Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this commentary are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HVSafe.
I grew up with great envy for the directness of speech and thought I saw in Black American culture, in part because of how different it was from the standards of communication of my own. Whenever I heard Black teachers or politicians or celebrities lay down their two cents, I almost always viewed the speaker’s words as uncut honesty which made no effort to comfort and appeal to my privileged white community. The opposite was generally true from the adult WASPs around me: they avoided every topic of any real meaning or import, as disagreement or thought-provoking subject matter may be unpleasant, and there is nothing WASPs hate more than ‘unpleasant.’ However, to many others, such devotion to safe small-talk is the very essence of purgatory, or an unrelenting boredom you can only overcome by total desertion to new pastures. In this essay I will guess at possible reasons why Black Americans are the most honest of any of us, why we need those voices now more than ever, and why such Black moderates will save San Francisco and America from the permanent inequality we’re currently hurtling towards.
First of all, Black Americans have been fucked over by this country in so many ways and for so long that there isn’t a single lie they haven’t heard, and probably no promise they can take at face value. When things backfire in America, like the war on marijuana or abandonment of charter schools or assurances of a progressive utopia here in SF, they almost always backfire on Blacks more and harsher than any other group. So unlike most from my prestigious elementary school community, Blacks have a ton of history to breed skepticism that the larger system will work for them or care about their struggles. ‘Pleasant’ conversation simply does not look like a goal to those with larger concerns.
Since the United States never invested either a literal or metaphoric forty acres and a mule in the Black community, they are a people whose culture is almost entirely self-taught, and because this evolution occurred within the competitive cauldron of American capitalism, they tend to be the best at everything in which they excel. Combining five or six different musical styles into jazz is the famous example, but I would assert that Black Americans are also world leaders in stand-up comedy, convincing oratory speech, and every single sport they play in large numbers. That none of these examples are directly academic is an obvious consequence of America’s historic efforts to prevent, discourage, and cheapen Black education, and I believe that fixing this travesty is the path to fully realized potential, (but that is a topic for another day). What seems clear now is that such independently-produced excellence breeds the confidence to weigh in on a world which provided little or no instruction along the way.
Such freedom of thought is currently being threatened with Critical Race Theory, a doctrine which hears no criticism and sees no validity in any conflicting ideas. This is why we need the Black moderate more than ever: only they can preserve and extend a tradition of openness that is almost entirely extinct in an America rife with political polarization and overt personal attacks over the slightest disagreement.
To that aim, I’d like to promote some Black voices that are systematically ignored by a liberal media establishment which promotes opinions in accordance with their capacity to relieve white guilt. At some point in the last decade or two, publishers came to understand that the historic shame felt by whites could be monetized in literature and media by repetitive flogging our country over our indisputably racist past. This has led to the exclusive promotion of Black victimization narratives and suppression of that which gives agency to the African-American individual. Any issue that isn’t about historic or present racism is intentionally ignored by the mainstream conversation, meaning problems like insufficient Black literacy cannot be addressed. Instead of raising standards of education to increase overall opportunity and access to a better future, the progressive liberal establishment has abandoned hope that Blacks can compete academically. This is how we wound up at our current moment in history here in San Francisco, where Board of Education Commissioner Alison Collins called merit-based admissions “racist” without the statement being openly viewed as racist itself.
Black moderates will save this country because they are held to the highest possible intellectual standard and because they’re the only ones who can reach the neo-racist left on neutral ground. A moderate Black intellectual cannot sell the same white guilt relief as those promoting Critical Race Theory, and must substitute emotionally-pleasing content with old fashioned logic and reason. This is why Black moderates are smarter across the board, far more honest actors, and are the only entity which terrifies our celebrated peddlers of ethnic anger and associated tribalism. The Critical Race Theory establishment has very successfully insulated itself from criticism by non-Blacks, and therefore it only has to fear those Blacks which offer an alternative worldview. Black moderates will save the left and liberalism from the worst ideas of the Democratic Party – like “Defund Police” and “Abolish Prisons” – because they’re the only ones who can.
America will rise or fall based on our ability to heal our oppressive history by giving each child equal access to the benefits of society, and San Francisco will never realize its full potential until the whole country addresses the underlying beliefs which perpetuate mass inequality. Today I toast those brave Black moderates who find Critical Race Theory to be patronizing and disempowering, and others with the gumption to push back against the status quo. Though I use the term ‘moderate’ quite loosely here, and am sure some of the following thinkers view themselves to be liberals, none would be considered such in modern San Francisco.
So John McWhorter and Glenn Loury, keep doing your thing! Much love to Coleman Hughes and Chloe Valdary and Kmele Foster, our emerging powerhouse moderates. May we all be so brave as Ayaan Hirsi Ali in our quest to see and promote the truth. You are many of my heroes, and I hope your words spread far enough to empower us all.
Cheers, George P. Denny