Stein, a contributing editor at City Journal, is the author of novels, memoirs, and distinctively-titled satirical political commentary like his two previous books, How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy: (and Found Inner Peace) and I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican: A Survival Guide for Conservatives Marooned Among the Angry, Smug, and Terminally Self-Righteous.His latest book is a fresh, honest attempt to provoke the serious thinking about race “that liberal enforcers have heretofore rendered impossible,” and thus to begin looking for solutions. The premise of the book alone is enough to cause progressive heads to explode:
The idea that it is racism that has millions of underclass blacks mired generation after generation in physical and spiritual poverty is not only false, but the greatest impediment to fundamentally altering that dreadful state of affairs… The real problem is a culture of destructive attitudes and behaviors that denies those in its grip the means of escape.
Pointing out that contemporary white racism is too often an excuse, and that black Americans’ own “destructive attitudes and behaviors” might actually bear responsibility for their state of affairs, is precisely the sort of frankness about race that Eric Holder asked for but doesn’t actually want to hear, because it is Holder and his ilk who are the cowards.
Stein acknowledges that breaking through the left’s wall of denial and engaging them in an honest discussion about race is a daunting challenge, because
so deeply embedded among Jews and blacks is the idea that liberals represent the forces of light and conservatives all-consuming darkness that… it has long since taken on the dimension of religious conviction.For decades the left has shrewdly and successfully nurtured and perpetuated this false conviction in order to maintain political power. The relationship between the black community and the Democratic Party, Stein points out,
has long been reduced to a corrupt bargain, the race baiters posing as champions of social justice receiving legitimacy and consistent infusions of public money in return for assured and overwhelming black electoral majorities.The left has managed this through the constant push of its racial victimization narrative despite the fact that that narrative is outdated; thus, affirmative action policies are, as civil rights activist Ward Connerly labels them, “yesterday’s solution to yesterday’s problem”:
Perpetually focused on past inequities rather than future possibilities, the victim mindset epitomized by affirmative action not only saps energy and initiative, it justifies the absence of energy and initiative and inevitably leads to inefficiency and corruption.Stein discusses how “the victim mindset” so prevalent among American blacks only took full hold in the modern era after the key civil rights battles had been won. And yet black students are continually fed “a relentless tale of oppressors and oppressed” until,
in the grip of the victim mindset – despite overwhelmingly being beneficiaries of racial preferences and other programs guaranteeing them special consideration – they regard whatever problems they experience at school as just another manifestation of racism.It doesn’t help, Stein says, that “driven by a toxic mix of condescension, paternalism and terror of giving offense, white liberals will almost never cross blacks claiming victimhood.” As for a conservative alternative,
For millions of black people, marinated in the ideology of victimhood and dependence, the possibility that the conservative path might actually offer a better approach to the persistent problems plaguing the underclass is literally beyond imagination.In a series of chapters given the heading “Let’s Pretend,” Stein demolishes the PC pieties that affirmative action is reasonable, not racist; that fathers don’t matter (“the single greatest tragedy for black people in today’s America – indeed, the greatest calamity since slavery itself – is that scarcely one in four black fathers is on the scene”); that crime has nothing to do with race; that multiculturalism makes for better education (“Fed by a multicultural agenda that stresses the importance of specifically black as opposed to common American experience, even within that narrow spectrum it is a drumbeat of grievance”); and that “acting white” is a problem and not the solution (“far from being the put-down it has been in the black community, ‘acting white’ is the way people of every ethnic background get ahead in America”).
Stein devotes a chapter to a comparison of Booker T. Washington, “the neglected prophet” and “the embodiment of hope and racial conciliation,” and his contemporary, the communist and more militant W.E.B. DuBois, who is, unfortunately, much more revered today in the black community and our history books. Stein calls the Sharptons and Jacksons of this world “the heirs” of DuBois.He explains why the race card is losing its traditional power to terrorize whites into silence, and he highlights those, notably in the Tea Party, who are standing up to it. (The title of the book, in fact, is taken from a Tea Party sign declaring, “No matter what this sign says, you’ll still call it racist.”)
Naturally, Stein condemns race profiteers like Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Al Sharpton for their exploitation of the very people they claim to be helping. By contrast, in the final chapter Stein celebrates black conservatives from Thomas Sowell to Allen West as the heroes and best hope of our time for the black community.A fearless writer like Stein and his new book constitute a bold, refreshing first step toward that “frank conversation” that Eric Holder is so eager to have.
(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 6/8/12)