Black History Matters

Black History Matters

Having recently commemorated Black History Month, I thought it might be a proper time to provide a more realistic historical perspective of black history, other than what one might read in the highly partisan mainstream media. According to an essay in USA-Today for February 13th, entitledWhy I look forward to no more Black History Month, Hannibal B. Johnson reports that it began as Negro History Week in 1926 and in 1976 adopted its current format. Johnson believes Black History is a part of American History and the two should never be separated. I completely concur with his premise, provided both are a true and accurate portrayal of the past without partisan or ideological favoritism. A Historian, black or white, should only have a bias for the truth of what happened.

Over the last 50 years, one would think that most news outlets, bloggers and tweeters had run out of positive things to say about black history. I was pleasantly surprised by Cesar Brioso’s balanced essay in the February 8th edition of USA-Today on the demise of the Negro Leagues. It might surprise some people but not every black person was ecstatic about Jackie Robinson’s breech of the color boundary in 1947. Several black businessmen had very prosperous teams that were their livelihoods. 

Effe Manley, the only woman elected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, was the co-owner of the Newark Eagles. She had the courage to challenge the Mahatma himself, Branch Rickey for poaching one of her players, pitcher Don Newcombe. Even though Rickey was the driving force behind Jackie Robinson’s entry into Major League Baseball, I have to agree with her.* It was obvious that Rickey showed little respect for Mrs. Manley and her fellow owners by pilfering one of her players without compensation. While the Negro team owners, including one white man, J. I. Wilkenson, did eventually receive compensation, it was not enough to keep the Negro Leagues afloat.

Some Major League teams, such as the Yankees and Washington Senators were none too happy about Robinson since they rented out their large ball parks to the Negro Leagues when their own teams were on the road. By 1951 the best players in the Negro Leagues were playing in the big leagues. Attendance declines around the Negro Leagues were widespread. Their demise cost the Yankees and Senators almost six-figures in income every year. This is not racism or even bigotry but simply the reality of economics. Integration had many winners. It also had some losers. It is the nature of human beings acting in real time and place. This is true history.    

While Robinson played his first game of his 10-year career in 1947, the Boston Red Sox did not integrate until 1959 when they signed Pumpsie Green to a contract. Since then, American black players have not only flourished, they have dominated the game…until now. Their percentage of the 1200 players on major league rosters is down to 7%. Black leaders complain that diversity is turning backwards towards the days of segregation. 

I cannot fathom their complaints. American blacks players are not losing their jobs to whites. Baseball has many Latin American players, many of whom are blacks and people of color. This is not counting the influx of Asians, players from several other nations and nationalities. Many black athletes have competing choices for their athletic skills, such as basketball, football, track and even hockey. This is not bigotry or racism but simple free market economics. How diverse is the NBA when 83% of its players are black or Hispanic? 

Players in the National Football League, which has an inordinate number of black players, have complained for years that there were not enough black quarterbacks or head coaches. League president, Roger Goodell bemoans the fact that there are not enough owners as well. No one should be forced to hired people to fill leadership positions, on or off the field. Nothing but money is preventing the acquisition of team ownerships, which cost up to four billion dollars now.

On a similar note, Hollywood is frantic over the surprising Best Actress nomination of actress Andrea Riseborough for her role inTo Leslie. It seems that several prominent white actresses such as Mia Farrow, Kaye Winslett and Cate Blanchett campaigned for her nomination on social media. In the mind of most Wokes, Riseborough’s nomination deprived black actress Viola Davis of a sure nomination for her role inWoman King. Race has become such a divisive factor that it has permeated every aspect of our culture and it can only get worse as reasonable-minded people seemed to have drunk the cool aide on this issue. 

When I had a weekly program on WGNU Radio in St. Louis from 1984-2006, I had many black callers, some of them quite hostile. When I first started, I was quite sympathetic to their outrage but after a while, I realized that most of the firebrands were not interested in equality but wanted payback. That was when I realized what the so-called Civil Rights Movement had morphed into an eye-for-eye kind vengeance. The station owner had two radical black hosts who had daily weekday programs. They stirred up many of the callers, both black and white. While it made for heated exchanges and high ratings, I always felt it was a disservice to the community.

While Brioso’s article was a pleasant detour from the usual ideological rant of most of its columnists, the truth is USA-Today, like most of its mainstream competitors, have been preaching Wokeness for many years. They remind me of the crazies in the park who would get on their soapboxes and preach all kinds of ridiculous ideas. That is where many of these columnists belong. 

Though the sixties were painfully brutal, the moral climate has drastically changed over the last several decades. With the handful of highly publicized cases of police brutality, including manslaughter, the violence directed toward police officers, a number of whom have been assassinated and the drug gang wars which have paralyzed the major metropoles of the nation, one wonders when and ever, peace will return to our cities. 

Personally, I think the racial conversation has been jaded and entirely one sided. This is reflected in what passes as Black History. It reached its nadir with the New York Times’s publication of Nikole Hannah-Jones’ inflammatoryThe 1619 Project in its Sunday Magazine edition in August of 2019. The issue was to commemorate the 400th anniversary of when the first slaves were brought to America.**

Hannah-Jones was an investigative reporter for the Times. It is obvious that her project was agenda-driven. Many legitimate historians, such as James M. McPherson, James Oakes and Victoria E. Bynum, found so many errors that it cannot honestly be classified as history. They cited that her study put ideology ahead of historical fact and understanding. They also categorially denied that radical idea that the American Revolution was fought to protect the colonies right to own slaves.  

In early February of 2023, The New York Post reported that Disney has rolled up its liberal sleeves to promote 1619 among America’s children with a recent episode of a Disney+’s cartoon show, which portrays Woke children performing a skit around Hannah-Jones’ doctrine that slaves built this country. This occurred in an installment of the Proud Family Series, in which the kids found out that the founder of their town was a slave owner. The Post concluded that this segment is a cartoon version of the 1619 project, although the 1619 Project is cartoonish in its own right.

Despite the criticism, Woke partisans have presented the University of Notre Dame graduate with several accolades for her disingenuous study, including a MacArthur Fellowship in 2017 and the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2020. Howard University awarded Hannah-Jones with its inaugural Knights Chair in Race and Journalism. 

Project 1619 fits in perfectly with the rapid advancement of the Marxist Critical Racial theory. I found a fascinating study by Rafael Bejar of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. It was entitled Hispanics and the Critical Fallacy of Critical Race Theory. He linked the spread of Liberation Theology in the 1960s to that of Critical Race Theory in the culture wars of the 1990s when progressives used Hispanics to further their agenda to reshape society into a socialist utopia. In today’s battle over Critical Race Theory, nothing has changed.

Both philosophies are descendants of Marxist doctrine and have as their main goal the division and conquest of the United States. I am saddened to say that my Alma Mater has been on the forefront of both philosophies. I remember having a phone conversation with the late Jesuit Father John Brooks, then the President of Holy Cross. I had been reading about Liberation Theology and sensed something was not consistent with the Catholic faith because their praxis did not exclude violence as a way to achieve their aims.

I do not remember the origins of the call but I do remember asking him if it were true that the Cross was going to offer courses in Liberation Theology. With perfect enthusiasm, colored with his precise New England inflection, he proceeded to make the college’s case for putting it in their curriculum. To close the circle, I recently learned that Hannah-Jones had just been invited to be the Commencement Speaker at the College of the Holy Cross this May.

All this begs the question as just what is Critical Race Theory? One observer says that it is a call to action, disguised as an academic subject. The same can be said of Liberation Theology, which is a so-called Christian theological approach, emphasizing the likely violent liberation of the oppressed and the poor, especially in Latin America where it originated. While many Jesuits have supported it because of its social justice veneer, it is more Karl than Jesus. 

According to the New York Post, Critical Race Theory is fast becoming America’s new institutional orthodoxy, By definition, CRT is an intellectual and social theory, designed by the followers of Karl Marx, based on the false premise that race, like gender is a social construct, designed to oppress and exploit people of color. Its advocates believe all of American history has been systemically racist and by its very nature has created and maintained social, economic and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites. As a result, it has to be radically changed by any means possible. 

One cannot properly understand CRT unless one explores its close relationship to Karl Marx’s economic philosophy. Originally Marx focused on the dialectics of the class between owners and workers. The only solution was revolution. The workers would seize the means of production and usher in the perfect socialist state.

In the twenties, Sardinian Communist, Antonio Gramsci declared Marxism as an economic system to have been a failure. In his many letters from prison, he changed the Marxist focus to a long march through the culture. Several countries later underwent Socialist revolutions including Russia, China, Cuba and Cambodia. The total loss of human life was over 100 million. People in the West had vivid memories of the gulags, mass starvations in Ukraine, show trial and mass executions in the soviet Union.  

By the mid-sixties, Marxist intellectuals in the West acknowledged these failures. The soil of American culture rejected the idea of a Marxist class conflict, so a revolution could never take root. Most Americans believed that through hard work, education and sweat everyone had a chance to achieve the American Dream.  

Rather than abandon Marx’s principles, Western Marxists adopted a different approach. They substituted race for class and sought to create a revolutionary coalition of the dispossessed, based on racial and ethnic categories. While a few beachheads were established in academia and among some journalists and politicians, the political and social climate, thanks to Martin Luther King, Jr., Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon, America thwarted most of the efforts of the Black Power Movement and its disciples in the Black Panthers to gain any solid footholds.

CRT entered the fray in the early 1990s. Building its intellectual framework around Marxist thinking, it had worked quietly under the radar for many years. Before Americans realized it, Marxists had implemented Gramsci’s philosophy by establishing strategic positions in media, education, law and politics. More importantly, they captured the language with identity politics, words and ideas without precise definition, such as inclusion, diversity, culturally responsible teaching, equity over equality and the amorphous social justice. According to Professor Plinio Correa de Oliveira’s heralded work, Unperceived Ideological Transshipment and Dialogue, these concepts and phrases constitute examples of talismanic words, whose surface meaning is benign and even noble. However, they also has a more elastic quality, so they can also mean something deeper and even darker.   

More recently, CRT has rested its Marxist praxis on the idea there is little equity in this country. White people are all born into privilege, forcing black and brown Americans to fight America’s wars, as in Vietnam and Afghanistan and do its servile work on the lawn and stores of the wealthy whites. To them equality is a mere cover for white supremacy, patriarchy and oppression. Whites have too many advantages in education and family which renders equality meaningless. This is despite trillions spent on minorities and 70 years of affirmative action programs. Equity has everyone finishing a race, at the same time and place. No matter how much or how little effort, everyone gets the same reward. Bernie Saunders or Elizabeth Warren could not have described it any better.

A completely level society can never happen naturally. It can only be engineered by an autocratic government with the equity of poverty as the only possible result. As in history’s other socialist paradises, the people will be poor and barely have enough to live on while its leaders lead a life of the affluent. As George Orwell put it in his allegory, Animal Farm, all animals are equal, only some animals are more equal.  

It was a given that the 1619 Project was designed to further divide the country along racial and political lines. No doubt it will be part of the curriculum in virtually every major college in the country, not to mention the country’s lower education tiers. If this becomes a reality, it will ensure that generations of students of all races will leave their schools with a disingenuous idea of not only Black History but also American history. With such a false perspective as this, the only possible future for America, is the Orwell’s dystopian image of a boot stamping on a human face forever.

*Bill Veeck the owner of the Indians, Browns and White Sox, in many ways did as much if not more for baseball integration. He employed two black players in 1947, Larry Doby and Satchel Paige a few month after Robinson. Integrating the American League. 

** 1619 was also historically memorable for the facts that women were also first brought to America and representative democracy was born in the colonies with Virginia’s House of Burgesses.

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Written by
William Borst