Published in the December 2006 issue.
LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING ABOUT NIGGERS, the oppressed minority within our minority. Always down. Always out. Always complaining that they can't catch a break. Notoriously poor about doing for themselves. Constantly in need of a leader but unable to follow in any direction that's navigated by hard work, self-reliance. And though they spliff and drink and procreate their way onto welfare doles and WIC lines, niggers will tell you their state of being is no fault of their own. They are not responsible for their nearly 5 percent incarceration rate and their 9.2 percent unemployment rate. Not responsible for the 11.8 percent rate at which they drop out of high school. For the 69.3 percent of births they create out of wedlock.
Now, let me tell you something about my generation of black Americans. We are the inheritors of "the Deal" forced upon the entrenched white social, political, and legal establishment when my parents' generation won the struggle for civil rights. The Deal: We (blacks) take what is rightfully ours and you (the afore-described establishment) get citizens who will invest the same energy and dedication into raising families and working hard and being all around good people as was invested in snapping the neck of Jim Crow.
In the forty years since the Deal was brokered, since the Voting Rights Act was signed, there have been successes for blacks. But there are still too many blacks in prison, too many kids aggrandizing the thug life, and way too many African-Americans doing far too little with the opportunities others earned for them.
If we as a race could win the centuries-long war against institutionalized racism, why is it that so many of us cannot secure the advantage after decades of freedom?
That which retards us is the worst of "us," those who disdain actual ascendancy gained by way of intellectual expansion and physical toil—who instead value the posture of an "urban," a "street," a "real" existence, no matter that such a culture threatens to render them extinct.
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I have no qualm about using the word nigger. It is a word. It is in the English lexicon, and no amount of political correctness, no amputation into "the n-word"—as if by the castration of a few letters we should then be able to conceptualize its meaning without feeling its sting—will remove it from reality.
So I say this: It's time for ascended blacks to wish niggers good luck. Just as whites may be concerned with the good of all citizens but don't travel their days worrying specifically about the well-being of hillbillies from Appalachia, we need to send niggers on their way. We need to start extolling the most virtuous of ourselves. It is time to celebrate the New Black Americans—those who have sealed the Deal, who aren't beholden to liberal indulgence any more than they are to the disdain of the hard Right. It is time to praise blacks who are merely undeniable in their individuality and exemplary in their levels of achievement.
This, then, is how the praise begins. We need to burn into our collective memory the event that marked the beginning of our new timeline: an event from early in this millennium that seemed, for its moment in time, auspicious but that is now all but forgotten. It was lost in the ash of fires in Over-the-Rhine. Buried in the rubble of 9/11. But I for one will not let it go, won't let it get dumped into a potter's field of U. S. politics. It was too important. Far too significant. It was eleven days when two blacks ran America.
IF THE SITUATION were just slightly altered, Condoleezza Rice might have been, and would have made, a better Mrs. George W. Bush than the current Mrs. George W. Bush. Same as George, Condi's politics are right. Her worldview is faith based, courtesy of her reverend pops. A protÃfÂ©gÃfÂ©e of Brent Scowcroft's, she served as a special assistant for national-security affairs to George H. W. Bush, so she was preapproved by Dad. And should anyone posit that a woman of color would not be welcome to Thanksgiving dinner in Kennebunkport, well, Bush brother Jeb had married himself a minority, so even that trail was previously blazed.
But for G. B. the second, much to his credit, his interest in Condi was less about her being a woman, let alone a black woman, and more about her being an accomplished individual.
And Dr. Condi is accomplished as hell: a Ph.D. in poli-sci from the University of Denver. Former provost of Stanford. At thirty-five, barely a kid in Washington years, she was a staffer at the National Security Council. She came onto the foreign-policy train wreck that was the early days of G. W. Bush's 2000 campaign. Helped mold his malapropism-afflicted worldview into a demicoherent one. After the certification of Bush's election, Dr. Condi got herself easily appointed as national-security advisor.
Firsts all the way around.
Black America should have been singing hosannas.
But Condi was Republican. So never mind. Never mind she'd spent a lifetime facing down racism. Born in Birmingham at the peak of race hate, Condi was a schoolmate of Denise McNair, one of the "four little girls" bombed to death in September of '63 at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Niggers and old-school shines couldn't abide her. Same as with Clarence Thomas, they let her politics obfuscate her accomplishments. They stamped her: Not Officially Black. Bloggers tagged her a "Sally Hemings for the Twenty-first Century." Left-leaning pundits smeared her with the slurs "Aunt Jemima" and "brown sugar." Julian Bond, reaching deep into the old-school bag of tricks, turned to rhyme to asperse Dr. Rice's authenticity: "Just because they are your skin folks, doesn't mean they're your kinfolks."
Then they went back to entertaining themselves with another Wayans-brothers movie.
As NSA and confidante, Dr. Condi was with Bush and the real Mrs. Bush as they took some time with an old Yale buddy at Camp David on the last weekend in March of 2001.
Nine-fifteen P.M. on the thirty-first. They got the call. A U. S. EP-3E signals recon plane had literally gotten into a tangle with a People's Liberation Army (read that: Chinese) J-8 interceptor jet off the coast of China. The Chinese jet got shredded by the EP-3E's prop. The American plane, with a crew of twenty-four, was badly damaged. The Chinese jet went down, the pilot most likely killed. The U. S. pilot did better. Managed to land the FUBAR American plane. But he landed the plane on the island of Hainan. Chinese territory. And the Chinese claimed that the Americans had been spying over what were sovereign waters. And the Chinese claimed the plane had landed without permission.
And its taillights were out.
From the get, this was stacking up to be a slightly dicey situation—China being in possession of twenty-four American servicemen and women and one of our top-tier surveillance planes (and the appropriate U. S. spokespeople went out of their way to note that it was a surveillance plane, not a spy plane). The People's Republic wasn't exactly our enemy, but it was hardly our close bud, either. Coming into the White House, following the domestic Chinese-spy-scandal scare of the late nineties, Bush had shifted the rhetoric re: China. Had dropped the Clinton-era designation of China as a "strategic partner" for the tough-talk appellation of "strategic competitor." The actual meaning of "strategic competitor" no one in the administration has ever tried to explain, but it struck the appropriately tough-talk chord in the new president's neoconservative base. Though such tough talk ignored the fact that China was a major trading partner that was doing $116 billion in annual business with the U. S., in millennium bucks.
So, then, here was the crux of BushCo's first international incident: Having swung his meat at China, Bush now very much had to be diplomatically shrewd while looking domestically strong in dealing with our strategic competitor.
This clearly required high-mindedness.
Bush turned the situation over to the highest mind on his team: Dr. Condi.
Condi was a Russia expert. Wasn't this—this "Hainan Incident"—just some modern-day old-school commie-era nonsense?
But that decision, right and plain as it seemed, set up the real conflict of the event. That conflict would not turn out to be the obvious one—U. S. versus China. It would be "us," elevated blacks, versus "them," those who not only hold little regard for people of color but who wish to make niggers of us all.
DICK CHENEY and Donald Rumsfeld were, are, old-school relics. Political leftovers of the Nixon-Ford years, they are the Retro Guard, sporting metaphorical wide ties emblematic of the '72 landslide. To appease the base, Bush had given such men seats at his otherwise progressive table. Wedging them in created multiple fractures across the administration. From the jump, it would be the old against the new. War hawks against moderates. Those who thought the republic was best governed in secrecy and shadow against those who recalled that the preamble to the Constitution is "We the People," not "Us the Government." The administration was a case study in "unified independence," a group working toward separate objectives rather than individuals working as a team.
Cheney and Rumsfeld fronted the hard line of the Hainan Incident—the cadre who saw little to no value in talk and diplomacy and wanted to get with the figurative nuclear option quick as possible. It was against such a mind-set as much as the Chinese government that Condi would have to navigate.
But she would not have to wield her intellect solo.
COLIN POWELL was the undisputed superstar of American politics.
His bio was bulletproof.
His bona fides undeniable: service in 'Nam. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Part of the team that cruised to victory in Gulf War I. Author of the Powell Doctrine, which states that overwhelming force makes an enemy your bee-yotch.
When he quit the military, real quick Powell became "the Get." Both parties wanted to snag him, wag him from their standard.
Powell went right.
Predictably, niggers immediately abandoned him. How could any self-respecting black man want to run from the Liberal Plantation? Never mind that he was a self-made modern American hero who openly espoused the value of affirmative action. Old-schoolers tagged Powell with the usual left-wing racist jabber.
Powell was a sellout.
In a particularly ugly rant, Harry Belafonte infamously alluded to Powell as being a house nigger.
At every opportunity, Powell was hit up with the invectives reserved for black men who succeed by way of intelligence and hard work. (How ironic that while the Left attempted to subjugate Powell with the bullwhip of liberal racism, Bush, who later would be accused by Kanye West of hating blacks, somehow managed to see in Powell a sovereign black man.)
As secretary of state in G. W. B.'s first term, Powell would spearhead communications with China during the Hainan Incident while Rice would be the conduit through which all information would flow to the president.
Dr. Condi and Colin.
THE ADMINISTRATION went into the Hainan situation thinking the China incident would go down like this: We make denials; they make demands. There's a shadow deal that gets us back our boys and toys in exchange for some tractors and a few bushels of wheat.
But this wasn't 1957. The Chinese weren't a superpower dying on the vine. They were more concerned about getting their international propers than they were about quid pro quo. And respect had been a long time coming from the U. S. Most Chinese citizens recalled G. H. W. Bush being an apologist for the Deng regime after the Tiananmen Square crackdown. And then there was us dropping a bomb right down the Chinese embassy's smokestack in Belgrade during the air war over Kosovo.
And, you know, there was that strategic partner/strategic competitor thing.
But Dr. Condi and Colin strategized, surmised that all China was looking for was some contrition. A little humility. Secure in the knowledge that offering regret is different from taking blame, they figured they could show some remorse for the Chinese pilot without turning all of America into a weak sister weeping like she'd just messed her best Sunday dress. Just give a "My bad" and get the crew home.
Dr. Condi and Colin would not im-mediately get the chance to test their strategy.
shoes 36 sexy heels high student Women 8 with Champagne Size bows fine Color shoes casual Pink 5cm sandals Forty-eight hours after the American plane went down, after just two days of silence from China, the far-right hard-liners lost whatever patience they owned. What little confidence they had that Rice and Powell could end the situation quickly dissipated like a brief, bad smell. Diplomacy was boring and time-consuming and rarely came with the requisite display of machismo. Though delicatesse was the smarter play over sanctions, all the Retro Guard cared about was keeping Bush, just twelve weeks in Washington, from looking like Jimmy Carter on, say, day 239 of 444 of the Iranian-hostage thing.
Sabers got rattled. Tact got kicked to the curb. Cheney stomped around Washington doing a public nix on expressing any regret. Insisted being American meant never having to say you're sorry.
Illinois representative Henry Hyde—who is chairman of the House International Relations Committee—referred to the U. S. crew as "hostages," which put an ugly public spin on the benign truth. Was consciously counter to Powell's assessment that the crew was merely being detained.
Bush, feeling the pressure to back up all his preelection rhetoric, flinched. Or "blinked," in the pop-culture sense of making a quick decision based on suspect intelligence.
In a Rose Garden appearance, a hardened Bush excoriated the Chinese for not doing "the right thing." Insisted that "now it is time for our servicemen and women to return home."
These were, politically, cold assertions. The hollaback was equally frosty.
student Size high shoes sexy Pink shoes 5cm casual sandals fine bows Color Champagne 36 heels with 8 Women A day later, Chinese president Jiang Zemin finally responded. Zemin wanted nothing less than total kowtowing. Wanted the U. S. to "bear all responsibilities" for the collision. Wanted an apology. Wanted concessions. Wanted the U. S. to quit its spy flights along the China coast. Forever.
And it got real clear the circumstances might not now resolve themselves in a timely manner.
Just a few words. A few words choreographed to create some tough-guy theatrics from Bush and the situation had devolved from "incident" to "standoff."
And the loud-voiced whispers as to whether Bush had what it took to be a world leader began.
Diplomacy was needed. Smarts. Intellect and canny.
Bush made another decision. No "blink" involved. As The Washington Post reported, the way forward was made emphatic to all concerned: No more useless posturing. No more Independent Unity. Cheney was sent out to stump for the tax cuts Bush was shilling. And while Rumsfeld claimed to support the shift toward diplomacy, truthfully he was flatly told to butt out.
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The moderates had won round one of the administration wars. And for the first time in the history of the U. S.—a history of slavery, of abandoned Reconstruction, overt Jim Crow, and covert soft bigotry—a black woman and a black man were in the position of speaking for America to the world.
We, collectively—not just black America but all of America that truly bought into the bromides of liberty and justice for all—we had risen.
The accomplishment was unmistakable. For seven days running, in the written press and the international media, and doing the rounds in the 24/7 cable-news meat grinder, it was Condi and Colin. They pulled the administration out of a Retro Guard—dug hole. Projected calm and rationality, where just prior there was only ego. Sticking with their game plan to double-team with poise and savoir faire, they expressed "regret" over the loss of the Chinese pilot. Powell followed up his public statements with an international "sympathy card" sent to the Chinese: a regret letter of his own.
Simultaneously, Condi counseled the president to display some humanity. Bush made a public statement that he was sending his prayers to the dead Chinese pilot and his family.
By Thursday, April 5, the Chinese foreign ministry, if not quite ready to sing kumbayas, acknowledged the U. S.'s new moves were a "step in the right direction."
At the same time, Powell came with another, stronger statement of lament re: the Chinese pilot's death. And contrary to the hawks' beliefs, the heavens didn't open and the stock market didn't drop and the commies weren't turning our wives and daughters into pleasure girls. But twenty-four servicemen and women were that much closer to coming home.
So close the scavengers could pick up the stink of imminent triumph. Around they came, real late in the game, looking to gain some stature by glomming on to the accomplishments of others.
Jesse Jackson came knocking.
Jesse Jackson, who is president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. He put in a call to Powell offering help. Offering to add an "ecumenical religious component" to Powell's efforts.
It was really just Jesse looking to shine up his image. It'd been just months since he'd been outed as having fathered a kid with the former head of the Rainbow Coalition's Washington, D. C., office, then given the girl tens of thousands of dollars from the Rainbow PUSH coffers as "shut up/go away" money.
Not sure if that's the ecumenical religious component Jesse had wanted to add to the standoff.
Powell smartly gave Jesse the go-by. Jesse and his old-school ways, even if they hadn't been offered belatedly and with self-service, were of no use to the New Black American.
Victory was at hand. The U. S. crewmen were just days and an official letter of regret to the Chinese government away from returning home. And you know that homecoming would have been filled with hoopla and pageantry. The Retro Guard would have to kneel before the superior intellect of the ascended black. Likewise, the Old-School Negroes and their liberal massas would be forced to acknowledge the evolutionary brother and sister. When the images of the homecoming were played and played and played from the morning empty-chat shows through the nightly news to Larry King and his first exclusive primetime interview (with call-ins!) of the crew, all of America would see freedom was won by a black man, a black woman.Jameson 10 Shoe Men US Vulc Skate Medium Black Brown etnies Grey 5T8q4cZ5
They would have seen all that.
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THE LAST THING recorded by the dash-mounted camera in the police cruiser was officer Stephen Roach running across an intersection off Republic Street in Cincinnati. Then he enters an alley.
Then you can hear a shot being fired.
Beyond that, all you can do is speculate. And/or take Roach's statements as to what led to Timothy Thomas's shooting death.
What we know:
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In the early-morning hours of April 7, 2001, Thomas was confronted by some cops looking to pop him for those warrants. Thomas ran. Same as he'd run twice before when cops were trying to pop him. Backup got called in. Roach was among them. Thomas wasn't armed. Roach had no way of knowing. All the cop knew was that he was doing a foot pursuit in what's plainly one of the most dangerous sections of Cincinnati: Over-the-Rhine.
Thomas headed down that dark alley. Ordered to stop, he complied. Made a sudden move for his waistband. Roach fired. Thomas took a single slug to the chest. Died.
"Fifteen since '95" was the cry. Timothy Thomas being the fifteenth Cincinnati black man to die during an arrest or shortly after being apprehended by the cops. "Fifteen since '95" was heard from local Blacktivists hot for justice, for whom vengeance by way of legal recourse would not do: the New Black Panthers. Some outfit called the Special Forces. Only things special about them were the white-hatin', Jew-hatin' rants they could call up at a moment's notice. And did so at a city-council meeting they crashed the day after Thomas got shot. Crashed it along with Thomas's moms. And a couple hundred more whipped-up locals of color. They showed up to "talk" with city officials.
There was some white-hatin'. Some Jew-hatin'. Precious little talking.
After three hours of contained ranting, the hatin' spilled out into the streets. Another thousand or so protesters got whipped up and swept along as the Blacktivists made their way to the Cinci police HQ. More screaming! More hatin'! Through the evening and into the night.
"Fifteen since '95!"
Rocks thrown. Bottles thrown. Broken glass was hurled at cops.
"Fifteen since '95!"
By 1:00 A.M. on Monday, April 9, while Powell and Rice were working to free detained Americans, the Blacktivists had achieved what they were pushing for, the typical post-civil-rights-era expression of urban rage when it unilaterally deems itself wronged: burning of businesses. Looting of businesses. Indiscriminate violence against whites and nonblacks; yanked from cars. Beaten near to death.
If a gang of whites had done the same, the screams from the Blacktivists would've been of a roving racist pack. They, the whites, would've been called a lynch mob.
But the rioters were of color.
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Approval was given.
Kweisi Mfume (real name Frizzell Gray), who was the president and CEO of the NAACP, ranted that Cinci was the "belly of the whale."
Al Sharpton—he who is the high self-appointed HNIC of a constituency that no longer exists—demanded the feds take control of Cinci's police. Of all America's cops!
The Big House of the Liberal Plantation, The New York Times, opined that economic discrimination was at the heart of the riot (though it failed to explain why poor whites rarely did the same).
The Blacktivists of Cinci got what they wanted: some old-school R-Card shysters doing some fire fueling with platitudes and the war cry:
"Fifteen since '95."
On the surface the numbers held up; at the hands of the police, fifteen black men had died since '95. But the stats didn't reflect fact. Have you had a chance to meet some of the fifteen poster kids of cop abuse in Cincinnati?
Say hey to Harvey Price, who hacked up his girlfriend's daughter with an ax. She was fifteen. Harvey got shot when he refused to surrender peaceably. Went at tactical cops with a knife.
Give a yo to Mr. Jeffrey Irons. Confronted for stealing a few bucks in toiletries, Irons responded by grabbing a cop's gun. Shooting the officer in the hand. Another officer, options up, looking to avoid worse, shot and killed Irons.
Can I get a what-up for Daniel Williams? In February of '98 Danny flagged down officer Kathleen Conway's cop car. Then he punched her in the face. Then shot her. Four times, .357 Magnum. After all that, Conway managed to fire back—I would safely say in self-defense—killing Williams.
The final count of those "fifteen since '95"? Twelve had threatened arresting officers' lives with some type of weapon before they were killed. Seven of those twelve threatened cops with guns. Four cops were killed or wounded in making those arrests (in a period when three Cinci cops had been killed in three years).
But facts don't serve the cause. And "a couple since '95" doesn't make for much of a war cry.
Three days of chaos. Nearly $4 million in damage to the city, most of it in predominantly black areas that could ill afford economic downturn. Record levels of homicides, particularly among blacks, as the police, hamstrung by new rules of engagement, could no longer effectively protect the very people who had demonized them.
It was a mess.
The Blacktivists, they would call it victory.
THE NIGHT OF 4/11/01 was the worst of the rioting in Over-the-Rhine. Lowlights included a cop shot, a state of emergency declared.
The next day, 4/12/01, while Cinci was still calming down, the detained U. S. crew got loaded onto a commandeered Continental Airlines jet. Were flown from Hainan to Guam, Guam to Hawaii. The patience, the intelligence, of two blacks had set them free. But for Powell and Rice there was no reaction from the greater—or lesser—black community. None from lefty America. Energy drained by the orgy of appeasement it had been forced to offer up over Cincinnati, the best the black establishment and the national media could or would toss Dr. Condi and Colin was a collective shrug. A dismissive act, the effect of which was to minify the significance of their accomplishment.
And maybe in early 2001 it didn't matter so much. After averting crisis, there were sure to be other achievements. But, you know, things change. Nine-eleven. The towers came down. The Pentagon got opened up. A hole was made in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The war in Afghanistan. The war in Iraq.
And Hainan was officially forgotten.
No more can we allow the crowning moment in our history to live in shadow, just as we cannot allow the deeds of our most accomplished to be overshadowed by the antics of our least ambitious. Near the end of his mortal existence, Dr. Martin Luther King famously queried, "Where do we go from here: chaos or community?"
Over-the-Rhine was chaos. Is this what we choose for ourselves? To continue as the ungodly construct of victim and aggressor?
I say there is only one direction for us to travel, the path already set. Dr. Condi and Colin are exceptional but not unique. Empirically, Hainan wasn't a one-off. With the pair as way points by which to plot a course, our collective ascension will be assured.
Undoubtedly, knees will jerk over this contention. The Reverends Al and Jesse and all those who judge actions by the single criterion of how they affect the remnants of the Movement will ask: These? These two are your ne plus ultra blacks? These two who caved to the will of the Right? Powell, whose dog-and-pony show at the UN revealed his true bent? Rice, whose "Why We Know Iraq Is Lying" for The New York Times showed her lack of spine? These two who sent America off to folly in Iraq?
I say yes.
Black America must look to that lost moment and realize that, short of a brother or sister actually being elected president, Hainan was the high-water mark of black political power. And whether Operation Iraqi Freedom is ultimately good and right and just, or if it is lousily named and uniformly disastrous, what is essential is that Dr. Condi and Colin earned for themselves positions from which to sway public debate.
That is, power.
Dr. Condi and Colin personify what niggers have forgotten: All that matters is accomplishment. The very pinnacle of ascendancy is the ability to live and work without regard for the sentiments of others and with, as Sister Rand would tell us, a selfish virtue.
We came up from slavery to freedom without regard for the Constitution, which gave us nothing, and the plantation masters, who gave us the whip. We came up from oppression to civil rights without regard for hurled bricks and sicced police dogs. Water hoses. The word nigger.
This, then, is my directive: Let us achieve with equal disregard for the limitations of racism and the weight of those of us who threaten to drag all of us down with the clinging nature of their eternal victimization. Our preservation is too essential to be stunted by those unwilling to advance. And in my heart I don't believe all blacks cannot achieve in the absence of aid any more than I believe the best way to teach a child to run is by forcing him to spend a lifetime on his knees.
As long as we remain committed to holding high our individuals of supreme finish, others will be inspired to loose themselves of the gravity of the waywards and downtroddens.
Once free, they will rise. They will drift high toward the attainments of which we are invariably capable; being better fathers and husbands and lovers. Better mothers and daughters, sisters and best friends. We will rise to the simple obligation of taking care of our own with the same dedication we will give to improving our community and country and our world. Yes, our influence will extend so.
Where do we go from here?
The only direction we can.
The New Black America will ascend.
THE ORIGINAL RESPONSE TO THIS STORY
Published in the February 2007 issue:
In his essay ("The Manifesto of Ascendancy for the Modern American Nigger," December), African-American writer, film producer, and director John Ridley argued that rioting in Cincinnati in 2001 overshadowed the apex of African-American leadership in America: the skilled handling by then–national security advisor Condoleezza Rice and secretary of state Colin Powell of the crash landing of a U.S. surveillance plane in Hainan, China. To Ridley, this demonstrated how an emphasis on victimization and urban and street values was holding back the success of ascended blacks, and that it was time for New Black Americans to leave behind "those unwilling to advance."
Ridley is a genius. His brave essay is the most poignant and relevant black literary work I have read since Carter G. Woodson's 1933 book about the alienating effects of a Eurocentric education on African-Americans, The Mis-Education of the Negro. As black Americans, our self-inflicted recycled negativity and outright emasculation of our negritude continue to destroy us. Ridley's essay and Woodson's book should both be required reading before anyone can call himself a brother.
–L.E. Mackey, Mount Sterling, Ky.
I was deeply offended by your decision to publish John Ridley's rant. As a black man with a Ph.D. and no criminal record (no doubt one of the "good" individuals Ridley would consider ascended), I find his simple division of African-Americans into "good blacks" and "niggers" reprehensible. Moreover, since you guys would never publish a piece dividing other groups into whites versus crackers, Italians versus wops, or women versus bitches, the real question for Mr. Ridley is this: Whose nigger are you?
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Ridley forgets that "ascending" requires a number of factors, not just hard work and a positive attitude. For most of the urban poor, opportunities are simply not available, which ultimately destroys hope. I'd bet every five-year-old in that demographic has goals and dreams (astronaut, fireman, veterinarian). However, years of violence, injustice, underfunded schools, a broken local economy, and government indifference can sap hope and will from the strongest of us all. I would suggest to all who ascend, regardless of race, that when you get there, reach back down and help a brother up.
–Mark Beneventi, Dallas, Tex.
As a Caucasian who has lived most of his life in the South, I relate to Ridley's point about chronic underachievers. He is correct: Most whites don't give much thought to other whites who won't make an effort when offered opportunities to overcome their circumstances. African-Americans should not be vilified for feeling the same way.
–Louis Howell, Jacksonville, Fla.
Bravo. Esquire has touched on the core essence of racism. Ridley has brilliantly illustrated how the American culture continues to foster the need for Americans to define their character through the debasement of others less fortunate. By the way, for those of us African-Americans who have ascended, do we get T-shirts so the rest of the world knows to separate us from the others?
–Suzanne Descanvelle, New York, N.Y.
As a twenty-nine-year-old African-American, that article had me twisting and rock- ing in my seat. It's like when someone talks about your kid, and you know your kid is bad as hell but you can't say anything. Ridley said what a lot of us think but are afraid to say.
–Derek Kelley, West Des Moines, Iowa
Even if we were to accept Ridley's premise that Dr. Rice and General Powell, solely and without the advice and consent of other members of the administration, achieved the greatest moment in black America's political history, Ridley's conclusion that this geopolitical masterstroke was undermined by the actions of a few largely disenfranchised blacks some four hundred miles away is irrational and logically indefensible. Even if I were to disparage the Cincinnati protestors (which I'm not prepared to do), even if I agreed with Ridley's assessment that police killing black men was somehow acceptable because those men had records or were otherwise of lesser human caliber, in what way should those men be used to diminish what the author sees as the accomplishments of Rice and Powell? The white establishment does not waste its time with such triviality, but it's a shortcoming that far too often seems to hinder members of the black intelligentsia.
–Keith Clinkscales, Hartsdale, N.Y.
If Ridley wants to complain about established black leadership that is deaf, dumb, and blind, that's fine. Lord knows there is enough criticism to go around. However, to lower himself to the use of a word that has been deployed by whites as a form of social and political control of black bodies; a word that has preceded lynchings, rapes, and all sorts of abuses; a word that has been thrown at Ph.D. and janitor and jailbird alike is a slap in the face of every black man or woman who has worked all of his or her life for a day when such a word would no longer exist. Mr. Ridley ought to be ashamed.
–Roger Sneed, Mount Pleasant, Mich.
I think this Modern American Nigger just ascended himself above further subscriptions.
–Anthony Frizzell, Washington, D.C.