Not surprisingly, this morning, the New York Times featured two competing op-ed commentaries about black poverty centering on Baltimore, which align approximately with movement conservatism, on the one hand, and, on the other, political correctness:
(1) "The Nature of Poverty" by conservative columnist David Brooks and the author of the new book THE ROAD TO CHARACTER (2015), and
(2) "Black Culture Is Not the Problem" by N. D. B. Connolly in history at Johns Hopkins University and the author of the book A WORLD MORE CONCRETE: REAL ESTATE AND THE REMAKING OF JIM CROW SOUTH FLORIDA (2014).
(1) In his op-ed column, Brooks reviews the per-student expenditures for students in black areas of the country that can be accurately described as areas of poverty. Of course Brooks is here advancing the well-known conservative critique of liberals who like to throw money at problems. Throwing money at problems does not always result in the elimination of the problems. In any event, throwing money at schools in poverty areas that enroll large numbers of black students has not resulted in eliminating poverty. Perhaps we do not yet know how to eliminate poverty.
Dear Reader: I am going to discuss formal education below, but without referring back to Brooks' op-ed piece.
(2) In his op-ed piece, Connolly advances the well-known theme of the political correctness police not to blame the apparent black victims of poverty by analyzing black culture and offering a critique of it. In short, black culture is not the problem involved in "[t]he death of Freddie Gray [or the deaths] of Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Rekia Boyd and so many other unarmed African-Americans."
With all due respect for Connolly, I want to examine his thesis that black culture is not the problem involved in Freddie Gray's death in Baltimore.
My thesis is that we should not overlook black sub-culture(s) as part of the problem, just as we should not overlook white culture(s) as part of the problem involved in our contemporary male identity crisis in American culture.
You see, black culture in Baltimore and elsewhere does not exist in a vacuum, as it were. As a result, we should see black culture in Baltimore and elsewhere as a sub-culture, or perhaps sub-cultures, interfacing with the dominant American culture out of which white police officers have emerged.
As I will explain below, the dominant American culture today is not as white as the dominant American culture was in the Jim Crow era. For this reason, I do not stereotype the dominant American culture today as white.
But I am well aware that whites today tend to dominate the ranks of police officers -- and not just in Baltimore.
Dear Reader: In what I say below, I will be drawing extensively on the thought of the American cultural historian and theorist Walter J. Ong, S.J. (1912-2003; Ph.D. in English from Harvard University, 1955) and less extensively on the thought of the Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980; Ph.D. in English from Cambridge University, 1943), most notably on his book THE GUTENBERG GALAXY: THE MAKING OF TYPOGRAPHIC MAN (1962). Perhaps I should spell out here that both Ong and McLuhan were white Roman Catholics. McLuhan converted to Roman Catholicism in the 1930s. Ong was a cradle Catholic, whose father was a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant.
THE BIG PICTURE