Gentleness and Ann Coulter’s Mugged

Here are some items from church this morning, followed by a write-up on Ann Coulter’s Mugged.

A. The theme of the church service was gentleness. The youth pastor interviewed a teen who is currently serving at an aide at the preschool. The aide was saying that she has to take a gentle approach to the kids. If she yells at them, they will not want to be around her. When she is encouraging them to share, for example, she tells them that it is fun to share because, in doing so, people can play and have fun together.

B. The pastor opened his sermon by talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Apparently, at that time, there was a hurricane that made an American submarine exceedingly hot, putting pressure on the people inside of the submarine. They received a message about a nuclear attack, but they decided to delay any retaliation. This sounds like the movie Crimson Tide.

C. Philippians 4:5 states: “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (NIV). The pastor said that, if you consult a commentary or study notes, it would probably interpret this verse as suggesting that the early Christians believed that Christ’s second coming was imminent, conveying urgency. The problem with this, the pastor suggested, is that such a sense of urgency runs against the gentleness and inner peace that the verse is exhorting Christians to have; instead, it promotes stress. The pastor interpreted the Lord’s nearness in that verse as spatial nearness. He talked about the Reformation debates about whether Christ is physically present in the Eucharist and quoted Martin Luther’s statement that, even if Christ is omniscient, that does Luther no good unless Christ is present for him.

D. Ann Coulter. Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama. Sentinel, 2012.

—-Different proposals have been given to account for stereotypes about African-Americans. These stereotypes include that African-Americans are less intelligent than whites, promiscuous, indolent, abusive of substances, violent, impulsive, given to instant gratification, and talented in oratory and rhythm. Many, of course, deny that the stereotypes are accurate, but those who consider them to be accurate attempt to account for them.

David Duke attributes these characteristics to genetics and accepts controversial psychologist J. Philippe Rushton’s evolutionary explanation. According to Rushton, the reason that whites and Asians are statistically more intelligent and disciplined than blacks is that whites and Asians lived in exceedingly cold regions, where intelligence and self-discipline were crucial for survival. Blacks, by contrast, lived in warm, fruitful Africa, where good things were handed to them on a silver platter, without much effort on their part. Critics of this position point to counter-examples: Eskimos lived in cold regions yet are documented in studies to have lower IQs than other ethnic groups, and there historically were advanced civilizations in the warm, temperate global south. The point here is that, according to one perspective, the negative stereotypes of blacks point to characteristics that are intrinsic to them and that go back to their experience in Africa.

A more left-wing explanation is that slavery and institutional racism caused these negative characteristics. Slavery and institutional racism pushed down blacks and denied them opportunities to develop intellectually. Institutional racism after the Civil War deprived blacks of any incentive to work hard because it denied to them any reward for their labor. Promiscuity within the black community is due to the forced separation of black families under slavery and is one way that African-American men seek status in a society that denies them status in the economic realm. Blacks who steal and loot do so either out of economic desperation or because they want the good things in life that whites have but that have been denied to blacks. Drugs are a way that they cope with the contempt that society continually shows to them.

Ann Coulter appears to agrees with Thomas Sowell’s explanation. Thomas Sowell traces these characteristics to southern redneck culture, brought by the “Celtic fringe” from Scotland, Ireland, and Wales that immigrated to the United States in the eighteenth century. The Celtic fringe was promiscuous, violent, emotional, drunken, and given to stirring oratory and smarmy politicians. Southern rednecks also spoke in ebonics. Sowell rejects the idea that such characteristics are naturally intrinsic to blacks, for he points to studies about blacks having higher IQs than whites, in cases.

The thing is, Coulter also traces blacks’ problems to the Great Society. That was when government welfare programs incentivized single parenthood and illegitimate births, undercutting the need for African-Americans to marry and to work to support a family. In the decades after the Civil War, African-Americans were committed to their family, had high marriage rates, owned businesses, had low crime rates, and did better economically than they did after the Great Society. They were clean cut, as pictures from the Civil Rights era demonstrate. Even poor blacks prior to the Great Society married and refrained from committing crimes, so Coulter rejects the liberal view that black promiscuity and crime are due to institutional racism.

—-A lot of Ann Coulter’s contempt is directed towards white liberals, who infantilize blacks, talk down to them, distort facts to promote a narrative about white racism, and are hypocrites. Democrats are latecomers to Civil Rights: the Republicans championed Civil Rights in the decades after the Civil War through the 1960’s, whereas the Democrats in the South and even some in the North and the West supported institutional racism and segregation. White liberals also promote integration while they fail to practice it in their own lives; they send their kids to lily-white private schools and do not associate with minorities on the job and socially. Coulter also dislikes African-American leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, whom she sees as self-promoting, opportunistic demagogues who stir people up to violence. In Al Sharpton’s case, he did so on the basis of inaccuracies (Tawana Brawley). Barack Obama also is problematic, for Coulter, because he plays the victim on the basis of no evidence, labels criticism of him as racist, manifests contempt for whites, and explicitly takes political advantage of his blackness even as he criticizes those who accuse him of doing so. While Obama acts as if he speaks for the descendants of slaves, he himself did not descend from slaves; Coulter says that his Kenyan ancestors were more likely slave-traders than slaves. And he, along with his pastor Jeremiah Wright, grew up in middle-class privilege.

But what does she think about blacks as a group? On the one hand, she points out that black-on-black violent crime is far, far greater than white-on-black violent crime, and that blacks commit a disproportionately high percentage of violent crimes, considering they are the minority of the U.S. population. She tells stories of high numbers of blacks rioting or demonstrating, but she fails to explain why they see a need to do so. She is effective in documenting hoaxes about racism and police brutality, showing that the police often had reason to use the force that they did. Yet, if such problems were non-existent, would so many blacks see a need to protest against them in mass numbers? Are they solely influenced by propaganda from the liberal media and racial agitators, or do they truly experience such problems? On the other hand, Coulter sees blacks as regular people. Some, when presented with facts about police encounters, vote to acquit the police officers. They, too, do not want to be victims of violent crime and have reason to support police. Blacks do not want to be treated with condescension, any more than anyone else does.

—-Coulter believes that the O.J. verdict was a turning point in American race relations. Before the O.J. verdict, whites accepted the liberal narrative that America was a racist society and that whites were to blame for blacks’ problems. After the O.J. verdict, whites walked away from that kind of white guilt. Coulter is unclear as to why. Was it because O.J. was obviously guilty, so black criticisms of the American legal system looked ridiculous when they were appealing to those criticisms to justify acquitting O.J.?

—-Coulter argues that Democrats only started embracing blacks to get votes, and she argues that Democrats are in the process of marginalizing blacks in favor of other constituencies: women, gays, and illegal immigrants. Some of these groups have more money, and some of them have higher numbers, so they are a more attractive constituency for the Democratic Party than blacks, whom it takes for granted. Coulter’s analysis here reminds me of the widespread liberal criticism of African-American TV host Wendy Williams for mildly criticizing transsexuals. But do transsexuals have a lot of money and numerical power to make them politically attractive to the Democrats? Here, people offer alternative reasons for the liberal stance: a sincere concern for justice and fairness (a liberal explanation), and a desire to subvert and undermine the traditions of Western society (a conservative explanation).

—-Coulter points out the heroic deeds of people society has demonized. One of the LAPD officers in the Rodney King case did mouth-to-mouth on a prostitute with AIDS because he considered that person to be created in God’s image. Interestingly, though, Coulter also has nice things to say about Corey Booker, whom I have often seen as a sanctimonious hypocrite. According to Coulter, Booker, as mayor of Newark, sharply reduced crime and improved Newark’s economy. For Coulter, he is an examplar of a black politician who can succeed on his own merits without playing the race card or pursuing disastrous policies.

—-On the Southern Strategy, Nixon’s alleged attempt to court southerners with racism, Coulter argues that it did not exist. The southern states that went for Goldwater in 1964, due to Goldwater’s opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, often went for Democrats in subsequent Presidential elections (i.e., Carter, Clinton). Coulter’s points deserve consideration. She could have done a better job explaining how exactly segregation would fit into a liberal Democratic worldview; one liberal political science professor I had said that southern whites embraced the New Deal because it provided them with benefits. Coulter does well to argue against the claim that “law and order” was veiled racism, and to point out that Reagan actually did not kick off his campaign in Neshoba County, Mississippi but had done so before. Still, I have difficulty divorcing segregationism from conservatism, for a variety of reasons: states’ rights is largely a conservative concept, Goldwater and Reagan opposed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 as federal enroachment on individual liberties, and the John Birch material I have read opposes Brown vs. the Board and the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

—-Coulter offers little in terms of solutions, perhaps because she does not believe racism is a serious problem that holds blacks back. She does well to point out the flaws of conventional solutions: affirmative action, for instance, produced some unqualified doctors by prioritizing race over qualifications. I suppose, though, that I prefer robust conservative solutions to problems: acknowledge there are problems, without all the “white guilt” and “privilege” talk, and come up with solutions to those problems that help make people’s lives better.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
This entry was posted in Church. Bookmark the permalink.