As Patrick McIlheran points out Shelby Steele has an extraordinary piece in Crossroads yesterday regarding the end of the idea of white supremacy. The standard response to this is that racism is still just as virulent - or still pretty virulent - but "subtle."
How one can believe that such a racial hegemony can exist when to even hint at it in public will destroy your career is beyond me? Obviously there are still racists of the old stripe and certain racial stereotypes persist to varying degrees, but, as Steele points out, in twenty-first century America "swims upstream in an atmosphere of ferocious intolerance."
Patrick doesn't mention it, but Orlando Patterson's companion piece is just as extraordinary. Her writes:
If one acknowledges that individual attitudes, values and behaviors are the main sources of the problems young black men face - the undeniable existence of racism notwithstanding - then the right strategy is to explore the nature of these values and to understand the factors that reinforce and sustain them.
Patterson is no conservative, but he too rejects the notion that the problem is racism and the solution is external. He goes on to argue that the government has a role to play in fostering the internal development of the black community (something that I do not completely disagree with) but he makes clear that the solution lies in changing inner city culture.
Patterson - and Steele - would be quick to point out that this culture is not intrinsic to African-Americans. It is a relatively new development and, in my view, white people (including - or even primarily - white people on the left) bear a great deal of the blame. But the fact that it is not an inevitable consequence of poverty and, in many ways, antithetical to the way in which the black community weathered slavery and the very real and pervasive racism of the first 100 years antebellum makes it all the more tragic.
But here in Milwaukee, too much of the "official" leadership of the city carries water for Michael McGee, Jr., and plays the race card. Good to keep you in power, but not to change things.