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The iconoclastic Black Republican strategist calls out leaders who fan the flames of racial rhetoric and sabotage a post-racial America
The euphoria surrounding Barack Obama's historic election had commentators naïvely trumpeting the beginning of a "post-racial America." In Blackwards, Ron Christie shows that not only is the opposite true, but black leadership today is effectively working against this goal by advancing an extremist agenda of separatism and special rights that ...
The iconoclastic Black Republican strategist calls out leaders who fan the flames of racial rhetoric and sabotage a post-racial America
The euphoria surrounding Barack Obama's historic election had commentators naïvely trumpeting the beginning of a "post-racial America." In Blackwards, Ron Christie shows that not only is the opposite true, but black leadership today is effectively working against this goal by advancing an extremist agenda of separatism and special rights that threatens to point us backward to the days before Brown v. Board of Education.
The motto E pluribus unum ("Out of one, many") speaks to the idea of a melting pot in which Americans of all backgrounds come together to form a strong, unified nation. But in the race politics of today, Christie argues the American melting pot is threatened by what Pulitzer Prize-winning liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. warned was the "cult of ethnicity," in which social divisions are deepened rather than transcended.
Christie takes on such sacred cows as affirmative action and other race-based educational policies and campus programs that, in the words of former NAACP officer Michael Meyers, place "figurative black-only signs over certain doorways at America's colleges [while] only confirming and reinforcing pernicious racial stereotypes." Meanwhile, the author argues any open debate about such issues has been hijacked by such self-appointed spokesmen for black America as Al Sharpton, who co-opt the public narrative merely by being outspoken and charging racism against anyone who would speak against their political agendas and public grandstanding. Tellingly, it is within this context that then-presidential candidate Obama famously declared he could not disown Reverend Jeremiah Wright for his racist and anti-American sermons any more "than I can disown the black community."
Perhaps most important, Christie reveals how a separatist mind-set has led to a form of selective, skin-based jurisprudence in the federal government, including:
• Attempts by the Congressional Black Caucus to shield black members found to have committed ethics violations
• The Justice Department's sudden dropping of charges against New Black Panther Party members for voter intimidation during the 2008 presidential election
• A former trial attorney's admission that Americans "would be shocked to learn about the open and pervasive hostility within the Justice Department to bringing civil rights cases against non-white defendants on behalf of white victims"
As African Americans face skyrocketing rates of single-parent families and high-school dropouts, the author urges black American communities to shun the limits of the monolithic politics of victimhood and embrace an open debate of many voices en route to the goal not of a separate "Black America" but of constructive inclusion in the American melting pot.
—John McWhorter, noted linguist and New York Times bestselling author of Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America.
"Ron Christie is a spectacular human being! He has a great mind, great courage and isn't afraid of anything. This is a brilliant idea for a book and serves both as a warning and a wake-up call for those who blindly follow people based on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character and strength of their ideas. This is sure to send shockwaves through the Black liberal establishment!"
"Blackwards is a stinging indictment of those determined to play identify politics and, who, at the expense of the American idea, are dividing this nation along lines of race and ethnicity. A must read for anyone open to exploring a different approach on race and politics."
—David Limbaugh, a nationally syndicated columnist, political commentator and New York Times bestselling author
"Ron Christie is a thoughtful conservative and critical thinker. Even when I disagree with his views, I always respect his approach and balance. He is a magnificent and soulful brother with a good heart and sharp mind."
—Michael Eric Dyson, bestselling author and Georgetown University Professor named by Ebony Magazine as one of the hundred most influential Black Americans
“He rightly tackles some of the outsized rhetoric invoked by embattled black politicians.”
Praise for Acting White:
"There is only person who can tell this fellow where he should stand; his name is Ron Christie."
—Chris Matthews, host of The Chris Matthews Show
"Heralds a new capacity for self-examination in black America."
—Shelby Steele, award-winning author of The Content of Our Character and White Guilt
"A must read."
—Juan Williams, New York Times bestselling author of Eyes on the Prize, Enough and Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary
"Christie’s book will send shockwaves through the political establishment."
—Donna Brazile, Democratic strategist and syndicated columnist
1. THE GENESIS OF HEADING BLACKWARDS
When Did America Stray from Equality Under the Law to a Push for Special, Rather than Equal, Rights?
Before we begin our inquiry into why certain black leaders would seek to lead America back to the days of separate, rather than equal rights for African Americans, we must first grapple with a difficult threshold question: What does it mean to be an American citizen today? This question is perhaps more vexing now in the twenty-first century than in the early days of American history, even taking into account that it was only in the latter half of the nineteenth century that blacks were guaranteed citizenship rights and the protections afforded under the Constitution.
In the infamous Dred Scott Supreme Court decision of 1857, the chief justice of the United States offered his rather stark assessment of the rights and liberties of African Americans in the United States in general as well as his particular belief that blacks were not American citizens—whether they were born on American soil or brought to the country involuntarily through slavery. In the relevant section of the opinion, Chief Justice Roger Taney asserted:
The words “people of the United States” and “citizens” are synonymous terms, and mean the same thing. They both describe the political body who, according to our republican institutions, form the sovereignty, and who hold the power and conduct the Government through their representatives. They are what we familiarly call the “sovereign people,” and every citizen is one of this people, and a constituent member of this sovereignty.
The question before us is, whether the class of persons described in the plea [black people] … compose a portion of this people, and are constituent members of this sovereignty? We think they are not, and that they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word “citizens” in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. On the contrary, they were at that time considered as a subordinate … and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them.1
Only in the aftermath of the Civil War would Congress act to clarify the legal status of blacks to preserve both their legal status as citizens as well as their liberties and protections under the Constitution while explicitly rejecting the Dred Scott decision—one which constitutional and legal scholars consider the worst decision ever rendered by the Supreme Court.2
First Congress formally abolished slavery by adopting the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution on December 6, 1865. Next Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, making it federal law that everyone born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power was an American citizen without regard to his or her race, color, or previous condition of either slavery or involuntary servitude. Finally, Congress adopted the Fourteenth Amendment on July 9, 1868, to explicitly overrule the Dred Scott decision by declaring: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”3
Congress took this explicit step of including what came to be known as the Citizenship Clause within the Fourteenth Amendment to quell efforts by opponents who sought to invalidate the Civil Rights Act of 1866 as being unconstitutional. The journey to full equality as citizens of the United States for blacks and other people of color began in the years following the Civil War; some would argue this struggle persists to the present day.
The civil rights era remains one of the brightest reminders of the fulfillment of the promises enshrined in the Declaration of Independence that all men and women are equal and that as American citizens they are guaranteed the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Utilizing the power of words rather than the threat of violence, leaders and supporters of the civil rights movement sought to rebuild an American society in which its citizens were to be treated equally without regard to the color of their skin, ethnicity, or country of origin. And yet, after fighting for so long to be free from the chains of slavery and the oppression endured decade by decade via separate and inherently unequal treatment before the law, a new form of self-segregation began in the days following the civil rights era that has emerged as a potential threat to the stability of our societal fabric today—the desire by some to identify themselves as members of a particular racial and/or ethnic group rather than treasuring the privileges, rights, and responsibilities of being an individual American citizen.
Noted historian and Pulitzer Prize winner Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. likened this new trend that gathered momentum in the 1970s and the 1980s as the “cult of ethnicity,” an abandonment of the vision of America as a melting pot of opportunity in which people set aside their racial or ethnic allegiance to honor their special status of being American citizens. Elaborating on this troubling phenomenon, Schlesinger noted:
But pressed too far, the cult of ethnicity has had bad consequences, too. The new ethnic gospel rejects the unifying vision of individuals from all nations melted into a new race. Its underlying philosophy is that America is not a nation of individuals at all but a nation of groups, that ethnicity is the defining experience for Americans, that ethnic ties are permanent and indelible, and that division into ethnic communities establishes the structure of American society and the basic meaning of American history.4
Before delving into the substance of Schlesinger’s remarks, it should be noted that far from being a conservative or rightward-leaning commentator, Schlesinger’s political ideology was decidedly liberal. For one, Schlesinger had served as a special assistant to President John F. Kennedy from 1961 to 1963 and he wrote a definitive account of the Kennedy presidency entitled A Thousand Days, for which he received his second Pulitzer Prize in 1968. Instead, Schlesinger’s opinion can be said to have been wrought from his front-row seat to power in politics in Washington, D.C., as well as his vocation as an author and social critic—his concern over an evolving “cult of ethnicity” was one that was informed from decades of observation of the American psyche.
To this end, I concur with Schlesinger’s assessment—that a cult of ethnicity has manifested itself in the manner in which people of color in general, and blacks in particular, have identified themselves over the past quarter century. The “Negro” from the 1950s and 1960s later gave way to the nomenclature of “black” as the black power movement took hold in the 1970s. Singer/songwriter James Brown’s song, “Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud,” released in 1968, was a popular anthem of the black power movement during its epoch. This form of self-identification continued into the 1980s and 1990s but suddenly the term “black American” gave way to “African American”—a development, I believe, that has had more negative than positive developments.
Black Americans fought for more than a hundred years to be treated as equals by their fellow citizens, regardless of the color of their skin and/or ethnicity. And yet, as America has moved from the late days of the twentieth century into the twenty-first, there appears to be a disturbing new trend of self-identification based on race that runs counter to all of the blood, sweat, and tears the pioneers of the civil rights era had shed in their hope that one day Americans would be equal under the color of law without regard to the color of their skin or ethnicity—tying us all together in the phrase Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once made famous: “a single garment of destiny.” Instead, the relatively new push for diversity and multiculturalism sensitivity has led more to the garment of destiny—the essence of the fabric of the United States—to fray, rather than knit us more closely together as a society.
Why? Because I agree with Schlesinger’s assessment that certain people of color are placing a premium first and foremost on their identification as members of a specific group rather than accepting the premise that American citizens are comprised of people from a myriad of races that come together to form one individual entity—that of being an American citizen. Furthermore, they seem to regard the term “American” as synonymous with being white rather than denoting an entire group of people brought together by their very diversity. Under this logic, America is not a nation comprised of individual citizens, but rather of people who belong to competing groups with differing goals, beliefs, and ideologies.
This is not a theoretical exercise or conjecture on my part—this is a conflicting reality which I encounter on a daily basis—a twenty-first century embodiment of W. E. B. DuBois’s term “double consciousness,” that is, caught between a self-conception of what it means to be an American as well as being a person of African descent. People in general and blacks in particular are often amazed that I subscribe to the former theory and cringe at my lack of desire to self-identify with the latter. Let me take a moment to explain.
Unequivocally I believe the United States of America is the greatest country on the face of the Earth. Each year, more people try to immigrate to the United States, both legally and illegally, than any other country on the globe. Our democratic principles enshrined in both the Declaration of Independence from English tyranny as well as the Constitution of the United States have served as our guiding moral compass, allowing Americans to live their lives among a democratic government of enumerated powers. Our elections and transitions to and from power are peaceful and conducted with the force of law through the ballot box rather than the force of arms that plague many Third World countries. Millions of people from around the world seek precious few slots to become American citizens every year.
And yet, as I cherish my American citizenship as well as the solidarity shared by millions of my fellow native Californians, I am repeatedly criticized for identifying myself as an American as opposed to an “African American.” Many of my detractors accuse me of being ashamed of my heritage or seeking to deny my African roots. To them I say I can trace my roots to a former slave plantation just outside of Valdosta, Georgia, that is owned by my family members to this very day. Generations ago, the same plantation was worked by my relatives, relatives who toiled under the whip and inhumane system of slavery. I am very well aware of my roots, both African and American, and I treasure rather than shun them both.
At the same time, slavery ended with the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 and the United States has compiled nearly 150 years of history since then. While the stain of slavery will forever be a dark legacy of our history, I daresay that I do not have any immediate ties to Africa—why then would I seek to identify myself with a continent comprised of some forty-seven sovereign nations when I am proud of the very nation I live in? Moreover, I marvel at those who believe I have denied my cultural heritage in favor of Anglocentric styles of culture, speech, and dress.
I yearn for someone to explain to me exactly what “African” culture is said to comprise when we would grapple with such a definition to explain American culture other than our rights and liberties that are enshrined in our Constitution. It is not without irony that many who question my “denial” of African culture and heritage cannot place a country in Africa correctly on the map; I often ask such detractors to locate Cameroon, Ghana, and Angola in geographical relationship to Tanzania, Ethiopia, or Mozambique. If my detractors don’t know the history and culture or location of the continent they ascribe to have such strong ties to, how can they be taken seriously? Is it just that they seek to belong to a specific group, feel a special connection or kinship to others who are members of said group due to the color of their skin or ethnicity rather than evaluating their fellow citizens as individuals?
I believe this self-segregation and balkanization has taken race relations in America from a state of empowerment embodying Dr. King’s ideals for a color-blind society to one of exclusion, where people are evaluated based on their skin color or ethnicity—explicitly rejecting the notion that America is comprised of numerous races that blend together to form a more perfect union of citizens. Accordingly, I assert that such calls for diversity and multiculturalism have helped drive us further apart rather than closer together both as a people and as a society.
Moving forward, then, how does one best describe the term “multiculturalism”? Does multiculturalism imply that America has made good on its promise to form a true melting pot of cultural and ethnic diversity that is blended together to represent the very best of American society? Or does the expression underscore the reality that 225 years following our founding, not only do we remain balkanized by race, but that the ancestors of some who were once cruelly oppressed due to the color of their skin now feel most comfortable with self-segregation and the further desire to identify with a culture that is not truly their own rather than embrace the special privilege it is to be a citizen of the United States of America?
While there is no universally accepted definition as to what constitutes multiculturalism today, I believe the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers a revealing insight:
Multiculturalism is a body of thought in political philosophy about the proper way to respond to cultural and religious diversity. Mere toleration of group differences is said to fall short of treating members of minority groups as equal citizens; recognition and positive accommodation of group differences are required through “group-differentiated rights,” a term coined by Will Kymlicka (1995). Some group-differentiated rights are held by individual members of minority groups, as in the case of individuals who are granted exemptions from generally applicable laws in virtue of their religious beliefs or individuals who seek language accommodations in schools or in voting. Other group-differentiated rights are held by the group qua group rather [than] by its members severally; such rights are properly called group rights, as in the case of indigenous groups and minority nations, who claim the right of self-determination. In the latter respect, multiculturalism is closely allied with nationalism.5
On its face, the term appears innocuous: multiculturalism adherents look for a proper manner to treat members of minority groups as full and equal citizens while seeking positive accommodation of group-differentiated rights. Upon closer reflection, how can basic toleration of one’s fellow citizens fail to be sufficient when one is talking about a member of a minority group? I believe this is precisely the warning Arthur Schlesinger referred to when he feared a cult of ethnicity had appeared on the American social landscape that began to pervade our political and sociological landscapes. Suddenly, equal rights and toleration of our fellow citizens were no longer sufficient—now minority group members needed special recognition and positive identification of “group differences” to fully assimilate in American society?
For one, I do not believe for a moment that Dr. Martin Luther King and the brave pioneers of the civil rights era who fought tirelessly but peacefully for equal rights under the color of law in the 1950s and 1960s would have approved turning back the clock on the momentous direction they had set for the country by allowing ethnic minorities to be treated more favorably due to the color of their skin at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Recognizing that racism still exists in America and we have yet to fully actualize Dr. King’s dream, pressing for special rights in the early twenty-first century as some form of cultural sensitivity when it took some 350 years for blacks to receive equal rights and opportunity after their arrival in chains on American soil is a distressing step blackwards for the assimilation of her citizens to full participation in the American dream.
While I pondered the wisdom proponents of multiculturalism sought to offer with an open mind, I grappled with what the terms “special recognition” and “positive identification” were supposed to mean, precisely. Is it the invention of a special holiday during the Christmas season for blacks (Kwanzaa) to identify their religious beliefs based on their ethnicity, rather than the tenets of their faith? I was shocked to discover that Kwanzaa is not a traditional religious-based holiday, but the creation of Maulana Karenga (born Ronald McKinley Everett), a former member of the United Slaves Organization—a black militant nationalist group. Karenga’s original goal in creating Kwanzaa was to politicize Christmas as a Western holiday and offer black Americans a Pan-African equivalent.
Is it the creation of offices of multicultural affairs across our college and university campuses and the encouragement of self-segregation by dormitory, fraternity/sororities, and graduation ceremonies? While these questions will be considered in greater detail in chapter 2, I remain perplexed at how far we have regressed as a nation from the call to service offered by President John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address, when he charged his fellow citizens:
Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country … Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.6
Just fifty years removed from President Kennedy’s call to serve a cause and a calling higher than ourselves by putting national rather than individual self-interests at the forefront, how can it possibly be that we now find many in America who advocate just the opposite? A new society predicated on special recognition and rights for a preferred, select class at the expense of their fellow citizens? Not only does this run counter to the message presented to the nation by the thirty-fifth president of the United States some fifty years ago, but also contrary to the vision of what the United States of America would be in the mind of one of our most influential Founding Fathers and first president of the United States over two hundred years ago.
In a letter to newly arrived immigrants from Ireland to New York City written in 1783, George Washington famously opined:
The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations And Religions; whom we shall wellcome to a participation of all our rights and previleges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.7
Unfortunately, the push for group-differentiated rights has led to a deterioration of racial and ethnic relations in the United States rather than strengthening them. As we shall see in the chapters to follow, the drive for exclusive racial and ethnic dormitories and graduation ceremonies has fractured many of our college communities while black politicians in the era of Obama decry racism rather than their individual underlying transgressions as the source of their angst. Somehow, the president who was sworn in on the sweeping promise of hope and change soon gave way to political strife and a swift decline in his overall approval ratings.
Rather than focusing on the issues and the policies pursued during President Obama’s term in office, many of his supporters instead blamed racism and alleged racist sentiments expressed by the Tea Party as the root of the president’s decline in stature. During the summer of 2011, members of the Congressional Black Caucus asserted that African American lawmakers had been verbally harassed due to their ethnicity by Tea Party participants during a rally on Capitol Hill; yet no evidence emerged in the era of the cellular videophone in which incidents were captured on film. Nonetheless, Representative André Carson (D-IN), a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, would further charge, “Some [members of the Tea Party] would love to see us hanging from a tree.”8
Has this type of behavior and mind-set put America on a blackwards path from which the country will struggle to recover? What of the Obama administration’s embrace of members of certain ethnic groups possessing special, rather than equal, rights? The voter intimidation case from the 2008 election cycle in which members of the New Black Panther Party were filmed brandishing a weapon near a polling station in Philadelphia to threaten white voters was dismissed by the Obama Justice Department despite a nonpolitical review of the case by career civil servants. More disturbingly, these white civil servants would testify under oath before the United States Commission on Civil Rights that crimes allegedly committed against white victims were to be ignored by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division while crimes allegedly committed against black victims were to be vigorously prosecuted.
For the present inquiry, however, I want to return to the notion of multiculturalism and the real threat the practice poses for the balkanization and fragmentation of American society. As discussed above, multiculturalism seeks to respond to cultural and religious diversity beyond mere toleration of those persons of color in the country at large. From 1619 to 1865, when the practice of slavery was finally outlawed, some 500,000 Africans were brought to America’s shores against their will. Today blacks comprise 13.5 percent of the American population, some 41 million people in a country with 308 million residents.
Moreover, according to the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), growth in the Latino community as well as their increasing strength as a percentage of the overall U.S. population has grown dramatically in recent years. In a report issued in December 2010 following the release of data from the 2010 U.S. Census, the PRB noted:
Latinos are increasingly shaping the demographic makeup of the United States. While the U.S. population grew by 36 percent between 1980 and 2009, the Latino population more than tripled, increasing from 14.6 million to nearly 48.4 million. Latinos accounted for slightly more than 40 percent of the roughly 81 million people added to the U.S. population over the past 30 years. The influence of the Latino population will only grow in coming decades, and mostly through natural increase, not immigration.9
That blacks and Latinos continue to make strong increases in American demographics is a positive development. In fact, recent test results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress—the nation’s report card for public school children—indicated that black and Latino students had steadily shown improvement from 2005 to 2009 when compared with their white student peers.10
On the other hand, while student achievement across racial lines may be improving in the classroom, the assimilation and intermingling among certain of the racial and ethnic groups that comprise the U.S. population appear to be deepening a schism rather than drawing us closer together as a society. Some social observers and politicians point to the rise of multiculturalism as the thread that is being pulled that has begun to unravel our society.
This is neither a political nor a narrow partisan observation; both conservative and moderate commentators have warned of the dangers posed by stressing multiculturalism rather than the unique societal framework of what it means to be an American citizen today. Sadly, these warnings have largely been ignored. Consider, for example, an essay and subsequent speech given by former Democratic governor Richard Lamm of Colorado entitled “I Have a Plan to Destroy America.” The speech is a dire call to action and a warning that our acquiescence and acceptance of multiculturalism has led to an erosion of the uniqueness of what it means to be American; a cancer spreading throughout our body politic that will destroy us if left untreated. While we do not have the space to include the speech in its entirety here, there are several key excerpts that merit our review at this time.
“I have a secret plan to destroy America,” Lamm begins.
If you believe, as many do, that America is too smug, too white bread, too self-satisfied, too rich, let’s destroy America.… Here is my plan: We must first make America a bilingual-bicultural country. History shows, in my opinion, that no nation can survive the tension, conflict, and antagonism of two competing languages and cultures. It is a blessing for an individual to be bilingual; it is a curse for a society to be bilingual.…
I would then invent “multiculturalism” and encourage immigrants to maintain their own culture. I would make it an article of belief that all cultures are equal: that there are no cultural differences that are important. I would declare it as an article of faith that the black and Hispanic dropout rate is only due to prejudice and discrimination by the majority. Every other explanation is out-of-bounds.… I would replace the melting pot metaphor with a salad bowl metaphor. It is important to insure that we have various cultural subgroups living in America reinforcing their differences rather than Americans emphasizing their similarities.…
Having done all this, I would make our fastest-growing demographic group the least educated—I would add a second underclass, unassimilated, undereducated, and antagonistic to our population. I would have this second underclass have a 50 percent dropout rate from school.
I would then get the big foundations and big business to give these efforts lots of money. I would invest in ethnic identity, and I would establish the cult of victimology. I would get all minorities to think their lack of success was all the fault of the majority. I would start a grievance industry blaming all minority failure on the majority population.
I would celebrate “diversity.” “Diversity” is a wonderfully seductive word. It stresses differences rather than commonalities. Diverse people worldwide are mostly engaged in hating each other—that is when they are not killing each other.… If we can put the emphasis on “pluribus,” instead of the “unum,” we can balkanize America as surely as Kosovo.…
Then I would place all of these subjects off-limits—make it taboo to talk about. I would find a word similar to “heretic” in the sixteenth century—that stopped discussion and paralyzed thinking. Words like “racist,” “xenophobe” halt argument and discussion.11
Lamm aptly threads the needle when describing the dangers associated with permitting special, rather than equal, rights to be socially acceptable in American society today. Drawing upon roots planted during the time of slavery in which ethnic minorities were victimized by white oppressors, multiculturalism and diversity supporters today enjoy celebrating our differences rather than focusing upon the singular bond we hold in common: our American citizenship. Why celebrate one’s American heritage when they can instead self-segregate by proclaiming themselves to be African American? As we shall see throughout the rest of our discussion in this book, most of the tenets of Lamm’s secret plan to destroy America has already been implemented to disastrous effect—mostly in the name of multiculturalism, the need for vigorous affirmative action programs, and the push for a “black” agenda undertaken by “black” leaders in such fields as politics and academia in which blacks are entitled to special, rather than equal, treatment than the rest of their multiracial peers.
Accordingly, I believe this disturbing trend of celebrating diversity and multiculturalism has only accelerated rather than decreased in our colleges and universities. Can there be little doubt that students electing to isolate themselves from the larger society as a whole to remain in their cocoon and safety net of those of a similar race and/or ethnicity find it difficult to relate to their peers at work or play who are of another race? It seems that former governor Mario Cuomo’s admonition has largely been ignored:
Most Americans can understand both the need to recognize and encourage diversity as well as the need to ensure that such a broadened multicultural perspective leads to unity and an enriched sense of what being an American is, and not to a destructive factionalism that would tear us apart.12
What then, does it mean to be an American citizen in the twenty-first century? My concern is that we have allowed a sizable minority to set the tone for the majority by celebrating our differences rather than focusing upon our similarities. This factionalism and balkanization has led to more strain than harmony among our citizenry, based as it is on racial and ethnic ties rather than the one aspect that binds us together: our American citizenship.
While Latinos and other ethnic minorities have stressed calls for diversity and multiculturalism, I believe this phenomenon is most pervasive in the black, dare I say, African American community. I believe that calls for special, rather than equal, rights and hiding behind calls of racism and unequal treatment in the era of Obama have helped create a toxic climate that will spread unless we stop the stain that is spreading through our schools, offices, communities of worship, and political discourse. Perhaps President Franklin D. Roosevelt was prescient beyond his years when he noted what I believe is the essence of what it means to be an American citizen during a speech permitting Japanese Americans to serve in World War II delivered on February 1, 1943:
The principle on which this country was founded and by which it has always been governed is that Americanism is a matter of the mind and heart; Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race and ancestry. A good American is one who is loyal to this country and to our creed of liberty and democracy.13
If we fail to heed Roosevelt’s call for loyalty to our country that is present both in our hearts and minds rather than viewing the world through the prism of race and ethnicity, the negative momentum blackwards that has begun may soon be too difficult to stop. One need only look at the present situation in Great Britain to envision what our future here in America might look like if we continue to permit ethnic and group identification rather than cultural intermingling brought together by the strong bond of citizenship.
Perhaps British Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech in 2011 regarding multiculturalism embraced by many today should give them reason for pause and deliberation to reflect on what such efforts are doing to the American society. Are they bringing us together, or are they driving us apart, citizens united only with those who look and speak like us rather than embracing a true multicultural society whose unbreakable bond is the oath and obligations brought by being an American citizen? After spending many years on this experiment in Great Britain, consider the following remarks of Prime Minister Cameron in early February 2011:
Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream. We’ve failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We’ve even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values.
So, when a white person holds objectionable views, racist views for instance, we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices come from someone who isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious, frankly even fearful—to stand up to them … This hands-off tolerance has only served to reinforce the sense that not enough is shared.14
Is this not the path down which America has traveled in recent years—away from a truly color-blind society and toward one in which the behavior of some will be tolerated at the expense of others due to the color of their skin? The subsequent creation and rise in power of the Congressional Black Caucus in the United States Congress has served as an outlet for comments and views that, expressed by anyone other than black people, would be branded as racist. We shall discuss both the impact of the Congressional Black Caucus and whether it has helped contribute to the racial backlash presently underway in America today.
For the present, however, I believe the noted commentator Noam Chomsky was prescient on this point when he noted the following:
The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum—even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s freethinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.15
As we shall see in the pages that follow, this is precisely the danger posed by efforts to impose multiculturalism, diversity, and societal norms that will only exacerbate and inflame relations between racial and ethnic groups in America rather than bringing us together. By sharply limiting the scope of acceptable debate to promote political correctness at the expense of honest political discussion we have set upon a sharp departure from the freedoms of speech and debate enshrined within our Bill of Rights. This limitation, rather than enhancement, of debate and discussion has taken place in our classrooms, offices, and even places of worship. This is a trend and tide that must be turned before the United States moves further down the path of subgroups and subcultures rather than remaining a country brought together by stressing the strengths of our diversity rather than emphasizing our differences.
Fortunately, there is a way forward and there is still time to prevent our society from the balkanization and resentments that have become entrenched in other countries that have embraced the cult of ethnicity described by Arthur Schlesinger in which the needs of particular ethnic groups and minorities are favored at the expense of the needs and beliefs of the mainstream of society. Should we continue on our present course I believe there will be increasing rather than decreasing instances of racial intolerance in our country, so long as people seek to self-identify by ethnicity and skin color rather than basking in our treasured status as American citizens. The backlash brewing could be easily quelled by abandoning the doctrine and demands imposed by multiculturalism. Consider the closing words of Prime Minister Cameron’s speech on the topic:
We must build stronger societies and stronger identities at home. Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and a much more active, muscular liberalism. A passively tolerant society says to its citizens, as long as you obey the law we will just leave you alone. It stands neutral between different values. But I believe a genuinely liberal country does much more; it believes in certain values and actively promotes them. Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, democracy, the rule of law, equal rights regardless of race, sex, or sexuality. It says to its citizens, this is what defines us as a society: to belong here is to believe in these things. Now, each of us in our own countries, I believe, must be unambiguous and hard-nosed about this defense of our liberty.16
Prime Minister Cameron’s admonition for the harm multiculturalism has caused Great Britain should serve as a wake-up call to those in America seeking to unify, rather than divide, their fellow citizens along lines of race and ethnicity. We must push for equal rather than special rights, regardless of the color of one’s skin. By promoting the values of freedom of speech and expression under the law rather than silencing the views of the majority to appease a vocal minority, America will pull closer together rather than splinter and fragment as a society. A strong move in this direction, as we shall see in chapter 2, would be to judge persons on their individual merit rather than the color of their skin for advancement in school and in the workplace. The time has come to end, rather than mend, the practice of affirmative action.
Copyright © 2012 by Ron Christie
1 The Genesis of Heading Blackwards: When Did America Stray from Equality Under the Law to a Push for Special, Rather than Equal, Rights? 6
2 Affirmative Action: How the Vision for True Equality Under the Law Has Retreated to the Days of Separate and Unequal Treatment in American Society 24
3 So-Called Black Leaders Taking America Blackwards While Pursuing a Black Agenda 55
4 Candidate Obama and the Manipulation of Race: Setting the Stage for America Heading Blackwards 88
5 A Nation of Cowards: How the Obama Administration Deepened Racial Divisions Rather Than Unify the Country 115
6 Of Police Officers Acting Stupidly and Black Panthers as "My People": Cementing the Impression Blacks Were Entitled to Special, Rather Than Equal, Rights in the Obama Era 143
7 Playing the Race Card Has Taken America Blackwards in the Obama Era 183
8 The Path Ahead to Stop Heading Blackwards 234
Author's Note and Acknowledgments 289