The ‘last real Negus alive’ attacks Buttigieg with ‘wokeness’
By now it should be clear: Michael Harriot, the self-described “last real Negus alive,” doesn’t have anything of substance to say about Pete Buttigieg, a leading Democratic presidential candidate; he just wants to write something that sounds “woke.” And to pick a Twitter fight over the rather bland, innocuous and unremarkable statements Buttigieg made almost a decade ago seems to be just that: Much ado about nothing.
But it gets worse. In the process of writing his bombastic, and yet typical, screed about a “white man of privilege that doesn’t get how black people were broken by racism,” Harriot completely omitted the real reasons Buttigieg is totally failing to attract black voters: His actual record over the past decade as mayor of South Bend, Ind.
A quick recap: Buttigieg fired Darryl Boykins, South Bend’s first black police chief, for recording (over a police telephone line) several white officers under his command making racist remarks about blacks, including the chief himself. Then, the City of South Bend had to settle a wrongful termination and discrimination civil lawsuit brought by Boykins for more than $500,000. And if that weren’t messy enough, the city then ended up settling a lawsuit brought by the same racist, white cops, alleging invasion of privacy — also to the tune of a cool half-mil.
The entire sordid affair was shrouded in secrecy, with the recordings at issue still being withheld from public scrutiny to this day. There has been no accountability on behalf of the South Bend police for their behavior regarding the Boykins scandal and several other episodes of police misconduct that have plagued the city.
But all it took was a phone call from the wunderkind future president to mollify Harriot. He was perfectly willing to be pacified by Buttigieg’s star power — failing to realize that what he received was, in essence, an emergency call from a political campaign in full panic over its latest showing of less than 2 percent of black support in South Carolina. The “woke” Harriot is seemingly oblivious to the fact that Buttigieg needs his acknowledgment and approval, not the other way around.
Sadly, this type of showy symbolism is what blacks have come to expect from the Democratic Party. It is what allows liberals to run away with the black vote, time and time again, with nothing to show for it. And this political naivete is what has kept blacks from being taken seriously by either party. In terms of wielding party politics, blacks are punching way below their numerical weight, all the while posing and signifying a fashionable “wokeness” bereft of real perception or effective strategy.
The actual remarks at issue bear consideration: “Kids need to see evidence that education is going to work for them,” Buttigieg said while speaking on a panel dealing with education in 2011. “You’re motivated because you believe that at the end of your education, there is a reward; there’s a stable life, there’s a job. And there are a lot of kids — especially [in] the lower-income, minority neighborhoods, who literally just haven’t seen it work. There isn’t someone who they know personally who testifies to the value of education.”
While Buttigieg’s statement may not reflect the whole truth about the barriers blacks face in terms of realizing beneficial educational goals, it certainly isn’t a lie. As Harriot’s own piece proves, he was considered such an outlier, with respect to his own lower-middle-class family’s emphasis on education, that upon hearing he had been accepted to college, the local drug dealers in his neighborhood took up a collection and awarded him a “hood” scholarship to the tune of almost $8,000, mostly in dollar bills. They then proudly drove him to college in a gleaming white ’65 Caddy bejeweled with gold specks.
Would Harriot’s achievements have been so remarkable in an environment in which successful role models proliferated? Again, he answers his own lack of introspection.
His white high school friend, with whom he attended the “smart kids” classes — meaning, not with the other black kids — grew up to be a lawyer, as both his father and grandfather had been. And yet, Harriot observes, his nameless white friend was rather unremarkable. “He’s sufficiently smart and adequately talented,” Harriot recounts, “but not more than Dee or any one of more than a dozen of my black friends.” Does the reason Harriot considers his white friend’s achievements to be so “unremarkable” have to do with the wealth of role models he may have had available to him?
That someone so “woke” could be so oblivious to the truth in Buttigieg’s statement says more about the political posturing around race than it does about the undeniable harms of racism. Wokeness produces a righteous indignation that can definitely win a Twitter beef. But it does not seem to provoke even the occasional spate of introspection, balance, nuance or even deeper critical analysis that could help blacks win at the voting booth.
Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is the owner and manager of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year. He is the author of “Reawakening Virtues.”
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