Black elites and their repudiation of the American Dream

I was scanning the list of left-wing organizations that are being paid to come to Washington today and pretend they're a popular uprising, and the two major civil rights organizations, the NAACP and the National Urban League, along with the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition, are slated to attend.

I didn't see Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network on the list. Given their recent audit, maybe they can't afford it. I can’t imagine a crowd of the faux-oppressed gathering anywhere in the country without him being in the thick of it, especially when there are television cameras and microphones involved, so I expect he’ll be there, too.

What caught my attention, however, was that, along with the usual radical suspects, the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, Communist Party USA (CPUSA), Democratic Socialists of America, and the International Socialist Organization were also on board. I was at once angry and disheartened to see the self-anointed black leadership once again aligning with forces that are contemptuous of and destructive to the American way of life.

I have often said that the single most critical reason for the pathologies that still plague far too many in the black community is the diminution of the black family. One of the primary causal factors contributing to the breakdown of the black family, however, is the infatuation of black elites with socialism, Marxism and communism, an obsession dating back to the post-Reconstruction era. These failed ideologies are the diametric opposite of the American ethos, and our embrace of them has kept us separated from the opportunity and ascendancy available to us as Americans.

In short, the black elites have led us down a path that is indisputably un-American, and unlike every other racial, religious or ethic minority that came to this country, regardless of how they got here, we are not fully assimilated into the nation that is our home. That is ironic given that, with the exception of its original inhabitants, we’ve been here longer, and have more invested in the establishment and expansion of this nation than practically any other minority group.

In the beginning, the black community lived in the presence of giants. Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington were men of education and eloquence, and they understood the future of blacks in America, and the future of America as a whole, were inexorably linked. Despite the horrors of slavery, they were fully invested in the American Dream, and believed it was within the reach of newly emancipated blacks.

They understood what French nobleman Alexis de Tocqueville grasped, that Americans were “the freest people in the world”, a status achieved by their inherent belief in individual liberty and self-governance, with limited governmental oversight to protect life, liberty and private property; free enterprise as the individual’s practical expression of his or her liberty; and voluntary charity, where neighbors, churches and associations came together of their own volition to help others in need.

Collectively, these are the values that give substance to American exceptionalism, a trait born not of blind nationalism, as President Obama once suggested in repudiating our nation’s special place in history and culture, but of a keen awareness that we think, act and believe differently than any other people on the planet.

Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington saw American values as something to embrace. Douglass even broke with his friend and mentor, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, because he was more devoted to the Constitution than Garrison, who considered it the document under which the evil of slavery was practiced, rendering it irrelevant. To Douglass, the Constitution, even before the 13th, 14th and 15 amendments were added, offered sufficient liberties for blacks to thrive.

He did not seek special treatment for blacks, although he was a vigorous defender of their rights as citizens. He understood that government’s intervention to end slavery was nothing more or less than government performing its core function of defending liberty for all, something it should have done from the beginning. As such, he didn’t believe he owed a debt to the federal government for belatedly exercising its constitutional duties, nor did he seek special consideration from the government to compensate for generations of black enslavement. In his famous speech, What the Negro Wants, he was firm and direct in his expectations from American society as it sought to deal with the free blacks in their midst:

What I ask for the Negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us. Gen. Banks was distressed with solicitude as to what he should do with the Negro. Everybody has asked the question, and they learned to ask it early of the abolitionists, "What shall we do with the Negro?"

I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature's plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also.

All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! If you see him on his way to school, let him alone, don't disturb him! If you see him going to the dinner table at a hotel, let him go! If you see him going to the ballot- box, let him alone, don't disturb him! If you see him going into a work-shop, just let him alone,--your interference is doing him a positive injury.

Gen. Banks' "preparation" is of a piece with this attempt to prop up the Negro. Let him fall if he cannot stand alone! If the Negro cannot live by the line of eternal justice, so beautifully pictured to you in the illustration used by Mr. Phillips, the fault will not be yours, it will be his who made the Negro, and established that line for his government. Let him live or die by that. If you will only untie his hands, and give him a chance, I think he will live. He will work as readily for himself as the white man.

Douglass was responding to the policy of General Nathaniel P. Banks toward emancipated blacks, a policy predicated on the notion that they needed to be brought along slowly and their activities regulated in order to prepare them for their newfound freedom. Abolitionist Wendell Phillips disagreed, stating "If there is anything patent in the whole history of our thirty years' struggle, it is that the Negro no more needs to be prepared for liberty than the white man." Douglass took the side of Mr. Phillips, seeing Gen. Banks’ actions as well-meaning but unnecessary meddling in the lives of blacks.

He was a firm believer in the American work ethic, and his standard speeches were often paeans to the value and dignity of work:

"WORK! WORK!! WORK!!! WORK!!!! Not transient and fitful effort, but patient, enduring, honest, unremitting and indefatigable work, into which the whole heart is put."

Frederick Douglass’ impassioned plea for whites to let blacks stand on their own two feet was born of his own life experiences, in which he escaped from slavery and became one of his generation's most stirring orators and authoritative writers. Old photos of Douglass reveal a man of great physical stature with a leonine mass of hair, intense eyes and a strong, angular face.  He overcame incredible odds to become a man of authority and gravitas at a time when blacks were widely believed to be inferior to their white countrymen, even by those who sought to end slavery in America.

Douglass knew that freed blacks only needed the opportunity, and they would take it from there. Witness the observation of Charlotte Forten, daughter of a black abolitionist who went to the South to educate black children:

I never before saw children so eager to learn.... Coming to school is a constant delight and recreation to them. They come here as other children go to play. The older ones, during the summer; work in the fields from early morning until eleven or twelve o’clock, and then come into school, after their hard toil in the hot sun, as bright and anxious to learn as ever.

When blacks were denied learning opportunities after Reconstruction, they established and operated their own schools.

Henry Allan Bullock, author of  the authoritative book on black education, A History of Negro Education in the South from 1619 to the Present, quotes an ex-slave as saying, “If I nebber does do nothing more while I live, I shall give my children a chance to go to school, for I considers education next best thing to liberty.” Bullock noted that “Again and again, when asked what they most desired to improve themselves, blacks put education first.

Booker T. Washington, who after Frederick Douglass’ death became the most prominent black leader in America, was particularly passionate about education, self-help, and industry as the pathway for blacks to become equal heirs to the American Dream. The founder of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama wrote in his book, Up from Slavery:

“I believe that my race will succeed in proportion as it learns to do a common thing in an uncommon manner; learns to do a thing so thoroughly that no one can improve upon what it has done; learns to make its services of indispensable value.”

While acknowledging discrimination, Washington believed, in the modern parlance, that ‘excellence is the best deterrent to racism.’ He said, “No man who continues to add something to the material, intellectual and moral well-being of the place in which he lives is long left without proper reward. This is a great human law which cannot be permanently nullified.”

These men had a tireless commitment to liberty, empowerment and ascendancy for black Americans, and their vision was not one in which they were set apart from the rest of society. To their minds, they had endured generations of bondage, and were the unwitting protagonists of the greatest war in our nation’s history, for the sole purpose of NOT being treated differently than their fellow Americans.

Most importantly, they had an unshakeable faith in their own people. They saw conquerors, not victims. They saw a people that had endured unspeakable evil, yet were still standing. They knew the perseverance and resilience of the black community would sustain them in the darkest of days, and propel them forward as barriers fell and obstacles were overcome. Simply put, they were confident that their fellow black Americans could navigate what Thomas Jefferson called “the boisterous sea of liberty” without being swamped by the waves that inevitably come.

Yet, it is unfathomable to me that any of today’s self-anointed black leaders would declare to American society, “Do nothing with us!” They pay lip service to education and self-help, but do nothing to advance either goal, waiting for someone else to act or, worse, placing other agendas ahead of us taking charge of our own lives and charting our own course.

Their preening sense of entitlement, their constant fanning of bitterness, resentment and envy within the black community, and their insistence that we are owed something because of the unfairness of life and the sins of the past, is embarrassing and unworthy of the great men who first emerged to blaze a trail for the freedmen and women who are our ancestors.

How did we get so far off the path of liberty, opportunity and prosperity?

The answer is simple; we allowed ourselves to be exploited by ideologies and people foreign to the American way of life, and in so doing, we cast ourselves outside the mainstream.

Black elites such as W.E.B DuBois, the co-founder of the NAACP, saw themselves as more enlightened than the rest of the black community, and promoted the concept of a cadre of black intelligentsia that would speak for and direct the actions of the black masses. These “talented tenth”, as DuBois called them, were to be the salvation of black Americans:

“The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men.”

This was anathema to the principle of self-governance that undergirds Americans’ understanding of liberty, free enterprise and limited constitutional government. The leap from government of, by and for the people to the “talented tenth” made the journey from the American ethos to utopian ideologies, like socialism, Marxism and communism, in which enlightened men and women deliver a world of equality and fairness, that much shorter.

Such a world, however, has never existed in human history and never will because it is inimical to the nature of man. We are equal in the sight of God, and He endows us with fundamental yet essential rights by virtue of our humanity – the right to live, to live in freedom, and to freely pursue our dreams with the talents and opportunities he’s given us. That is the essence of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – not the claptrap of “social justice” or “redistributive change” that seeks to manipulate the outcome of our exercises in liberty.

These ideologies in practice seek to pit us against one another based on monetary worth, and to create groups of grievance to justify demands for equality of outcome. The American ethos proclaims your success and failure are in your hands, while the utopian ideologies seek to externalize the responsibility for your failures and declare success as your birthright.

As the planet endured the twin crises of economic depression and world war, the principles of liberty, industry and community that de Tocqueville said set us apart from the aristocracies of Europe were denigrated, and we bought into the false promises of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “freedom from want.”

Unlike our unalienable rights, which are ours from birth, this newly minted “freedom” was to come from the machinations of man in an attempt to correct God’s flaws in providing for all of us. Given the sinful nature of man, it was easy to persuade people that they should have more than they do, and that it’s entirely appropriate to take it from someone else.

In fact, these utopian ideologies are all about man, and have nothing to do with God. Even there, the coercive utopians, as Dr. Mark Cooray calls them, aren’t adverse to manipulating man’s faith in God to achieve their ends. One result is black liberation theology, which takes the inclusive gospel of Christ, who came to save all mankind, and twists it into a battle between the black oppressed and the white oppressors. This false theology exploits the black community’s faith-based roots, permeates the black church to an unacceptable level, and has turned the faith of our ancestors from one of hope to one of division and conflict.

The loser in all of this is the black community, which has been immersed in the false promises of coercive utopians and the false theology of many black churches, thereby separating themselves from the promise of America. In my book, SELLOUT: Musings from Uncle Tom’s Porch, I speak to the need to break free of these chains:

Unless we have aspirations of moving to Africa or creating our own reservations, we are Americans and, as committed as we are to equal justice, we must be equally committed to reconciliation with the nation we call home.

That will require us to embrace the culture that makes America unique while still keeping our sense of identity which sustained us through the dark times in America’s past. We must adopt the American ethos and make it our own.

Professor Arthur C. Brooks, author of The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America’s Future, suggests that Americans may be genetically predisposed to free enterprise and its characteristics of high risk and high reward. Unlike many indigenous populations around the world, America is a land of immigrants, and by leaving their homelands to come here, they have already demonstrated a propensity for risk-taking. Immigrants continue to come here at the rate of over a million a year, and those are just the ones who arrive legally.

From the moment we became a nation, we were a land of risk-takers, and that is what makes us exceptional. Even African and Caribbean immigrants who come here are boldly pursuing higher education and entrepreneurial opportunities befitting their willingness to take chances. The color of their skin isn’t an obstacle to them seizing the American Dream and realizing it.

Somehow, we have to reclaim the American spirit exhibited by Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, and reject the company of communists, socialists and Marxists, whose seductions have done nothing tangible for us.

Out-of-wedlock birth rates, the black genocide of abortion, substandard school test scores, neighborhoods turned into war zones deadlier than any in Iraq, unacceptably high dropout rates from high school, crime and untimely death are the legacies of these utopian ideologies in the black community.

It’s probably beyond hope to expect the NAACP and other civil rights groups to change their ways; they’ve been immersed in the primordial soup of envy and class warfare for far too long.

The excesses of the Obama Administration, however, have had the unintended side effect of awakening a new breed of black leaders who embrace the American culture in much the same way as Douglass and Washington did in much more difficult times. We have the benefit of their wisdom with much smaller hurdles to leap. 

We must seize the promise now and take our place alongside – not ahead of or over – our fellow Americans. I assure you that no one will have to pay me to attend that kind of rally.