To the Editor:
In his very fine article, “The Question of Black Leadership” [January], Arch Puddington asks why black leaders like Benjamin Hooks of the NAACP and Mayor David Dinkins of New York City do not speak out against the absurdities of Marion Barry, Louis Farrakhan, and Sonny Carson. The answer to his question is that black American culture has been tribalized.
Tribalism is totalitarian, in that the tribe is everything and the individual nothing outside the tribe. Penalties for going against the tribe can be severe. Shelby Steele describes this phenomenon very well in his book, The Content of Our Character. Steele grew up believing in the middle-class values of work, deferred gratification, and individual achievement. During the 1960′s, however, under the influence of the Black Power movement, he found himself becoming tribalized, feeling that “blackness,” in and of itself, was much more important than individual achievement. The encouragement given by the white Left to this nonsense seems to me to have been a crime of the first order.
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