July 29, 2010
“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!” This famous quote is from the Scottish author and novelist, Walter Scott’s epic novel, Marmion (published in 1808). This is a very appropriate quote in response to the editorial Virginia senator, Jim Webb had published in last Friday’s Wall Street Journal (http://www.jameswebb.com/articles/wsj-diversity.html).
His editorial was titled, “Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege.” I am in total agreement with his central premise—that Blacks should be the only group entitled to any form of affirmative action, not all the immigrants who have entered the country since its inception. Webb starts his piece by stating, “America still owes a debt to its black citizens, but government programs to help all 'people of color' are unfair. They should end.”
Those who have followed my writing over the years know I have strongly advocated this same point of view. There is no justification for Hispanic, African, or Asian immigrants being eligible for any diversity programs. They faced none of the horrific acts of discrimination that Blacks experienced during and after slavery.
I can’t be angry at immigrants for stepping on the shoulders of Blacks to gain a benefit they didn’t earn, nor deserved. The so-called Black leaders and institutions have never shown the political sophistication to prevent this from happening. Liberal Latinos have convinced Black liberal groups like the Urban League and NAACP to support their push for amnesty for illegals, even though it will further decimate low skilled Blacks when it comes to them finding a job. But, these same Latinos will not agree to work to repeal the racist “wet foot, dry foot” policy in Miami that allow Cubans that make it to U.S. shores to stay, but those from Haiti are immediately sent back to Haiti. Again, other groups know that Blacks don’t think strategically; we think emotionally.
This is evidenced by the response to Webb’s piece. King Salim Khalfani, Executive Director of the Virginia NAACP said in part, “You (Webb) have given cover & solace to those "who want to take their country back (from whom?), who want to reload not regroup, who think it is ok to spit on and use racial epithets against African members of the House of Representatives.” (To read his full comments, go to: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/virginiapolitics/2010/07/virginia_naacp_head_slams_webb.html.) None of his comments were well thought out, they were mere emotional ranting. Nothing he said was an intellectual challenge to anything Webb argued in his editorial. As Al Pacino eloquently stated in the Godfather movie, “never get emotional, it clouds your judgment.” We must be more sophisticated in our thinking and less emotional.
Where I strongly disagree with Webb is in his comparison of the plight of poor whites to that of Blacks. The poorest of all whites have never been subjected to the destructive forces of slavery and all of its byproducts. I find the comparison quite offensive and it shows Webb’s lack of intellectual capital when writing about such a complicated issue.
In his piece, Webb states, “I have dedicated my political career to bringing fairness to America's economic system and to our work force, regardless of what people look like or where they may worship. Unfortunately, present-day diversity programs work against that notion, having expanded so far beyond their original purpose that they now favor anyone who does not happen to be white.” I guess someone forgot to tell him that white, suburban, middle-class women are the single biggest beneficiary of affirmative action!
Webb knows he will face a tough reelection in 2012, so he decided to call on the grand children of the Southern Strategy (a strategy Richard Nixon created to push Blacks out of the Republican Party to gain conservative white Democrats). This is his way of telling poor whites that he is one of them! The amazing thing is that Webb received 85% of the Black vote in 2006. No Democrat fears the Black vote, so we are constantly being undervalued. The sad part is that Webb will still get upwards of 85% of the Black vote in 2012. There are no real or perceived repercussions of alienating the Black vote because everyone knows we won’t do anything complain.
Again, I totally agree with Webb’s supposition, but his approach is off putting and it plays to the worst of American society. Reagan catered to the same fears when he talked about the mythical “welfare queens” of the 1980, even though he knew there were more whites on welfare than Blacks. Like Reagan, Webb is playing on the same racial stereotypes. He is fully aware that white women benefit from affirmative action more than any other group. But, he decided to play into the stereotype that Blacks (and other people of color) are responsible for the downward plight of poor whites. He is in essence saying to these whites, “it’s not your fault that you lost your job or that you are underemployed! You know they had to give your job to a minority for diversity sakes. I feel your pain and I understand.”
This zero sum game will come back to haunt both parties with the continued shrinking of the white vote. Both parties are quickly losing their interest and ability to form coalitions that will bring people together. You will see this being played out in November.
“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm. He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine (www.excellstyle.com).