The Massive Liberal Failure on Race

From [*Slate Magazine*](http://www.slate.com):

“There is no place in the movement for the white liberal. He is our affliction.”—James Baldwin

>
Five years ago, while fervently supporting the candidacy of the man who would become America’s first black president, I came to the realization that I didn’t actually know any black people. Most of the people I did know (i.e., other white people) didn’t know many black people either. One, *maybe* two, was the norm. I asked one white guy I knew if he had any black friends, and he replied, “You mean ones that aren’t on television?” > >
I wanted to know why integration—actual, genuine integration—had failed so spectacularly. The result of that curiosity, published a little more than a year ago, was[Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America](http://www.amazon.com/dp/0143123637/?tag=slatmaga-20), which traced the history of the color line back through all the places I have lived and chronicled the various efforts to erase it: school busing, affirmative action, fair housing, etc. Recently, I celebrated my one-year anniversary as an official participant in the National Conversation About Race—[writing bits for ](http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/features/2012/mad_men_and_race_the_series_handling_of_race_has_been_painfully_accurate_/mad_men_and_race_the_series_handling_of_race_has_been_painfully_accurate_.html) [***Slate***](http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/features/2012/mad_men_and_race_the_series_handling_of_race_has_been_painfully_accurate_/mad_men_and_race_the_series_handling_of_race_has_been_painfully_accurate_.html), speaking at colleges, and sitting on panels moderated by Soledad O’Brien (which is how you really know you’ve made it). > >
When I started the book, after eight miserable years of George W. Bush and the euphoria of the Yes We Can crusade, I’d been driven pretty far left on the political spectrum. Taking on the issue of race, you’d think I’d have kept heading in that direction. But the more I read and researched, the more I went out and talked to people, I found that a funny thing was happening: I was becoming more conservative. > >
> Which is not to say I was becoming a Republican. Because how could I? At this point, the GOP’s rap sheet of racial offenses is almost too long to recount. Pushing undemocratic voter ID laws, trotting out candidates like Herman Cain, calling Barack Obama the [“food stamp president”](http://money.cnn.com/2012/01/17/news/economy/obama_food_stamps/) … if it has to do with race, you can count on Republicans being wrong early and often. > >
The pernicious effects of Republican attitude on race are plain to see. But one of the more subtle consequences of the right’s willful incompetence is that there is rarely any thoughtful critique of the left when it comes to race. [Affirmative action is unfair to white people](http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/10/us/10scotus.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0) and [the Democratic Party is a plantation](http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/30/pat-buchanan-black-liberal-plantation_n_988714.html)—that’s about as incisive as the rhetoric usually gets. Even when Republicans have a legitimate point to make about the shortcomings of some government program, it’s almost as if they can’t help blowing their own argument. They’ll start off talking sensibly enough about educational outcome disparities and within seconds they’re rambling incoherently about how black men don’t take care of their babies. It’s really astonishing to watch. > >
But the fact is that a lot of liberals hold on to some really bad ideas about race too. Some of the arguments they keep trotting out amount to little more than unexamined platitudes, riddled with holes. Fifty years after the March on Washington, America’s high school cafeterias are as racially divided as ever, income inequality is growing, and mass incarceration has hobbled an entire generation of young black men. Do we really think this is *entirely* due to Republican obstruction? Or is it also possible that the party charged with taking black Americans to the Promised Land has been running around in circles? > >
The left has been ceded a monopoly on caring about black people, and monopolies are dangerous. They create ossified institutions, paralyzed by groupthink and incapable of self-reflection. To the extent that liberals are willing to be self-critical, it’s generally to flagellate themselves for not being liberal *enough*, for failing to stand fast with the old, accepted orthodoxies. Monopolies also lead to arrogance and entitlement, and the left is nothing if not arrogant when it comes to constantly and loudly asserting its place as the One True Friend of Black America. And yet, as good as liberal policies on race sound in speeches, many of them don’t hold up in the real world[Read more](http://www.slate.com/articles/life/history/features/2014/the_liberal_failure_on_race/how_the_left_s_embrace_of_busing_hurt_the_cause_of_integration.html?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=pulsenews). > >
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