Gates' piece in Sunday's New York Times is a keeper.
Pardon the ghastly shrieks, the frightful howls, and the otherworldly moaning. This chorus of outrage is coming from the next room, wherein The Daily Page Forum resides.
Isthmus' on-line posters are in high dudgeon. For, as you might guess, the subject of all the venting, sputtering and bile-letting is none other than this very blog, an upsetter of their tidy world view. I know the cacophony makes intelligent discourse difficult, so let's use this opportunity as a teaching moment.
I have trolled the two pages of postings for a single usable fact, one cogent thought, even a fragmentary stem cell of an argument -- for I feed on such nutrients. But I have come up empty, save for a handful of toxic muck. Typical is the poster, anonymous of course, with the infelicitous nom de plume of "lordofthecockrings."
Imagine, of all the literary and popular culture references at his fingertips he chooses this! But then consider how he exercises his speech, angrily spitting such crudities as "deluded, disingenuous f-ing morons ..." His speech is free, and not worth a penny more. He has earned his anonymity.
The lesson: with no music or lyrics, some resort to turning up the volume.
There are some real issues playing out in Madison: crime and punishment, poverty, race and what it means to be a community. It is a great debate. I have taken sides; I am one who holds that behavior trumps identity politics. That it does no good to cry about the lousy hand we've been dealt. It just doesn't pay the bills.
People with something to say
In the early decades of the last Century, two great black civil rights leaders, W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, engaged in a similar debate. Du Bois argued for greater institutional protections. He went on to co-found the NAACP. In a way, he helped jump-start history. Integration of the armed forces, Brown v. Topeka, Little Rock Central High School, the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action would follow.
Booker T. Washington emphasized self-reliance and individual accomplishment.
Of course, we need both rights and responsibility.
In the spirit of that debate, I encourage everyone to read the article written by Harvard academician Henry Louis Gates Jr. for the Sunday, Nov. 18, New York Times.
Take note of how the man who later became the beloved Democratic U.S. senator from New York would be accused of racism. Gates' article is entitled Forty Acres and a Gap in Wealth.
In 1965, when Daniel Patrick Moynihan published his report, suggesting that the out-of-wedlock birthrate and the number of families headed by single mothers, both about 24 percent, pointed to dissolution of the social fabric of the black community, black scholars and liberals dismissed it. They attacked its author as a right-wing bigot. Now we'd give just about anything to have those statistics back. Today, 69 percent of black babies are born out of wedlock, while 45 percent of black households with children are headed by women. How did this happen?
The sad truth is that the civil rights movement cannot be reborn until we identify the causes of black suffering, some of them self-inflicted. Why can't black leaders organize rallies around responsible sexuality, birth within marriage, parents reading to their children and students staying in school and doing homework? Imagine Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson ... demanding that black parents sign pledges to read to their children.
The article, as they say, is a keeper.
Like the Forons in the next room have shown, your right to speak freely doesn't mean you have anything worthwhile to say. It is what you build with your freedom.
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