The New Black Americans
Here is an excerpt from a stunning 2006 Esquire essay by John Ridley, who won an Oscar last night for his 12 Years A Slave screenplay:
Let me tell you something about ni*gers, the oppressed minority within our minority. Always down. Always out. Always complaining that they can’t catch a break. Notoriously poor about doing for themselves. Constantly in need of a leader but unable to follow in any direction that’s navigated by hard work, self-reliance. And though they spliff and drink and procreate their way onto welfare doles and WIC lines, ni*gers will tell you their state of being is no fault of their own. They are not responsible for their nearly 5 percent incarceration rate and their 9.2 percent unemployment rate. Not responsible for the 11.8 percent rate at which they drop out of high school. For the 69.3 percent of births they create out of wedlock.
Now, let me tell you something about my generation of black Americans. We are the inheritors of “the Deal” forced upon the entrenched white social, political, and legal establishment when my parents’ generation won the struggle for civil rights. The Deal: We (blacks) take what is rightfully ours and you (the afore-described establishment) get citizens who will invest the same energy and dedication into raising families and working hard and being all around good people as was invested in snapping the neck of Jim Crow.
In the forty years since the Deal was brokered, since the Voting Rights Act was signed, there have been successes for blacks. But there are still too many blacks in prison, too many kids aggrandizing the thug life, and way too many African-Americans doing far too little with the opportunities others earned for them.
If we as a race could win the centuries-long war against institutionalized racism, why is it that so many of us cannot secure the advantage after decades of freedom?
That which retards us is the worst of “us,” those who disdain actual ascendancy gained by way of intellectual expansion and physical toil—who instead value the posture of an “urban,” a “street,” a “real” existence, no matter that such a culture threatens to render them extinct.
“Them” being ni*gers.
I have no qualm about using the word ni*ger. It is a word. It is in the English lexicon, and no amount of political correctness, no amputation into “the n-word”—as if by the castration of a few letters we should then be able to conceptualize its meaning without feeling its sting—will remove it from reality.
So I say this: It’s time for ascended blacks to wish ni*gers good luck. Just as whites may be concerned with the good of all citizens but don’t travel their days worrying specifically about the well-being of hillbillies from Appalachia, we need to send ni*gers on their way. We need to start extolling the most virtuous of ourselves. It is time to celebrate the New Black Americans—those who have sealed the Deal, who aren’t beholden to liberal indulgence any more than they are to the disdain of the hard Right. It is time to praise blacks who are merely undeniable in their individuality and exemplary in their levels of achievement.
Ridley writes of the leadership roles Colin Powell and Condi Rice played in the 2001 showdown with China over Hainan. And he rips, I mean absolutely shreds, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and the race mafia. More:
Black America must look to that lost moment and realize that, short of a brother or sister actually being elected president, Hainan was the high-water mark of black political power. And whether Operation Iraqi Freedom is ultimately good and right and just, or if it is lousily named and uniformly disastrous, what is essential is that Dr. Condi and Colin earned for themselves positions from which to sway public debate.
That is, power.
Dr. Condi and Colin personify what ni*gers have forgotten: All that matters is accomplishment. The very pinnacle of ascendancy is the ability to live and work without regard for the sentiments of others and with, as Sister Rand would tell us, a selfish virtue.
We came up from slavery to freedom without regard for the Constitution, which gave us nothing, and the plantation masters, who gave us the whip. We came up from oppression to civil rights without regard for hurled bricks and sicced police dogs. Water hoses. The word ni*ger.
This, then, is my directive: Let us achieve with equal disregard for the limitations of racism and the weight of those of us who threaten to drag all of us down with the clinging nature of their eternal victimization. Our preservation is too essential to be stunted by those unwilling to advance. And in my heart I don’t believe all blacks cannot achieve in the absence of aid any more than I believe the best way to teach a child to run is by forcing him to spend a lifetime on his knees.
Two years after this essay was published, America elected a black man as its president.
In the original Esquire piece, the word “ni*ger” is not bowdlerized. I’m not going to use it here, because we’ll never hear the end of “conservative blog uses the N-word!” howling. But this is an incredible essay. The reader who passed it onto me writes:
I don’t know what to say. I’m stunned this was published by a mag as liberal as Esquire. It’s going to be interesting to see the blowback.
You know what would be great? If there were no blowback. Congratulations, John Ridley, on your Oscar. You earned it.
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