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The New York Sun


Stop the Black KKK

December 06, 2007

By John H. McWhorter

Jason Whitlock has written this year's best column on race.

He's a black sports columnist at, and he is disgusted with much of the black punditocracy's response to the murder of Redskins football player Sean Taylor. Some are claiming that 2 was a target because he was an athlete. Others insist that it is wrong and even racist to bring up that Taylor had spent a lot of time on the wrong side of the law.

But the tacit assumption would appear to be that the staggeringly high murder rate among young black men these days is just the way it is. Mr. Whitlock calls these murders the Black KKK.

Oh sure, if it's brought up people shake their heads. And certainly there are "Stop the Violence" forums and such.

But very few are as truly, lastingly aroused by issues such as these, which involve the black community looking inward, as they are by nooses hung from a tree, someone saying a bad word, or the latest study showing that racism still persists in one way or another in "institutional" guise. No one takes to the streets about the Black KKK, and academics find it much less interesting than, say, a study that some employers reject job applications with black-sounding names.

Friedrich von Hayek once noted, "It seems to be almost a law of human nature that it is easier for people to agree on a negative program—on the hatred of an enemy, on the envy of those better off—than on any positive task." That's Black America's problem right now.

Mr. Whitlock seeks "the outrage and courage it took in the 1950s and 1960s to stop the white KKK from hanging black men from trees." Instead, "we take great joy in prescribing medicine to cure the hate in other people's hearts. Meanwhile, our self-hatred, on full display for the world to see, remains untreated, undiagnosed and unrepentant."

The question Mr. Whitlock leaves, however, is precisely what we are to do about our internal cultural problems. Everybody knows how to protest. And sometimes a protest is necessary. But obviously, protest alone isn't working. How do you actually build something?

For one thing, get a copy of Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint's new book, "Come On People" and read it cover to cover, because it is all about precisely what needs to be done and how to do it. If Mr. Whitlock has written the best race column of the year, Messrs. Cosby and Pousssaint have written the best book.

All black people should read it. The audiobook should be played in barbershops. Maybe somebody needs to set it to some "phat" beats so people can dance to it.

Read of how Joyce Riley's 24th Street Non-Violent Marchers actually got the thugs out of her Kansas City neighborhood. Read about how to get a degree and a job even if you're not on your way to college—step by step. And to top it all off, "Come On People" is a great read.

No, Tavis Smiley's book "The Covenant with Black America" from last year was not the same thing. Reading it you'd barely know the Black KKK existed, and the theme is reform of the system, when the solutions that help people almost always involve working within it. Or, instead of waiting for that great day when all inner city kids are taught by awesome teachers in glimmering buildings, focus on something that can happen in the real world. Become active on your local school board, and simply insist that students are taught to read with phonics-based programs. It's how poor kids learn to read, period. So much starts from there.

Another one: If you're going to vote for a Democratic presidential candidate, vote for the one most interested in things that will help black people to help themselves.

Upon which, note that this person is not Hillary Clinton. The fact that it is even possible that the black electorate will elevate Mrs. Clinton over Barack Obama because of her mere familiarity, or residual affection for her "black president" husband, is frankly a little embarrassing.

Those who say they don't "know" Mr. Obama need to get to know him, now. And if Mr. Obama is "not black enough," I would think that his commitment to reconnecting ex-con dads with their kids, not to mention his days doing community work, would qualify him as, at least, brown.

Mr. Whitlock's point about self-hatred is also key. Currently, in large swathes of the black community, an able-bodied young man who doesn't hold down a 40-hour-a-week job is considered normal even when he has kids. We must get to the point that men like that are considered as socially unacceptable as they are in a Scarsdale living room—as they were even in black slums until the 1970s.

I vary from day to day as to how likely I see it that one day black America will be as committed to helping itself as, say, Israel's first residents were to reviving Hebrew. There is no telling how far we could go if only most of us found reading instruction programs as interesting as nooses.

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