and literate — teachers into broken schools. But we would also do well to stop and simply acknowledge that African-Americans suffered a trauma, and traumas take time to recover from — sometimes a lot of time.
This doesn’t mean we have to treat blacks with that horrible, dewy-eyed sadness that the left does — those haloed liberals who can’t approach a black person without offering a quivering apology and a long lecture about how much they love Obama. It also doesn’t mean that we should treat people as members of groups rather than as individuals. I know, that somewhat contradicts what I said earlier about the struggles of the African-American community. But as G.K. Chesterton noted, the healthy mind can hold two seemingly contradictory thoughts — indeed, that is often the way to sanity.
I realize that I’ll most likely be called a racist for even bringing any of this up. Hell, Chris Matthews would call me a racist if I sang “She Loves You.” But if we are all Americans and people of good will, we all have a license to speak freely and honestly about race. Even us Pillsbury dough boys.
Mark Judge is the author of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.