America, did you ever read something right before you went to bed and find yourself waking up in the middle of the night by the sound of someone laughing only to realize that, even in your sleep, you’re still tickled?
That happened to me last night.
Witness post A. from Ned Williams in which he bemoans the fact that everyone is picking on poor Bill O’Reilly for being surprised that black people can order ice tea without shouting “motherfucker” (which, come one, everyone knows black people only shout “motherfucker” when ordering sweet tea). And then he sides with Juan Williams talking about how these black kids today are just embracing that rap music and that ghetto culture and lives of thugginess and crime.
And then post B. in which he bashes liberals for being wrong about how many black men go to prison. It turns out, I guess (I didn’t check his sources), that more black young men go to college, many more black young men go to college, than go to prison.
So, which is it? Are black kids being ruined by rap music and lead astray into lives of crime or are black kids going to college? Or are they sneekily going to college to learn how to become better criminals, because they are smart enough to formulate such a devious plan but too stupid to not get that rap music you hear on the radio is describing a pretend world designed to appeal to and sell to white high school and college age boys?
See, and this is a crucial mistake folks make. Most of the rap music a non-rap fan is going to encounter is selling a fantasy about black people to white people. We are not, in spite of what the marketers of said fantasy tell us (i.e. the rappers themselves), hearing a direct pipeline to the mean streets of ghetto America, some documentary of poor black life.
You know why?
Because no one would buy album after album of “I sat around on my grandma’s couch today because it was too hot to move and the air conditioner’s broke” or “Donnie and me walked all over the neighborhood today looking for trouble, but there wasn’t anything going on” or “I went to the grocery store and ran into that girl from down the street.”
Because we white people do that same shit.
We want a fantasy of black people in which they’re all striving criminals who, though they lead cool lives (at least until they’re shot or go to prison), in the end deserve for us to treat them badly. We want to feel justified in our fear.
That’s why, I think, people are so upset with O’Reilly, because that’s exactly what he does. He, as much as any white person, is constantly interacting with all kinds of black people, from Juan Williams to Al Sharpton to Condoleeza Rice. He moves in circles with millionaire black folks. He works in a city full of all kinds of ordinary folks who are black.
And yet, when he thinks of black people, he’s bitching about Luda, Twista, and Snoop AND THEN turning around and acting surprised that all black people don’t act like those three guys pretend to act in order to sell albums to white people.
O’Reilly takes at face value an act that resonates with him (which, I would argue, is at some level specifically designed to resonate with him) and assumes not only that it’s not an act, but that it is not only true of the rappers he’s familiar with, but is true of most black people.
Because he assumes he’s too clever to be played, he cannot see how he’s being played, and thus makes an ass of himself.
Which brings me back to Ned Williams.
Ned, I’m going to lay some truth on you. You say, “If we can’t even agree on (or get the Left to acknowledge) the problems . . . how can we expect to come to any solutions?” You have a long row to hoe if you want to be taken seriously by black people. White people, especially white men, do not get to decide when a problem concerning black America is a “we” problem and when it’s a “they” problem, BECAUSE WE HAVE NO CREDIBILITY.
No credibility at all.
I mean, Ned, bless your heart, here you are trying to talk about race and how racist liberals are and you use the term “race-baiting.” Do you know what that says to people? That you don’t have a clue.
Just try, for a second, to see this from the perspective of a black person. For the whole history of the United States, white people have been performing grand social experiments on black people. We’ve been breaking up families; we’ve been telling them if they can have children, and, if so, with whom; we’ve been keeping at least some of the population in captivity and using the fear of captivity as a way of terrorizing the rest of the population; we’ve sterilized women without their consent; we’ve made men sick and withheld cures from them; it’s only been within our parents’ lifetimes that we’ve removed the legal barriers to their full participation as citizens in this country.
And Ned, though a small group of white people did that stuff because they were evil, most white people did that stuff and went along with that stuff because they really believed, in their deepest hearts, that they were doing what was best for black people.
Our whole history has been a series of white people doing what they thought was best for black people, what they thought was right, and most of the shit we’ve done has been devistatingly bad (to put it mildly).
So, see what I’m saying? We have no credibility. We have no room to turn around and say, “Oh, hey, this time we’ve been looking in on you and watching how you do things and this time we clearly see what the problems are and so this time you have nothing to fear from the steps we’ll take to fix it.” Because almost every time we step in to fix things, we fuck things up.
Because we make no effort to actually understand real black people. We don’t search out their voices. We just assume that what hits us on the tv or the radio or even Time magazine must be the unfiltered truth.
And we’re wrong.
You’re a smart enough guy to get that.