Black Power or Black Patriotism? - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Black Power or Black Patriotism?
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CURE founder and president Star Parker in panel about the state of black America, June 15, 2021 (CURE/YouTube)

The State of Black America: Progress, Pitfalls, and the Promise of the Republic
Edited by W. B. Allen

(Encounter Books, 352 pages, $32) 

It’s common to hear liberal progressives talk about black Americans as if they’re children. The Washington Post recently argued that black Americans still need affirmative action in college admissions. Black faith leaders recently pushed for expanded Medicaid and other welfare programs to give black Americans a leg up. Blacks, progressives say, need special help in school, special shelter from violence, special programs and government expenditures to boost their quality of life, special laws to protect their hair. Conveniently, all these measures have a side effect of raising the cost of government and increasing its control over our lives.

Progressives’ caricature looks nothing like the black men and women I know. As Interim COO at the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE), I have the privilege of working with some of the most brilliant, patriotic, and diligent businesspeople, scholars, public figures, and policy experts in the country. This year, they released a new collection of essays called The State of Black America that seeks to defend a unique black patriotism from the exploitative “black power” politics of the Left.

The book’s inquiry can be broken down into three topics: rights, identity, and prosperity. As I was an integral part of the search process for the experts and intellectuals, both black and white, who would contribute chapters to this collection, I can speak to the reasoning behind each of the authors CURE selected. Some are scholars and researchers of economics and sociology, some experts on law and government, others investors and businessmen, and others activists with personal experience of the subject matter. All are true believers in America’s founding principles and are specially attuned to the needs and values of black communities. Their insights on rights, identity, and prosperity make new connections and break new ground, rendering The State of Black America a prerequisite for any debate on racial issues in this country.

Focusing on the subject of legal rights are theorist Edward J. Erler and historian Robert D. Bland, both award-winning authors at the forefront of their respective fields. Erler argues that the Lincolnian reform of the U.S. Constitution completed the founders’ goals, and that the principle of “equality under the law” began as a legal term but flowered into a cultural term that encompassed a truer, deeper American spirit. Bland highlights the after-effects of the equal rights enshrined in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments — pointing out that black Americans’ unique cultural contributions were empowered by civil rights such as property ownership, due process, participation in politics, and voting. The best descriptor for this phenomenon of early black citizenship is not “separate but equal” but rather “uniqueness through equality”; that is, constitutional rights enabled black Americans to express themselves to the fullest.

And what does that expression look like in the context of American national identity? No public intellectuals are equipped to answer that question better than economist Glenn C. Loury and political scientist William B. Allen, whose pair of essays consider the failures of past attempts to politicize black culture or to pretend it is unimportant. Prepare to be shocked: Allen’s essay rebukes civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. for his philosophy of victimization and black helplessness, his race essentialism, and his socialism. Allen centers his critique around King’s book Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? while Loury’s essay, “Whose Fourth of July? Black Patriotism and Racial Inequality in Ameria,” excoriates another historical figure, Frederick Douglass, for the “qualified patriotism” he expressed in “What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July?” — the famous 1852 speech. For Douglass, the onus is on America to become worthy of patriotism. But Loury believes patriotism is an act of gratitude incumbent on all Americans — even those who feel they’ve received the short end of the stick.

Loury and Allen are not merely repeating old ideas about “respectability” politics or “bootstrap” economics. The State of Black America is highly attuned to the issues of prosperity, class mobility, and the causes of poverty for black Americans. CURE’s mission, after all, is to seek “policy solutions focused on America’s distressed zip codes” — and the essays by policy experts Ian V. Rowe, Precious D. Hall and Daphne Cooper, and CURE founder and president Star Parker and Robert Borens accurately portray the economic and social state of black America without trying to avoid controversial topics like violence, historic discrimination, religious and family values, and education. Thanks to their careful statistical documentation, a clear argument emerges that you will not hear elsewhere in the academic field of African-American studies, and certainly not in shallow political rhetoric: Black culture has within it the capability for unprecedented prosperity, and in fact many have already achieved it. The key is not addition — more government programs, more legal protections, more pandering — but subtraction. Black America cannot succeed without removing the shackles of radicalism, racial enmity, and despondency over crime, poverty, and lack of education.

The question of power versus patriotism is key to the book’s exploration of black issues. Power and patriotism are not necessarily opposed, but true patriots do not seek naked power over their fellow Americans for its own sake — and the power-hungry only bring further misery to the black community. Policy analyst Mikael Rose Good’s introduction to The State of Black America and initial chapter (co-written with Allen) home in on this aspect of critical race theory apologist Ibram X. Kendi’s pernicious racial philosophy, which Kendi expresses in his books How to be an Antiracist and Stamped from the Beginning. By starting with the assumption that to be white is equivalent to being a slaver and oppressor, Kendi’s books ensure that race relations stall by becoming zero-sum. “Antiracism” ultimately renders black Americans powerless in a world where only a select few — like the exploitative leaders of Black Lives Matter, whose fraud Star Parker has exposed — can strike it rich and become powerful. The rest remain trapped in the ghetto.

The State of Black America is for everyone who seeks to understand these issues and present them truthfully: politicians, teachers, employers, pastors, parents, journalists, and more. All Americans, black or non-black, must strive for a better future that is not mired in senseless racial quarrels driven by sensationalized media lies. There will always be empty, weightless rhetoric; the way to heal is through truth — which The State of Black America offers generously.

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