The US is in the grip of a terrible pox but unlike COVID-19 that targets individuals, this rampaging pox undermines institutions. It is, moreover, everywhere, and those spreading it are relentless. Remarkably, however, it lacks a name and, worse, its spreaders are convinced that the damage is actually “doing good.”
What is this Pox without a name? Hopefully, others will offer a better designation, but for the moment I’ll call it “mis-directed problem fixing” or just The Pox for short. This is the attempt to fix a problem by tinkering with something that has scant relationship to the tribulation. Much of this is just cosmetics or a change in vocabulary, for example substituting “Black” for “black” as if capitalization reflected a new-found respect. Elsewhere this involves making race-related molehills into mountains, literally sometimes, as in removing a “racist” rock at the University of Wisconsin campus. The upshot, typically, is that since the initial efforts fail, ever more effort is expended on unrelated solutions, and given the principle of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” this misdirection invites disaster.
Recall the familiar story of the drunk and his lost car keys. A policeman comes upon an inebriated man crawling around a light post. When asked what he is doing, the drunk replies, “looking for my lost car keys.” When asked where he lost them, the drunk points to a place many feet from the light post.” “Why are you looking here, then?” responds the officer. Because there’s more light here, comes the answer. End of story.
In today’s political landscape The Pox invents mis-directed solutions to reversing the current outbreak of black anti-social behavior. The equivalent in our story of the drunk and his car keys, it would be as if the policeman summoned back-up to bring floodlights to further illuminate the light post and, if that failed, perhaps the K-9 unit to sniff out the car keys. Maybe the officer would join the drunk crawling around to certify his solidarity to the inebriated community. Not on the agenda would be escorting the drunk to the station house given that finding his car keys would put an intoxicated driver on the road.
An almost comical quality infuses today’s mis-directed social engineering. For example, our cultural elite seems convinced that putting black composers on the symphony orchestra’s program will—somehow—encourage blacks to embrace the distinctively white (and now Asian) high culture. And if that fails, hire a second-rate black violinist or two. Now, with the world of high culture made inclusive, blacks at long last will assimilate into the cultural mainstream.
Add the “Plaques for Blacks” industry to this enterprise. Hard to imagine any contemporary college commencements without a sprinkling of black speakers and recipients of honorary degrees. Blacks now demand Oscars and Emmys, and whites are all too happy to acquiesce as if this gesture improved the quality of anything. Thanks to player demands, the NFL now stencils “End Racism” on the endzones as if that will accomplish anything (median player salary is $860,000). Black Studies majors are growing on college campuses to ensure that blacks can increasingly display a college diploma. Going one step further, black students at UCLA have even demanded that they should receive higher grades merely by virtue of skin color. The MacArthur Foundation recently bestowed its “genius” awards, each worth $625,000 and outsides of the sciences, blacks notable for their political activism were disproportionately represented. Prominent winners included Ibram X. Kendi, author of “How to be an Anti-Racist,” the poet Hanif Abdurraqib and the writer and professor at NYU, Nicole Fleetwood.
The problem of black criminality is particularly suspectable to the Pox. Forget about just locking up the miscreants. Far too obvious. Thanks to the Pox, fighting black crime now becomes airbrushing black crime from public view since acknowledging it encourages “dangerous stereotypes” and, as all know, such stereotypes breed “hate” which, as we all know, hate is the gateway drug to unspeakable race-related strife, so banishing “hate” now becomes “doing good.” The crime-fighting-newspaper editor of yesteryear now wields the blue pencil to expunge tell-tale names of perpetrators and their mug shots. And what better way to deter black-on-black crime than to put “Black Lives Matter” decals on the helmets of professional football players? And, if all that fails to lower the black-on-black murder rate, just confiscate the AR-15’s of rural white people.
A parallel movement is now occurring in schools where black transgressions are ignored so as to make the expulsion and suspension rates more equitable. Recently in New York City, a city that spends lavishly on schools and has some of the nation’s worst outcomes for blacks, the new School Chancellor (Miesha Ross-Porter) announced a new race-centered curriculum that “…will equip city kids to combat the racism in their midst.” One of her supporters added, “Why did I have to go to the movies to learn that black women played a significant role putting America on the moon?” Remember decades back when the insulting term “juvenile delinquent” was replaced by “youngsters at risk”?
Typically, no discernable link exists between the perused policy and the desired outcome. How do coerced Oscars or refusing to print photos of black criminals do anything tangible to advance racial progress? If black crime in under-reported, are whites more likely to support integration? The Pox, like the Shadow, has the power to cloud man’s mind. In fact, don’t even ask Pox sufferers about this link between policy and outcome—belief suffices. One can only wonder why good-think cultural elites believe that having the NY Philharmonic play the music of black composer Jonathan Baily Holland will reduce black murder rates? Will newly hired black musicians personally intervene to stop BLM rioters as a show of gratitude for their gift positions? Does playing “black music” have the power to sooth the savage beast?
While many of these gestures may seems harmless, the costs, especially opportunity costs, are real. Diversifying the arts mean unemployment or underemployment for talented non-blacks and a dilution of artistic quality. Hard enough promoting high culture without pushing a crude racial political agenda. Dispensing unearned plaques for blacks in the entertainment industry devalues the genuine article, and the whole commercial value of winning an Oscar will vanish. Massaging the numbers to minimize black criminal behavior, including classroom disruptions, hardly helps the victim or the cities where such crime destroys the tax base. This cosmetic approach is the equivalent of a clinically obese person rigging his bathroom scale to show a lower weight. And those good-think liberals who tolerate the subterfuges resemble doctors happy to prescribe placebos.
The Pox almost invisibly enhances the power to those skilled at promoting this race-related nonsense, but is difficult to measure cost and the bill may arrives decades from now but it will be real. Gone are the days when elite college presidents were distinguished scholars. They have been replaced by careerists whose most notable skill is keeping the peace among the campus’s warring tribes, and if one tribe demands a segregated “cultural centers,” so be it. It is no accident that race hustling is a growth industry. Who would have anticipated that the corporate HR department becoming a power center issuing commands on who is to be hired and promoted to achieve corporate responsibility? Perhaps we need a new job title: racial cosmetician.
What can explain soaring Pox infection rates? For one, such “do something now no matter how irrelevant” solutions are far easier politically than alternatives that might actually have the desired impact. The Pox is a quackery and lazy-friendly disorder. Now, if one wants to narrow racial gaps in test scores just expunge systemic racism by teaching Critical Race Theory to middle-class white students in Loudon, County, Virginia. Far easier than removing the black-dominated educational bureaucracies responsible for Washington DC’s terrible schools. Compared to cracking the whip over disruptive students, attacking “racist” whites for their unearned privilege is cost-free. As with the gun example, beat up those who can easily be beat up, not those who deserve a beating.
Actually, a case can be made—at least for fiscal conservatives– that the Pox is not all that bad since it is often far cheaper than targeting the real problem. To return to the gun violence problem, imagine the political and financial costs of ridding cities of illegal guns? Measures such aggressively restoring stop and frisk and upping mass incarceration of blacks is political suicide for the ruling class, guaranteed. Better to call for confiscating “assault rifles” knowing full well that will never happen.
Practical explanations aside, however, the source of our Pox epidemic is the irrepressible human desire to “do something” when faced with an insurmountable problem. Self-medication, so to speak. Almost anything usually outshines passivity, and who can say what is futile. Perhaps an evolutionary advantage promotes The Pox—those sacrificing virgins by throwing them into the volcano to appease the gods to end the drought might have slightly increased the tribe’s chances of survival thanks to fewer mouths to feed, and this “do anything no matter how stupid” mentality was passed down to future generations. Meanwhile those who quietly prayed to survive the draught lowered their food intake and likewise survived so as to pass down their “always do something” genes. And let’s not forget self-flagellation as a solution to helplessness in the face of the Black Death.
The underlying psychology of The Pox is real. The American Psychological Association formally recognizes the problem of where a person repeatedly, faces uncontrollable, stressful situations and fails to take control even if possible. The consequences may include depression, lethargy, difficulty in managing one’s life, lowered self-esteem, even physical illness. That condition certainly applies to many Americans who, for example, are powerless to stop one race-related disaster after another.
So, what are Pox sufferers to do? Unfortunately, at least according to today’s experts, possible cures are of the “talk therapy” variety and their effectiveness is unclear. Among these nostrums are Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) where the patient acquires positive beliefs about himself while eliminating negative beliefs. Then there’s c ognitive behavioral therapy whose aim to replace feelings of helplessness with “learned optimism.” Further add exposure therapy where the patient confront memories of a traumatic events that instigated the feelings of helplessness in a safe environment.
Sadly, such therapy may be pointless when confronting major problems that have resisted decades of government intervention. If $14 trillion for anti-poverty programs of every form and shape will not stop black rioting, what will? Yes, demanding yet more Plaques for Blacks as a cure for rioting and crime may be laughable but it may nevertheless offer a sugar-high fix for one’s frustrations. Better than nothing.
Now for the bad news. Racial strife will likely grow worse for the simple reason that extortion, even crime works, and nothing on the horizon seems likely to reduce it. Today’s disorder and endless demands for tribute are likely to become the new normal. And with that extractive new world order, we must ramp up our “doing something” even if meaningless. New ways will have to be found to manufacture awards and honors for those obsessed with “respect.” Think of this accommodation as vital for our mental health. As the singer and song writer Jimmy Buffet one said, “If we weren’t all crazy, we’d just go insane.”