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Surprise: ‘Segregation’ Does Not Undermine African American Well-Being

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Every now and then I run across a series of studies that makes me wonder if white progressives are among the most narcissistic cohort of professionals in America. There seems to be this pervasive myth that simply being around white people adds value to the flourishing of blacks in America. This myth often extends to interpreting data along axes that are nothing less than insane. For example, it is often (mis)believed that when black students are in schools that are predominantly black they do not perform as well because of the “segregation.” Though it has been demonstrated that there is no such correlation, many white progressives seem to believe that the presence of white people is somehow a cosmic advantage for blacks. That is, blacks need to be around white people so that their lives will improve.

Much of this narcissistic progressivism comes from a pervasive misunderstanding of what drove the Civil Rights movement. Many progressives seem to believe that in the 1950s and 1960s blacks were fighting to be around white people in order to experience “the good life.” This is far from the truth. In fact, the Civil Rights movement was a fight for equal treatment under the same laws without deference given to whites. It was a fight to end discrimination so that all Americans, regardless of race, could exercise the exact same freedoms. Perhaps this may explain why there seems to be a sense of surprise and shock in a Huffington Post blog entry explaining that blacks who were attending segregated schools have better overall health and well-being than those in integrated settings:

The long view of racial segregation in America paints a relatively gloomy picture of the impact social exclusion has had on black health. A new study by researchers at the University Of Iowa tells a different story, indicating that baby boomers who attended segregated schools during first to twelfth grade may actually have better physical performance and a great sense of control over various aspects of their lives down the road than those who went to desegregated schools.

Much of the surprise results from the limitations of a form of racial reasoning that conflates and confuses race with all sorts of categories like class, geography, social mores, religious involvement, marriage, parenting norms, moral choices, individual preferences, and so on. Race is not nearly as helpful of a category as progressives want us to believe in our efforts to evaluate what constitutes flourishing. In a country where blacks are free to form stable families, able to participate in the marketplace, and held to the same rules and standards as everyone else, the historical evidence suggests that their flourishing is simply unrelated to whether or not their next-door neighbors or children’s classmates are white.

Anthony Bradley Anthony Bradley, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics in the Public Service Program at The King's College in New York City and serves as a Research Fellow at the Acton Institute. Dr. Bradley lectures at colleges, universities, business organizations, conferences, and churches throughout the U.S. and abroad. His books include: Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America (2010),  Black and Tired: Essays on Race, Politics, Culture, and International Development (2011),  The Political Economy of Liberation: Thomas Sowell and James Cone of the Black Experience (2012), Keep Your Head Up: America's New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation (2012), Aliens in the Promised Land:  Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions (forthcoming, 2013). Dr. Bradley's writings on religious and cultural issues have been published in a variety of journals, including: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Detroit News, and World Magazine. Dr. Bradley is called upon by members of the broadcast media for comment on current issues and has appeared C-SPAN, NPR, CNN/Headline News, and Fox News, among others. He studies and writes on issues of race in America, hip hop, youth culture, issues among African Americans, the American family, welfare, education, and modern slavery. From 2005-2009, Dr. Bradley was Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO where he also directed the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute.   Dr. Bradley holds Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from Clemson University, a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Westminster Theological Seminary.  Dr. Bradley also holds an M.A. in Ethics and Society at Fordham University.

Comments

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  • Anthony,

    Where did you get the data that supports the statement below?

    Many progressives seem to believe that in the 1950s and 1960s blacks were fighting to be around white people in order to experience “the good life.”

    The study, which you really didn’t reference, refers to the physical performance and a greater sense of control. But if you were to approach this subject scientifically, you would perform a review of literature, much of it finding fault with segregated educational facilities, and then you would try to reconcile the 1 study from the University of Iowa with the other literature and note the scope and conditions of each study. A partial list of studies can be found here. But instead, you use this one study to dive off a high dive into your pool of explanations and accusations. The chief accusation being that progressives are narcissists.

    We should note the others you have associated the narcissism label with. To the missional church (click the The New Legalism:), millenials who side with those who favor a minimum wage (click the Narcissism And The minimum wage, to be fair, it was millenials were called narcissists but they were working with those feds who favored minimum wage), and the millenials again (click the United Methodists Wearing A Millenial, see the comments on this one). So it is those who are Missional, Millenial, and now progressives who are narcissistic while their friends include mainline denominations and work with those who favor a minimum wage.

    But who is left off the list of narcissists and friends? Those who think that not only are our nation’s founding father’s secular apostles, but they are the only true interpreters of them. And those who think that owners should expect loyalty and hard work from the same people who do not deserve protection afforded by minimum wage standards. And those who think they are the only guardians of the kinds of values and morals that will guarantee America’s success. And those who think that the free-market, which uses success as its only disciplinary tool, guarantees that one can be as selfish as one wants without hurting others. In other words, those who reduce all liberty to individual liberty, that is Conservatives. Somehow, they are immune to narcissism.

    Why is it that you jump on every opportunity to discredit anyone to the left of you? Who are you working for?

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