Saturday, April 4, 2015

"Unconditional Acceptance...," Ch. 25, BUT...AT WHAT COST

Unconditional acceptance, celebration of diversity, and political correctness (PC) are really three names for the same basic directive: be nice. There is nothing wrong with being nice, of course, but I wonder if the right people are listening, and if the advice alone hasn’t created a false perception.

Most of us are naturally polite to strangers until we have a reason not to be. I don’t know anyone personally who rejects a person on the basis of how he looks. Yes, many might be a little suspicious if he looks like a derelict, but most of us will just ignore or avoid them. Should we really expect more than that? I don’t. I base my judgments on behavior and respond accordingly… and so do most people.

I reject the notion that reasonable people of average intelligence need politically correct mandates to make them behave reasonably. Maybe, just maybe, political correctness came about through good intentions: stop the bigots from making “different” people feel bad. Fine, but I doubt the bigots listened.

Back when bigotry was more prevalent, it may have raised the consciousness of some fence-sitters, but does anyone think real bigots who, practically speaking, are ignorant dumb-asses, by my definition listen to and follow such mandates? They don’t, so that leaves us with the reasonable types who never needed the directives in the first place.

Now, in 2014, the worst thing you can call a white person is “racist.” It’s right up there with using the “N-word” to describe a black person. Shouldn’t that tell us something? Most people stopped using the “N-word” decades ago, because most people are polite and most people do NOT want to be seen as bigoted. Mission accomplished except for an ignorant few, and it started happening naturally – long beore these phony political interventions came on the scene. If you recall, we fought a civil war largely over slavery.

Desegregation efforts persisted for decades and it was primarily white people who had the power to make it happen… and, in fact, did make it happen.

The human species is very adaptive to changing circumstances, instinctively. We naturally soak in the expectations of our various cultures and sub-cultures according to our exposures. That’s the problem, now. The larger culture no longer demands that sub-cultures assimilate. Once the cries for unconditional acceptance came on the scene, all the means people normally use to decide who they like and don’t like were deemed unacceptable; therefore, none of the bad behaviors by members of disparate groups were rejected.

People don’t or can’t ignore bad behavior – nor should they, in my opinion. Bad behavior, whether by individuals or groups of individuals, should be condemned. It’s the only way people will learn to get along with each other. Politeness can be achieved by fiat (don’t say the "N-word"), but ultimately, respect and true acceptance must be earned. We will judge behavior and we will stereotype; it’s human nature.

The influences on personal choice are infinite, but I truly believe, in most cases, people are really, really good at distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys, and will treat them accordingly. That’s how we’ve always chosen our friends and enemies, and it works to everyone’s advantage. Everyone learns the expectations of the group, and adapts to those expectations to be accepted. Those who don’t adapt to the social norms of the larger group will be rejected… and in my experience, it doesn’t much matter what color or ethnicity anyone is… as long as he behaves himself.

We need only compare the statistics from days gone by to those of today to make us recognize the extent to which the inferences drawn from ill-conceived PC directives have destroyed the black ghetto culture – and may destroy our country.

In the first part of the twentieth century, most blacks succeeded despite rampant racism and discrimination. I was there; I saw the great strides average blacks were making in the North, and I watched most whites come to accept them. Black people were succeeding, not by acting white, but by being themselves. Most already had the same values white people had. We went to different churches, but our moral teachings came mostly from the same book. Most studied hard, worked hard and followed the same rules all people followed to succeed. I know that Rod, my drummer friend, felt he had to be “better” to be accepted, and perhaps he was right, but it also might have been one of those “eye of the beholder” things even then. Black people certainly experienced more automatic rejection than white people did, but whites still had to follow the rules, too. Not all whites succeeded – only those who worked hard, dressed appropriately, and spoke well. The rules were the same for everybody… and everybody had to follow them to get ahead. Yes, there was a bigger hill for black folks to climb over with some people, but with others of us there was no obstacle for them at all – in many instances they were even given a hand up or special consideration.

It was when white people were no longer permitted to criticize the behavior of black people (i.e., blacks were no longer expected to “fit in” to the larger society), that the ghetto culture declined. According to my research, in 1955 there were few significant sociological differences between blacks and whites. By that I mean: the out-of-wedlock birth rates were similar; crime rates were similar; drug abuse rates were similar; and jobless rates were similar. Success and failure rates between the races were roughly even. It was not until the sixties that the free-fall inside the black ghettos began. It behooves every caring American to ask why. What caused the decline?

Most people tend to blame economic status for social failures: being poor turns one toward criminal and/or dysfunctional behavior. Sounds good, but shouldn’t we take a step backward and ask why some families or groups of people remain poor? This is a “which came first” dilemma, rivaling the “chicken or the egg?” Does being poor make one fail OR does failing make one poor? It’s probably a two-way street. Each supports the other.

Traditionally, we’ve tended to blame the socioeconomic status of blacks on racism. What then, explains black successes and white failures? There are lots and lots of white failures too, but none of those can be blamed on racism. Therefore, we should look beyond racism to explain black failures. If we are all the same, and we are, with few biological exceptions, we must look for the similarities between each failing group – black and white. The similarities are in their behavior – high out-of-wedlock birth rates, low graduation rates, more violence, more crime, and poor work ethics… a lot of bad stuff. I suggest these are the reasons for the failures in both groups. If the behaviors change, the outcomes will change. Is this not obvious? The bad behaviors very likely come first.

So why did only the black ghettos start declining in the sixties but the white ghettos didn’t? There wasn’t more racism at that time than before; there was less. There wasn’t more job discrimination; there was less of that, too. None of the “excuses” hold up to scrutiny – not when one compares the success rates of poor blacks of the past (which were good) to the rates of poor blacks today (which are horrible).

So, if it was NOT racism (just give me that for the moment) that caused the obvious decline, what was it? I think it was the unconditional acceptance of bad black behavior.

White folks were not only rightly condemned for using the “N-word;” they were condemned for criticizing almost anything any black person did. Black folks were given a free pass unless they broke the law – which many more came to do because it was accepted and/or excused within their own declining culture: There seems nothing wrong with going to jail, if half the young men in your neighborhood go to jail, too. There’s nothing wrong with abandoning your children, if 70% of the males in the neighborhood abandon theirs. Same for accepting government subsidies. If there is no disapproval of it, people won’t strive to avoid it. Poverty begets poverty when there’s a general acceptance of those behaviors that cause it.

Poor white people were afforded no such free pass by the larger culture. Teachers weren’t nearly as afraid to criticize white kids as they were to criticize black kids. Cops in white neighborhoods weren’t afraid to arrest bad white guys, but they sure as heck would be accused of racism any time a bad black guy was arrested. In other words, bad behaviors by whites were as soundly criticized as they’d always been, and their crime rates and graduation rates and joblessness rates didn’t increase; they remained similar to what they had been all along. The only substantial difference I can find between the treatment of poor blacks and poor whites after 1964 was the “forgive them their trespasses” attitudes delivered to blacks by the PC crowd.

Remember, too, during this same time-frame, there was a huge increase in the number of poor blacks making it into the middle class. The ones who made it followed middle-class rules – as Rod did and Clarence Thomas did and every other successful black did. There are thousands and thousands of black success stories from my era because those who followed the rules were duly rewarded. They were not white rules; they were middle-class rules, and anyone who chose to follow them could and probably would escape the ghettos.

I believe the people in the ghettos will remain in the ghettos, but only if they continue to follow the ghetto rules. It is a dysfunctional sub-culture that will not change unless and until the larger culture demands it. Even then, it must happen from within. There must be peer pressure to stay in school, to get married before having children, and to keep families together. Right now, we are feeding the dysfunction. This analysis is not rocket science; it’s common sense and applies to any sub-culture, be it ethnic or religious or economic. Most will usually conform to the expectations of our peers.

What would any clear-thinking, rational person expect to happen when all the normal rules of the acceptance process are abandoned? Accepting bad behavior and bad values begets more bad behavior and bad values… in anyone, of any color or background. In my opinion, it’s not racism that has caused the decline in the black ghetto culture; it’s the unconditional acceptance of the bad behavior that has forced the decline.


We are serializing Judy Axtell's political memoir But...At What Cost. Published by Outskirts Press, it is available in paperback from
Outskirts, as well as from and other on-line booksellers.

I am proud to have been coach and editor for her book.

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