The New Black Double Consciousness

I’m already deeply enjoying McWhorter’s Authentically Black, one essay in. As a Guilty White Liberal (GWL), McWhorter elegantly and convincingly challenges my assumptions. Mind you, I take him with a grain as I’m woefully under-informed.

Here’s a question that occurs to me after reading his first essay, The New Black Double Consicousness.

In it, he argues that while privately blacks are strong, and have a “private orientation toward personal empowerment”, when whites arrive on the scene the discourse changes to one of victimhood. The prevailing thought, he posits, is that white people must be “kept on the hook” and made to feel guilty lest they turn back the clock on civil rights. He believes that blacks, instead of being ready to move upward when legal doors were opened, are insisting that racism be eradicated completely before helping themselves.

He admonishes that this is self-defeating; that residual racism is a minor obstacle (though not a pleasant one) compared to decades past, and that white people are hardly intent on repealing laws of equality.

Finally, he says that because of this “public face”, put forth by black leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, that whites have the wrong idea about blacks–that most blacks are not poor, and accomplishments are many.

Most of this rings true enough. I invite my GWL friends to find a biography of Beyonce and see if it doesn’t challenge their assumptions. But here’s my problem. After all this, after admitting that white people are likely to see blacks as helpless because blacks have (even if unconsciously) given them only this to see, he excoriates the Left for programs like expanded welfare and affirmative action. Okay, so let me get this straight, Mr. McWhorter: you admit that the message blacks send to whites is “help me, because you owe me”, then you get pissed off when we respond to that very message?

What McWhorter seems to prefer is the disdain of the Right, because it’s “for your (blacks’) own good”. I think I understand the problem. If there’s one thing Nancy Reagan made clear, it’s that all the good psychics are on the Right. We don’t have the mind readers, and are left with the inadequate solution of listening to what we hear. I suppose Democratic leadership should read McWhorter’s books (well, that’s true enough) and take his word over the word of the majority of blacks.

I say get us some good psychics, and we’re there. Until then, it seems disingenuous to rail against a group for actually listening.

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