During the week after Father’s Day, I received a number of interesting emails from readers asking me to write about the dearth of looting after the recent floods in Iowa. Specifically, they wanted me to write about the reason there was so much more looting in New Orleans after Katrina hit the “Chocolate City” in 2005. Of course, the problem involves so much more than race – a factor most people are thinking about, even if they won’t admit it.
That people would oversimplify many post-Katrina problems as “race problems” is unfortunate but somewhat understandable. I recall watching a Fox News reporter standing on a bridge in a flooded area of New Orleans just after Katrina. When the first black individual came wading out of the projects the reporter was simply astounded. Like me, the reporter had no idea that folks had been sitting in the projects waiting for someone to come and escort them out of harm’s way.
It was also sad to see that it was one black face after another emerging from the flooded waters. And it was sadder still that the words “we need” were the first spoken into the camera by these citizens – all utterly unprepared to provide for themselves and their families.
But of course the ugliest scenes were yet to come as looters would turn downtown New Orleans into a place more like downtown Baghdad. Some of the looters who would participate in the destruction of their own neighborhoods would later suggest that they were entitled to loot because of years and years of “oppression.”
Of course, talk of historical oppression goes a long way towards explaining why blacks would be more inclined to loot than whites. But it doesn’t go far towards explaining the fact that looters are predominantly male rather than female. At some point, variables other than race have to be written into the equation.
There is another observation that is just as obvious as the fact that black males are more likely than black females to take advantage of the opportunity to loot as a means of eradicating historical oppression. I am referring, of course, to the fact that black females are more likely than black males to take advantage of affirmative action as a means of eradicating historical oppression. In fact, overall differences between blacks and whites - in important areas including income and education – are largely due to the failures of black males relative to everyone else in society, including black females.
Sociologists have, at least to date, failed to grasp what lies behind this problem. This is largely because of their foolish contention that there are no inherent differences between men and women. They continue to believe, or pretend to believe, that gender differences are merely “socially constructed.” I believe otherwise.
For some forty years now the government has been providing incentives for (predominantly minority) men not to work and for women not to keep them around to care for their children. This idea that they are not needed as workers or as fathers cuts against their nature as men. It is a very dangerous pair of ideas with a very dangerous pair of consequences – only one of which has been addressed in this short essay.
The violence that is committed in an act of looting is not born of some idea that a man is entitled to the things kept from him by historical oppression. The violence against another man’s place of work is born of his own sense of worthlessness for having not fulfilled his responsibilities as an able-bodied man. This non-sense about oppression is merely an afterthought – a form of rationalization in the Freudian sense. If used often enough it becomes more than an individual malady. It becomes a cultural malady as well.
But the personal violence exhibited by minority men against other minority men is not so easily explained by economic oppression. Enlightened minds can easily grasp the effect of illegitimacy - and I speak here of illegitimate fathers because there are no illegitimate children – on minorities raised in single parent homes. But I believe the separation of fathers from their children explains, not just the transmission, but the genesis of violence in minority communities.
So I am not at all impressed that, on Father’s Day, Barack Obama chose to chastise black men for failing to take care of their children. It takes little courage to state the obvious fact that their absence will make things tougher on the current generation of children raised in single parent homes.
I would be far more impressed were there any indication that Barack Obama understood the impact the War on Poverty has had on the current generation of fathers who have been displaced by government programs. Of course, if he did understand that he might be tempted to admit that he, too, is contributing to a very complex problem. And there is every indication that, if elected president, he will continue to contribute to the problem and force the rest of us to contribute our “fair share” too.
Jeremiah Wright recently found himself embroiled in controversy for suggesting that the government invented the AIDS virus to kill black people. It would have been closer to the truth to say that was the reason they have injected the virus of government aid into minority communities.