Let Us Turn Our Thoughts Today …

… To Martin Luther King
And recognize that there are ties between us
All men and women
Living on the earth
Ties of hope and love
Sister and brotherhood
That we are bound together
In our desire to see the world become
A place in which our children
Can grow free and strong
We are bound together
By the task that stands before us
And the road that lies ahead
We are bound and we are bound

("Shed a Little Light", by James Taylor.)

What I don't enjoy about this holiday: the tedious punditry that, as predictably as a skipping record, tries to arrogate the MLK legacy to current political causes. The Boston Globe was always reliable in this regard … lemme see here … ah, it's James Carroll's turn this year:

In honoring King today, America knows full well how far short the nation still falls of the vision he articulated. In the year that he died, a federal commission convened to examine the roots of urban riots declared that the United States was, in fact, two societies, separated by race. Nearly forty years later, that remains true, and it did not take Hurricane Katrina to show it. The effective segregation of schools is as stark as ever. Incarceration rates of African-American males are astronomical. Gunplay in cities overwhelmingly targets young people of color. An institutional triage writes off huge proportions of poor black youth. Among middle and upper classes, social interaction between the races is rare. Even as ''race" has been recognized as an artificial social construct at the service of a dominant class, it remains as much a marker of identity as ever.

Standard lefty boilerplate, pretty much. Even the slightest amount of critical thinking will undermine it.

To focus on a single point: most people who have bothered to look at the issue know that the "gunplay" that "overwhelmingly targets young people of color" is also overwhelmingly from young people of color. Carroll probably knows that too, but to acknowledge that important, but inconvenient, fact would mess up his easy, preachy, narrative.

The primary problem Carroll sees is apparently "complacency." He uses the word five times in a short column, implicitly referring to modern-day white folks who don't buy into the standard-issue racial guilt trip with sufficient gusto. We're supposed to gulp, I suppose, and say mea culpa.

But the real complacency is Carroll's, I think. Comfortable in the liberal cocoon and self-soothed by morally-superior memories of his participation in sixties-era "struggles", he doesn't have to think too hard about the current realities of black-on-black crime, or come up with any actual solutions, beyond finger-pointing.

Also note Carroll's playing of the Katrina card; it's now enshrined as part of the progressive lexicon as a telling example of white indifference to black woe. But, also on today's Globe op-ed page, Cathy Young demolishes what she calls "Katrina's racial paranoia." She also points out how this durable myth may wind up hurting African-Americans in the future.

So let's be optimistic on Martin Luther King day: Carroll's stuck in the past. People like Cathy Young are the future.


Last Modified 2006-01-16 1:10 PM EST