As the life and legacy of Frances Cress Welsing continues to be celebrated and debated, there is no doubt that in the 21st century racism remains an intractable enemy of humanity. In a modern world shaped in the image of Europe and Europeans, no non-White group wants to be, in the language used by Duke University professor and cultural anthropologist, J. Lorand Matory, PhD in “last place.” Ending racism has never been a matter of polite discourse or easy solutions. People will not agree and paths of most resistance will involve fighting with one another. It appears then that the systemic work of racial oppression will continue, unimpeded, until all people of good will determine that it can only end with our collective active participation. Wouldn’t that then be a fitting tribute to an intellectual warrior like Dr. Frances Cress Welsing.
Wax will not be silenced by this fierce deployment of the racism card. But most academics are not so brave. The op-ed’s primary sin was to talk about behavior. The founding idea of contemporary progressivism is that structural and individual racism lies behind socioeconomic inequalities. Discussing bad behavioral choices and maladaptive culture is out of bounds and will be punished mercilessly by slinging at the offender the usual fusillade of “isms” (to be supplemented, post-Charlottesville, with frequent mentions of “white supremacy”). The fact that underclass behaviors are increasingly common among lower-class whites, and not at all limited to poor blacks and Hispanics, might have made it possible to address personal responsibility. That does not appear to be the case.