In a recent column, right-wing pundit Pat Buchanan attempted to argue that blacks benefited from slavery because they “grew into a community of 40 million” in the United States:
First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.
Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.
Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ’60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream.
It’s hard to know how to process that kind of thinking.
In his first paragraph, Pat seems to gloss over the timeline. America started importing slaves from Africa about 350 years ago. Yet blacks didn’t get their full panoply of rights until about 40 years ago, despite a war for their "freedom" fought 120 years ago. So while I don’t agree with everything that Wright has said, I can certainly understand why people like Wright can’t look back on history and NOT get down on his knees and "thank God he is an American".
In his second paragraph, Pat lists several social programs on the assumption that those social programs were geared toward blacks, rather than toward poor and impoverished people. Of course, the fact that he recognizes that those programs tend to "lift up blacks" is a tacit admission that blacks need lifting up. And why? Largely because of the discrimination they have faced over the years. It’s kind of like a wife-beater who says his wife should be grateful because he provides good health insurance.
Why, you’re welcome, Pat!
UPDATE: Dave Neiwert —
But really, the richest line in Buchanan’s column — the one that no doubt resonates most with black voters — was this one:
We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?
Damn, I’m sure most black people forgot to be grateful for segregation, the lynching era, sundown towns, and the continuing discrimination they face both in employment and in residence. Because the institutional conditions created by those decades of bigotry have in fact gone largely unchanged, though to white guys like Buchanan, that simply isn’t a factor:
Is white America really responsible for the fact that the crime and incarceration rates for African-Americans are seven times those of white America? Is it really white America’s fault that illegitimacy in the African-American community has hit 70 percent and the black dropout rate from high schools in some cities has reached 50 percent?
Is that the fault of white America or, first and foremost, a failure of the black community itself?
Well, I’m sure black voters are convinced by that argument. After all, it’s obvious that the matter of continuing discrimination is just an illusion in their heads.