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Sunday, July 21, 2013

#TrayvonMartin and the Moynihan Report

It's Erin Aubry Kaplan, at the Los Angeles Times, "Trayvon Martin, an American son."

She gives the standard review of the Moynihan Report, which was perhaps the most important piece of sociological research in the second half of the 20th century, but which was attacked by blacks and leftists for putting the blame for black American family dislocation at the individual level level rather than the structural level, with its easy excuses of "institutional racism."

Her piece then goes on:

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All of which brings us directly to Trayvon Martin. The 17-year-old was killed because he was seen by Zimmerman and many others as a potential threat, a conflation of racial fact and fantasy that obscured the more critical fact that he was a child and somebody's son — a loved member of a family.

The battle lines were drawn long before the trial even started. Zimmerman supporters circulated images of Trayvon as a wannabe bad guy and lone predator who seemed much older and harder than 17, complete with a gold grill on his teeth; Trayvon supporters emphasized the dignity and caring nature of his parents in an attempt to counter not just those stereotypes but the bigger assumptions that broken black families produce broken and potentially dangerous kids.

Trayvon's parents were divorced, hardly uncommon in America, but viewed through a racial lens, that was seen as just one more bit of black pathology. But the truth is that black families, whether nonnuclear or traditional, poor or middle class, are all subject to damning stereotypes and to a deeply rooted belief that they are somehow lesser.

The recent acknowledgments of high-profile black men such as Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. that they have been racially profiled by police speak to this long-standing truth. Black pundits such as MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry have also aired their personal frustration and a sense of what she poignantly called the "demoralization" of all black people in the wake of the not-guilty verdict.

The question now is whether Holder or anyone high up in the government, including our first black president, will be able or willing to make black crises a matter of national import again.

I have to say, I am not hopeful. Obama's unscripted remarks on Friday about race and his own experiences — an elaboration of his comment last year that "if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon"— were undoubtedly a relief to many who've been frustrated by the president's calculated silence on everything racial. There are reasons for that silence. From the beginning, he has gotten fierce blowback for even the mildest expressions of empathy with other blacks. His public addresses to black audiences have stressed so-called family values and personal responsibility on the part of black men, steering clear of systemic problems such as racism and employment discrimination. The Moynihan Revisited project, despite some laudable goals, has more than a whiff of that do-it-ourselves conservatism about it.

Personal responsibility has a role to play, of course, but that conversation can only take place in a society equally determined to address the broader systemic issues.

Pulling back from the philosophical extremes that all Americans — black, white and other — have accepted for far too long as normal will take much more than another report or retooled initiative. Real and sustained change on the racial equality front has to be a family effort, an effort of the entire dysfunctional American family to which we all belong.
Yes, the "broader systemic issues."

Those always help take the onus off personal responsibility, and they keep the left's perpetual race-grievance machine in business.

PHOTO CREDIT: The Other McCain, "The Greater Good’: Heretical Facts vs. the Myth of St. Trayvon of the Blessed Hoodie."

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