Sunday, November 25, 2007

Black Friday

The video (H/T: Fox News Chicago) tells the story in richer detail than the crime deserves; it was a pitifully unremarkable occurrence in the grand scheme of life in the inner city. Last Friday, three men held up the Get M Girlz Apparel clothing store on Chicago's South Side. In the process one of the thieves pointed a gun at an unarmed security guard, 22 year-old Harold Dean Long, while the others grabbed as much clothing as their guilty hands could carry.

The gunman shot
Long (twice actually, once during a struggle upon entering the store and again upon the robbers' departure), who was pronounced dead at a local hospital. According to the Chicago Tribune, Long would have been 23 on December 5, with the Tribune noting that he planned to celebrate in grand fashion, "wearing Gucci and partying at a hip-hop club with friends and relatives."

As I said, this transgression was surely not uncommon, as store owners on the 2500 block of West 63rd Street were accustomed to getting robbed on a fairly regular basis. What made this story newsworthy was its brazen nature, occurring
by the broad light of midday. What makes all of this noteworthy is the fact that it was entirely and otherwise unremarkable, this sort of thing again being relatively commonplace. The corrosive idea that the personal property of another human being is subject to confiscation - at the point of a gun no less - has sown its taproot deep into the mindset of the underclass.

The mind reels as one wonders whether it was always thus. Surely, criminal predation has been a human proclivity since Cain and Abel, and nothing suggests that America's black ghettos were at any point pristinely devoid of the turpitudinous. My sense is that the difference today is an absence of any sense of individual moral efficacy on the greater part of the black underclass. Their ability to act with ethical responsibility has atrophied in the presence of the moral entropy brought about by liberal "do-gooders" of the 1960's countercultural Left (such as Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, among others.)

As much has been documented writ large by authors such as John McWhorter, whose book Winning the Race details how the cultural meme of "therapeutic alienation" caused blacks to withdraw from the stereotypically white worlds of work and education. But this sense of disengagement from middle-class responsibilities has also been examined on the scale of the personal by Shelby Steele in White Guilt. In his book, Steele provides his recollections of comedian/activist Dick Gregory speaking at a black power rally at a church on Chicago's South Side in the summer of 1967.

Somewhere toward the middle of Gregory's long riff I was overcome by a feeling of utter relief. It was as if some old and grinding worry - one I had considered permanent, as inevitable as nature - had simply passed away. I felt exhilarated, wildly happy - this despite the fact that Gregory was clearly pulling for the era's all-purpose emotion: black anger.

But there was another meaning within his words. He was also saying that a racist society had inflicted responsibility on us while denying us the freedom to do much with it. In other words, he was describing the crucible in which responsibility was a tool of oppression. And his clear implication was that responsibility was therefore illegitimate where blacks were concerned. Responsibility made fools of us. Worse, it made us complicit in our own oppression. As we labored away with the odds fixed against us, we only reinforced the racist social order that oppressed us. (Emphasis in original.)
Steele goes on to point out that Dick Gregory's concept of the illegitimacy of black responsibility was hardly a minority opinion (seriously folks, no pun intended) by reminding us of President Lyndon Baines Johnson's famous speech at Howard University two years prior. In Steele's formulation, LBJ "clearly realized that full responsibility had been an unfair and oppressive burden on blacks," adding "His Great Society was... a redistribution plan for responsibility by which he asked white America to assume considerable responsibility for black advancement." (Emphasis in original.)

Little has changed over the decades, save for liberalism's prism refracting LBJ's sincere - if ill-considered - intentions into a reality of sneering, head-patting patronization of blacks. As much has rendered many in the black underclass unwilling to accept responsibility for themselves and their actions, let alone to accept responsibility for following the dictates of any particular ethic. Doubtless, belief in the former is foundational to adoption of the latter, in as much as moral responsibility relies as on a firm understanding of a moral code as well as the willingness to assume a personal responsibility to uphold such a code.

Without acceptance of personal responsibility, especially for one's own morality - of which African Americans have been denuded, having confused the fig leaf of unceasing indignation for moral authority - it is impossible to act in any way bespeaking moral efficacy. The ideal of an individual morality has been supplanted by a collectivized morality of progressive origins that more highly prizes redistribution of wealth and acceptance of politically correct conceptions of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. Consequently, drug dealing, gang-banging and all manner of murderous thuggery are waved away as mere nuisances in the face of "structural impediments" erected as a consequence of "institutionalized racism." (A telling example of how far the moral culture of the underclass has fallen is the hero worship and cultist lionization of ex-drug dealers turned rappers such as 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, et al.)

As I have gotten older, my storehouse of certainties has dwindled down to a precious remnant. But one that I hold to with an unfailing grip is my belief that I am a black conservative solely and entirely because liberalism failed me and my people; it did not do much good, indeed it did us all great harm. I consider myself blessed in that I am aware of what has been done to a once proud and morally upstanding race. The day after Thanksgiving, which typically signifies when retailers will get "in the black" for the year, has taken on a new meaning for the staff of Get M Girlz.
Sadly, as long as the benighted masses of African Americans stumble in the moral darkness of progressivism, every day in America's ghettos will be Black Friday.

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