The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Our Meritocratic Grandeur

A recent note contained the following:

As one person put it in describing this week's confirmation hearings for Condoleeza Rice:

"Is it just me, or is it a testament to a certain meritocratic grandeur we have in this country, that the two people at the top of their game during these hearings (a star freshman senator and the first minority female Secretary of State) were both African-Americans?"

This is interesting, for many reasons.  I find it terribly interesting that the three most respected African-Americans are a black woman, and two black men who were the children of immigrants (Powell--both parents [I believe] and Obama, his father.)
What are the statistical chances of this being true, and what might it mean, in light of what we've been discussing concerning human nature?
If my observations carry any validity, this would easily relate to my sense that the negative programs run by America, and black America, pertaining to young black men are absolutely poisonous.  That black immigrants who come from a culture in which there are role models and mythologies that support excellence, as opposed to young black men, who, faced with countless dehumanizing and emasculating images in the majority culture (remember: Members of group X will always do what they can to confine goodness to their group, and demonize others.  Male members of group X will be quicker to violence toward those of other groups.  Male members of group X will seek sexual access to females of the other group, while denying males of groups Y and Z to their own females) turn to the only powerful images they can find.  In America, this happens to be Hip-Hop culture right now.  Ouch.  To choose between emasculation and violent, stupid, irresponsible behavior ain't much of a choice.  Me personally, while growing up I chose Science Fiction--I went out the side door, escaped to a world of imagination, despite the fact that it was either exclusionary or derogatory to minorities. 
But I digress.
Black females are out-performing black males across the board, but that makes sense from a sociobiological perspective as well.  After all--the females of a group aren't competitors for reproductive space. They are potential sexual/reproductive partners.  Also, women tend to empathize across cultural/racial lines more readily than men (want proof?  Pick up ten women's magazines.  Then ten men's magazines.  Count the images of non-white models in each.  Get back to me.)  Therefore, black women are more likely to find mentors, male and female, in college and the business world.  They are less likely to be targeted for violence and oppression, and are more encouraged to display excellence and intelligence.
I'm not suggesting that the answer is to be found in sweeping social programs.  I don't believe people are unselfish enough to give back as much as was stolen.  Fine.  The answer is in those who care, who FEEL the need to do something, to get off their butts and provide positive role models.  Opportunities.  To speak out about the lack of balanced, healthy images in rap (which is money driven, by the way.  Gee...I wonder where most of the money comes from..?)
I recently heard from a reader who said that her white friends are irritated to be forced to remember "ancient racial history."  I have to laugh every time I hear that.  Such folks would make terrible black people.  The average white person who feels a powerful negative emotion when someone expresses anger or pain concerning past or present racial injustices would absolutely melt-down if they were a black person actually having to deal with the current manifestations of those injustices.  I know for a fact that if I were white, and heard these things, my attitude would be "let me strive every day to be the best person I can be, for our animal nature is so terribly close to the surface."  But then, I can look at slavery, and prejudice, and Jim Crow laws, and hate crimes, and still love humanity, and see how all this comes from the universal human tendency toward lonliness and fear.  If I didn't have this, I would hate white people for the evil they have done, their smugness, and their belief in their superiority--in other words, for being human.  For doing what every group is guilty of, when they have power over others.
Grow up, people.  Wake up.  We're all in this together.


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