Pat Buchanan: Blacks Have Lost The American Identity They Had During Segregation

Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

During a radio appearance promoting his book, MSNBC analyst Pat Buchanan argued that blacks and whites were more unified during the 1950s than they are today. Buchanan argued that "what we had then, which was a sense of cultural and social one-ness, we were a people, that I think that is what's being lost." Buchanan added that while blacks considered themselves Americans first and foremost during the era of segregation, today they're using "hyphenated terms" like "African-American" to describe themselves.

Buchanan's remark came yesterday on the radio program of Mark Davis. Davis asked Buchanan to expand on his theory that, in Davis' words, "black Americans of 1960 were more woven into the fabric of the America of that time than many of today's black Americans are woven into the America of this time."

Buchanan replied that during the 1950s, blacks and whites "all had a common religion, we all worshiped the same God, we all went to schools where American literature was taught, the English language was our language, we all rooted for the same teams, we read the same newspapers, we listened to the same music. We were a people then. We were all Americans. Now I'm not saying segregation was good. But what I was saying, that did not prevent us from being one people."

Buchanan then said that blacks today have lost the American identity they had in the 1950s:

BUCHANAN: If you'd ask those black folks that are traveling abroad, "Who are you," "I am an American." That was their first identity in my judgment at that time. Clearly they were African-Americans, but we didn't use hyphenated terms in those days. And so I think what we had then, which was a sense of cultural and social one-ness, we were a people, that I think that is what's being lost. Across the divide now, people are calling names, they're not communicating, and I think it's really a tragedy and it could be a disaster for this country.

Buchanan painted a similar picture of the 1940s and 1950s in his 1988 book Right From The Beginning. In his chapter "Then and Now: A Tale of Two Cities," Buchanan wrote of his upbringing in segregated Washington D.C.:

Any resemblance between this cosmopolitan capital and the sleepy Southern city where we grew up is coincidental. Segregation was a way of life in postwar Washington, but, unlike parts of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, which were little slices of Mississippi, Washington never belonged to the "mean South." The only genuine "racist" I ever knew was the father of a grammar-school classmate, a red-faced, black-haired Irishman who kept a rack of rifles and shotguns in his dining room, and talked incessantly of "the niggers." His wife and kids, however, were the nicest of people, polar opposites.

Over the years, I have come to agree with a friend that "racism is an obsessive preoccupation with the subject of race. The racist sees everything in life, education and politics, from the standpoint of race. His viewpoint on everything is pervaded by his obsession." By that definition, racism is as prevalent in black America today as in white America. In the late 1940s and early '50s, however, race was never a preoccupation with us; we rarely thought about it.

There were no politics to polarize us then, to magnify every slight. The "Negroes" of Washington had their public schools, restaurants, bars, movie houses, playgrounds, and churches; and we had ours. Neither community could have been called rich.

We had no right to vote, when I was growing up, no elections. We were governed by three "commissioners," appointed by the President, and governed well. One of them, Walter Tobriner, was my father's good friend; he didn't need a limousine, but drove to work in his own car. The white public schools were run by one appointed commissioner, the black schools by another. And the schools ran well; the best of them were the equal of the Catholic schools.

[...]

In the 1950s, there were no food stamps or Medicaid payments or rent supplements. The relief agencies were the churches. But no one starved; no "homeless" froze to death, and no shake-down artist extorted millions out of the White House by threatening to starve himself to death; and everyone worked. Black teenage unemployment was 9 percent in 1948, today, it runs between 35 and 50 percent.

In 1950, the same bus that was jammed with white-collar workers in their snap-brim hats coming south from Kensington to Chevy Chase Circle, to catch the L-4 downtown, carried the "maids," the black cleaning ladies, back out to Kensington to work all day in the houses the white men had left an hour before. When it snowed, the kids at Blessed Sacrament would gather at the circle and barrage the "Boston Blackie" with snow balls as it rolled by, heading north out the two-lane road that was Connecticut Avenue. The white driver was always more outraged than his passengers, who laughed at the diversion from the day's drudgery provided by the little white boys.

Now the cleaning ladies in the affluent suburbs of Washington are Korean and Mexican and Salvadorean, and tens of thousands of Washington's black women and their children are second- and third-generation welfare clients. Supposedly, they are better off.

Buchanan, who just released his new book Suicide Of A Superpower, has a long history of bigotry and hostility toward minorities.

From the October 18 edition of WPAB's The Mark Davis Show:

DAVIS: There's a statement you made maybe three or four books back that I've quoted so much, so often, always with credit, because it makes people's eyebrows go way up, but they need to pause and understand it, and that is that the African-Americans, the black Americans of pre-Civil Rights Act America -- I mean, yes, it, was a country that had colored water fountains, and nobody is looking to go back to that, but the black Americans of 1960 were more woven into the fabric of the America of that time than many of today's black Americans are woven into the America of this time. What do you make of that?

BUCHANAN: You know, that's -- let me tell you, I grew up in Washington, D.C. I was in high school when Brown vs. The Board Of Education came down and I remember before it came down we had one black player on our football team, a Catholic team, and public high schools wouldn't play us. And we had to go up to Pennsylvania on these back roads and find teams that would play our school.

But you are right. In the 1950s, for example, Washington, D.C., was a segregated town. It wasn't Birmingham, Alabama, but it was segregated, clear and simple. But we all had a common religion, we all worshiped the same god, we all went to schools where American literature was taught, the English language was our language, we all rooted for the same teams, we read the same newspapers, we listened to the same music. We were a people then. We were all Americans.

Now I'm not saying segregation was good. But what I was saying, that did not prevent us from being one people. If you'd ask those black folks that are traveling abroad, "Who are you?" "I am an American." That was their first identity in my judgment at that time. Clearly they were African-Americans, but we didn't use hyphenated terms in those days. And so I think that what we had then, which was a sense of cultural and social one-ness, we were a people, that I think that is what is being lost. Across the divide now, people are calling names, they're not communicating, and I think it's really a tragedy and it could be a disaster for this country.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Race & Ethnicity
Person
Pat Buchanan
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