Identity Search or Distorted History?

By Thomas Sowell Copyright Creators Syndicate Inc. | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 11, 1995 | Go to article overview

Identity Search or Distorted History?


Thomas Sowell Copyright Creators Syndicate Inc., St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


There seems to be an inexhaustible supply of ways to escape confronting reality. Long before so-called "Afrocentric education" came upon the scene, Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote of an earlier generation of Irish Americans' fascination with Ireland that it was "a lot of fine feeling and bad history" which enabled them to escape their problems in America.

Now, apparently, it is the turn of a fringe of black identity-mongers to create a similar distraction for a new clientele. They are creating a phony history and phony traditions as escapes from very real problems of drugs, violence and social degeneration in the ghettos of the 1990s. Worse, they are turning young blacks' attention backward toward slavery instead of forward toward the opportunities and demands of the high-tech world of the 21st century.

If you want to spend your time navel-gazing about "roots," while others are learning square roots, and contemplating chains while others are mastering computers, do not be surprised if the whole parade into the future leaves you behind, mired in squalor, imprisoned by ignorance and misled by demagogues.

Demagoguery can be a very lucrative and even glamorous career, as a number of black "leaders" and "scholars" demonstrate. But that is not how 33 million black Americans will advance.

Home-grown charlatans are just part of the problem. A large segment of the white countercultural media has adopted blacks as mascots to symbolize their own alienation from Western civilization. The countercultural media are always ready to whoop it up for the latest "identity" craze, whether it is Afrocentric education in the schools or fake "African" traditions like Kwanza, which originated in Los Angeles.

Mascots are used to "make a statement." The actual fate of the mascot himself is usually of little concern to those who use him.

Despite attempts to picture slavery as something created by white people for black people, the truth is far worse. Slavery was inflicted by every people on every other people they could enslave, all over this planet, and for thousands of years.

Only very late in human history, after shipbuilding technology and navigational instruments reached a level that made transoceanic voyages feasible, was such a thing possible as the transplanting of millions of Africans to the Western Hemisphere. …

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