Michael Gerson, an op-ed columnist for The Washington Post, wrote a memorable line as a speech-writer for then President George W. Bush in which he described the black community as suffering in education from the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” (Referring, of course, to the elitist perception that high standards weren’t achievable for black Americans and even if the words of these elitists never said so, their actions revealed their belief that it’s foolish to have high expectations for black people.) Overcoming this bigotry, the speech went on, required recognizing that this is inherently bigoted, horribly discriminatory, and profoundly unfair to the potential of the young people being educated. In modern terms, it’s dumbing everyone down as political correctness goes amok.
It’s not just Gerson hinting at this. There are plenty of black writers, too, who hold prestigious positions as journalists and opinion writers at leading newspapers, rising to the top of their field, and definitely not believing the lie that would have kept them down. Instead, they see the problems and write about them. It’s their role in the Resurgence I see God working in the black community at the present time.
After all, the first step in solving a problem is to identify it, right?
Enter writing giant Shelby Steele. Role model. Wordsmith.
“As a writer, researcher and senior fellow at conservative think tank the Hoover Institution, Shelby Steele has dedicated much of his work to questioning our assumptions about race relations in America, social programs and political correctness. His most recent book, Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country, puts forth the idea that liberalism, and the related desire to redeem America of its past sins through social programs, has instead prevented the advancement of the very groups these policies intended to help.”
In that interview, Shelby Steele (not to be confused with sportswriter David Steele who trying to erase Jim Brown’s whiteboard of civil rights achievements) says about America’s history of Civil Rights challenges,
“America is to be honored and complimented for actually facing these problems and dealing with them. Nevertheless, [having grown] up during the Civil Rights Era, America was brought to account for the sin of slavery, for its mistreatment of women, for all of these things that white supremacy, in a sense, fostered…Still, we all live with the knowledge of this past tragedy and of the hypocrisy of it. I think that knowledge has generated in American life this need to be redemptive, to prove that we are not like that anymore. And so how do you show yourself to be redemptive? You keep deferring to those groups that are associated with that victimization and you keep trying to give them things and, in a sense, use them as a vehicle for America’s redemption.”
He’s talking about what has cultivated a “soft bigotry of low expectations” for minorities in order for white people to feel good about themselves again. Steele continues,
“One of the points that I feel very strongly about, coming as a black [man], is that the deference that America has shown us since the ’60s with the War on Poverty and the Great Society and welfare, these deferential policies that defer to our history of victimization now victimize us more than racism did. I grew up in segregation. I know exactly what it’s like. And I had a more positive attitude toward America than many blacks do today who are the beneficiaries of Affirmative Action. I think that deference has become a very corrupting influence on the people that it tries to help. It’s honorable that it wants to help these people but they never ask the people to be responsible for their own transformation and uplift and that’s the great tragedy of deference and political correctness.
The history of America has accused [white people] of the evil of bigotry. And so white Americans are insanely sensitive to being seen as racists or, to a lesser degree, sexists. And so this hyperbolic political correctness that we’ve descended into has to do with this neurotic response. But when people are living under that kind of threat of stigmatization, they don’t even see the people they’re trying to help. White people don’t even see blacks. Political correctness is utterly and completely blind to the humanity of black America.
Everybody is under threat of stigmatization. Blacks are fanatical about who’s really black and who isn’t. Whites are fanatical about whether they’re racist or whether they’re not. Nobody is seeing each other as simply as human beings…”
Bingo. Shelby Steele nails it.
Culturally speaking, this is the overarching problem and why the “soft bigotry of low expectations” needs to be met head on. It begins with seeing the humanity of everyone. And it involves acknowledging a companion problem: political correctness. Steel says,
Political correctness is now evil and it is what holds minorities down…All I ever wanted was just simple fairness. My prayer is that someday we become as fanatical about fairness as we are now about political correctness..”
Amen, brother. I think we both heard that somewhere…
“My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.” (James 2:1 )