Black conservative commentary

Who's Really Authentically Black?

by Darryn "Dutch" Martin


A New Visions Commentary paper published July 2003 by The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Ct., N.E., Washington, DC 20002, 202/543-4110, Fax 202-543-5975, E-Mail, Web Reprints permitted provided source is credited.

Black leaders in America have an unflinching allegiance to the political left and are part-and-parcel to the Democratic Party. They see no reason to change or reform existing race-based affirmative action programs. They are also out of step with the times.

This is the premise of University of California-Berkeley Professor John McWhorter's new book, Authentically Black: Essays for the Black Silent Majority. It picks up where his bestseller Losing the Race left off. It's a series of essays that argue - rightly, in my opinion - that the civil rights era is over, and that the new battleground against racism requires individual initiative as opposed to collective action.

McWhorter critically dissects the icons and issues of black leadership from Randall Robinson's reparations book The Debt to Jesse Jackson's lucrative shakedown deals for himself and his wealthy black friends (as reported in investigative journalist Kenneth Timmerman's book Shakedown) to Al Sharpton for perpetuating notions of victimhood.

According to McWhorter, African-Americans in this country still remain "a race apart" nearly 40 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. He believes that modern blacks internalize a tacit message: "authentically black" people stress initiative in private, but publicly cloak our race in victimhood to protect black people from an ever-looming white backlash. This done, he says, so as to not let white America "off the hook."

This thesis is the focus of McWhorter's opening essay, in which he identifies this "New Double Consciousness" in homage to W.E.B. DuBois' description of a different kind of double consciousness in blacks a century ago.

In one of the most important themes of Authentically Black, McWhorter asks us to stop emphasizing and exaggerating our plight and misery while treating our successes as anecdotal "exceptions" (a constant theme in more liberal black American discourse these days). In other words, he suggests, let's focus more on the ubiquitously palpable examples of black American achievement, two notable examples of which are our nation's secretary of state and our national security advisor.

Another McWhorter target is oxymoronic ways of thinking that are central to the political left and modern black "leadership." He reiterates a point he made in Losing the Race - that black American success stories nowadays are not longer "exceptions." Black success is now the norm.

McWhorter observes that we cannot continue to stress how strong we are while still going to pieces in public displays of emotional histrionics - as some blacks are apt to do - upon hearing the word "nigger" uttered by a white person (no matter the context).

John McWhorter proves he is not afraid to turn the microscope on black America, forcing us to take a hard look at how current radical groupthink hinders us from being the absolute best that we can be. Asian, Jewish, African and Caribbean immigrants serve as his examples of what a strong work ethic and love for education can accomplish. For this reason, however, black "flaming leftist" critics like Ishmael Reed resort to such childish tactics as labeling him "a rent-a-black who only writes and says what conservative whites want to hear" instead of trying to offer thoughtful rebuttals to his arguments.

Critics can't refute him, quite frankly, because they know deep down that McWhorter is telling the truth. Period.

In Authentically Black, John McWhorter presents the most refreshing and eye-opening contribution to the dialogue on American race relations since Thomas Sowell and Shelby Steele gained prominence. Learned men like these, who dare challenge "sacred cows" of political and social thought in our community, are not sellouts. They are heroes. Ours is a better, more enlightened society because of their scholarly work.


(Darryn "Dutch" Martin is a member of the National Advisory Council of the African-American leadership network Project 21 and a foreign service officer. Comments may be sent to

Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.




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