(from the archives - Jan 1994)
Finally read the book.
Definitely a precise one to put next to Ishmael Reed's "Airing Dirty Laundry"
Cose is a well measured writer and not prone to excess. The matter of fact
way he writes this book almost makes me think twice about the title. He
seems to be one that wouldn't even care to use that one. Of course, 'rage' is
He comes from the perspective, it seems to me, of a man who you might
think of as a buddy of Earl Graves in that there seems to be no indication
or question on his part that the middle class and the upper middle class
as traditionally defined is the place to be, and quite naturally that
respectablility comes from that, period.
His employment of examples such as this well recognized journalist or
that highly successful (in wall street journal terms) attorney is quite
the last person who should feel any anxiety about their place in society.
These types tend not to be extraordinarily articulate about their existential
dilemnas and some of the dialog left me somewhat unmoved. Nevertheless,
the degree to which their case is made left me with an unshakeable
conviction that these folks are indeed suffering. This is not some relative
suffering which could be called a disaffection, rather it is an intense
anger and dread - a haunting feeling - they possess that clearly goes
to their core as employees and often spills over into their personal life.
As he spells this out clearly, it becomes more and more evident that a
number of myths Americans hold about the workplace are simply false and
that the passage of blacks through this maze makes it clear.
Cose does a fine job of separating this from a general spiritual crisis
I would have expected this book to be about, but this is very much about
how blacks feel as *citizens*. Cose names names, quotes figures and goes
around behind what less painstaking posers have passed on as fact. He
takes no moral high ground rather speaks politely about the lack of
intelligence normally intelligent people display. This is a particularly
effective way to deal with people whose influence doesn't go away. For
example, he deals with the popular assertion that blacks in the middle
and upscale classes should be responsible for black criminals and that
racism will not go away until (justifyably) until white folks are not
afraid to walk the streets. This held by Koch, who goes on to justify
white fear of black men.
(largely borrowed without permission)
Moynihan read James Q. Wilson into the congressional record as he said
that the "best way to reduce racism... is to reduce the black crime
'Koch contend that "eventhous who feel deeply about discrimination
against blacks...feel estranged from the black community" as a consequnce
of "black violence." According to Koch's [and Jared Taylor's] calculations
blacks, who make up 12% of the poplation are committing 45 percent of
violent crimes. And since "for the most part only maels are committing
the crimes of violence...roughly 6% of the population is committing 45
percent of the crimes." Even if one accepts Koch's statistics, one must
judge his conclusions perposterous, for it would mean that every black
male in America - the 6 percent in his equation - is engaged in acts
of mayhem. In other words, even black lawyers, accountants, teachers
and salesment who put in long hours at work are apparently getting their
jollies (during their lunch breaks, one supposes) by cracking hapless
innocents of the head or "wilding" in big city parks.
It is true, as Koch indicates that blacks account for about 45 percent
of those arrested for America's violent crimes. But it is not true that
most black males are vicious. FBI statistics show that blacks were
arrested 245,437 times in 1991 for murder, forcible rape, robbery and
aggravated assault. The country's total population then was just under
249 million, including nearly 31 million blacks and roughly 15 million
black males. If we assume that each arrest represents the apprehension
of a separate individual, blacks arrested for violent crimes made up
less than 1 percent of the black population 1n 1991 - and just under
1.7 percent of the black male population (less, in fact, since the
aggregate figure of 245,437 includes [arrests of] females). In other
words, less than one-tenth of a percent of the population - not 6
percent - is committing 45 percent of violent crimes. These numbers are
not completely accurate, since the FBI population base is somewhat
smaller than the entire US population, and since it is not correct to
infer that thoses arrested in any one year make up the total population
of violent criminals. But they are accurate enough to show the inanity
of implying that most black males are sociopaths.
To many thoughtful people, certainly to many blacks, arguments like
Koch's seen not only absurd but fundamentally unfair. For they suggest
that discrimination against an entire race, if not exactly sanctioned
is acceptable because of the sins of a relative few. They also suggest
that blacks who do not commit crimes bear a special responsibility for
those who do.
...These days, no serious thinker in the field of criminal justice would
propose that the answer to violent crime among whites is for up-and-
coming white executives to make crime prevention their special mission.
Nor would anyone propose, for instance, that until the murder rate
among twenty-something whites was made equal to the murder rate among
seventy-something whites, all young whites deserved to be ostracized
and scorned...yet that is precisely the the approach many reputable
people are now recommending in regard to blacks. And it is a most
percnicious proposition. To contend that we should penalize all members
of a racial or ethnic group because some members are engaged in egregious
behavior is to enter into a pact with the devil whose evil has no end."
(end of borrowing)
That's one of my favorite set of paragraphs...
Cose inputs his own experience in a manner that doesn't pander, very much
to his credit. Unlike some other writing commentators on the scene, Cose
seems to keep his wits about him and doesn't extrapolate his own experiences
to project psychological states onto would be perpetrators and victims.
Cose handles with some wit and steadfast aplomb a number of scenarios we
have all (at least in this forum) heard of and dealt with...
Affirmative Action, redlining, Stephen Carter, Shelby Steele, the next
generation(s) of racial gridlock, Marge Schott, Derrick Bell, the glass
cieling. But most critically and importantly, Cose lays to rest the myths
that race doesn't negatively affect blacks who are not 'underclass' and
that 'things are getting better'.
'When I was in the torture chamber, my thoughts were fixed
on my own campaign for liberation and not on what to me
seemed the idiotic fixations of my oppressor. Thus all
their questions and comments are obscure to me now.'
-- Samuel R. Delany