White America dons the shroud of guilt

The religion of structural racism allows everyone to duck the profound challenges still faced by the black community. It disempowers people and absolves them of responsibility. If structural racism is to blame for black violence, then communities will never be able to heal themselves. Mr. McWhorter argues that blaming white racism for the existential crisis in black communities like Chicago’s is a monstrous evasion. “Why do black lives matter more when white people take them than when black people take them?” he asks. “But you’re not supposed to ask that.”

In Mr. Coates’s world, race is destiny. (Never mind that the United States is increasingly diverse – to him it’s still black and white.) Like James Baldwin, he’s convinced that America can never be reformed. But Mr. Baldwin had a counterpart – Martin Luther King, who preached a narrative of progress, hope, and redemption. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” he said. The arc is very long indeed, but I think he was right.

Where is today’s equivalent of Martin Luther King? Tragically, he doesn’t exist. And if he did, nobody would listen to him. He’d be booed off the stage as an Uncle Tom. The tragedy of race relations in America today is that nihilism and rage are a bigger draw.