The civil rights movement was born out of an intense struggle to enjoy those basic human rights we associate with happiness.
Early leaders of the movement settled on the theory that American society was primarily characterized by racism and that American institutions were grounded in the maintenance of racial privilege. Many of the black politicians who swept into office on the heels of the movement consciously embodied this organizing principle.
Their legislative remedies were predicated on the belief that the problems of black people, whether high crime rates, drug use, poor educational performance, etc., were, primarily, if not entirely, the result of white racism. Their obligation was to promote and protect their constituents by offering remedies to specific aspects of racial discrimination (i.e., segregated schools, disparity in pay, public accommodations, etc.). In other words, they wedded their legitimacy to the belief that all the problems confronting blacks were rooted in racism.
To this day, many black officeholders depend on the perception of ongoing, widespread racism in order to remain competitive in the electoral process. They underplay the dramatic improvements in economic and social status experienced by blacks over the last 40 years. Large numbers of their constituents, particularly those who came of age during the overt racism of the past half-century, continue to believe that the problems confronting the black lower class stem primarily from racism.
Herein lies the greatest missed opportunity of the civil rights movement. They never prepared for the day when America would find the moral compass to embrace minorities as their equals. Their entire public image, their very legitimacy as political and cultural spokesmen, was predicated on the rhetoric of a black-versus-white war. As Justice Clarence Thomas once observed, the civil rights revolution missed a larger point by merely changing the status of minorities from invisible to victimized.
Tragically, this point was also missed by the pop culture, which glorifies images of black misogyny, violence and victimization. We hold up gansta rappers as models of achievement. Hey, they’re just keeping it real, we say. Meanwhile, our children stare at these sociopaths with adoring eyes. They emulate their mean sense of entitlement, their broken English and their violence, because this is what the popular culture tells us it means to be black. How tragic!
Armstrong Williams is on Sirius/XM Power 169, 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m., Monday through Friday. Become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arightside, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/arightside.