Monday, July 22, 2013
"The verdict that declared George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin was a traumatic event for America's civil-rights establishment, and for many black elites across the media, government and academia. When you have grown used to American institutions being so intimidated by the prospect of black wrath that they invent mushy ideas like "diversity" and "inclusiveness" simply to escape that wrath, then the crisp reading of the law that the Zimmerman jury displayed comes as a shock.
On television in recent weeks you could see black leaders from every background congealing into a chorus of umbrage and complaint. But they weren't so much outraged at a horrible injustice as they were affronted by the disregard of their own authority. The jury effectively said to them, "You won't call the tune here. We will work within the law."
Today's black leadership pretty much lives off the fumes of moral authority that linger from its glory days in the 1950s and '60s. The Zimmerman verdict lets us see this and feel a little embarrassed for them. Consider the pathos of a leadership that once transformed the nation now lusting for the conviction of the contrite and mortified George Zimmerman, as if a stint in prison for him would somehow assure more peace and security for black teenagers everywhere. This, despite the fact that nearly one black teenager a day is shot dead on the South Side of Chicago—to name only one city—by another black teenager."
Shelby Steele thinks that diversity and inclusion is a "mushy" idea.--- How quaint and ironic, since his own immediate family is a model of diversity.--- As usual he misses the point entirely. Had one of those black teenagers murdered another one and was on the scene when police arrived with literally a smoking gun in his hand, he would have been cuffed and arrested on the spot. He then would have been charged with the death of Trayvon Martin, and rightfully so.
George Zimmerman was not even charged, and it took outrage and pressure from the civil rights leadership Shelby pontificates about to even get an arrest in the case.
Sadly, Shelby Steele is celebrating Zimmerman's acquittal as if he somehow benefits from a killer who profiled and took the life of a young man walking free. (Maybe he does. The House Negro business is good.) Steele is just as guilty of doing what he accuses those on the "civil rights establishment" of doing. The difference is, of course, that Shelby Steele advocates for the status quo and a return to a time in this country (what he calls the "glory days") when questioning the actions of a sheriff's department in a small Southern town was unheard of. For him to write that the "civil-rights establishment" could "intimidate" what he calls "American institutions" just goes to show you how delusional he is.
I suppose that it has never occurred to Mr. Steele that one of the reasons there are so many killings in places like Chicago in the first place is because black life has been so devalued. The scary thing about Steele is that unlike Thomas Sowell and other conservative black thinkers, he has actually made some interesting and provocative points about race relations in the past. "The Content of Our Character" is still one of the best books ever written on race relations in America. But sadly, as he continues to live in his ivory tower and conservative cocoon in Northern California, Shelby Steele has become increasingly detached and isolated from what is going on in the rest of America. Like other right wing republicans, he continues to hold up a few civil rights leaders like Rev Al. Sharpton and Jessie Jackson as being the driving force behind any social movement for justice in this country. This, of course, is no longer the case. The thousands of people who marched this weekend did not do it because they wanted to get a better look at Rev. Al's suit. They did it because they felt moved to get up and march because they know that "American institutions" cannot be easily intimidated.
"Why did the civil-rights leadership use its greatly depleted moral authority to support Trayvon Martin? This young man was, after all, no Rosa Parks—a figure of indisputable human dignity set upon by the rank evil of white supremacy. Trayvon threw the first punch and then continued pummeling the much smaller Zimmerman. Yes, Trayvon was a kid, but he was also something of a menace. The larger tragedy is that his death will come to very little. There was no important principle or coherent protest implied in that first nose-breaking punch. It was just dumb bravado, a tough-guy punch.
The civil-rights leadership rallied to Trayvon's cause (and not to the cause of those hundreds of black kids slain in America's inner cities this very year) to keep alive a certain cultural "truth" that is the sole source of the leadership's dwindling power. Put bluntly, this leadership rather easily tolerates black kids killing other black kids. But it cannot abide a white person (and Mr. Zimmerman, with his Hispanic background, was pushed into a white identity by the media over his objections) getting away with killing a black person without undermining the leadership's very reason for being.
"The purpose of today's civil-rights establishment is not to seek justice, but to seek power for blacks in American life based on the presumption that they are still, in a thousand subtle ways, victimized by white racism. This idea of victimization is an example of what I call a "poetic truth." Like poetic license, it bends the actual truth in order to put forward a larger and more essential truth—one that, of course, serves one's cause.
In the Zimmerman/Martin case the civil-rights establishment is fighting for the poetic truth that white animus toward blacks is still such that a black teenager—Skittles and ice tea in hand—can be shot dead simply for walking home. But actually this establishment is fighting to maintain its authority to wield poetic truth—the authority to tell the larger society how it must think about blacks, how it must respond to them, what it owes them and, then, to brook no argument."
"Poetic truths succeed by casting themselves as perfectly obvious: "America is a racist nation"; "the immigration debate is driven by racism"; "Zimmerman racially stereotyped Trayvon." And we say, "Yes, of course," lest we seem to be racist. Poetic truths work by moral intimidation, not reason." [Source]
Mr. Steele, with all due respect, without "moral intimidation" you would be driving Stanford University students to school and not lecturing them.