If Black children are told they cannot succeed, many will internalize that message
When George W. Bush was running for president in 2000, he spoke to the NAACP’s 91st annual convention, where he coined the phrase “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”
By that he meant the attitude held by some that if one is Black, it automatically means they should not be expected to achieve much in life because so many start off in circumstances that are difficult, if not impossible, to overcome.
Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican presidential candidate, channeled Mr. Bush’s statement when he was a recent guest on “The View,” a highly partisan TV program that seems to hate all things Republican. Mr. Scott decided to go on the ABC show after host Joy Behar claimed that Mr. Scott “doesn’t get racism.”
Mr. Scott indeed “gets” racism. As his friend Trey Gowdy, a former congressman, has said, Mr. Scott has been stopped numerous times while driving simply because he is Black. Mr. Gowdy has also said guards at the Senate have delayed Mr. Scott from entering the building and asked for identification even when he was wearing his Senate pin.
In his appearance on “The View” (Ms. Behar was conveniently “off” that day, so he couldn’t confront his primary accuser), Mr. Scott said in response to claims by her and others that he and other successful Black Republicans are “exceptions, not the rule” that it’s “a dangerous, offensive, disgusting message to send to our young people today.”
Indeed it is, and it’s also a far more subtle and less observable form of racism. If a Black child is told, overtly or covertly, that he or she cannot succeed in life, many will internalize that message. Some will use it as an excuse to engage in crime, including looting stores and even shooting people as we constantly witness in some of our major cities. Others will simply give up and drop out of school, dooming far too many to a life of failure and anti-social behavior.
Mr. Scott tried to present evidence that despite racism, which he acknowledges exists, growing numbers of Black people are succeeding and ought to be seen not as exceptions, but examples for others to follow:
“The fact of the matter is we’ve had an African American president, African American vice president, we’ve had two African Americans to be secretaries of state. In my home city, the police chief is an African American who’s now running for mayor.”
Facts don’t matter to the left because a change in attitude would require a change in policies that are clearly not working to the benefit of too many Black people. Freeing Black children from poorly performing schools would be a meaningful first step, something Mr. Scott has long advocated and the left opposes, even while many, including elected officials, sent their own kids to private schools.
This latest dust-up between the left and Mr. Scott reminds me of a visit I made with the Rev. Jesse Jackson to an all-Black middle school in the mid-1980s. The reverend told the young people not to have babies until they are married, stay off drugs and study hard. Any conservative could have given that speech. I recall urging him to speak less of politics and more about what he told those students. Alas, he did not follow my advice, but his challenge to those students was one more of them needed to hear.
“We Shall Overcome” was a powerful song when Black Americans were trying to overcome the racism of their day. A new one might be called “We Have Overcome,” sung to inspire people who did what the Rev. Jackson advised and who should urge others to follow the example of the successful.
• Readers may email Cal Thomas at email@example.com. Look for Cal Thomas’ latest book, “A Watchman in the Night: What I’ve Seen Over 50 Years Reporting on America” (HumanixBooks).