Stanford Historian and Hoover Institute Fellow Shelby Steele has a powerful essay in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, behind a pay wall, about the feckless NFL “take the knee” protests. He also touches on Black Lives Matter. You probably can get a copy of the Journal at Barnes & Noble or another news stand if you move quickly. Or there’s always your local library.
I’m going to quote his core claim and, what I find a most powerful illustration, and his reasoning on why protests continue:
The oppression of black people is over with. This is politically incorrect news, but it is true nonetheless. We blacks are, today, a free people. It is as if freedom sneaked up and caught us by surprise.
Of course this does not mean there is no racism left in American life. Racism is endemic to the human condition, just as stupidity is. We will always have to be on guard against it. But now it is recognized as a scourge, as the crowning immorality of our age and our history.
Protest always tries to make a point. But what happens when that point already has been made—when, in this case, racism has become anathema and freedom has expanded?
To hear … that more than 4,000 people were shot in Chicago in 2016 embarrasses us because this level of largely black-on-black crime cannot be blamed simply on white racism.
We can say that past oppression left us unprepared for freedom. This is certainly true. But it is no consolation. Freedom is just freedom. It is a condition, not an agent of change. It does not develop or uplift those who win it. Freedom holds us accountable no matter the disadvantages we inherit from the past. The tragedy in Chicago—rightly or wrongly—reflects on black America.
That’s why, in the face of freedom’s unsparing judgmentalism, we reflexively claim that freedom is a lie. We conjure elaborate narratives that give white racism new life in the present ….
I tried to comment on this, but that only made it weaker.
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“No man hath a velvet cross.” (Samuel Rutherford, 17th century Scotland)