On Black Pathology

August 16, 2014

Months ago, I read Ta-Nehisi Coates' article Black Pathology and the Closing of the Progressive Mind. I will summarize it as suggesting that there is a popular liberal narrative that "black culture sucks but it's white peoples' fault", and Ta-Nehisi counters by pointing out awesome things about black culture and history -- it doesn't suck, despite long-term experience of white supremacy.

I usually agree with Coates, but this time I thought he was simply in denial. What about narcissism, misogyny, fear -- obvious cultural cancers with particularly visible black manifestations? I'm talking about rap music here, folks.

Recent events in Ferguson, MO, have suggested to me a different way to read Coates.

One of the themes of race relations in this country is white fear of black uprising. White slaveowners, who were often outnumbered by slaves, were always afraid that any black uprising would spread and turn into a black-on-white race war. Since the civil war, you can see it in police response, cops will come from districts all around eager to smack down the black man lest he get a sense of his own violent power. And today you see it in St. Louis, where white people in distant suburbs are buying guns in case the uprising spreads.

It's easy to understand this white viewpoint. Even gun-toting racists can understand that white people haven't always been nice to black people in our nation, and they reasonably fear retribution. But that fear is entirely misplaced.

Which brings me back to Coates' article. He tells us that after the civil war, black people immediately began investing in the future of their families. But I think the real gold is in what they didn't do. Even during the civil war, there was no great black-on-white race war. Even when white people were killing eachother in stunning numbers, black people did not rise up as a united mass of violence.

If you're afraid that there'll be some provocation and then suddenly black people will turn into a writhing mass of violent flesh, you're not paying attention. There has been every provocation you can imagine, and a thousand you can't, and *still* black culture is profoundly non-violent.

Every single black man that can be provoked to violence already has been. The problem of black violence is already at its absolute maximum. No matter how much additional provocation is provided, there will be no race war.

Black culture is profoundly non-violent.

That's incredible, when you think about it.