There’s a great article by Shelby Steele in the Wall St. Journal on the decline and decay of the American civil rights movement, a fall made almost inevitable by its very success. And, on the so-called leaders of today’s movement, Steele nails the real reasons they went after George Zimmerman: to pretend they’re still relevant and to keep their power over society.
The civil-rights leadership rallied to Trayvon’s cause (and not to the cause of those hundreds of black kids slain in America’s inner cities this very year) to keep alive a certain cultural “truth” that is the sole source of the leadership’s dwindling power. Put bluntly, this leadership rather easily tolerates black kids killing other black kids. But it cannot abide a white person (and Mr. Zimmerman, with his Hispanic background, was pushed into a white identity by the media over his objections) getting away with killing a black person without undermining the leadership’s very reason for being.
The purpose of today’s civil-rights establishment is not to seek justice, but to seek power for blacks in American life based on the presumption that they are still, in a thousand subtle ways, victimized by white racism. This idea of victimization is an example of what I call a “poetic truth.” Like poetic license, it bends the actual truth in order to put forward a larger and more essential truth—one that, of course, serves one’s cause. Poetic truths succeed by casting themselves as perfectly obvious: “America is a racist nation”; “the immigration debate is driven by racism”; “Zimmerman racially stereotyped Trayvon.” And we say, “Yes, of course,” lest we seem to be racist. Poetic truths work by moral intimidation, not reason.
If these “leaders” truly cared about the condition of Blacks in America more than they do about their next appearance in front of the cameras, they’d start doing something about the devastation of the Black family, in which, as Steele points out, 73% of all Black children are born without fathers married to their mothers.
But they don’t. They’re wedded to an outdated vision of America and the power exploiting that vision gives them.
PS: Steel expounds on this theme of the decay of the civil rights movement and the exploitation of victimization in his “White Guilt,” which I highly recommend.
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)