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The false freedom that fetters Black Americans

The Hill logo The Hill 9/17/2020 Robert L. Woodson Sr., opinion contributor
a group of people standing in front of a store: The false freedom that fetters Black Americans © Getty Images The false freedom that fetters Black Americans

Recently, a California district attorney required her prosecutors to consider looters' "needs" in determining charges against them. Local officials tasked to protect their citizens cited the danger of this mandate. A mayor and president of a police union called the mandate irresponsible and asked, "Where exactly do you draw the line on 'need,' because these people's businesses are being impacted and livelihoods are being destroyed?" The police union president declared that the guidelines are "reckless" and will hurt the "community, local business and business owners."

The line that defines "need" is dangerously blurry. When opportunistic looters raided the high-end stores of Chicago's famed Magnificent Mile, boldly strutting out with armloads of brand-name clothing and accessories, Black Lives Matter representatives declared, "At least they have clothes now," and dubbed the self-serving anarchy as a form of "reparations."

A tsunami of violence and destruction has swept through cities across the country, leaving behind Black business owners standing in the smoldering remains of their stores. Amid the devastation were pathetic, hand-scrawled signs that read "Black-owned Business," which availed no protection.

In Philadelphia, looters at a 7-11 are so brazen that they shout out curses as they exit, though the district attorney has insisted that most looters aren't associated with protests in the city - the same DA who will not prosecute shoplifting and certain gun crimes.

There has been a rash of brazen attacks against whites by predators who consider themselves untouchable because of their "cause," and their victims include terrified elderly men and women. Customers dining outdoors have come under mass attack of vicious slurs and physical assaults. Now, individuals and sometimes crowds of young people are cheering for the deaths of police officers - a level of depravity and inhumanity that's unthinkable and dangerous for our society.

Prosecutors who refuse to apply the law have joined a chorus of academicians, activists and anarchists who demand that Black predators should not be held accountable for any devastation or deaths they cause - they're apparently considered free from moral responsibility because they are "victims" of a history of oppression and slavery.

In the name of freedom from "bourgeois oppression," the white radical left is propagating the argument that Blacks should feel free to pursue whatever their "true nature" dictates, which is the opposite of the "Eurocentric" personal responsibility and self-discipline. Yet these "bourgeois values" once drove Blacks to build the powerful religious, fraternal organizations, and other voluntary associations that helped them thrive in the worst days of Jim Crow, and that in turn cultivated the essential virtues in the next generation. In fact, there would have been no civil rights movement without this.

But Black Lives Matter now insists that such virtues are the legacy of white supremacy, colonialist values that reflect the ongoing bondage of Blacks to oppressive Western culture. In their view, the only "authentic" expression of Blackness in America is the opposite of bourgeois self-restraint and discipline - that is, indulgence in the passions of the moment through anarchic rioting, attacks on helpless, struggling shop owners, and assaults on police.

By encouraging all-out dissipation, today's radical left is shackling Blacks with a debilitating, devastating and ultimately self-destructive understanding of what freedom truly is.

This is a modern-day iteration of a slave masters' deception that Frederick Douglass recognized and decried. As he recorded in his "Narrative," slave masters would grant their slaves a period of sham freedom during the holidays, and would ply them with rum and encourage their descent into drunkenness and stupor. In Douglass's words:

"The holidays are part and parcel of the gross fraud, wrong, and inhumanity of slavery. ... Their object seems to be to disgust their slaves with freedom, by plunging them into the lowest depths of dissipation. ... Thus, when the slave asks for virtuous freedom, the cunning slaveholder, knowing his ignorance, cheats him with a dose of vicious dissipation, artfully labeled with the name of liberty. ... Many of us were led to think that there was little to choose between liberty and slavery. We felt, and very properly too, that we had almost as well be slaves to man as to rum."

Duped by a race-grievance agenda, Black Americans today are the targets of the same manipulation. The inebriant is not rum but "victimhood" and the false, fettering freedom it offers. Many of those who promulgate the racial-grievance agenda will go on to teach their own children the values of working and studying hard, while they inculcate behaviors among Blacks that will make sure they remain uncompetitive - but "authentic."

By the time young Blacks today discover, as did the slaves of Douglass's time, that freedom understood as "do-whatever-you-feel-like" may be fun for a while but is no way to build a worthwhile life, it will be too late. The fruits of the civil rights movement's hard labor - teaching the young to be so self-disciplined that they were able to resist responding in kind to hatred and abuse from whites - will have been lost.

Also jettisoned is the plea of Martin Luther King Jr., who declared: "Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers."

Robert L. Woodson, Sr. is the president and founder of the Woodson Center. Follow him on Twitter @BobWoodson.

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