It’s been my belief for a while now that much–possibly most–of what’s wrong with this country is the fault of the white supremacists of the 1950s and ’60s. Their massive resistance to obviously necessary social change left us all with a debt that we have been paying off ever since, with little effect on the principal balance.
On this day set aside to commemorate Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, I’d like to pose a simple question to anyone who was around in the 1950s and ’60s who saw shit like this
and did nothing about it–or, much worse–took part in it: What the hell was wrong with you?
That isn’t a picture of oppression by the jackbooted stormtroopers of an oppressive state. It isn’t a picture of a few hotheads. It is a picture of a society of sick fucks.
I truly believe that much of what’s screwed up in American life today is the direct result of the attitudes on display in that photo. Anybody with the merest hint of a clue had to know that Jim Crow was no longer tenable. It was terrible enough that a system of apartheid was implemented at all in a society founded on individual liberty, but the idea that it could survive in a country that had just won a war against a madman driven by race fantasies was truly idiotic.
Imagine how things might have worked out if whites in postwar America had simply said, “What the fuck were we thinking? Of course you can share our lunch counters, ride among us on buses, and send your kids to school with our kids. We’ll work side-by-side with you gladly, and we’ll be mighty grateful if you’ll let bygones be bygones.” My guess is that things would have worked out pretty well. There would’ve been no need for federal intervention in local school policy, or hiring decisions by private firms, or the design of voting districts. It wouldn’t have been necessary to turn the Interstate Commerce Clause inside-out in order to enforce minimal standards of human decency. The term social justice would seem like the Trojan horse of socialism that is truly is.
Instead, we got a long public tantrum by whites hell-bent on maintaining the social and economic privileges they had granted themselves through perversion of the law and the propagation of racist ideology from one generation to the next. We got the one political issue on which the liberals were indeed on the side of justice. And it’s the unfortunate legacy of that experience that liberals now assume they’re always on the side of justice, even though they are not.
When a man like John Lewis has had his skull crushed by thugs who see themselves as protectors of some grand American tradition, why should we be surprised when he goes on to become a reflexively anti-conservative politician? Who can blame him, or his fellow blacks, for hearing “resegregation” when white conservatives argue the virtues of private property and unrestricted employment practices? Not me, even though I’d be one of those people he distrusts.
So, here’s my MLK Day message to the white grandmas and grandpas out there who insisted on keeping blacks “in their place” when it had to be clear to everybody with a fuckin’ clue that Jim Crow was no longer tenable: This is all your fault. Mindless quotas? Your fault. Political correctness gone mad? Your fault. Terrible public schools? Your fault.
If only we had a post-racial president to help get us past our 50-year mess to a world where people really do assess each other as individuals instead of members of nonoverlapping, antagonistic groups in a zero-sum game. Too bad we’ve just got a narcissistic incompetent who’s ready to keep racial grievance, suspicion, and hostility alive as long as they serve his immediate political ends.