It is absolutely true that the murder rate is way out of whack in the African-American community compared to the general population and both the victims and the perpetrators are black. ~ Barack Obama, 7/14/2016
If you take up the cause of criticizing the validity of the state, you soon discover that there are certain criticisms that are strictly verboten. Public education, roads, PBS, NPR, the National Parks, the EPA, NASA, the NIH and libraries among others are all pretty much sacrosanct. Any criticism of these institutions or initiatives will generally draw opprobrium and general accusations of being an enemy of human decency and a retrograde neanderthal.
Of all the sacred cows, the biggest of all is perhaps civil rights. Bring up civil rights, Brown v. Board of Education, the ’64 Civil Rights Act, Martin Luther King Jr. and you’re likely to hear swooning praise from all political persuasions that these pieces of legislation, court decisions, leaders and the movements which agitated for them were brave, principled, and an unequivocal American success. Legislative successes which helped set America on a path towards rectifying a sordid past filled with race based oppression and state enforced segregation and subjugation.
But do these legislative achievements translate into real world achievement for the communities for whom civil rights legislation is intended?
Do statistical disparities in outcomes or representation automatically indicate the presence of prejudicial attitudes?
Even if prejudicial attitudes are present, does it automatically follow that the target of discrimination is damaged for life and his economic prospects are forever compromised?
Is there a positive correlation between legislation and economic achievement?
Is the legacy of civil rights legislation rhetoric or reality?
In Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality, Dr. Thomas Sowell addresses these questions and unpacks some the underlying motivations and assumptions behind the civil rights movement. It is generally regarded as axiomatic that disparities in outcome or representation are the result of discriminatory views and that these views will diminish economic prospects for the target of the discrimination. Sowell treats this as a hypothesis to be tested and held to scrutiny instead of an unchallenged article of faith. These assumptions are tested on the outcomes for the special cases of both blacks and women. The results of his findings do not fit the social justice narrative and often run completely contrary to it.
Dr. Sowell draws an essential distinction at the outset. Civil rights initially meant equality of opportunity. Not equality of results. Since Brown v. Board of Education and the ’64 Civil Rights Act, the meaning of “civil rights” has swung unequivocally towards a focus on outcomes accompanied by an ever expanding activism from the state and its various proxies in academia.
Obviously, this book provides a very clear window of insight into the contemporary social justice movement and its pathological fixation on equal representation and outcomes Dr. Sowell argues that a key factor in this ideological sea change can be traced to two key edicts: LBJ’s Executive Order 11246 and Green v. County School Board of New Kent County. These two orders shifted the civil rights focus away from equality of liberty and towards equality of outcome. I personally contend that the entire contemporary social justice movement has origins in these orders.
The role of family life, parenting, technological innovation and cultural trends are rarely, if ever, acknowledged by civil rights activists with respect to economic advancement for blacks or any other seemingly disenfranchised minority. Social justice advocates are all too willing to consider the passage of a law, the election of a politician or the installation of a bureaucrat as the sole determining factor in maximizing economic achievement. Sowell deploys a trove of statistics to show how high economic achievement is closely correlated with a stable home life while unfavorable and tragic outcomes are equally correlated with instability and single parent homes. The latter being especially true for blacks.
Sowell also examines how a number of policies which align with the civil rights vision such as licensure requirements, regulation, subsidies, food stamps and minimum wage all conspire to aggrandize politicians and undermine black achievement.
This book was published in 1984, and even back then, feminists were flogging the myth of the wage gap. The numbers were a little different, but the myth of rampant sexism on which the talking point stands remains unchanged. Sowell devotes a chapter to this fairy tale and destroys it handily and effortlessly. Though feminists like equate themselves with minorities, the effect that motherhood and marriage plays in economic outcomes simply cannot be overstated. Despite regularly working fewer hours, choosing career paths which make few physical demands, require less skill and offer more flexibility, the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 as well as a steadily rising labor force participation rate since 1948, feminists insist on rehashing the fiction of an oppressive, sexist patriarchy that’s holding them back. The stubborn persistence of the myth despite the refutations of Sowell and numerous academics up to this day is a sad testimony to the power of demagoguery and repetition.
Civil rights activists have successfully agitated for universal suffrage, but Sowell argues that the pursuit of equal economic outcomes by way of the ballot box or bureaucratic fiat is wrongheaded and doomed to fail. If there’s a threat of government punishment hanging over the heads of an employer in order to fulfill some arbitrary diversity quota, the hiring incentives become completely perverted. Employers will either screen out unskilled labor more aggressively or hire an employee who meets the diversity criteria, but is otherwise poorly qualified.
Frederic Bastiat correctly concluded that slavery was one of the moral blights that plagued the American experiment, and America has been trying to atone for the oppression of African-Americans since the passage of the 13th Amendment. Despite being one of the first major countries in the history of human civilization to end slavery, all of this self-flagellation has culminated in a contemporary social justice movement that’s more toxic and divisive than ever.
Like the original women’s suffrage movement and the efforts of early Second Wave feminism, the intentions of the Civil Rights movement activists were noble and laudable. Sadly, the contemporary social justice movement has mutated into an embittered and vengeful mob which prioritizes groupthink, automatically assumes the presence of prejudicial attitudes as the cause of poor achievement, and places a pathological emphasis on preferential treatment on the basis of race and gender to the exclusion of personal achievement, skill, character and merit.
Just as Christina Hoff Sommers recognized and challenged a rising tide of irrationality within feminism, Thomas Sowell saw a comparable level of victimology brewing within civil rights activism and sought to lance the boil of opportunism and demagoguery growing on the face of American politics and academics. This festering pustule of ideological rigidity has only grown since this book’s publication in 1984, but the cold facts he lays out stand tall like an immovable pillar of stone amidst the fickle winds of political hackery and academic quackery. Social justice warriors, academic ideologues, and political charlatans need and deserve rebuke for fomenting division, disseminating disinformation and misinformation, and insisting on treating people differently because of biological traits which cannot be changed. This book is the sober rebuttal to their pathetic bleatings.
Here are the million dollar questions.
If you criticize this film as a work of art, what are the odds you’ll be branded a RACIST?
If you question the premise that the acquisition of voting rights has resulted in greater self-determination for the black community, what are the odds you’ll be branded RACIST?
Survey says….100% CERTAINTY!
Though it may invite this kind of condemnation and censure from the online masses, I’m going to do both of these things.
By and large, it’s a decent film. It’s certainly not without flaws and just like King and his legacy, the themes and ideas at its core deserve closer scrutiny.
What’s good about it is its unflinching portrayal of the acts of violence and intrusiveness carried out by agents of the state as well as the manipulative and racist attitudes of who wield state power. I’m honestly surprised it doesn’t make libertarians out of everyone who watches it.
I also think that it buckles from the weight of the subject matter. It suffers from a certain turgidity. It’s a film so certain of the moral righteousness of King’s insistence on acquiring of political power that it feels like it’s own kind of psychological truncheon. It has a faint air of propaganda.
The film is focused on King’s three month campaign to secure voting rights for blacks culminating in the signing of 1965 Civil Rights Act.
The film is unambiguously black and white in its portrayal of events and the individuals involved.
Up until the hamfisted Hymn to the Glory of Government ending, government power and its various agents and politicians are portrayed in a relentlessly negative light.
Aside from the controversy over the portrayal of the negotiations between Johnson and King, these aspects of the film are accurate.
The film sets the tone in the first two scenes. Oprah Winfrey plays Annie Lee Cooper dutifully reciting American civics questions to a cruel bureaucrat who was solidly intent on making life as difficult as possible for her while she attempts to register to vote. The following scene portrays a group of girls enjoying one another’s company at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama until their lives are tragically and abruptly cut short by a violent explosion.
From there, events are demarcated by log entries made by FBI spies who are monitoring events and phone calls. The film is letting us know that the roots of the surveillance state are deep.
The scenes of King’s private negotiations with Johnson portray him as a callous and calculating politician who’s more concerned with his agenda than the war zone that’s happening right under his nose.
Martin Luther King Jr.: We need your involvement here, Mr. President. We deserve your help as citizens of this country. Citizens under attack.
President Lyndon B. Johnson: Now, you listen to me. You listen to me. You’re an activist. I’m a politician. You got one big issue. I got a hundred and one.
One could argue that little has changed.
Hoover exhibits the kind of black hearted malevolence which seems befitting of his legacy.
J. Edgar Hoover: Mister President, you know we can shut men with power down, permanently and unequivocally.
The scenes of police brutality are harrowing and realistic.
And so on.
On the flipside, the film seems doggedly determined to present King as a paragon of unambiguous virtue, restraint and composure.
No matter how much brutality the movement faces, King makes a consistent appeal for non-violent resistance.
The allegations of infidelity are glossed over.
When tensions are frayed, King exhibits a paternalistic gravitas which immediately calms all overheated emotions.
Despite the soaring speeches and appeals to democracy, it feels leaden.
The grand contradiction that’s seemingly overlooked is that his appeal to non-violence was completely at odds with his desire to acquire political power.
Blacks acquired the political power he sought. Has this elevated the ranks of the black population in the way he hoped?
On the one hand, the terrorism and violence is less overt and severe than it was in that period.
On the other, one wonders whether the right to vote has enhanced black self-determination or thwarted it.
As events in Ferguson and Baltimore attest, having access to the vote did not forestall these crackdowns. In fact, the vote has arguably created and exacerbated the conditions which allowed for these incidents. Black politicians lent their support to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 which contributed directly to the militarization of the police, expansion of the prison complex and the swelling of the ranks of the police force. Public subsidies for housing and government initiatives have only entrenched racial segregation and economic stagnation.
The vote hasn’t prevented many other manifestations of state repression of the black community either.
Government police brutality against blacks remains prevalent. Incarceration rates remain very high. Compulsory public schooling has simply created a bridge to the state prison industrial complex. For black youth, labor force participation is down and unemployment rates are up.
Despite the grand intentions of the Great Society to elevate the ranks of the impoverished, one wonders whether government welfare has created upward economic mobility for blacks or kept them mired in poverty.
King openly equates voting with self-determination, but says nothing about economic self-determination. Have blacks achieved greater economic self-determination as a consequence of the ’65 Act or in spite of it?
Unfortunately, the grand failure of this film is that it seems only to buttress the current narrative around racism. In other words, that there’s no distinction to be made between state violence, arbitrary and irrational acts of unprovoked violence by private citizens and racist attitudes and speech. By today’s logic, the latter is the sole cause for historical and current acts of violence regardless of whether they are carried out by private individuals or police officers. As perverse as it seems, we are now living in a time where speech itself is conflated with violence. The whole phenomenon of microaggressions and the policing of speech is built off the ridiculous premise that being a self-appointed arbiter of “anti-oppression” both affirms your progressive bona fides and contributes to the delusion that being an obnoxious authoritarian will prevent the next Dylann Roof or improve the quality of life for blacks or for [Insert oppressed group of choice].
As I’ve argued with others, let’s just take the case that every act of white on black violence carried out by police officers is a product of racist attitudes.
Why isn’t anyone questioning why the police departments around the country seem so overloaded with racists?
Why is it that the social justice cops of the progressive left are dispensing idiotic lectures about “white privilege”, but are supporting the candidates who advocate for the very police state that continues to terrorize the black community in ways that are every bit as brutal as those carried out during the era in which the film is set?
Doesn’t this affirm Hayek’s argument that the “the unscrupulous and uninhibited are likely to be more successful” in the ranks of government?
The other big disappointment of the film is that it perpetuates the myth that our humanity and basic ability to treat one another with decency and respect as well as our freedom to live self-determined lives is somehow fundamentally tied to the machinery of government.
What a sad and self-defeating message it is to assert that we are so inept as a civilization that we must prostrate ourselves before a collection of elites with guns in order to achieve moral outcomes.
The film ends with King delivering a soaring speech and cuts to the various individuals who went on to serve in seats of government power.
Due to intellectual property laws, the filmmakers were unable to use King’s actual words. Perhaps this artistic license lent itself better to perpetuating the myth that politicians and civic leaders who seek social change through the power of the state have the power to create real racial harmony and economic prosperity.
I was listening to this song last night, and I genuinely wondered if we’re headed towards a culture of repression that would censor this song purely because of the title.
I’m concerned that we’ve already become a culture so consumed by the surface appearance and rhetoric of diversity, and yet so afraid to be labeled a racist for saying something that might be perceived as a microaggression.
I’m concerned that we’ve become a culture that stigmatizes the usage of a word all by itself and makes no distinctions around intent or context.
I’m concerned that we have become a culture that encourages self-appointed racism cops to go around pointing the finger and accusing RACISM in everyone but themselves.
I’m concerned that we’ve become a culture that’s more comfortable ascribing blame to symbols and doling out moronic lectures about “white privilege” than ascertaining responsibility for the actions of individuals.
My biggest fear is that we’ve conflated speech and words with actual violence, and by extension, are ceding a fundamental liberty that each of us has to the authority of the state and all of the sycophantic, authoritarian would-be do-gooders who believe that calling everyone and everything racist is actually creating any real racial harmony.
If policing speech over the usage of words or enforcing some prescribed template of PC virtue becomes the norm, then we have effectively ceded free thought and agency themselves.
This song is precisely why free speech matters.
We have the opportunity to access the best in ourselves because we’re free.
We have the opportunity to see the basic humanity in everyone because we’re free.
We have the opportunity to create racial harmony because we’re free.
Not because some self-appointed social justice cop posted a link to a feminist website and not because a politician doesn’t like what someone said or wants to use the power of the government to pass a hate speech law.
But you have to choose free speech and you have to be willing to defend it. Not with a gun, but with the power of your own convictions.
What will you choose?
I watched this film again after many years and was supremely entertained.
After it was over, I had this thought.
I bet that some twat out there probably thinks this film is racist.
Sure enough. A rudimentary Google search turned up all kinds of hits.
So allow me to present a counterpoint view to the racism cops and culture cops who seem intent on destroying anyone’s ability to simply enjoy a piece of pop entertainment without a cloud of guilt.
One of the standard arguments goes like this. The villains are black. The hero is white. Ergo, RACIST!
The plot of the film involves 007 investigating the murder of two agents who were killed by a drug lord. The film also involves an inner city crime boss and henchmen and contains some Hollywood portrayals of voodoo culture and ritual. Naturally, Bond makes it with a black woman too. In short, “Live and Let Die” is loaded with Blaxploitation imagery and archetypes.
So case closed, right? It’s just another racist piece of shit, yes?
Not so fast.
First off, films are first and foremost, entertainment. They’re generally fun.
This is especially true of the entire James Bond franchise.
Even if you are presenting a dramatic and serious work, you still have to have an appreciation for the fact that you are out to entertain.
If you are one of those sanctimonious assholes who think black people will be “harmed” by these portrayals, consider the possibility that you hold a condescending view of blacks and that you are the fucking racist.
Second, Bond films are well written stories with vivid characters and witty dialogue. They are stylish and sexy to boot. Broadly speaking, these are positive qualities in art as far as I’m concerned.
But if you really want to split hairs, the worst thing about this film is not the portrayals of black characters. It’s that Bond represents an absurd caricature of government excellence.
I mean, come on. Bond lives a life of exceptional luxury. He has unlimited access to the most advanced technologies and they all generally work very well. His exploits take him all over the globe.
That’s a hefty tab for the taxpayer.
The problem is not that the drug lord was black. It’s that the government has criminalized drugs and that’s a great way to disenfranchise and demonize blacks. This film is merely portraying what the government has been doing for years in a stylized and campy way and portrays Bond as being on the “good” side of the fight.
Furthermore, this was a professional endeavor. These were professional actors who voluntarily chose to play these roles.
So basically, culture cops, it comes down to this. If it really bothers you, watch something else. It would be preferable if you could simply seek out the art that affirms your values 100% or just admit that you are joyless fucks and you are intent on destroying fun for everyone else.
To everyone else, it’s Bond, man. And it’s the kind of film that doesn’t get made anymore. If the culture cops succeed in their seemingly endless quest to find racism and -ism du jour in everything, we may see less of these kinds of films.
You know. Films that are fun and entertaining.