WaPo op-ed writer offers solution to racial divide: It (and she) are this simple

WaPo op-ed writer offers solution to racial divide: It (and she) are this simple
Stacey Patton (Image: American University)

I don’t know if Stacey Patton is married, but if she is, I hope her marriage is going better than her relationship with her nation. If she and her husband are in or are seeking marital counseling, I expect the sessions to go something like this: “Yes, doctor, we have a problem and it is him. He is a man — and you know how men are.”

In her therapy session in today’s Washington Post, Patton — who teaches multimedia journalism at Morgan State University and is author of the upcoming book “Spare the Kids: Why Whupping Children Won’t Save Black America”  — tells how whites are, with the same note of derision.

The title of the piece — “We don’t need Lincoln-inspired racial ‘unity.’ We need whites to stop being racist” — really tells you all you need to know. But if you stop there, you miss out on some fun facts about on our 16th president.

Did you know, for example, that Lincoln believed blacks were inferior, habitually used the N-word, and loved “darky jokes” and minstrel shows? Neither did I, but Prof. Patton provides links to multiple sources that purport to substantiate these claims.

The assertion that Honest Abe thought blacks were inferior comes from Chapter 1 of “Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream,” by Lerone Bennett, Jr. (which also conveniently contains his use of the N-word):

Here is a fourth-hand quote to prove the point:

According to eyewitness Henry Villard, President-elect Abraham Lincoln “told the story of the Kentucky Justice of the Peace whose first case was a criminal prosecution for the abuse of slaves. Unable to find any precedent, he exclaimed angrily: `I will be damned if I don’t feel almost sorry for being elected when the niggers is the first thing I have to attend to'” (29).

Make that fifth-hand. The quote appears to have been picked up from another obscure book published in 2002 by William K. Klingman: “Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, 1861-1865.”

In any case, if we accept the anecdote on Patton’s terms, it wasn’t Lincoln that was using the N-word; it was someone he was quoting who used it.

There is more — much more — in the same vein, and not just from Lincoln. Patton also quotes Martin Luther King:

The thing wrong with America is white racism.… It’s time for America to have an intensified study on what’s wrong with white folks.

She doesn’t provide a link, but I’ll take it on faith that the civil rights leader said this. But what of it? It sounds like the sort of over-generalization a man as distinguished as King might have uttered in a moment of exasperation, but it hardly represents the main body of his writings or thoughts on equality.

At any rate, the “scholarly” portion of her article gives way to gives way to straight-up grievance mongering. Patton touches on all the usual black demons: “mass incarceration, employment discrimination, militarized policing, the school-to-prison pipeline, divestment in communities of color, political disenfranchisement, displacement of poor and working-class people of color from gentrifying cities.” She even saves space to lash out at the media for daring to criticize Black Lives Matter for for alienating liberals with its “violent tone.”

Ultimately, the chief problem with all this “it’s-you-not-me” teeth gnashing is that it lacks context. A portion of a letter that Lincoln sent to Horace Greeley in 1862 is often cited by militant blacks as proof that the president was at best indifferent to black suffering. Somehow Patton overlooked this gem, or it wasn’t incendiary enough for her purposes, but it serves to illustrate my point:

If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.

When Lincoln wrote these words, the country was in the midst of one of the bloodiest wars ever fought on the planet. Lincoln’s self-described goal, articulated earlier in this letter, was to “save the Union … the shortest way under the Constitution.” Would that our president today shared that ambition!

With all that’s changed since Lincoln’s and even King’s time — the passage of laws that benefit and in cases give preferential treatment to minorities — a president who was committed first and foremost to the betterment of his nation might have inspired conditions that obviated the perceived need for articles like Patton’s.

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles is a freelance writer.


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