February 23, 2011

On the Way to Extraordinary

Justin Katz

A recent review, by Charlotte Allen, of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's memoir of her family, Extraordinary, Ordinary People, is unfortunately not online except by subscription. (It appeared in the February 7 National Review.) It does give some of the feel for the path to success of a black woman who grew up during times of racial turmoil:

Like other blacks in Birmingham scraping together respectable lifestyles on meager salaries during the 1950s, the Rices were determined to do two things: ignore the indignities of segregation, and refuse to have anything to do with what today would be called "ghetto culture," the undisciplined speech, mannerisms, and mores of poorly educated lower-class blacks. When young Condoleezza, an only child, watched Amos 'n' Andy on television with her parents, they "went out of their way to point out and correct" the "butchered English" of the show's black characters, she writes. ...

Rice writes that "because Birmingham was so segregated, black parents were able, in large part, to control the environment in which they raised their children. They rigorously regulated the messages that we received and shielded us by imposing high expectations and a determined insistence on excellence." There were few single mothers, and therefore plenty of men around to enforce rules. The black schools in Birmingham were poorly funded, but boasted dedicated teachers like Angelena Rice, who tolerated no excuses for low performers. "'To succeed,' they routinely reminded us, 'you will have to be twice as good,'" her daughter writes. Middle-class blacks tended to avoid public places where they might be exposed to such indignities as "colored" restrooms. With equal fastidiousness they avoided many of the places where blacks could legally go: dives in rough neighborhoods characterized by drinking, knife fights, and the "loose women" that no respectable black females wanted to be. Middle-class social life took place exclusively within a dense network of churches, clubs, fraternities, and the homes of friends.

Even on the losing end of America's racial atrocities, faith, family, and dedication were able to provide hope. Disagreement about the best ways in which to end discrimination and recompense the damage of the past is sincere, but a better formula would have placed more emphasis on individual initiative in those three areas.

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Let's not forget that the racist whites who enforced this evil system of segregation and oppression were the Democrats.

Posted by: BobN at February 23, 2011 10:28 AM

It is the "mainstream media" which causes us to think Ms. Rice's story is unusual.

While my association with Southern blacks is not unduly large, I know several people of Ms. Rice's age who were raised in similar family backgrounds. While none have reached the stature of Ms. Rice, they are teachers, farmers, social workers, government officials and business people. All lead comfortable lives. One couple was furious at Brown's refusal to admit their son. They had struggled to send their son to private schools, where he had done well, and believed that Brown thought he "wasn't black enough". (My daughter decided she was "Hispanic" and interviewed at Brown, the process for "minority students" has to be seen to be believed. The minority admissions office had posters of "Hispanic" women with bulging muscles and fierce expressions.)As Ms. Rice relates, their social lives, when young, revolved around churches and charitable organizations. Their parents were all married and their fathers known. Some object to the use of "single mothers" as a pejorative, since their fathers had died and they were raised by their mothers. The lifestyle indicated by "single mother" is not familiar to them. They were taught to attend school, study hard, speak properly and to not let their rear ends "switch".

Unfortunately, stories of "ghetto life" have more emotional appeal and make better news stories.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at February 23, 2011 10:41 AM

Another comment on the people I mentioned above. Although I wouldn't try "Hey Andy, let's simonize our watches" on them, they are educated enough to know that racial and ethnic divides are not exclusively American.

They think there is hope and they would like to see it move faster. They would also like their grandchildren to look like them, they are not entirely in favor of a "brown America".

They also believe that "affirmative action" made the difference. They are not pleased by the idea that it may go away. They are not so sure how they feel about Hispanics. They don't think they are "like us", and besides, they don't speak English very well. They are also comfortable with the idea that my family is from North Carolina, Virginia and deeper South. As I have been told more than once "We never know, but if you didn't want to deal with niggers, you would say so".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at February 23, 2011 11:20 AM

Let's not forget that the racist whites who enforced this evil system of segregation and oppression were the Democrats.
Posted by BobN at February 23, 2011 10:28 AM

Lets not forget that those Democrats were Conservatives..... Blue dogs

Segregation was a Conservative vs Liberal battle
Not a Republican vs Democrat battle

In those days there were many Conservative Democrats and Liberal Republicans

Posted by: Sammy at February 23, 2011 7:32 PM

Posted by BobN at February 23, 2011 10:28 AM
"Let's not forget that the racist whites who enforced this evil system of segregation and oppression were the Democrats."

Let us not forget that human nature is immutable and predictable. Without doubt, Southerners blamed the blacks for their troubles after the War of Northern Aggression. That result was predictable and reasonably foreseeable. Greek and Roman speeches still resonate with us. Change the costumes and Shakespeare is "present day".

I know well educated, present day, Germans who blame the Jews for their "troubles" after WWII.

For those interested, Brown and Harvard are sponsoring a two day symposium on slavery next month. As opposed to more "tales of woe" it focuses on slavery as an integer in the economy. The web site requires knowledge of your "affiliation" in order to obtain seats. If I look around, I must have an "affiliation". I wonder, if I enter NRA?

Posted by: Warrington Faust at February 23, 2011 11:17 PM

Sammy's attempt to re-write history is transparently dishonest. But we know that the truth means nothing to a Leftist.

Democrats were at the center of the "liberal" Big Government-Big Labor Leftist nanny-state axis consistently since Woodrow Wilson. It was Democrats in the 1920s and 1930s who were openly admiring both Hitler and Stalin for their "accomplishments" in making government the totalitarian head of society. Leftist unions grew in the 1930s largely to prevent blacks from getting jobs in the industrial Midwest.

The racist Lyndon Johnson figured out how to keep black Americans down on the Democrat plantation by making them dependent on government and enacting policies that destroyed the integrity of the family and the role of husbands and fathers, and got the "leaders" to agree to it through lucrative contracts to control the handouts of government "assistance".

These are the facts. It is tiresome to have to counter Leftist lies every day, but somebody has to do it.

Posted by: BobN at February 24, 2011 7:07 AM
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