Let us hear no more about how liberals have some corner on believing far-reaching conspiracy theories after Nathan Moore’s post today in which he floats the idea that the AP is running a story about how it’s hard for people without access to jobs, education, and money to rise up out of poverty as punishment for Tennessee electing Bob Corker instead of Harold Ford, Jr. Not that it’s hard for folks to rise up out of poverty as punishment for Corker–that would be a conspiracy theory– but that the AP is running unflattering stories about Tennessee to punish us.
As they say, whoo doggie.
But Moore raises some points, and I’d like to address them. I just have one question for him first: When do black people finally get credit for accurately assessing their circumstances and making the best decisions they can based on what’s going on around them? In other words, when do you start taking black people at their word instead of just assuming that they’re lying?
According to the Tennessean, Reverend James "Tex" Thomas said, "They seem to think this is level playing ground for blacks, but the record shows that we’ve not moved any further than 45 years ago to this very day."
Moore says, "Many who are in the best place to effectuate change are those holding on to the battles of the past, which have largely been won, and are ignoring the problems of the present, which have yet to even remotely be addressed."
Thomas, a veteran of the Civil Rights movement says there’s still a problem. Moore says those battles have largely been won. Is Thomas an idiot, too stupid to see that the only thing holding blacks back now are the problems within the black community, because whites have totally changed? Or is Thomas a liar, deliberately misleading his flock and the rest of the black community about the reality of the problems facing them?
What about Marilyn Robinson, president of the Nashville NAACP? Idiot or liar?
Just think on that.
Meanwhile, let us ask, who is at the heart of the problems of the present ("which have yet to even remotely be addressed")?
Black unwed mothers!
Yes, I know. You are shocked.
A white man thinks the problem with black culture is that black women are promiscuous and that their immorality is what has caused all of the problems in the black community. Moore traces this problem with black women back to LBJ–"The plain truth is that since the Great Society a decade earlier, the percentage of out-of-wedlock births has only gotten worse." He’s not the only one.
And yet, one might note that the only reason that license plate works as a joke, is that the cultural stereotype of black women as immoral hussies was already firmly rooted in American culture.
There never has been a moment in American history when the cries of "But everyone knows the real problem is that black women are just big ole sluts!" has not been heard.
You know, I have this problem with Kleinheider, too, bless his heart. Conservatives, you’d think would be in love with history. And yet, so many of them seem shockingly ignorant of it. Here’s Moore, advancing the idea that black women are to blame for all that’s wrong with black culture like it’s new!
Seriously, folks, it about makes me want to put my head down on my desk and weep for the future of America. Will we still be saying this same old dumbass crap in fifty years? One hundred years? How long are black women going to be to blame for everything that’s wrong with our society?
I don’t think Moore thinks he’s racist. In fact, I’m going to stand here before you and tell you that I believe Moore’s heart is in the right place. He sees what he perceives to be a problem, which he perceives has not been openly talked about before, and he thinks he’s being daring and helpful by pointing it out.
But folks, this is what I mean by everything we do being tainted by our past, by the legacy of racism. Look how much Moore’s post hinges on ancient racist baggage we all carry around with us:
The promiscuous black woman–"The abyssmally entitled article that ran this morning never once mentions the word ‘wedlock’, ‘married’, or ‘single mothers’. The plain and marked advocacy in this article is so focused on the supposed mouthpieces who haven’t done a damn thing that it forgets to offer any solutions to the real problem."
The black male body as commodity, and therefore their ability to be real fathers affected by market forces–the "welfare state actually preempted the need for fathers, reducing demand and creating less of them"
The black man as dangerous brute— "a child born to an unwed mother was 2.5 times more likely to end up imprisoned, versus 1.5 times for a boy whose parents split up when he was a teenager."
Black people as childlike and easily lead astray by pastors or politicians or whoever–"stems from the lack of a stable child rearing environment, largely brought on by policies advocated by those who cry the loudest about the problem."
God, this post really seemed like it was going somewhere kick-ass, didn’t it?
It’s just that I’ve been thinking about this some more. I think Moore can be a little cocky and self-righteous for my taste, but I do think he thinks he’s stumbled on to the real solution to a very real problem. In other words, I disagree with him on a million levels, but I don’t doubt his sincerity.
Here’s the thing, though, America. I’m kind of stuck. On the one hand, Moore’s regurgitation of traditional white beliefs about African Americans and their "real" problems pisses me off. And because I feel angry and powerless against him, I do kind of want to spend the next four posts just making fun of him, like "Ha, ha, dumbass. You think you’re so smart, but really, you’re just spouting the same old racist crap white men always spout and calling yourself clever for it."
But what good does that do?
Also, look at some of the other stuff he says:
Today the illegitimacy rate among blacks in the United States sits at an astounding 70%. The source of the poverty problem is not a lack of rights, as every American no matter what their melanin content now enjoys more rights today than ever before (to include abortion, which from a liberal point of view ought to itself address higher illegitimacy rates, but has not), but instead stems from the lack of a stable child rearing environment, largely brought on by policies advocated by those who cry the loudest about the problem. [emphasis mine]
Do you see the problem? Moore thinks he can imagine my point of view–that we liberals think abortion is a cure for illegitimacy–and he’s wrong.
What is that? The impulse, to imagine what others who are not you must be thinking and feeling, is a good one, but when you’re so far off the mark, when the impulse is good, how do you know?
But let’s just take this paragraph. First, he says that the illegitimacy rate among blacks is 70%. What does that mean? That 70% of all black people alive in the United States right now were born to unwed mothers? Or that 70% of black babies born this year are to unwed mothers? I think he means the latter, but according to the Census data, that’s actually not true. Roughly 80% of first time African American mothers are unwed (see here). Now, Moore seems to believe that all these women run around bed-hopping from man to man, never giving their sons the stable presence of a man they need in order to flourish.
And yet the Census data tells a slightly different story.
In 1996, there were just under twelve million black children. About four million of them were living with their married biological parents. Just over two hundred thousand of them were living with their unmarried biological parents. Half a million were living with a biological parent and a married step parent. All in all, just over four million of them were living with two parents–about 38% of children. Grandparents are helping take care of children in 42% of households. Even if we stand back and let Moore define a family as something other than a woman and her kids, black people form families in which to raise children.
But I don’t understand the claim that women and children aren’t families. Why does a man have to be present for it to count as a real family?
Which brings me to my next point: It’s been a long, long time since anyone has argued that black people don’t have rights. Even the civil rights movement was not about "granting" rights to black people; it was about forcing white people, especially white people in power, to recognize black people’s inherent rights and to respect the laws designed to ensure that. It doesn’t matter if, in theory, everyone has equal rights. It matters whether that’s true on the ground. Can black people get fair rates on mortgages? Can they get their kids into college? Can they get the promotions they deserve? Etc.
I am a liberal. I’m pro-choice. I don’t give a shit if every black person in America is "illegitimate." It’s not my business. I don’t view abortion as some tool for controlling "illegitimacy" because I don’t give a shit about whether or not a woman is married when she chooses to have a baby. I just want her to have that real choice. I just don’t share Moore’s concern that whether someone’s mom was married when he came out of her vagina has some huge impact on whether he’ll be a criminal.
I just don’t think that’s true. I watch people I love do shit I know gets black men thrown in prison and no one in my family has been any more inconvenienced than spending a night or two in jail. Were my loved ones blessed solely because their parents were married when they were born? Or are they lucky because they’re white?
But see, I don’t know how to begin to talk to Moore about those things. I want to start with "What black women do with their own bodies we don’t get a say in that, no matter how well meaning we think we are this time. Fair or unfair, we have no credibility left on the subject and it’s not our business." and just have him get that much.
That would feel like something, and yet that’s not coming.
I know some of you are thinking "When can we just get past this racism crap? Why can’t black people just accept that I’m not racist and get over it?" Here is my question for you. Say I kicked you as hard as I could every time I saw you. You got married. I kicked your wife. You called the cops. They laughed. You had a kid. I kicked it. I told my kids to kick you and your kids. I’m a fucking nut when it comes to kicking you. I’ve got no good reason for it. Shoot, I do it because it’s fun. Sometimes, I laugh and I promise I’m not going to kick you any more, but then I see you at the movies and, bam, I just can’t help myself. I’m kicking away.
Would you warn your grandkids about me? Would your grandkids, who have heard these stories and seen your scars, and even witnessed on occasion my kids kicking your kids, be justified in being wary of my family?
Would their grandkids? Even if my great-great grandkids swore they never kicked anyone and would certainly not kick your great-great grandkids? Or would my family’s credibility pretty much be shot?