Norman Podhoretz reflects on his controversial essay "My Negro Problem—and Ours," published fifty years ago:
[James Baldwin] was very much mistaken if he thought that I felt even the slightest degree of guilt toward him or toward Negroes in general. How could I, when I had grown up in a slum neighborhood where it was the Negro kids who persecuted us whites and not the other way around?
I then proceeded to tell him a few stories about my childhood encounters with black thugs of my own age and about the resentment and bitterness and even hatred with which this experience had left me. It had also left me, I said, with an irritable attitude toward all the sentimental nonsense that was being propagated about integration by whites who knew nothing about blacks and by blacks who imagined that all their problems would be solved by living next door to whites.
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[T]he almost complete abdication of black responsibility and the commensurately total dependence on government engendered by so obsessive and exclusive a fixation on white racism as the root of all racial evils has been nothing short of calamitous.
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In 1963, the stories I told about my own childhood experience of such thuggery and aggression were very shocking to most white liberals. In their eyes, blacks were all long-suffering and noble victims of the kind who had become familiar through the struggles of the civil-rights movement in the South—the “heroic period” of the movement, as one of its most heroic leaders, Bayard Rustin, called it. Although none of my white critics denied the truthfulness of the stories I told, they themselves could hardly imagine being afraid of blacks when their first-hand acquaintance with them was limited to nannies and cleaning women.
Today, it is still other blacks who are most often the victims of black crime, but black-on-white violence is much more common than it was in 1963, so that many whites could now top my stories with worse. And yet even today, few of them would be willing to speak truthfully in public about their entirely rational fear of black violence and black crime. Doing so remains dangerous to one’s reputation. . . .
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[R]elations between the races have deteriorated. Gone on the whole are the interracial friendships and the interracial political alliances that were quite common 50 years ago. In their place we have the nearly impassable gulfs of suspicion and hostility. . . .
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I was wrong to think that miscegenation could ever result in the elimination of color-consciousness. . . .
[W]hat settled the matter once and for all for me was what has happened since the election to the presidency of a pure product of miscegenation. For the ascension of Barack Obama from out of nowhere to the White House has if anything heightened the American consciousness of color. Worse yet, instead of putting an end to the compulsive insistence on the racism of American society, it has given this obsession a new lease on life. Thus, any and every criticism of Obama’s policies is now ascribed to racist motivations, and any and every little incident involving the mistreatment—or the alleged mistreatment—of a black is seized upon and blown up into another proof that racism remains rampant, if largely hidden, in American society.
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Today the root cause of all the ills that plague the black community is the astounding proportion of black babies born out of wedlock who grow up without fathers, and who are doomed to do badly in school, to get into trouble on the streets, and to wind up in jail. Efforts have been made to blame even this tragic state of affairs on white racism, but they all founder on the simple fact that in 1963, when white racism was by any measure far more pervasive than it is today, only about 23 percent of births among black women were illegitimate, whereas the number is now fast approaching 75 percent.