E Pluribus Unum? Still not there
Whenever the Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday comes around, this writers thoughts go back to the late 1960s when some of us thought our marching footsteps would stomp Jim Crow into dust. Well, yes and no. While we have witnessed the rise of a class of African-American professionals, we have also witnessed the rise of a class of professional African-Americans. The former are exemplified by Professors Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, Dr. Ben Carson; the writer, Shelby Steele; and by U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas, just to mention a few. The latter are exemplified by the Revs. Jesse Jackson, Jeremiah Wright, Al Sharpton, and Louis Farrahkan, to mention far too many.
Unfortunately, there remains an African-American underclass which, unlike the upwardly mobile Jewish experience in America, resists assimilation into the mainstream culture and even has its own manner of speaking which is called: Ebonics, defined as: "American black English regarded as a language in its own right rather than as a dialect of standard English."
Writing in the January, 2015, issue of Imprimis, Jason L. Riley of The Wall Street Journal, recounts a visit to the Buffalo, NY, neighborhood where he grew up: "I was visiting my older sister shortly after I had begun working at the Wall Street Journal, and I was chatting with her daughter, my niece, who was maybe in the second grade at the time. I was asking her about school, her favorite subjects, that sort of thing, when she stopped me and said, Uncle Jason, why you talk white? Then she turned to her little friend who was there and said, Don’t my uncle sound white? Why he tryin’ to sound so smart?
"... I couldn’t help thinking: Here were two young black girls, seven or eight years old, already linking speech patterns to race and intelligence. They already had a rather sophisticated awareness that, as blacks, white-sounding speech was not only to be avoided in their own speech but mocked in the speech of others.
"... My siblings, along with countless other black friends and relatives, teased me the same way when I was growing up. And other black professionals have told similar stories. What I had forgotten is just how early these attitudes take hold—how soon this counterproductive thinking and behavior begins..."
Mr. Rileys niece has a choice: She can remain in her current culture or she can choose to follow her uncle into the dominant mainstream culture. Her decision will likely be decided on the basis of which culture offers her the greater value. And that bring us to the late Robert Ruarks 1955 bestseller: Something of Value in which Ruark contended that the only way for the British colonials to get the insurgent Kikuyu tribe to end its rebellion was to offer them admission and status within the then existing British colonial culture.
But E Pluribus Unum was not the British settlers cup-of-tea. So, by 1963, the British found themselves second-class citizens in a Kikuyu-ruled Republic of Kenya.
In this country, a recent Rasmussen Poll finds race relations have grown worse over the previous eight years. Pray, in the years to come, that jobs, good jobs, will provide that missing "something of value."
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame, and is a recipient of the University of Nebraska 2015 Alumni Achievement Award. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the Army Language School, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
©2017. William Hamilton.
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