Freedom’s Zone reminded me that it’s time to revisit an issue that always gets my goat, which is liberal bigotry. Tavis Smiley, the African-American media personality who has a PBS gig, was the person selected to moderate the most recent Democratic debate, this one held in front of a majority black audience. Smiley decided that, because the audience was black, it was incapable of complying with ordinary rules governing those lucky (or, perhaps, unlucky) enough to attend a debate:
The moderator of Thursday’s Democrat presidential debate said he did not ask the mostly black audience to refrain from applauding candidates’ answers, because blacks are too “emotional” to obey such a rule.
Asked by C-Span host Brian Lamb why he didn’t enforce a no-applause rule for his PBS-sponsored debate like other debate formats, moderator Tavis Smiley explained: “Because black people are an emotional people. I know it wouldn’t have worked.”
Smiley says the black audience attending the 90-minute session at Howard University would not have listened or complied with such a request for silence, suggesting African-Americans are unable to control themselves.
Thomas Lifson, pointing to this story, noted that
The implications of Smiley’s assertions are mind-boggling. Blacks, unlike others, cannot be relied upon to respond as adults, in Smiley’s formulation. All sorts of invidious discrimination is justified, if Smiley’s assertion is to be believed.
Mind-boggling? Absolutely. What’s galling, and should be infinitely more galling to the African-American community, is that this soft bigotry permeates white liberal thinking. To your average white liberal, the black race is inferior to the white race. Don’t believe me? How about a couple of examples:
The first example of liberal bigotry that always pops into my head when I touch this subject — perhaps because it was when I suddenly realized that condescension can be a form of racism — is Damian Williams, one of the young black men who savaged Reginald Denny during the Rodney King riots and was later acquitted. In a newspaper interview, Williams explained away his conduct by saying that he was “caught up in the rapture.” I believe that, had the speaker been a white man who killed gays or blacks, that statement would have been held up by the liberal establishment as the most disgusting, horrific, vile statement ever. As it was, my memory (and I’m open to correction here) was that the media piled on with a bunch of stories about young men, and black rage, and mob identity, etc. In other words, being caught up in the rapture was a pretty acceptable excuse for trying to beat a man’s head in because he was the wrong color, in the wrong place.
The next example, of course, is the reporting about Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Within days, Randall Robinson, a prominent black activist was stating that African-American hurricane victims were cannibalizing each other. He eventually had to retract that claim.
Although the cannibalism assertion was patently ridiculous to anyone who thought about it (it had only been three days since the Hurricane, for goodness sake), it got a lot of press, probably because the Press was perfectly ready to think the worst of the African-American hurricane victims. Why else would they instantly begin reporting lurid stories of murder, rape, and suicide? (Here’s one example: “Stories of rape, murder and suicide have emerged.”)
Ultimately, it turned out that one man alone was responsible for widely spread and credulously accepted reports that, during his stay in the Superdome, a man was murdered, a woman was raped and stabbed, and a man jumped from a balcony. The media ate it up. Other reports had murder in the streets, widespread looting, and rape all over New Orleans. (This story from England is a good example.)
Almost without exception, the above stories about base black behavior were untrue. Shortly after the media had everyone a’twitter with this hysterical reporting, it emerged that almost none of the anarchy alleged had actually happened. Even the World Socialist Website attacked the completely inaccurate reporting emerging from Katrina, although it predictably saw the rumors as part of a government plot.
Both of these examples, whether dealing with actual fact (Williams really did try to kill someone) or rumor (the Katrina reports), operate on the same basic premise: blacks are incapable of controlling themselves under circumstances in which we could expect more from people of other races. Smiley, although talking about cheering and applauding, rather than assault and cannibalism, also attributes a infantile level of self-control to African-Americans.
Incidentally, Smiley’s assertion about black emotionalism is racism pure and simple. That is, while I know that liberals excusing bad behavior would say that they’re not racists, because it’s white people’s fault that blacks have been forced into situations where they’ve lost sight of societal norms, Smiley doesn’t have that excuse. He thinks it’s a virtue, not a white-imposed fault, that African-Americans cannot follow a rule asking that audience members sit quietly so that a debate can proceed unimpeded. And yes, I know Smiley wouldn’t consider his belief racism, because he’s not attributing a negative quality to blacks — rudeness — but a positive quality — “emotionalism.” I think they’re two sides of the same coin, and that it’s racist.
As for me, I think that, whether you excuse blacks because they black, or excuse blacks because whites are institutional bullies, excusing blacks still infantilizes a whole race. Unlike the oh-so-sympathetic liberals, both black and white, I believe that blacks, in common with all adult human beings, are intelligent, moral, reasoning creatures. Whatever the hardships visited on them, they are higher beings, not dogs or babies, and all right thinking people should expect them have the ability to conform to to minimum norms of civilized behavior. As Robert Browning said more than a hundred years before, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp — or what’s a heaven for?” Babies and dogs don’t reach for the stars, but all adults can and should.
Filed under: African-Americans