When my grandfather grew up, white people told him he wasn’t good enough, but black people said he was. When my father grew up, white people told him he couldn’t compete, but black people said he could. So imagine my confusion when I saw blacks celebrating the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision affirming that blacks are indeed not good enough to get into the University of Michigan Law School.
It’s ironic. Forty years after the Civil Rights Act was proposed in Congress, liberals insist blacks are incapable of meeting the same standards as whites. It’s conservatives who believe in the limitless potential of blacks.
Today, blacks are the CEOs of American Express, AOL/Time Warner and Merrill Lynch. Oprah Winfrey is a billionaire and Colin Powell is Secretary of State. This is not my grandfather’s America.
Too many blacks do remain oppressed, but not by white Americans. Rather, it is by blacks who relish a perverse sub-culture of low standards and perpetual victimization. No longer do white racists tell black children books are for white people. Today, black people do this. Every day, black children suffer ridicule and disgrace for doing their homework, behaving in class, striving for excellence — in short, “acting white.”
And within the perimeters of this black sub-culture, success is exalted only when it is earned in sports, music, dance, and in the Democratic Party. Should a black person succeed in other arenas, for example becoming secretary of state, Supreme Court justice or national security advisor, he or she is exiled from the race, his or her racial identity revoked.
Within this sub-culture, blacks have narrowly defined the path to success and equate “black” with “victim.” Condoleezza Rice? Not a victim, ergo not black. President Bill Clinton played the victim and was declared “the first black president.”
Other communities suffer systematic discrimination: Koreans, Chinese, Latinos and Jews, to name a few. But within these communities people encourage each other to go to school, get good grades and go to college. In some communities not earning a graduate degree is shameful. Only within the black community is academic or entrepreneurial success openly chastised.
Liberal black elites should stop preaching the rhetoric of perpetual oppression and encouraging all black people to be victims. Black leaders have done in 40 years what white people could not do in 400; they’ve made us accept inferior status.
It is time they told the truth about which blacks affirmative action helps. Affirmative action helps the children and the grandchildren of Jesse Jackson, John Conyers and Al Sharpton who have the money for the SAT prep courses, private schools and the clout to call the deans of admission should something go awry. Moreover, they all have the alumni status to get their children into their colleges and universities. Ironically, they all are able to do for their children what they complain that many white Americans have done routinely and systemically for generations.
It is time for liberal black leaders to stop hiding behind racism and admit that our priorities as a community have become our greatest hurdle to achieving long-term success. They must stop dismissing successful blacks, regardless of party affiliation, as exceptions in an otherwise victim-rich race. They must stop blaming white Americans for the sins of the past and set goals for the future. Most white Americans live in the 21st century; it is time more black Americans joined them.
Distributed nationally on the Knight-Ridder Tribune wire.