“Black” Culture isn’t Black; “White” Culture isn’t White

Here and elsewhere, I posed what I regard as a fundamental question: Since black underclass behavior – crime and disdain for education, remunerative employment and other bourgeois values in dress, language, sex, religion, etc. – tends strongly to result in adverse outcomes (prison, unemployment, single parenthood) for individuals engaging in that behavior, why do so many blacks do it? After all, in nature, adverse results urge avoidance of the behavior that produced them. Survival depends on it. So why do so many blacks choose what looks to be self-defeating and can be fatal?

 

The answer lies in a part of black culture that now, unlike in the decades before 1960, identifies bourgeois behavior as “white” and, as such, to be avoided. Stated another way, black identification with being, first and foremost, black, constitutes a higher value - even if it means personal pain, suffering and failure - than success in school, in a career, material comfort, etc.

 

But, to be part of that underclass culture, just being black isn’t sufficient. Clearly, anyone with a dark (or even not so dark) skin and African heritage can be called black, regardless of their behavior. No, in addition to the requisites of parentage and history, it’s the dysfunctional behaviors associated with the black underclass, so clearly described by Jason Riley, that have become part and parcel of the concept of blackness that produces such a drag on the broader black society. Of course, many whites behave in much the same way, with much the same results (see, e.g., J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy), but the identification of blackness with those behaviors persists among many black people. To be “black,” one must play the part and that means speaking a certain way, acting a certain way and eschewing behaviors identified as “white.” See, e.g. Riley’s book, Please Stop Helping Us.

 

Finally, this notion of blackness exists strictly in opposition to whiteness. Whatever is identified as “white” must necessarily be opposed as “black” and vice versa. Therefore, if hard work is thought of as “white,” then, to be “black,” one must disdain it. If speaking proper English is considered “white,” then it must be rejected. If making good grades is “white,” then bad grades are the way to go. And on and on.

 

Needless to say, this is so much nonsense. The idea that a critical mass of black people rejects hard work, education, etc. is simply untrue, as is the notion that all whites embrace them. Bourgeois values don’t begin and end at the borders of white communities. Many black communities are perfectly orderly, sensible, safe and sound and many white communities aren’t. And even the highest-crime black neighborhoods have plenty of residents who cleave strongly to those “white” values. To be blunt, “black” culture isn’t black and “white” culture isn’t white, but many people insist on the dichotomy.

 

Today’s narratives of “blackness” and “whiteness” are mythologies. They may be the unintended consequences of the success of the civil rights movement and racial integration – an anxiety on the part of blacks about losing their unique and in many ways brilliant culture that not only sustained them throughout slavery and the long era of Jim Crow, but is simply valuable in itself.

 

After all, black culture flourished in large part due to segregation that, to a great extent, sealed off the two communities and their cultures from each other, allowing (requiring) blacks to create their own institutions, art, music, religious practices, etc. Integration, assimilation with white culture, posed an obvious threat to that beautiful, protective, creative, nurturing thing. Plus, it’s not as if blacks recently invented the notion of separate and opposed cultures. For all those generations of slavery and Jim Crow, black and white cultures were factually separate, different and, in many ways, opposed, and viewed as such. Today’s underclass black culture simply continues a tradition that may be called racist, but can’t be called original.

 

Whatever the genesis of those mythologies, that is what they are. Like all mythology, they’re often at odds with applicable facts (no, Daedalus and Icarus didn’t actually fashion wings and fly; and no, the police are not hunting down black people and slaughtering them because they’re black). They exist for other reasons – to teach a lesson (the moderation of Daedalus, not the extremism of Icarus, is the way to freedom) or to provide a sense of community by creating a common enemy.

 

The point being that preserving that sense of black community, of uniqueness, looks to me like the perceived “greater good” that’s served by the rejection of bourgeois values as “white” by a broad segment of black society.

 

And let’s be clear, that’s a powerful force, one not destined to end any time soon, if ever. And let’s be equally clear about one other thing: however effective the rejection of “white” culture is at solidifying “black” culture, it will never help equalize black-white disparities that are supposedly of such importance to BLM, the woke and others. In fact, it does the opposite. Face it, nowhere and at no time in human history have the values of sloth and ignorance led to societal success. That’s not a white thing, it’s a universal human thing.

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