There’s a post by Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic that I think deserves more attention than it will probably receive. I find it troubling and largely true. The post is part of an ongoing dialogue between Mr. Coates and Jonathan Chaits on the prevailing progressive view of the pathologies that afflict the black community, epitomized in the president’s “My Brothers Keeper” initiative. The core of Mr. Coates’s argument is that none of the so-called pathologies to which people point arose in a vacuum:
And we do not find an era free of white supremacy in our times either, when the rising number of arrests for marijuana are mostly borne by African-Americans; when segregation drives a foreclosure crisis that helped expand the wealth gap; when big banks busy themselves baiting black people with “wealth-building seminars” and instead offering “ghetto loans” for “mud people”; when studies find that black low-wage applicants with no criminal record “fared no better than a white applicant just released from prison”; when, even after controlling for neighborhoods and crime rates, my son finds himself more likely to be stopped and frisked. Chait’s theory of independent black cultural pathologies sounds reasonable. But it can’t actually be demonstrated in the American record, and thus has no applicability.
I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg. IMO AFDC destroyed the black family in ways that slavery never could. Oppression evokes resistance in a way that responding to incentives does not. Without taking a breath, I could probably produce a dozen different ways that anti-black racism is operative today, not just in the form of overt racism but in the actions of the very nicest people.
That’s not to say that I don’t think there are actual cultural problems in the black community. I do agree with Mr. Coates that these problems didn’t arise in a vacuum and the context needs to considered as well as the consequences. It isn’t simply poverty—there are distinctive problems in the black community that aren’t factors among other ethnic or racial communities that are equally poor.
Perhaps we can start some discussion on this subject. What do you think of Mr. Coates’s post? We don’t have a time machine. How do we solve these problems on a day-forward basis?