Why is The Washington Post’s resident Don Quixote tilting at the windmills of history in Obama’s post-racial America? While the adage that “those that don’t know history are bound to repeat it,” the opposite extreme is Courtland Milloy whose myopic focus on Civil War struggles—fortunately and mercifully exactly 150 years now long over—ignore the passage of time and the clear evolution of America into a more accepting society. Indeed, what greater proof of this new reality (inconceivable to people in Lincoln’s time) could there be: a black man is currently cooling his heels in the White House for a second term. Mr. Milloy’s two beefs are a waste of valuable newspaper column space: he laments the supposed ignorance of the millennial generation claiming they don’t even realize that the Civil War was fought over the forced enslavement of black people; and he sees subtle racism in the fact that the general public sees more value in monuments depicting “battles and generals” rather than “freedom and slavery” at a military park in Fredericksburg, VA. Undoubtedly, for many, slavery was a bummer pre-1865 and it sure is an irrelevant downer to Jane Q. Public and her brood now.
Further, does the insipidly scribbling columnist Milloy really subscribe to the idea that the millennial generation—hooked into technological everything—does not know, for example, of the Oscar winning Steven Spielberg film “Lincoln” (2012)? The truth is the racist culture embodied by the Old South is literally “Gone with the Wind” in America of 2015. The “point” Mr. Milloy wishes to peddle in his ‘slavery’ column is White Guilt for things that happened to people no longer alive by people no longer living: six generations ago.
Somehow this august generation should feel guilty for not erecting enough monuments to the vaguely eluded to “contributions of slaves” although Mr. Milloy—in his righteous fervor—never bothers to specifically articulate what those contributions were. That is likely because he does not know—because the rest of the world has already moved on from this unfortunate chapter of American history—a point he clearly “misses” as he berates his readership for missing “his point.”
The greater “point” that Mr. Milloy doesn’t deal with in his column are the massive present-day problems that affect the black community happening in this time: 50 percent of Afro-American children aborted in the womb; out-of-wedlock births for blacks are over 72 percent; 90 percent of blacks in America are killed by members of their own race per 2012 crime statistics—to name just a few. No doubt there is still work to be done. However, the present is called the “present” for good reason: the “now” is the only place constructive societal change can be undertaken.
However, today is not as bleak as Mr. Milloy’s ‘slavery’ column would have the uninformed reader incorrectly infer about America of 2015. To a great extent, we are actually living in a post-racial and inclusive society. There are Afro-Americans at every level of government, the private sector, the arts and sports. Interracial marriages are commonplace and their children are vibrant, fully embraced members of our society. Moreover, Eminem notwithstanding, rap music—a principally black form of artistic expression—is mainstream American music. Likewise, black athletes and entertainers (recent Oscar winners include: Denzel Washington, Halle Barry, Morgan Freeman, Whoopie Goldberg and Jennifer Hudson) are lionized with an almost God-like status universally by white and black young people. Indeed, blacks have taken over popular culture: movies "Be like Mike" (2002) and its sequel "Be Like Mike 2" (2006) are flattering references to NBA superstar Michael Jordan (whose $200.00 Air Jordan sneakers are highly sought after). In this same vein, the white youth of today have eagerly integrated the rather questionable language and fashion sense of their black idols from Mr. T-style necklaces and jewelry to baggy jeans that hang down exposing the backside of the wearer.
In every way possible, the dominant white culture has repeatedly extended the hand of friendship (through equal employment statutes, civil rights and social welfare programs) to our black American brothers. It is their persistent resistance to accept our integrative overtures due to 150 year old historical grievances—never-ending and reiterated by Mr. Obama last week and echoed in Mr. Milloy’s July 1st salt-in-the-wound “historical” column—that have nothing whatsoever to do with the current generation that populates America.
To demonstrate how far we have come, there used to be a "one-drop rule" for a person of mixed race to determine that individual's non-white identity. Being white, as close to white as possible—or even better "passing for white"—was a necessary mechanism of economic survival when racism ran rampant in America of the past. Today, we have Rachel Dolezal, disgraced former president of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington: a white woman who lied about her racial identity and passed herself off as black (a position that definitely would have landed her in the mad house in Lincoln’s time).
Since Mr. Milloy likes to wade in the annals of history he should follow the sage advice of the Ancient Greeks who said: “Only speak well of the dead” (related to both sides of the Civil War). I would therefore encourage Mr. Milloy (and Mr. Obama) to join the rest of us in the 21st century. Their enslaved ancestors, if they had any, would have found the waters better than fine—a comparable paradise of tolerance—more than worthy of commemoration at that military park in Fredericksburg, VA that the public of today would flock to, with pride.
re. Courtland Milloy's 'Is America ready to deal with slavery, or just continue to miss the point?' (Washington Post, June 30, 2015)