Last week, Paul Ryan went on the radio to address the lack of virtue prevalent among men who grew up like me, my father, my brothers, my best friends, and a large number of my people:
We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.
A number of liberals reacted harshly to Ryan. I'm not sure why. What Ryan said here is not very far from what Bill Cosby, Michael Nutter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama said before him. The idea that poor people living in the inner city, and particularly black men, are "not holding up their end of the deal" as Cosby put it, is not terribly original or even, these days, right-wing. From the president on down there is an accepted belief in America—black and white—that African-American people, and African-American men, in particular, are lacking in the virtues in family, hard work, and citizenship:
If Cousin Pookie would vote, if Uncle Jethro would get off the couch and stop watching SportsCenter and go register some folks and go to the polls, we might have a different kind of politics.
Cousin Pookie and Uncle Jethro voted at higher rates than any other ethnic group in the country. They voted for Barack Obama. Our politics have not changed. Neither has Barack Obama's rhetoric. Facts can only get in the way of a good story. It was sort of stunning to see the president give a speech on the fate of young black boys and not mention the word racism once. It was sort of stunning to see the president salute the father of Trayvon Martin and the father of Jordan Davis and then claim, "Nothing keeps a young man out of trouble like a father who takes an active role in his son’s life."
From what I can tell, the major substantive difference between Ryan and Obama is that Obama's actual policy agenda regarding black America is serious, and Ryan's isn't. But Ryan's point—that the a pathological culture has taken root among an alarming portion of black people—is basically accepted by many progressives today. And it's been accepted for a long time.
Read the whole thing. "Racism is just the wind, here. Racism is but the rain," Coates concludes. If we recognized this in Seattle, we would, to take one example, be fighting tooth-and-nail against the displacement of African-Americans out of this city instead of acting as if gentrification is inevitable or necessary. But progressives aren't nearly as anti-racist as they like to think they are.