Word Up!

Myron Magnet writes an article for the ages, a classic, a must read on the dysfunctional, welfare-dependent urban culture of America’s self-selecting permanent black underclass at the City Journal.

Wynton Marsalis’s scathing critique of rap understands how hip-hop relates to the larger problem. Leaving aside the lyrics, rap is musically “ignorant,” Marsalis says. “Rhythms have to have a meaning. If the rhythm is corrupt, the music is corrupt and the people become corrupt.” (And, one might add, rap also subverts music’s aim of creating a realm of harmony and beauty.) As for the lyrics, Marsalis says, “I call it ‘ghetto minstrelsy.’ Old-school minstrels used to say they were ‘real darkies from the real plantation.’ Hip-hop substitutes the streets for the plantation.” In its conception of black authenticity, rap perfectly embodies the cultural tragedy of the ghetto underclass. As Marsalis puts it in the title of a 2006 song, when you look at the underclass, it seems that all the progress blacks have made is to go “from the plantation to the penitentiary” and to be, as the song puts it, “in the heart of freedom . . . in chains.”

Those chains are not only the chains that bind prisoners but also what the poet William Blake called “mind forg’d manacles”—beliefs, attitudes, and habits of feeling that imprison you even when you are outwardly free. For the underclass, those manacles are the beliefs that they’re victims, that they’re entitled to be angry and resentful, that the law is an oppression, that the larger community owes them a living, that education is useless, that sex is without responsibility or even emotion, that they’re not responsible for supporting and nurturing their children, and that because they’re victims they never need to be ashamed of anything they do.

The most positive development I know came when Bill Cosby addressed the NAACP on the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decision and spoke the truth that people like Jesse Jackson, glaring at him from the next chair, try to suppress and stigmatize as racist. “The lower economic and lower middle economic people are not holding their end in this deal,” Cosby said. “In the neighborhood that most of us grew up in, parenting is not going on. . . . People in jail, and women having children by five, six different men. . . . We’ve got to take the neighborhood back. . . . It’s not what they’re doing to us. It’s what we’re not doing . . . . All of these people . . . they’ve got to be wondering what the hell happened. Brown v. Board of Education—these people who marched and were hit in the face with rocks and punched in the face to get an education, and we got these knuckleheads walking around who don’t want to learn English. . . . Well, Brown v. Board of Education, where are we today? . . . What did we do with it? . . . . Fifty percent drop out—rest of them in prison. . . . You have the pileup of these sweet beautiful things born by nature—raised by no one.”

Blacks need to heed this message, and whites need to stop telling them anything different.

Read it all!

H/T: Real Clear Politics

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