America – Stop Obsessing on the Past!

America – Stop Obsessing on the Past!

© David Burton 2020

Obsessing on the Past

     The past is over - it is gone. To fixate on it, is to choose not to move on.

     When D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in mid-2020 created an advisory group to scrutinize the city’s monuments, memorials, and facilities for their “disqualifying histories,” the outcome of their feverish deliberations was utterly predictable: They would launch an assault on the most cherished and unifying symbols of American democracy.
     Like the militant Jacobins of revolutionary France, the leftist radicals leading this movement for “racial justice” see enemies everywhere. Christopher Columbus, Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, George Washington - all would be swept up in their frenzied attempt to cleanse the land of anyone linked to the deaths of native Americans, slavery, “systemic racism,” and the mistreatment of women and the LGBTQ communities.
     Even the Washington Monument - honoring the man considered “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen” - made the list of offenders.
     The District of Columbia Facilities and Commemorative Expressions committee recommended that the federal government “remove, relocate, or contextualize” about 1,300 “assets,” including statues, public schools, libraries, parks, and roads.
     In the committee’s letter to Bowser, one could detect echoes of Robespierre’s Committee for Public Safety: They praised the summer of 2020 for the “winds of change” and “unprecedented levels of activism.”
     The committee labored mightily to erase any perceived stain on American history, but they did absolutely nothing to generate a meaningful program that would actually assist the disadvantaged to achieve economic or social equality. Like Don Quixote, they tilted at imaginary windmills. Instead of actually aiding those who deserve and need help, they worked to somehow correct all the misdeeds of long-dead explorers, patriots, and statesmen - a less-than-useless exercise in futility.
     With all their rush to erase the errors of the past, there was no hint of the breakdown in law and order that was jarring the nation’s capital and other American cities: the mob violence, the assaults on police, the desecration of monuments, the attacks on local businesses, and the intimidation of the residents who refused to raise their fists in solidarity with Black Lives Matter activists. Instead, the chaos they ignored was cast as “the battle for inclusion, equality, and justice.’ Just who benefited from the wasted efforts of Washington’s administration?
     The Washington mayor and her underlings were fighting a phony war, a distraction from the failures of leadership that plagued progressive mayors around the country. Washington was and still is a city in crisis, as any longtime resident can attest.
     There was a palpable mood of anxiety and fear. Businesses remained shuttered. Mob violence had become a weekend ritual. A mass shooting in August that wounded 21 - and killed a seventeen-year-old boy - marked a 45% spike in shootings over the same period a year previous. As of the end of the 2020 summer, Washington could boast of 128 homicides, with no sign that the mayor or police had a strategy to bring it under control. Meanwhile, deaths from opioid overdoses in the city continued to skyrocket. The dropout rate for the city’s high school students has been increasing every year, topping 30% in 2019. As neighborhood leaders working with at-risk families will quietly explain, Instead of deciding which statues to tear down, why weren’t the mayor and her council finding solutions to the very real problems of Washington’s Blacks?
     Instead of wasting time, energy and money trying to erase all vestiges of supposed past bad behavior by anyone linked to the deaths of native Americans, slavery, “systemic racism,” and the mistreatment of women and the LGBTQ communities, the progressive leadership in Washington and other major American cities, which were beset by riots, looting, and violence, would instead do well to face up to today’s and tomorrow’s realities. Instead of renaming parks and streets, instead of tearing down monuments, instead of demanding compensation for what transpired centuries earlier, Washington’s mayor and her subordinates should focus their energies on eliminating or minimizing today’s and tomorrow’s real problems that create the environment leading to this past year’s social unrest.
     America does not need those who seek to delegitimize the American Founders: the radicals and fanatics whose self-righteous rage blinds them to the achievements of a democratic revolution that has liberated millions and promoted freedom and equality around the world. America does not need politicians who meekly acquiesce to the demands of the demagogues. America needs leaders who will stop obsessing about what has happened in the past. America needs leaders who have the vision and the will to focus on addressing the problems facing the disadvantaged segments of American society today and tomorrow.[1]

     After the race-related events of 2020, “it’s clear that the people who speak for black America Have a Dream, in the wake of the one Dr. King so resonantly expressed.
     “The idea is that the Civil Rights revolution of the 1960s wasn’t enough, that a shoe still has yet to drop. Today’s Dream is that white America will somehow wake up and understand that racism makes black America’s problems insurmountable. Not in-your-face racism, of course, but structural racism - sometimes termed White Privilege or white supremacy. Racism of a kind that America must get down on its knees and ‘understand’ before we can move forward.
     “The problem is that this Dream qualifies more as a fantasy. If we are really interested in helping poor black people in America, it’s time to hit Reset. [Emphasis mine]
     “The Dream I refer to has been expressed with a certain frequency over the past few weeks, after a succession of events that neatly illustrated the chance element in social history. First, a white woman, Rachel Dolezal, bemused the nation with her assertion that she ‘identifies’ as black. Everyone had a grand time objecting that one can’t be black without having grown up suffering the pain of racist discrimination, upon which Dylann Roof’s murder of nine black people in a Charleston, South Carolina church put a gruesome point on the issue. Dolezal was instantly and justifiably forgotten, after which the shootings motivated the banning of the Confederate flag from the American public sphere.
     “However, practically before the flags were halfway down their poles, the good-thinking take on things was that this, while welcome, was mere symbolism, and that what we really need to be thinking about is how to get America to finally wake up to - here comes the Dream - structural racism. A typical expression of the Dream is this one. . . : ‘There is little hope for a meaningful solution to the problem of concentrated poverty until the liberal establishment decides to focus on untangling a different set of pathologies—those inherent in concentrated power, concentrated whiteness, and concentrated wealth.’
     “Statements like this meet with nods and applause. But since the ’60s, the space between the statements and real life has become ever vaster. What are we really talking about when we speak of a ‘liberal establishment’ making a ‘decision’ to ‘untangle’ notoriously impregnable things such as power, whiteness and wealth?
     “This is a Dream indeed, and the only reason it even begins to sound plausible is because of the model of the Civil Rights victories of fifty years ago, which teaches us that when it comes to black people, dreaming of an almost unimaginable political and psychological revolution qualifies as progressivism. After all, it worked then, right? So why be so pessimistic as to deny that it could happen again?
     “But there are times when pessimism is pragmatic. There will be no second Civil Rights revolution. Its victories grew not only from the heroic efforts of our ancestors, but also from a chance confluence of circumstances. Think about it: Why didn’t the Civil Rights victories happen in the 19th century, or the 18th, even - or in the 1920s or 1940s? It’s often said that black people were ‘fed up’ by the ’60s, but we can be quite sure that black people in the centuries before were plenty fed up too.
     “What tipped things in the 1960s were chance factors . . . Segregation was bad P.R. during the Cold War. Television made abuses against black people more vividly apparent than ever before. Between the 1920s and the late 1960s, immigration to the U.S. had been severely curtailed, so black concerns, while so often ignored, still did not compete with those of other large groups as they do today.
     “There is no such combination of socio-historical factors today. . . talking about structural racism has never gotten us anywhere significant. Hurricane Katrina was 10 years ago; there was a great deal of talk then about how that event could herald some serious movement on structural racism. Well, here we are. There was similar talk after the 1992 riots in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict and, well, here we are.
     “The old-time Civil Rights leaders did things; too often these days we think talking about things is doing something. [Emphasis mine] But what, really, are we talking about in terms of doing?
      - - -
     “Many say that we need to move black people away from poor neighborhoods to middle-class ones. However, the results of this kind of relocation are spotty, and how long will it be before the new word on the street is that such policies are racist in diluting black ‘communities’? . . .
     “And, in a country where our schools can barely teach students to read unless they come from book-lined homes, what is the point of pretending that America will somehow learn a plangent lesson about how black people suffer from a legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and therefore merit special treatment that no other groups in America do? Calls for reparations for slavery, or housing discrimination, resonate indeed—and have for years now. However, they result in nothing, and here we are.
     “. . . It was one thing to convince America that legalized segregation and disfranchisement were wrong. However, convincing America that black people now need the dismantling of ‘white privilege’ is too enlightened a lesson to expect a vast, heterogeneous and modestly educated populace to ever accept.
      - - -
     “Today’s impasse is the result of mission creep. The story of the Civil Rights movement from 1965 to 2015 started as a quest to allow black people the same opportunities others enjoy but has shrunken into a project to show that black people can’t excel unless racism basically ceases to exist at all. [Emphasis mine] This is understandable. The concrete victories tearing down Jim Crow have already happened. Smoking out the racism that remains lends a sense of purpose. And let’s face it: There’s less of a sense of electricity, urgency, importance in teaching people how to get past racism.
     “But the result is that we insist ‘What we really need to be talking about’ is, say, psychological tests showing that whites have racist biases they aren’t aware of such as tending to associate black people with negative words, or white people owning up to their ‘Privilege,’ or a television chef having said the N-word in a heated moment decades ago (or posing for a picture where her son is dressed as Desi Arnaz wearing brown makeup).” (Ref. 2)

     Let’s get real! Racism will never be totally expunged from American society any more than 100% of poverty will be done away with or anti-Semitism will totally cease to be or all parents will stop repeating the myth of the tooth fairy to their children. What we can realistically achieve is the reduction of racism to the point where it is insignificant and limited to the ignorant few in this country. What we need to strive to achieve in America is the reduction of racism to the point where it is totally insignificant and irrelevant. That is an achievable objective!

     “So, drama stands in for action. Follow-through is a minor concern. Too many people are reluctant to even admit signs of progress, out of a sense that their very role is to be the Cassandra rather than the problem-solver.
     “So, little gets done. In a history of black America, it is sadly difficult to imagine what the chapter would be about after the 1960s, other than the election of Barack Obama, which our intelligentsia is ever anxious to tell us wasn’t really important anyway. Maybe we’re getting somewhere on the police lately. But there’s a lot more to being black than the cops. There is much else to do.
     “This new Dream, seeking revolutionary change in how America works, is not only impossible, but based on the faulty assumption that black Americans are the world’s first group who can only excel under ideal conditions. We are perhaps the first people on earth taught to consider it insulting when someone suggests we try to cope with the system as it is - even when that person is black, or even the President. [Emphasis mine]
     “But this ‘Yes, We Can’t!’ assumption has never been demonstrated. No one has shown just why post-industrial conditions in the United States make achievement all but impossible for any black person not born middle-class or rich. What self-regarding group of people gives in to the idea that low-skill factory jobs moving to China spells the end of history for its own people but no one else’s?
      - - -
     “. . . the claim that America must ‘wake up’ and eliminate structural racism has become more of a religious incantation than a true call to action. We must forge solutions to black America’s problems that are feasible within reality - that is, a nation in which racism continues to exist, compassion for black people from the outside will be limited and mainly formulaic (i.e. getting rid of flags), and by and large, business continues as usual. Here are some ideas for real solutions:
    “1. The War on Drugs must be eliminated. It creates a black-market economy that tempts underserved black men from finishing school or seeking legal employment and imprisons them for long periods, removing them from their children and all but assuring them of lowly existences afterward.
    “2. We have known for decades how to teach poor black children to read: phonics-based approaches called Direct Instruction, solidly proven to work in the ’60s . . . . Children with shaky reading skills are incapable of engaging any other school subject meaningfully, with predictable life results.
    “3. Long-Acting Reproductive Contraceptives should be given free to poor black women (and other poor ones too). It is well known that people who finish high school, hold a job, and do not have children until they are 21 and have a steady partner are almost never poor. We must make it so that more poor black women have the opportunity to follow that path. The data is in: Studies in St. Louis and Colorado have shown that these devices sharply reduce unplanned pregnancies. . .
    “4. We must revise the notion that attending a four-year college is the mark of being a legitimate American, and return to truly valuing working-class jobs. Attending four years of college is a tough, expensive, and even unappealing proposition for many poor people (as well as middle-class and rich ones). Yet poor people can, with up to two years’ training at a vocational institution, make solid livings as electricians, plumbers, hospital technicians, cable television installers, and many other jobs. Across America, we must instill a sense that vocational school - not ‘college’ in the traditional sense - is a valued option for people who want to get beyond what they grew up in.
     “Note that none of these things involve white people ‘realizing’ anything. These are the kinds of concrete policy goals that people genuinely interested in seeing change ought to espouse. If these things seem somehow less attractive than calling for revolutionary changes in how white people think and how the nation operates, then this is for emotional reasons, not political ones. A black identity founded on how other people think about us is a broken one indeed, and we will have more of a sense of victory in having won the game we’re in rather than insisting that for us and only us, the rules have to be rewritten.” (Ref. 2)

     Every decade or so, a new revisionist fad captivates some small - but unbearably loud - subsect of American “historians.” It happened, most memorably, in the 1960s and ‘70s as Marxist professors took possession our universities. Slowly but surely the grift was seen for what it was - bad history based on bad motives. Unfortunately, a good deal of damage was done, as thousands of university students were indoctrinated to interpret American history as an ongoing drama of class conflict and nothing more. We see the effects of this education playing out today.
     Well, the revisionists of history are at it again. Similar grift, similar bad history and similar bad motives. But this time it’s worse, the long-term effect may be much more pernicious.
     In early 2020, Nikole Hannah-Jones of The New York Times was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary “For a sweeping, provocative and personal essay for the ground-breaking 1619 Project, which seeks to place the enslavement of Africans at the center of America’s story, prompting public conversation about the nation’s founding and evolution.”
     At the heart of Mrs. Hannah-Jones‘ project was the explicit claim that the true history of America did not start in 1776, but in 1619, the year when the first slaves arrived in the colonies. Instead of taking our bearings from the eternal truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”, she argues that slavery is the lens through which all of America’s successes and failures, every single thing that defines us, good and bad, must be understood.
     Mrs. Hannah-Jones applies her argument to the American Revolution, claiming that the colonists fought for independence in order that an America untethered from Britain would allow the institution of slavery to flourish. This assertion is so wrong, so factually inaccurate, that leading historians of both conservative and liberal persuasions, systematically went through her research and found no evidence supporting her contention - they did, however, find a trove of historical inaccuracies and distortions. Unbelievably, she was still awarded a Pulitzer prize!
     In truth, Mrs. Hannah-Jones is an ideologue. The truth and falsity of her “Project” does not interest her or The New York Times in the least. What they both are interested in is making a political splash, self-aggrandizement and “righting historical wrongs” on their terms. This is as disgusting as it is lamentable, and all the more so since the suffering and story of black Americans doubtless deserves to be told honestly and more loudly. Both Mrs. Hannah-Jones and The New York Times, along with multitudes of misguided Americans, obsess on what is long over and done with, while ignoring what is today relevant, important and what can be done today to make life better for all Americans.
     The Pulitzer Prize, like the Nobel Prize for Peace, is so obviously a tool of the dogmatic left that demanding objectivity or standards from their respective committees is futile. And in this respect, Mrs. Hannah-Jones was given an award by an organization that matches the seriousness of her endeavor[3]

     America – stop obsessing with the illusion that today’s Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a continuation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s successfull fight for racial justice and equality in the 1960’s - It isn’t!

     Let’s first dispose of the false “identification of BLM as ‘the current day Civil Rights movement in this country … our best chance at equity and justice.’ The goal of the original civil rights movement could be summed up in Martin Luther King Jr.’s words: ‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’
     “On the contrary, Black Lives Matter wants whites to be judged solely by the color of their skin - which supposedly ineradicably brands them as privileged racists. Only black lives matter (note the fury unleashed on anyone who dares to declare that all lives matter) and then only the tiny sliver of black lives taken by whites, above all white policemen. In the large number of ordinary black lives taken by black criminals BLM displays a blank disinterest. [Emphasis mine]
      - - -
     “. . . BLM makes no secret of its anti-capitalist fervor. It was founded in 2013 by three black women: Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi. In 2015, Cullors stated on video, ‘We actually do have an ideological frame. Myself and Alicia [Garza] in particular, we’re trained organizers. We are trained Marxists.’
     “Garza openly reveres Joanne Chesimard (who now calls herself Assata Shakur), the Marxist revolutionary, former Black Panther and convicted killer of a New Jersey state trooper. For the past 41 years Shakur has been a fugitive sheltered by Communist Cuba.
     “As for the third of the trio, Opal Tometi, she also referred to Shakur as ‘dear exiled sister’ at a 2015 People of African Descent leadership summit where she is shown with Nicholas Maduro’s {Venezuela’s poster boy for failed communism} arm around her.” (Ref. 4)

     In addition to its anti-American bent, BLM is openly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. Hatred of Israel and the Jews is part of the BLM policy. In 2016, Black Lives Matter issued “policy platforms.” One supported the BDS (boycott, divest, and sanction) movement against Israel, described Israel as an “apartheid state,” and declared the U.S., because of its alliance with Israel, “complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.” [4]

     There are those who insist upon salving their consciences by “making reparations” to today’s American Blacks for the wrongs perpetrated upon some of the ancestors by some Americans 200 or 300 year ago. The Huffington Post even published an idiotic piece arguing that slavery reparations were possible and logical. Here are reasons why reparations are logistically, politically, and logically unworkable, as well as stupid.

     Reparation advocates only make arguments based on emotional appeal rather than on logic and reason. They do not offer any practical ideas on how the logistics of reparations would work, except to say, “let the government work out the practical details.” But as most of us are aware, “The government almost always sucks at doing anything meaningful.”
     The reason reparations advocates struggle to make a case is because there is no possible way to do it. There are numerous immigrants who have entered the U.S. who were not a part of enslaving blacks, and there were also blacks that owned black slaves during the slave era. How would the government be able to have the resources to determine every single person who had slaveowner ancestors as well as ancestors who were slaves? What about those of mixed race? It’s impossible.
     Even during the era of slavery, most white people owned no slaves. Are their descendants supposed to pay for the descendants of those who did? It is irresponsible to punish not only all white people but all of American society for the blight of slavery.
     The truth is that slavery reparations won’t help the black community. We should note that the poverty rate among Blacks fell by half between 1940 and 1960, before any of the major federal civil rights legislation or the vast expansion of the welfare state under President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs. Between 1940 and 1960, Black males’ number of years of schooling doubled. How surprising is it that doubling your education raises your income? In short, most Blacks raised themselves out of poverty.
     So what changed after 1960? What changed was that the expansion of the welfare state resulted in the breakup of the Black family, which has been clearly linked to higher poverty rates. Reparations are simply another welfare program, which will not solve the problem, it will only exacerbate it. What would be the effect of reparations on today’s Black population? Is anyone made better off by being supplied with resentments and distractions from the task of developing the capabilities that pay off in a booming economy and a high-tech world? Instead, as it is for all people, it is better for African Americans to look to themselves to improve their standing in the life. It is better for African Americans to focus on today and working to better their lives rather than complaining about events that they cannot change and which took place centuries ago.
     Interestingly, slavery did not make America wealthy. The argument that America’s wealth was created off of the backs of slaves is simply untrue. Where slavery thrived, the economy did not. The more affluent areas of the country had banned slavery long before they began to truly prosper economically, while the South struggled financially as long as the evil institution remained in place.
     If slavery reparations were to be actually paid, it would never be enough for the race hustlers. The race hustling industry is only interested in promoting themselves and needs to keep racial animosity stirred up in order to keep the money flowing. At what point would enough be enough? When would the debt be considered to be fully paid? The answer is never.[5]

     Reparations for American slavery is a misbegotten idea, unworkable and unjust, but every now and then it come back into vogue as a political talking point. “Slavery was a toxic evil, and its bitter impact didn't end with emancipation. But any attempt to discharge the moral crimes of the 18th and 19th centuries with monetary payments in the 21st century is doomed to fail. The logistical and definitional obstacles alone would be a nightmare. The majority of white Americans have no ancestral link to antebellum slavery - they are descendants of the millions of immigrants who came to the United States after slavery had been abolished. Of the remainder, few had any slaveholding forbears: Slavery was abolished in most Northeastern states within 15 years of the American Revolution, while in most of the West it never existed at all. Even in the South at the peak of its ‘slaveocracy,’ at least 75 percent of whites never owned slaves.
      - - -
     “The time for reparations is when the victims who suffered can still, in some sense, be ‘repaired’ — when those who themselves were abused or enslaved or cheated can be offered a measure of redress.
     ‘To demand compensation for African Americans who were never slaves is not a demand for individual justice but for racial group entitlement. To insist that white Americans in 2019, by virtue of their color, owe a debt for the slavery and repression of centuries past is to preach collective guilt. Few heresies are more antithetical to our aspirations to equality, tolerance, and individual rights. Few are more likely to inflame tribal resentment and contempt.
     "The terrible injustices of our past must not be denied. But they cannot be rectified by working new injustices in the present.  . . . {R}eparations . . . won't heal America's racial divisions, or move us toward a more perfect Union.” (Ref. 6)

     America – stop obsessing on the past! Instead, let’s focus all our energies on the present and, even more importantly, on the future. We must stop fixating on what’s dead and gone. We need to stop trying to rewrite history as we might have wished it to be and, instead, we need to work to make today and tomorrow better and brighter than what it’s been in the past.

     In spite of what today’s protestors claim, history cannot be changed. But we do have the power to create a better today and a still better tomorrow. What’s happened in the past is over and done with. Let’s move on. Leave history as it is – warts and all. Let’s learn from history as it is and then let’s make sure that we don’t repeat the mistakes of long ago.

     America, the time has long since passed to stop all the mea culpa’s and to put an end to the irrational calls for “reparations” to make up for what happened 100, 200 or 400 years ago. Let’s call for action and funding today and tomorrow to improve the lives of all Americans – no matter what our origins, skin colors, religions, or ethnicities. America now has the chance to move on and to continue its unprecedented march toward the betterment of all. Living in the past and wringing our hands over what was and what might have been is futile and only serves to reopen past wounds.

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  1. The Mayor, the Monuments, and the Mayhem, Joseph Loconte, Ph.D., The Heritage Foundation,
    2 September 2020.
  2. Black People Should Stop Expecting White America to ‘Wake Up’ to Racism, John McWhorter,
    The Daily Beast, 14 April 2017.
  3. Revisionists at it again: The '1619 Project' is bad history fueled by bad motives, The Washington Times,
    24 May 2020.
  4. Opinion: Befuddled Jews endorse Black Lives Matter, World Israel News, 9 September 2020.
  5. 5 Reasons Slavery Reparations Are An Idiotic Idea, Aaron Bandler, Daily Wire, 23 February 2016.
  6. Reparations For Slavery Are Unworkable - And Unjust, Jeff Jacoby, Daily Wire, 2 April 2019.


  23 October 2020 {Article 443; Whatever_74}    
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