I recently attended a jujitsu tournament in Newark, New Jersey, a 15-minute train ride from New York City. I had been to the Newark airport before but never entered the town. It was quite a revelation. I walked up the main thoroughfare, named after Martin Luther King, Jr., and saw only black people. The solitary white man I encountered was a hobo, who asked me for a handout to catch a bus. Newark was a city bloated with squalor, oily storefronts, dilapidated tenements, vacant courtyards, and trash-strewn lots. Young toughs loitered about, glaring at the odd white man among them, but somehow I never felt threatened. Others just went about their business—it was a Saturday afternoon—and the squalid stores were filled with shoppers. I noticed a lot of toothless older men with vacant looks hanging about. It was a depressing scene straight out of a John Steinbeck novel.
The good thing about martial arts is they are color-blind. A kick in the head or an arm bar is no different when applied by a white, oriental, or black man. Having crossed into the heart of darkness, I talked about it with a black friend of mine who was competing in the tournament. “Welcome to black America,” he said with a wintry smile.
Then my Japanese-American coach joined in the conversation and took no prisoners in his argument that blacks had only themselves to blame. “All you guys can do is call a black youth reading a book a honky,” said Teimoc, “and all your leaders can do is play the victim card.” Our black friend agreed, and then it was time for him to fight, which he called a relief after what he had to go through “with the two of you.”
But the question remains. Why is it so difficult for black leaders to admit certain truths in public—truths so articulately expressed by Bill Cosby, who insisted that black youths should stay in school, stop knocking up girls, master standard English, and do their homework rather than hang out in the streets? I met Cosby once, on the train to D.C. from New York. I was studying a speech I was to give, and he asked me what business plan I was doing. When I said it was a speech about politics, he sat next to me, and we chatted amicably until he got off in Baltimore. He was, needless to say, friendly, intelligent, and wonderful. He had no idea who I was but let me know his opinion of Al Sharpton and other race hustlers. An opinion that cannot be expressed in the graceful pages of Chronicles.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., wrote that when his brother and he were growing up in the 1950’s, his parents convinced them that the blackest thing they could do was to become doctors or lawyers. Nowadays it seems that the blackest thing a youngster can do is become a hoodlum rapper or a basketball player. Nothing wrong with the latter, except that there are only 1,400 professional basketball, football, and baseball players combined. Here are some statistics: Only 50 percent of all black Americans graduate from high school, and over 65 percent of black teenage girls will become pregnant; 6 in 10 black men who dropped out of school have spent time in prison; 72 percent of black men without a high-school diploma are jobless; 190,000 more black men are in prison than in college.
So, what does all this mean? Are black people inferior, or is it racism, as some of their leaders claim? In my opinion, it is cultural—a cultural illness that has spread unchecked through much of black America after the black family collapsed. Young blacks are taught never to snitch on criminals, never to marry, to abandon their children, and to talk in the vilest language of the ghetto. They think it a right of passage to go to jail, and those who choose not to break the law are accused by their peers of “acting white.” Terrible schools, absent parents, the decline of blue-collar jobs, and a subculture that glorifies swagger and crime over work and the law are cited as the causes of the ruin of black youth.
There are signs of improvement. Recently, the murder of an innocent eight-year-old black girl in a drive-by shooting in Florida so enraged the black community that the old code of silence was shouted down by moms and pops. Fear was cast aside, and the police were helped by the community to arrest several suspects in the killing. Bill Maxwell, a black columnist for a St. Petersburg newspaper, has been calling for the end of “not snitching” since a long time and has received countless threats on his life. After this particularly gruesome murder, many of his old detractors called for the end of the destructive code of silence, “using harsher language than I ever used publicly.”
After Hurricane Katrina the race hustlers had a field day. They called it ethnic cleansing by whites against the African-American community. The mainstream media repeated it as if it were the Sermon on the Mount. There is now a black man in the White House, and it is time for all this bull to stop. The usual explanations of racism no longer apply. What does apply is that the self-destructive lifestyle of the black subculture is the main cause of black poverty. Personal choices and habits are the reasons why blacks lag badly behind other minorities such as Asians and Indians. Once I crossed the Hudson River back into New York City, especially after Fifth Avenue, it was all white, mostly well-to-do people. And it was 15 minutes away by train from the ghetto of Newark. Surely racism does not cut it so fine.