October 18, 2005

On the quality of popular writing by conservative academics

I'm still on hiatus, but this article by John McWhorter, which I found via Arts & Letters Daily, enrages me:

White do-gooders did for black America

As it quickly became clear that there was a certain demographic skew among the people stranded in New Orleans, journalists began intoning that Hurricane Katrina had stripped bare the continuing racial inequity in America. [...] The civics lesson, we are to think, is that the civil rights revolution left a job undone in an America still hostile to black advancement.

In fact, white America does remain morally culpable — but because white leftists in the late 1960s, in the name of enlightenment and benevolence, encouraged the worst in human nature among blacks and even fostered it in legislation. The hordes of poor blacks stuck in the Superdome last week wound up there not because the White Man barred them from doing better, but because certain tragically influential White Men destroyed the fragile but lasting survival skills poor black communities had maintained since the end of slavery. [...]

In 1966, however, a group of white academics in New York developed a plan to bring as many people onto the welfare rolls as possible. Across the country, poor blacks especially were taught to apply for living on the dole even when they had been working for a living, and by 1970 there were 169% more people on welfare nationwide than in 1960.

This was the first time that whites or blacks had taught black people not to work as a form of civil rights. Politicians and bureaucrats jumped on the new opportunity for political patronage and votes, and welfare quickly became a programme that essentially paid young women to have children. [...]

You would think that an allegation of this type might name a single person, just one influential white academic who went around telling black people they ought to sign up for welfare. Hell, even a footnote! Instead, we are subjected to the same vague, unsourced, unnamed allegations that so thoroughly characterise conservative American discourse. White liberal academics did this, white liberals academics did that... The Elitist Left Wing conspiracy strikes again!

I know for a fact that McWhorter is capable of documenting his claims, I read his book. If I alleged that a group of radical black nationalists had the level of influence he's claiming white liberal academics have, I'd either be labeled a racist or a fool.

Posted 2005/10/18 11:07 (Tue) | TrackBack