Philosophy; Posted on: 2008-11-18 15:23:04 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
An essay by a highly accomplished academic and member of European Americans United
I have often wondered how it all started.
I am 60 years old and I have never known a day when minorities have not been granted behavioral latitude that was unavailable to the rest of us. We are reminded of cases like Rodney King and OJ Simpson, where the black communities throughout our country bristled, demanding that these men not be made accountable for their transgressions. This was done under the lightly veiled threat of violence, riot and destruction. We cannot seem to hold people of color accountable for anything without the litany of charges of profiling and racism, while the cascades of claims of racial prejudice never end. Nobody really knows how it all came to be, but I know where it began for me.
Like my parents, I knew little about minority issues when I entered school. Both of my parents were from a small, out of the way, railroad town in Northern California. My father, a veteran, had only passing and unremarkable contacts with people from different ethnic groups due to the segregation of the army of WW II. Neither he nor my mother had reason to believe that minorities were any different from anyone else save the color of their skin, and that was what we were all taught from the beginning. Like all kids, social interactions at school were new, and we all felt strange and different from one another. But it was then that we began to realize that the few minority students in our school were, indeed, more different. The regard given to them was obvious at once and it served to unwittingly separate us from one another. Almost immediately the differences seemed ugly.
Like most other postwar primary schools, there were some swell perks, initially designed to shine a light in the direction of character, discipline and fairness. It was made widely known by the faculty and staff that performance would be the basis of the coveted rewards: being named equipment monitor, the head of a line going somewhere or class runner who got to go to different classes taking messages to other teachers. These perks were traditional and I remembered the older people in my family and in the neighborhood talk of these same rules that had been standard even when they had attended the school twenty or more years earlier. The perks were a way of extending a sort of collective affection to those students who exceeded expectations.
For reasons clear to us even as children, Charlie, one of the very few black children in our school, seemed to be in abundant receipt of these perks, even though the standards on which the bonuses were issued to him were being curiously stretched. Charlie was not a great student. Those who voiced some objection or requested clarification of the rules were scolded, sometimes severely, and had to undergo broad hints from the teachers that the parents and homes from which they came were prejudiced, ignorant, and somehow unholy. Charlie and the other minority children in the school were subject to a different set of rules, much more lenient than for the rest of us. They got far more than their fair share of perks and they did not have to function within the same parameters as their white peers did. And so it went.
Teachers, and eventually most all of the students, came to ignore the standards because, when the perks were so arbitrarily distributed, they no longer had meaning. Eventually they even had no meaning to Charlie. But the school, somehow, seemed to believe that they had to make up for the wrongdoing, segregation and prejudice in the country and in the world. So, since Charlie and the other students of color could not read very well but could certainly run well, the perks all seemed to become based around sports. Some other students were able to achieve some perks also, of course, but Charlie was the one to beat and the accolades for him were always loud.
Charlie had a great school career with many fond memories, I am sure. But he never completed his high school education. Charlie, through nothing that he did or necessarily earned, was the toast of the school. What I did not know at the time, but was to find out again and again throughout my life, was that the perks and the different standards were there to stay. And I had to accept them or spend the rest of my life fighting a trend that so much larger than me.
Following high school, I joined the Marine Corps. After the initial training, and permanent duty stations had been assigned, the kinds of special privileges extended to minority Marines were even more evident than they had been to Charlie and the other black kids. If there was a conflict between a minority and a white Marine, the white Marine would often be the one found to be in the right without the Senior NCOs even bothering to consider the dispute at issue.
I remember at one duty station there was an Article 15 (punishment) given to black a Marine. The punishment consistent with the violation was suspended because, upon receiving the admonishment, the Marine immediately, upon the advice of a black Senior Enlisted Officer, telephoned both his Congressman and Senator. By the end of the day, the Article 15 had been removed. The other men in our unit were galled because just two weeks earlier, a white Marine had been sent to the brig with a loss of rank and a fine for the same infraction. The other Marines felt certain that the reasoning at the top was that if the Article 15 had not been lifted, there would be a major racial incident on that base of the kind that was being used by the liberal media of the '60s to advance their claims of racism and to stoke antiwar sentiment.
In Vietnam, matters were even worse.
It must have been my third or fourth night in Vietnam as a young rifleman. Like the 40 or 50 other Marines who were either replacements or had some administrative or medical reason not to be in the field, I was given the busy jobs around the field encampment. That small unit was known as the sick, lame and lazy platoon, and one of first assignments I drew as a new guy was to be half of a two man team occupying a defensive foxhole on the inside of the barbed wire. The job called for us to alternate our roles; one of us was to be awake and on guard for two hours while the other slept.
My associate on that night was another black Marine who promptly informed me that it was his plan to sleep the night through. He further said that when the sergeant of the guard came by he would claim that it was not his watch and say that I had been the one to fall asleep on duty in a combat zone, a fairly serious infraction. He said, with a smirk on his face, that it was pretty much standard procedure, because everybody knew it would be me who would lose at the Article 15 hearing. He had reason to believe that it was true because the several cases that had come before the Lieutenant Colonel were decided in favor of the black Marines. There was nothing I was able to do but take it. After a few similar issues I, and the other white Marines, hoped that they would see the glaring pattern. But my tour of duty came and went and the vast majority of disputes were adjudicated in favor of the minority Marines.
But the most troubling for me was in the field, where functioning as a team was critical for survival. Going into the field, the goal was to have as much firepower as possible at our disposal. This meant that we humped as much ammunition as we could on our backs. Routinely, some of the nonwhites would simply refuse to carry the supportive munitions, mostly the machinegun ammunition and mortar rounds, like the rest of us, even the platoon sergeant, had to take turns doing. There was no doubt in the minds of the rest of us that the ordnance discarded by the blacks along the side of the trail was found and later on, used by the enemy against us. Pleas to carry the vital added weight were dismissed with shrugs and comments like "this is the white man’s war." Nobody was allowed to make an issue for fear of reprisal and in the knowledge that there would be no support higher up the chain of command. Our lives were less important than adherence to this primitive form of political correctness, a weakness the blacks preyed on.
So far through the course of my young life it seemed to me that minorities, for reasons I did not understand, enjoyed an enormous tolerance of their behavior. After Vietnam, I saw that that trend continued in college, only more intensely.
It was intellectually fashionable in California colleges of that era (as it is to this day) to listen to, seek to appreciate, and give a great deal of blind credence to ethnic rage. "Of course they are angry," one professor said to us. "Just open your eyes and look around and you will see the prejudice and oppression." And the white students, not being stupid, saw how the wind was blowing and would agree that white prejudice warranted all of that minority anger. I felt that there must be some flat spots on my psyche, because I had only been able to see an unlimited permissiveness for nonwhites all of my life. I thought that, perhaps, I was just not all that bright, and when one college professor told me I wasn't college material because I would not take part in a minority convocation and demonstration, I actually I wondered if the teacher was right. But I kept my mouth shut about not being able to see the logic behind the Laissez Faire treatment of these radicals.
So in California, the most liberal state in the union, I attended graduate school in the most liberal of all cities, San Francisco, where, true to form, all of "the oppressed" were celebrated. Professors in psychology classes would drone on and on about the unfairness of the white dominated society. The orations seemed endless and repetitive, but to not nod your head with approving support would be to draw surly looks and accusations of…racism.
The writing was on the wall for all to see but nobody openly brought it to issue.
We have all heard the horror stories of graduate school. I was able to avoid much of the social interactions because I lived and worked outside of the Bay Area while doing much of the final work on my projects. But when it came to the dissertation process, it, for me, was madness.
I recall waiting endlessly for a minority woman who had taken my position in line for "just a few words" with my Dissertation Committee Chairperson. The few words lasted for hours as that white woman professor literally wrote portions of the student's dissertation for her. That was the metaphor for my experience in graduate school: minorities being served advantage after advantage to somehow make up for this insidious prejudice that some people seem to see everywhere.
The other side argues that if they are equal in capacity, how is it that they require the never ending breaks and compensation that seem only to handicap white people? Minorities still are under-represented among Nobel Prize winners, those on the cutting edge of scientific and medical research, or even in subjective categories open to politically correct manipulation, like the Pulitzer Prize. With all of the help given to them by compromising white people, minorities still are over-represented among welfare recipients, drug users and convicts. With all of the opportunities to demonstrate superiority or even social adequacy, why are they still largely disenfranchised?
At some point we must address the question about how to deal with this social problem. A basic value of our culture is that with a definite purpose, tenacity, and effort, a man or woman can realize the American dream of success in whatever venue chosen. But to award people with positions, degrees and homage that is unearned is preposterous, while the perpetuation of this practice weakens the very underpinnings of our culture. And it needlessly disenfranchises deserving and talented innocent young white people, who are forced to pay the price of white guilt ideology perpetuated by those whites largely immune from those costs through power, privilege and position.
What do we really owe the minorities of this country? We have hamstrung white people with affirmative action which was allegedly designed to "level the playing field" so that minorities can compete but which robs many whites of the chance to reach their full potential as human beings. Additionally, there are a variety of laws sheltering nonwhites from the effects of their "I could care less" attitudes. There are quotas for graduate, medical and law school admissions and, from observing the different and much weaker educational standards these so called victims of white prejudice are held to, it is difficult to understand how these measures help anyone. Who would really want someone who is inadequately trained and only in a position because of their race to perform open heart surgery on their loved one, even if it was to support the fairy tale that these people, so different after all, are integrating well into this culture?
There is a certain permissiveness exemplified by the angry and inarticulate who advance racial hatred against white people and our culture. If a white person were to make similar claims we would certainly experience the scathing rebuke (or worse) of the media and others who seem much like the characters in the story about the emperor who had no clothes; we all walk around afraid to state the obvious.
The instability of many Third World cultures in the United States, the tendency toward riot and violence and the swelling of our penal institutions are being purposely ignored or understated in order to keep articulation of the fact of social conflict down to a minimum, even though everyone, of all races, knows that multiculturalism is just not working.
Where will it all end? I shudder to think.
Our liberal leaders hold on dearly to the idea that there is yet that sinister racism among us white people holding minorities down and oppressing their rights of expression. But it is clear that these leaders are part of the power elite who do not live among them. They do not stand in the lines at the stores or the movie theaters. They do not conduct business directly with nonwhites and they do not have to bother with those angry minorities just looking for an issue so that they can fashionably point to one more example of the unfairness of the white culture. How did it get to be this way?
We created the problem back in the 1950s as we imposed this entitlement attitude on them in Kindergarten. With all those perks and well meaning special treatment imparted and enforced the idea that these were things that were due to them. That entitlement attitude was pumped up during the revolution of the 60s when they became acknowledged "victims" of the military industrial complex and was further fueled by the rhetoric of such people as Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
But we are responsible for the problems we have today. We have indulged and even encouraged the outrageousness we see by allowing the media to impart an inaccurate and plastic portrayal of seemingly harmless, Anglicized blacks portrayed as being just like us, on television, in movies, in sports and on the news. As the entitlement attitude was thrust upon minorities it was similarly crammed down our throats by the laws and the noisy rhetoric of politicians and others in the power elite. The solution to the madness must be clear.
The current trend must be modified. There should be no EEO or quotas or special consideration for anyone; the perks at all levels should be based on performance rather than some concocted ideas about a duty we must eternally pay for a small number of rich whites enslaving, long ago, a fraction of the ancestors of the people now claiming these entitlements. We all must play by the same rules and we must never forget that for all of us, not just some, the world is terribly unforgiving of carelessness, incapacity or neglect and it is the responsibility of each individual to mobilize his own resources and reach deeply inside himself to locate the strength and courage to find and hold the path to success. Success is not an entitlement and the sooner we can recognize that, the sooner the world will stop heading towards disaster.
News Source: European Americans United