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Wednesday, April 4, 2007

All black people aren't alike; and we need to hear all sides

"So black folks have learned to preach a gospel of ''unity,'' under which criticism of the family stays inside the family. It's a well-intentioned rule with, for my money, an unintended and negative side effect. Namely, it encourages whites to think of blacks as a monolith possessed of but a single opinion on any given topic and to conclude that they are unwilling or unable to address their own failings. As the poll data suggest, few things could be further from the truth....

"Truth is, the white community needs to hear both Derek and Rasheed. And Tameka besides. And the black community needs to let them be heard, free of unwritten rules. Needs frank discussion as a means of confronting a myriad of serious problems. Yes, many of those problems grow from living nearly 400 years under slavery and American apartheid. Yes, too, many grow from personal failure, from the fact that black folks are heir to the same foolishness, foibles and flaws that beset all human beings. And many grow from some combination of all the above.

It would be healthy for the nation at large and the black community in particular for black people to be able to discuss those problems, to challenge, criticize and debate one another openly and honestly, without caring who hears. Healthy for the black community because it hastens the search for solutions. Healthy for the nation because it helps destroy the myth of monolith. Not to mention a certain insidious double standard. Or hadn't you noticed that, when white fathers fail their families, white people never have to stop and wonder if any of this will be interpreted as evidence of their congenital inferiority?

Yes, African Americans ought to be wary of ever appearing to validate bigotry. But where wariness demands abrogation of the fundamental human right to debate and dissent, it crosses the point of diminishing returns and makes us what we abhor. There is, after all, a word for the person who insists that all black people speak and think alike.


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I declare here and now, my fundamental human right to debate and dissent. I have left the plantation years ago.

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Booker T. Washington said:

"There is another class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs -- partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs....There is a certain class of race-problem solvers who do not want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public."

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