CONSERVATIVE WHITE COMMENTATOR David Horowitz has carved a remarkable career out of letting black Americans know that we are our own worst enemies.
His new book, Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes, a sarcastically titled collection of some pretty sarcastic essays, follows in the tradition of his other books and newsletters and his column in Salon.com, the mostly liberal Internet magazine.
His message in a nutshell: Black people blame white people too much for their problems.
So I was surprised to find him appearing as a guest on Tavis Smiley's popular Black Entertainment Television cable TV program, BET Tonight. I was even more surprised to see on the same show Larry Elder, the black conservative Los Angeles-based talk-show host.
Horowitz and Elder are the sort of conservatives who are always complaining about how they don't get a fair shake on "liberal" media outlets like BET. Yet there they were.
Horowitz was calling institutional racism a "radical fantasy," chastising blacks for their racism, and telling the black community to "look to itself for the solution to its problems."
And Elder called racism in America a less pressing issue than "children having children," which "breeds crime … breeds drugs, and breeds lower standards in our schools."
Old news, said Rev. Michael Eric Dyson, a black DePaul University professor and author of Race Rules. Horowitz's arguments already have been made by many black leaders over the years, according to Dyson.
Besides, contrary to the title of Hating Whitey, Dyson noted, black Americans are "loving" white people, judging by rapidly rising rates of intermarriage between blacks and whites.
That's true. One such union created Horowitz's two black grandchildren.
I was surprised again later when I saw the responses to a poll the black-oriented cable TV network posted on its website. Of 1,970 responses, 63 percent agreed "African-Americans blame too many of their problems on white America."
Unless this was a Y2K glitch or a sudden influx of white users to the BET website, this informal survey confirms something that I have long believed: Black people don't dislike white people nearly as much as black people dislike other black people.
Not all black people, of course. Just certain types.
I am talking about what my mother would have called the "lazy, hustling, no-account" people—the people black comedian Chris Rock describes with the N-word.
"Every time black people get something good going, N—s mess it up," says Rock, echoing what is on the minds of many black folks.
You don't have to let white racism entirely off the hook in order to believe that some of us African-Americans blame "too many" of our problems on white America. There's plenty of blame to go around.
Black Americans are less monolithic than Elder, Horowitz, and other critics of black "reverse racism" make us out to be. Self-help is hardly a new concept among black folks. We just don't talk about it enough.
Perhaps, then, it is a sign of the times that Jesse Jackson's latest book, It's About the Money, co-authored with his son, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), is an advice book on building wealth.
In it, the senior Jackson calls financial independence "the fourth movement of the Freedom Symphony," after emancipation of the slaves, the end of legal segregation, and the political empowerment that followed passage of the Voting Rights Act.
That sounds like music to my ears. Despite the remarkable advances most African-Americans have made since the 1960s, we still lag behind our white counterparts in our savings and investments. Without economic security, too many of us remain a paycheck or two from poverty.
We don't need affirmative action to gain equal access to capital and other economic opportunities. We only need strict enforcement of existing civil-rights laws.
Then, to paraphrase Jackson, no one can walk through those doors for us, but us. If we fail to take advantage of the opportunities that the civil-rights movement has made available to us, we really have become our own worst enemies.
© 2000, Chicago Tribune Company