My Problem with Hardball

Most of my 53rd Street neighbors exercise personal responsibility. Like millions of African Americans throughout the nation, they play by the rules. Despite their devotion to personal responsibility, for six years our neighborhood has been under siege by an interracial drug-dealing gang. Unsavory characters from other parts of the city invade the block. They are rowdy, they insult the women and occasionally there are shootouts.

Living with a gang is the closest thing to living in a fascist state. Your personal freedom is impaired. We’ve exercised personality responsibility to end this menace. Attending meetings with downtown officials and doing whatever is required of us. This interracial gang is still there. Our devotion to personal responsibility hasn’t worked.

Yet, when I turn on Chris Matthews’ show “Hardball,” I hear one of his regulars, Michelle Bernard, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, scold black Americans constantly about their lack of personal responsibility. Though I could name other ethnic groups whose social statistics are worse than those of African Americans, Bernard contends that “personal responsibility” is “especially” a problem for the black community.

If blacks behaved correctly, so the argument goes, the banks will end red lining, racial disparities in the criminal justice system will end, and we can all join hands and skip along like Dorothy and her crew, off to see the wizard.

Unlike Ann Coulter, who occasionally lobs some nasty and witty verbal bombs, Bernard disarms her audience with a smile that covers two thirds of her face.

Since hundreds of minority journalists have lost their jobs, the African American presence on cable and elsewhere is confined to the white right and left’s-subsidized black opinion, people who mouthed the policies of the right- and left-wing institutions that sponsor them.

Bernard is president of the Independent Women’s Forum, which was organized to counter the feminist movement. People for the American Way describes IWF as a group that “opposes affirmative action, gender equity programs like Title IX, and the Violence Against Women Act.”

John McWhorter is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. The Institute, which gets money from places like Chase Manhattan Bank, encourages quack race science research. When Matthews held a MSNBC “Town Hall,” a cheap way to get ratings, McWhorter was a panelist, able to spin his post-race fantasies without opposition. He believes that the only remaining grievance of African Americans is racial profiling, which in a Commentary article, he denied existed.

Even with the Brookings Institute’s report about “The Suburbanization of Poverty,” I doubt whether CNN or MSNBC will ever do a feature or “town hall” blaming the prevalence of poverty in the suburbs on the lack of “personal responsibility” among whites.

Another “Hardball” regular is Pat Buchanan. His repeated assertion that white people built America goes unchallenged by Matthews and his guests. Whom are we to believe? Buchanan or educator, Booker T. Washington, who among black leaders of the past most resembles President Barack Obama?

In his Atlanta Exposition Address in 1895, he referred to “people who have, without strikes and labour wars, tilled your fields, cleared your forests, constructed your railroads and cities, and brought forth treasures from the bowels of the earth, and helped make possible this magnificent representation of the progress of the South.”

Whites were among several races that helped to build America. Hispanics have been the harvesters. It was Chinese-American engineering skills that helped to build the railroads in the West. Buchanan grew up in Washington D.C. but probably couldn’t identify buildings in the Capitol that were constructed by African American labor; the Capitol building, for one.

One can understand Matthews’ problem and why he would make a remark that some claim offended racial etiquette. He’s an Irish-American who has entered the Anglo mainstream, as one writer calls it. He was congratulating Obama for doing the same, when he said that during his brilliant delivery of the State of The Union address, Matthews forgot that Obama was black.

The other problem is not his. MSNBC and CNN select black commentators, who won’t offend their target audience, whites, or those who they call “the American public,” or what a KPFA progressive show called “Uprising Radio” refers to as “people,” as in “the people are disillusioned with Barack Obama,” when his poll numbers among nonwhites is 73 percent.

As a result, Matthews is surrounded by white nationalists like Buchanan and blacks who won’t level with him.

ISHMAEL REED is the publisher of Konch. His new book, “Mixing It Up, Taking On The Media Bullies” was published by De Capo. “ ISHMAEL REED: The Plays” was published by The Dalkey Archives in Sept.

This article originally appeared in Inside Bay Area.