April 4, 2008

Progress and Structure

Race has been a main topic surrounding Barack Obama's campaign, and many people are talking about what his campaign could mean for minorities in this country. Just a few weeks ago, he gave his soon-to-be famous speech which brought race to the forefront of the public discussion. David Brooks writes yet another great article in today's Times, where he talks about the Reverend Martin Luther King and how both King's and Obama's positive messages of hope and stability are very different from the "angry and reckless late 60-style" of activism.

In this article, he mentions some frightening statistics similar to the ones 44's chocolatebutterfly shared with us just a few days ago. Brooks writes:

Progress has been slow. Nearly a third of American high school students don’t
graduate (half in the cities). Seventy percent of African-American kids are born
out of wedlock. Poverty rates in Memphis have scarcely dropped.
It's truly frightening stuff.

Now for those who share the 44's or Thymos (Jaehwan's local group) philosophy, the key stroke of brilliance in this article by Brooks is here:

The key tension in King’s life was over how to push relentlessly for change but
within an existing moral structure. But by the late-60s many felt the social
structure needed to be torn down. The assassin’s bullet set off a conflagration.
Brooks continues further down:

Martin Luther King Jr. at least left behind a model of how to repair the social
fabric. He was scholarly, formal, assertive and meticulously self-controlled in
public. If Barack Obama’s presidential campaign represents anything, it is the
triumph of King’s early-60s style of activism over the angry and reckless
late-60s style. King was in crisis when he was gunned down. But his inspiration
is outlasting his critics.
Brooks is spot on. Structure is key for any healthy society, and without structure, there is nothing but an anarchy in which the strongest members of a society increase their lead over others. Without structure and solid planning, African American culture is doomed to repeat the same patterns of dropping out, having kids out of wedlock, and living in poverty. What is true of some areas of African American culture is also true for Asian Americans, albeit in a slightly different way. The dominant mode of Asian American activism attacks and tears down everything that comes in its way. It's like a rabid pit-bull which kills anything and everyone within its sight, even those who seek to help it. It takes aim at every kind of structure it sees, seeking to assert its voice and power by deconstructing and destroying knowledge of history and the logical discourse that Asian Americans need to raise our communities to a higher level of understanding and empowerment. It criticizes without building.

If we continue along this path, we will always be unhappy. We will continue to hinder our writers and artists, and we will continue the Kingstonian zeitgeist where we all live with suspicion and fear. We will continue complaining about media stereotypes, rather than creating positive media images. We will only reach our potential as a community when we embrace knowledge, history, and the need for some structure within the community.
(Picture from WriteSpirit.)

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