After fifty years of civil rights legislation, perhaps somewhere between a third to half of the black population has not achieved parity with other population groups. In response, black elites seek to leverage government to ensure parity (“disproportionate impact”), based on perceived grievances. Threats of unrest and collective violence by the urban underclass often come in handy.
But other groups, subject to present and past discrimination, from Punjabis to Arab-Americans, do not embrace the same racial chauvinism. There are no Cuban Jesse Jacksons or Asian Al Sharptons. Moreover, it is not clear how affirmative action for the children of Eric Holder or Michael Jordan helps the inner-city population. Class, in other words, in America increasingly trumps race, and the two are not always synonymous. Black elites parrot the charge of “white privilege,” but usually to other black and white academic and journalistic one-percenters and often in careerist fashion. If they sincerely believed in “white privilege,” they would have tested their theories at town meetings among the destitute in Appalachia or appealed to poor rural Oklahomans to be more self-critical on how their race has given them a supposed leg up in the American rat-race.
It is a hard sell to insist that poor white Delmas Marshall of rural Arkansas has it made compared to a tormented Oprah who claims she was treated rudely over a trendy purse in Switzerland or a supposedly marginalized Morgan Freeman who occasionally whines that not supporting Obama is proof of racism — or the 21% of the federal Postal Service workforce that are black.
Finally, we come to the pernicious role of self-serving white elite liberals who castigate conservative blacks, who do not see their own race as key to their identities. The reason liberals despise Clarence Thomas or caricature a Ben Carson, more so than they do white conservative justices or public figures, is the threat that they pose to the entire engine of liberal condescension — and Democratic politics. When successful blacks prove that they easily compete in the marketplace of talent and ideas without liberal racial policies and their political henchmen, then the entire architecture of liberal racial politics collapses. The disdain shown a Thomas or Carson suggests that liberal racial politics serve as private medieval penance in the abstract, and at little personal cost for assuaging guilt over liberal apartheid. If one were to examine the schools, neighborhoods, and socializing of liberal white elites, one would discover that their rhetoric was used to mask, rather than to confirm, the lives that they lead.