Letters to the Editor
Readers write about victimology among African-Americans.
Affirmative action does not represent black victimology
Regarding Lawrence Harrison's Aug. 6 Opinion piece, "Could Obama's rise signal the end of black victimology?": Mr. Harrison portrays supporters of affirmative action as minimizing the importance of personal responsibility and character. Every African-American we have met or read or listened to believes strongly that African-Americans' progress depends chiefly on themselves.
Harrison asserts that a magic-wand solution would be to magically infuse the inhabitants of the ghettos and barrios with "Japanese or Jewish values, respect for learning and ambition."
Jewish Americans and Japanese-Americans have had to overcome many obstacles, and still do. However, the obstacles faced by African-American families for hundreds of years have been incomparably greater than the obstacles faced by Jewish-American or Japanese-American families in the same time. Overcoming those obstacles took enormous fortitude.
Case-controlled studies confirm that racism and racial discrimination against African-Americans continues, from youth in trouble with the law to college graduates looking for jobs and housing.
Justice and fairness are compatible with fortitude.
Rosemary and John McGuire
Palo Alto, Calif.
Regarding the recent Opinion piece on the end of "victimology": What we are seeing is nothing more than a natural and inherent "changing of the guard." It might seem to be dramatic because African-American baby boomers are the first to have lived their adult lives as complete and free citizens of the United States (voting rights, equal opportunity by law, etc.)
They are now of age for fruit to have been borne from those equal opportunities. Barack Obama is a positive example, and there are many others. However, most of the remaining civil-rights-era leaders were members of the "Silent Generation," those born between the two World Wars and too young to join the service when World War II started.
Baby boomers were the first to stand on the shoulders of those African-Americans who, like Jesse Jackson, were victimized by the segregated society. They also stood on the shoulders of people of other ethnicities, as well.
To seemingly marginalize all of that real history with "magic wands" or a question such as this article's title is almost suspect motivation. A more effective question might be to ask something such as, "Could the Rev. Jackson simply be reluctant to relinquish the spotlight?"
Regarding the recent Opinion piece on black victimology: I think that Harrison oversimplifies the issue. He minimizes as well the moral responsibility that our country has for helping to correct the effects of our long history of legalized racism and social and economic discrimination.
Victimology is not good for anyone. Perhaps Jesse Jackson and other activists would do more to try to fight against that view if they were less leery of attempts to deny the powerful effects of past and continuing racism.
Rego Park, N.Y.
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