Henry Louis Gates Jr. on the State of Black Americans

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Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy has been running a remarkable series of columns here, here and here, detailing the sobering analysis of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. about the state of black Americans since the assasination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. One example quote from Gates:

"I remember a poll where black kids were asked to list the things they considered 'acting white,' " Gates said during a recent book signing at the Aspen Institute in Washington. "The top three things were: making straight A's, speaking standard English and going to the Smithsonian. Now, if anybody had said anything like that when we were growing up in the '50s, first, your mother would smack you upside the head and second, they'd check you into a mental institution."

The columns are well worth reading and pondering. More in Gates new book, America Behind the Color Line: Dialogues with African Americans

NEXT: Jayhawks Given Free Nests! This town's been shattered, mayor declares. Rutgers Prof sez: "It'll never work!"

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  1. “If Wallace and Faubus had been sitting around in 1963, wondering how to stop the [civil rights movement], and one said, ‘We are going to persuade them not to embrace deferred gratification, that education is a white thing, throw in some bling-bling and persuade them that authentic black identity is some kind of thug ghetto anti-education identity,’ the other would say, ‘Oh, man, nobody is that stupid.’ ”

    Told y’all it’d work.

  2. Gates has a good PBS show on the subject. Interesting perspective. He had a teenager from Southside Chicago give his thoughts on probolem. He described his contempt for “gansta” and “ho” icons and his fear that it is the root of the issue. It was very enlightening, but disturbing. I have in the past viewed that Hip-hop culture is devoid of black critisim. I am glad to be wrong.

  3. And to think last week`s blog about an inspirational American , Booker T.Washington, should give those young soles something
    to ponder.

  4. If they can read it, of course.

    – Josh

  5. And to think last week`s blog about an inspirational American , Booker T.Washington, should give those young soles something
    to ponder.

    What blog are you referring to?

  6. I’m glad Gates has articulated this unfortunate schism. But I’m skeptical of Gates’ writing, especially since he very much supports affirmative-action style entitlements, HUD, reparations (to a certain extent), and overall race-based government policy.

    He has, for the most part, been a very vocal and influential advocate for bigger government via expanded welfare state.

  7. Well, statisically speaking, far more blacks live outside of poverty today, per capita, than they did thirty years ago (indeed, it has gone from 1/3 outside poverty to 2/3). That’s remarkable; especially given the fact that only a little over one-hundred and forty years ago most blacks were slaves in America. Making the transition from slave to free was never easy in any society in which this occurred, but America has done better than many.

  8. I can understand Gates’ apprehension to dismantling Affirmative Action since it was the basis for getting him into Yale. But at some point he had to do the work to make it pay off, unless he wants to admit that his graduation and every position he’s held since is directly attributable to affirmative action. He calls Clarence Thomas a hypocrite for dissing aa, but he won’t go out on a limb and even acknowledge that most of his own achievement was due in part to being personally responsible for it?

    It doesn’t surprise me that all Gates calls for is more federal spending (Gates apparently never took logic or statistics at Yale) and more “civil rights” activity. Going halfway down the road to truth is kind of setting the goals a little short. His civil rights ideas sound a lot closer to a personal responsibility movement, so the use of the loaded terms of “civil rights” (which is something “granted”) while ripping Clarence for doing in practice exactly what Gates calls for gives the impression that Gates is a nostalgic man of little practical vision.

    I’m not saying Gates is devoid of intelligence or good ideas, but perhaps the place to start would not be following the advice of a third-rate academic like Gates. I’m sure Gates does his share of tin-cup grant begging like all other academics, but it could be construed as just an upper-class method of welfare. In any case, the dual messages of respect and dependency are too easy to spot; even a gangsta can spot the contradiction.

  9. JB,

    “Well, statisically speaking, far more blacks live outside of poverty today, per capita, than they did thirty years ago (indeed, it has gone from 1/3 outside poverty to 2/3)…”

    During the early 1900’s to 1930’s, the black middle class was far larger than it is today. The union favoring policies of FDR destroyed the black middle class, which gradually declined until the early 1980’s when many welfare laws were repealed and closed shop states became a minority.

    Thomas Sowell wrote several books on this subject and is highly critical of Gates’ work.

  10. “”Well, statisically speaking, far more blacks live outside of poverty today, per capita, than they did thirty years ago (indeed, it has gone from 1/3 outside poverty to 2/3).”

    Where did you get these numbers?

  11. Let’s have a little backup of richard’s assertion about the black middle class.

  12. Here is yet another burden poor minority communities must endure. The covert hi-tech human rights abuses of drug task forces. Are the HIDTA and its drug task forces abusing the rights of innocent victims? Read Criminal Enforcement – HIDTA & Newark Police Blog and judge for yourself.

    Sometimes the only way to reveal truth is through a work of fiction…

  13. I’d be cautious about Gates’ comment, “I remember a poll where black kids were asked to list the things they considered ‘acting white,’ …” Undocumented recollections, even if honest, are the stuff urban legends are made of.

  14. I seem to remember someone posting a URL to a site that had login accounts for a great number of sites that required them.
    Anyone remember what that URL is?

    Thanks

  15. Everybody has asked the question. . .”What shall we do with the Negro?” I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are wormeaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature’s plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!

    –Frederick Douglass16

  16. Gates doesn’t have to cite a “poll”. The work of Johnathan Ogbu comparing educational and social outcomes for Black african-american students, versus African students in American schools, pretty much proves Gates’ hypothesis. Ogbu’s munumental Shaker Heights Ohio study, released about 18 months ago, confirms the cultural problem. Many activities necessary to success in the U.S. including going to school, scoring high grades, attending higher education, are perceived as “too white” by young Black students. This leads to worse educational and social outcomes across the board relative to similarly situatied White, Asian and Hispanic students, even in Black areas that are middle and upper class.

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