My dad told me about the Dr. Phil House yesterday, so I decided to watch the show. Every Monday (I think), Dr. Phil shows how things are going in the Dr. Phil House, in which you have the most judgmental people on the face of the earth living under the same roof. There is a male chauvinist pig, a man-hating feminist, a woman who thinks everyone should be hip, an alternative type, and a self-righteous Christian fanatic who gets on everyone’s nerves.
Then, there is a pleasant African-American woman whom everyone in the house likes. Her problem is that she hates her own race. She wishes she were white. She thinks that African-Americans are lazy, uneducated, drug dealers with illegitimate children. She married a white man who treats her like a queen, and she doesn’t like her kids hanging around with other African-Americans.
Until yesterday, that is. On yesterday’s show, she met an older African-American woman who used to hate whites, as well as the African-American judge from Divorce Court. Both of them told her about the heroic and remarkable achievements of blacks, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Condi Rice. The judge said that she is not lazy because she put herself through Harvard, and she pointed out that they were eating in a black-owned restaurant. The African-American racist learned that she had no right to feel superior to others of her race. And Dr. Phil told her that she didn’t need to put others down to feel good about herself.
This is a hard issue. On some level, I can identify with the woman because there are problems within the African-American community. She probably knows a lot of African-Americans who indeed are unemployed criminals or single parents. And all sorts of people acknowledge that these problems exist. Many liberals blame them on racism and the lack of available opportunities, whereas conservatives tend to blame the African-Americans themselves. And even this description is too simplistic. Some conservatives, such as Jack Kemp, favor setting up enterprise zones in poor African-American neighborhoods to create more opportunities. And then you have liberals like Jesse Jackson confess that even they cross the street at nights whenever they see a young black man.
But the judge and the older African-American woman are also right. There are many African-Americans who have done heroic and remarkable things. Many inventions that we take for granted (e.g., the lawn mower, the pencil sharpener, pieces of the internal combustion engine) are the ideas of African-Americans. We should judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.
So who is to blame for the problems within the African-American community? I don’t deny that institutional racism plays a role, but I don’t think that it bears sole responsibity. Institutional racism existed in full force during the 1950’s and 1960’s, and yet you did not see the levels of African-American promiscuity or crime that you see today. I think that there are many within today’s generation of African-Americans who want everything now, and they cope with the relative lack of opportunity differently than their parents and grandparents. I once read a quote by a middle-aged African-American cab driver, who said that he tries to encourage his son to follow in his footsteps, since driving a cab pays good money. But the son prefers the immediate wealth and glamour that he gets through dealing drugs. Through movies and television, society ascribes status to men who can get the most women into bed, and so there are African-American males today who seek status through sex. Society in general is impatient. We don’t like to work or wait for good things. We want them now. We want status, and we think primarily of ourselves (unlike the African-American inventors, who wanted to make others’ lives easier). And this mindset is only exasperating the situation of the African-American community.
So we should try to create more opportunities, and yet our national character also needs to change.