“In 1965 the Asians were discriminated against as least as badly as blacks. That was reflected in the word ‘colored.’ The racism against what even Eleanor Roosevelt called the yellow races was at least as bad. So where are the editorials that say racism doomed the Asian Americans. They didn’t feel sorry for themselves, but worked doubly hard.”
This is just a taste of the comment written by Jerry Hough, a Duke Professor on the New York Times article, "How Racism Doomed Baltimore." He goes on:
“I am a professor at Duke University. Every Asian student has a very simple old American first name that symbolizes their desire for integration. Virtually every black has a strange new name that symbolizes their lack of desire for integration.”
Simply dismissing Hough’s comments as “ignorant” and “racist”—which they are, misses the bigger point, the idea that there is a model minority, and black Americans are not it.
When the pushback against his comments began, Hough being an 80-year-old privileged white male with several degrees from prestigious schools like Harvard, he doubled down.
“The issue is whether my comments were largely accurate. In writing me, no one has said I was wrong, just racist. The question is whether I was right or what the nuanced story is since anything in a paragraph is too simple,” he wrote in an email to several media outlets.
Since Hough apparently hasn’t heard this from his dissenters yet, let me be the first: Professor Hough you are DEAD WRONG.
First of all, comparing races was his first mistake. There is no other racial group except maybe Native Americans who were systematically oppressed, terrorized and displaced by the white patriarch more than black Americans.
It’s as if he’s taken a magic wand and wiped this part of America’s disturbing history clean and simply shrugged at the residual effects of the slave industrial complex.
In his book "Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877", historian Eric Foner argued, "What remains certain is that Reconstruction failed, and that for blacks its failure was a disaster whose magnitude cannot be obscured by the genuine accomplishments that did endure."
Two hundred years of dehumanizing slavery followed by a brief and failed attempt at reconstruction after the Civil War, which left freed blacks baring a second-class status in much of the south, if not worse—is hardly comparable to any other minority group’s American experience.
Not sure how Hough thought that highlighting the year 1965—the one year that as he said, “the Asians were discriminated against as least as badly as blacks”—compares to centuries of oppression.
It’s as if he’s taken a magic wand and wiped this part of America’s disturbing history clean and simply shrugged at the residual effects of the slave industrial complex—jumping to the Civil Rights Act of 1965, you know which made everything in America perfect.
Hough seems to forget that once southern white Democrats regained power following Reconstruction they instituted a series of state sanctioned laws also known as Jim Crow, that would make the terrorizing, intimidation and brutalization of black Americans legal until 1965, when the Civil Rights Act would ban Jim Crow segregation, and finally protect the rights of black Americans to exercise their right to vote and access full citizenship.
So, when taking all of the facts of our shared history into account, its been only 50 short years in which black Americans have been recognized under the law as full fledged citizens of a nation that was built off of their blood, sweat and tears. It would then be only 43 years since the signing of the Civil Rights Act that a black man would be elected to the highest office in the land.
Aside from President Obama’s successful elections, black Americans are sitting everywhere from C-Suites to Capitol Hill and all the places in between. Given the consistent barriers from the achievement gap, to the school-to-prison pipeline, to food deserts and the overt criminalization of blackness, I would say that our ability to not only survive but also thrive in the face of relentless racial discrimination doesn’t only make blacks a model of persistence and strong character; but also makes us exceptional. Exceptional not in comparison to any other race but exceptional despite the systems that have been designed to ensure our inferiority and peril.
You see, Professor Hough, it isn’t non-Anglo names that hold black Americans back—but antiquated thinking that tries desperately to re-write history. We aren’t the ones that stand in the way of our “integration.”
No, it was the two hundred years of slavery, followed by another 75 years of Jim Crow, employment discrimination, the dismantling of the very law that gave us access to the American Dream and now the use of our bodies as target practice by police that works to halt “integration”—not our “strange names.”