While Professor Twyman deserves an A for effort (Aug.), I suggest his effort would benefit from a broader, more transcendent outlook. Blacks are part of America, and full integration will only come far down the road as intermarriage culminates to a degree far beyond our small comprehension--man and woman He made them. Also, as more than one sage has realized, in the end all political issues involve faith in God.
Many like Professor Twyman endeavor to imagine a world of human design alone. As a result, especially in the last century, our Congress acceded to demands of the moment and blundered into positivist statutes incapable of judicious application. Instead of relying on a Judeo-Christian God's love, brotherly love, fellowship and good will under natural law and the common law, Congress and its followers enacted stifling bans against "discrimination," and the rest is history. "Racism" of even a more pernicious strain is worse today, as evidenced by the Professor's need to elaborate on the issue with his own theory. Perhaps he's talking to his young students, who've been imbued with the race dialectic of victimology for almost 50 years. (In another vein, one can't cover the subject fully without study of Booker T. Washington's work ethic vs MLKing Jr.'s marching oratory. Washington anticipated Prof. Twyman's thesis a century ago in more basic terms!)
The races are different and we might as well get used to it without reliance on aphorisms of "color blindness," "equality," etc., when brotherly love is a far more powerful integrating force. Calls for "revision" or less "introspection" will prove frustrating without thought for statutes that invite race discrimination by forbidding it. I distrust all rhetoric on "civil rights" that doesn't address this aspect. The lives of blacks who've succeeded in America are heroic, especially considering earlier Southern practices, but they're not all that different from many whites, Orientals, or Europeans who've made the grade through the years. And "success" itself is debatable nowadays, with show business or political notoriety outweighing unnoticed "village Hampdens." Politicians and entertainers are focused more on popularity than wise policy mainly because in surrendering to '60s "non-discrimination" law we forgot our former culture of truth, courage, and traditional justice.
Professor Twyman's advice is generally good (and the Commandments are still the answer. La meme chose, etc.) He should realize, however, that most Americans want to consider blacks with the same lens as they consider whites; we're all human. How one acts determines the rest. Unfortunately, college "ethnic studies" have changed the playing field, with young blacks often lapsing into victim lingo not known in the '30s. Whether this can be simplified as mere "introspection" is extremely doubtful, but one answer would be to end such "studies"! Despite solipsistic "ethnic studies," "assimilation" remains the goal for all races in America, "minority" or not. But not under the rule of hypocrisy and its Procrustean bed of "non-discrimination."
Professor Twyman's distaste for black "introversion" and "the relationship gap" in worship, culture, personality, etc., is especially noticeable in its omission of "ethnic studies," lofty '60s oratory on "content of character," shotgun statutes banning "hate" and "discrimination" as possible causes along with racial prejudice, etc. (In some ways, ironically, his essay is quite discriminating as to race.) As Professor Wm. B. Allen has put it, perhaps blacks should have been allowed to "carve out their own destinies" without meddling by the state, which they were doing before 1964 with considerable organic progress.
--W. Edward Chynoweth
Winkfield F. Twyman Responds
I read Mr. Chynoweth's letter to the editor with great interest.
If I understand the thrust of Chynoweth's argument, brotherly love is the answer to the race problem. Love thy neighbor as one loves thy self.
Brotherly love has a surface appeal. Our love for God and God's love for us must be more powerful than human design. I accept Chynoweth's point. And yet some of the most Christian people in the Deep South have not accepted African-Americans into their segregated churches on an equal basis. Brotherly love would have prevented the rise of introspection. Unfortunately, the lack of brotherly love in the past created the place that we inhabit today,
Think of brotherly love as an aspiration. We can aspire to love our fellow man as a brother. But we fall short as demonstrated by the power of the human brain to stereotype. There is a marvelous book called A Mind of Its Own. How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives where the author, Cordelia Fine, shows us that the brain is hard-wired to typecast others. After reviewing experiments and studies on stereotypes, Fine concluded that:
. . . when dealing with a black man, the black stereotype is primed and ready to distort our interpretation of his every word and deed. . . . We see what we expect to see.
As a result, prejudice developed. African-Americans, having the power of free will, responded to prejudice with introspection.
Chynoweth hints that I place too much faith in the power of human design. And a fair reading of Fine's scholarship supports Chynoweth. However, doesn't the Good Book teach us that God helps those who help themselves? Norman Vincent Peale, an acclaimed minister who changed innumerable lives, argued that if you change your thoughts you change your world. Think about that simple, and powerful, point. Both the Bible and Peale acknowledge that we have free will. If you have faith in God, then you have faith in God's reward for those who help themselves, for those who can change their thoughts for the better.
Here's the ultimate problem with brotherly love as a one-size-fits-all solution. While I can choose to live by the Golden Rule, I cannot make other people do so. The actions of others are beyond my control, try as I might to coerce, lecture, and persuade. In the end, some people do not live by the Golden Rule. Some voters reject political candidates out of hand because of their race. We see some liberals objectify Blacks under the rubric of diversity. And still others use "the N-word" in their private dealings.
There is a shadowy aspect to transgressions against the Golden Rule.
Bigots can hide in the shadows. If you are a rural voter on Maryland's Eastern Shore, you can keep your prejudices to yourself until you lash out in the voting booth. No one is the wiser. Certainly, the African-American nominee for the U.S. Senate, Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, would never know. If you are a radical faculty member, you can ensure that African-American colleagues toe the "Blame the Man" line. No one will know your private doubts about hip-hop as scholarship. And the antics of Virginia Senator George Allen remain obscured in plausible deniability.
I am going to part company with Chynoweth regarding ethnic studies. Chynoweth argues that we must end ethnic studies. However, life is more complex. Eliminating ethnic studies is comparable to removing all of my teeth because I have a toothache. The problem is not ethnic studies per se. A closer look suggests a tidier core cancer-that ethnic studies have been captured by radicals for political ends. Professor David Horowitz does a wonderful job of recounting this sad sojourn in The Professor.
The study of ethnic studies need not equal victimhood.
There is so much richness to the story of African-Americans in this country. Many of these stories are Horatio Alger-like in their arc. A slave grows up to become Speaker of the U.S. House pro tempore. Another slave becomes U.S. Senator from Mississippi. The son of a country club waiter becomes a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. A southern girl from a broken home becomes the wealthiest African-American in U.S. history. A daughter of segregated Birmingham, Alabama, becomes the most powerful woman in the world. I could write many pages about the triumph of Blacks over adversity.
For reasons divorced from lived experience, professors in ethnic studies have chosen to teach a bearish picture of minority life. And, yes, students are receiving a distorted image of the American experience. The solution, however, is diversity of thought in ethnic studies, not a complete shut down of departments. There is hidden value in learning about African-American accomplishment despite prejudice. Youngsters can see that grit never kept a good man down. In my own family, an ancestor took advantage of an opportunity to plow a large sum of money into real estate that founded a family. I dated a woman whose great grandfather worked as a custodian by day and saved his money by night. An entrepreneur by nature, he turned an otherwise oppressive condition into the makings of a family dynasty in New Jersey. Just today, I talked to a woman whose family has roots in Riverside County, California, dating back to the 1890s. Her ancestor parlayed a fabulous win at the Keno table in Las Vegas into ownership of a subdivision. These accounts are all of the black experience. But these true stories discomfort the ethnic studies crowd because Horatio Alger accounts show black men as creators of their destiny, not hapless pawns adrift on the waves of oppression.
If ethnic studies can capture the enterprising spirit, then those studies would hold inspirational value. Absent a regard for these tales of uplift, ethnic studies are simply propaganda for the radical soul.
Chynoweth rebounds into my better graces by observing my fine "discriminations." I smile at the close, careful reading of Chynoweth. Writers write what they know. To do otherwise risks drifting into the realm of dull prose, lifeless propaganda. I did not address "ethnic studies" as those courses hold little appeal for me. These studies do not interest me. Derivative victimhood tells me nothing new. Instead, I am treated to much that is stale and simply political. Besides, real African-Americans in the real world are far more influenced by their church life, family culture, and ingrained introspection than the hip-hop scholarship of identity drunk professors.
As for lofty '60s oratory on "content of character," the oratory leaves me flat. I consider the destiny of character as old hat in 2006. True, some people return to the oratory to make contemporary arguments. But I've outgrown the need to defend a truism.
Chynoweth loses me again when he talks about shotgun statutes banning "hate" and "discrimination" as possible causes of "introversion" and "the relationship gap." I don't see the connection. To the contrary, these measures seek to root out dastardly prejudices that generated introspection in the first place. Imagine where Americans of African descent would be today if the outgoingness of Anthony Johnson had been planted in black life. Suppose generations of African-Americans learned that being black meant taking risks against hostile elements, saving money and accumulating great estates, and managing legions of laborers. If the extroversion of Anthony Johnson had been allowed to define black culture and black consciousness, I suggest we would not have a race problem today.
So, yes, my essay is quite discriminating. I have drawn upon those elements that matter to depict black personality.
It's too late in the day to revisit the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s. Here, the various measures worked a revolution in lifting the aspirations of African-Americans. But for these laws, Doug Wilder would not have become Governor of Virginia. Oprah Winfrey would not have become the cultural force that she is. And I would not have earned a University of Virginia degree with High Honors. "Meddling by the state" served a constructive good in the 1960s with all due respect to Professor Wm. B. Allen.
--Winkfield F. Twyman, Jr.