Sunday, December 04, 2016

The Moon and the Ghetto



unz |  An enormous but seldom acknowledged paradox exists in American race relations. On the one hand, white America has gone to extraordinary lengths to help blacks: billions spent on anti-poverty programs and education; enacting countless anti-discrimination laws; interpreting laws and legal doctrines to give African Americans every possible advantage, obsessing over diversity and if these measures were insufficient, there’s the self-flagellation of whites confessing to bigotry, white privilege and, most recently, micro-aggressions. And let’s not forget the plague of Political Correctness—speech codes, covering up black-on-white crime, taboos topics galore—and similar measures designed to insulate blacks from hate.

Nevertheless, the vitriol that blacks direct toward whites seems only to grow stronger. This animus, moreover, emanates from all segments of black society, from the most advantaged Ivy League students to poorly educated, inarticulate rioters. Think Ta-Nehisi Coats, Cornell West and similar “intellectuals” who earn handsome livelihoods excoriating whites. This message is remarkably uniform: America is a repressive, racist society that continuously kills innocent blacks and refuses to let up despite superficial gestures to the contrary. How else can you explain the demands for “safe spaces”? A visiting Martian would surmise that contemporary American blacks live under a government far worse than what existed in apartheid South Africa.

Tellingly, no amount of effort by whites to convince blacks of their good fortune and amazing progress, e.g., a black President, a black Attorney General etc. etc. cools the anger. One can only be reminded of British Prime Minister William Gladstonesitting in his Club reading The Times and being informed that a man was going about London telling the most awful lies about him. “I don’t understand it,” he said, “I never once did the man a favor.”

As per Gladstone’s quip, let me try to explain this paradox. It is “The Moon and the Ghetto” phenomenon and while it drew some attention in the late 1960s and early 70s, it is worth reviving. Its gist is a question: how can a society capable of astonishing technical accomplishment fail to achieve far simpler and less costly tasks? The contradiction applies broadly but put in terms of American race relations, the question is why a government can send a man to the moon but is unable to teach every black youngster in Detroit’s public schools to read? After all, moon shots required genuine rocket scientists and the investment of billions, while past successful efforts at imparting literacy only needed school teachers working for a pittance.

The “Moon and Ghetto” explanation rests on three implicit assumptions. First and foremost, all the problems that bedevil blacks are caused by whites and given white domination of American society, whites are responsible for curing these tribulations. Only whites can figure out how to educate black children, uplift blacks from poverty or any other item on the black agenda. Like some god, whites are all-powerful and doubters need only observe awe-inspiring white accomplishments.