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July 8, 2010



To the editor:

Julian Bond’s recent speech, as reported by the University Times (June 10), identifies Bond as one of those aging professional nurturers of racial resentment who no longer contribute positively to the public discussion of social and political issues. “Racism is alive and well in America,” he recites. Now, as before, “racist demagogues” have “walked on in.” Who are these racists and demagogues? He doesn’t specify directly, of course, but his insinuations leave nothing to the imagination.

When Bond tells us (falsely) that the Tea Party movement is 99 percent white, it is impossible not to hear the unspoken “and therefore a bunch of racists.” No substantive argument is deployed to rebut the main concerns of the “tea baggers:” out-of-control government spending, debt and disruptive intervention in every aspect of economic activity — because, presumably, these issues are merely a front for bigotry. Similarly, if the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court disagrees with Bond regarding the Constitutional limits of government power to homogenize the racial composition of public schools over a wide area, then Justice Roberts, an “acolyte” of the “ideologue” Ronald Reagan, is “doing his best to gut anti-segregation laws.” Those are Bond’s spoken words, but it is impossible not to hear the unspoken insinuation that Roberts is one of those “racist demagogues” who have “walked on in.”

Bond offers up the breathtakingly obtuse assertion that “opposition to government, especially opposition to Washington government, succeeded opposition to communism as the secular religion.” To the contrary, as most rational and informed individuals by now understand, it is blind faith in omnipotent government that constitutes a secular religion, of which communism was a jihadist or conquistador version. Far from serving as reliable defenders of minorities, governments around the world and down through history have more often supplied the iron fist of their oppression.

The  political  agitation preached (and bravely practiced) by one-time reformers like Julian Bond may well have been necessary to overturn Jim Crow laws. But then what? It is a rigidly enforced dogma of political correctness that several decades later any lingering shortfall in black economic, educational or other achievement must be attributed exclusively to the effects of continuing white racism. The inseparable corollary of this axiom is the socially destructive message that African Americans bear no personal responsibility for their own progress — indeed, that the secret to black success lies in the white community.

There is an alternative tradition in African-American thought regarding the road to advancement. It goes back at least to Booker T. Washington and is carried on by such modern authors and commentators as Thomas Sowell, Elizabeth Wright, Walter Williams and Larry Elder, among many others. It emphasizes self-improvement, entrepreneurship and enthusiastic participation in the market economy. It is the same recipe that fueled the success of many immigrant groups who achieved affluence despite bigotry and discrimination, including Japanese Americans, who were interned in World War II, as well as black immigrants from the West Indies — who, as Sowell pointed out long ago, arrive dirt-poor but reach the economic level of the white majority within a generation or two.

Ironically, the siren song of economic gain through political agitation has a lure which, pace Bond, transcends race; the rocks toward which it beckons, and which America approaches ever closer, threaten us with equal-opportunity wreckage.

Allan Walstad

Associate professor




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