The PJ Tatler

When 'Speaking Truth to Power' Actually Means Something

“Speaking truth to power” is a phrase usually reserved for liberals who supposedly risk something by telling the white male establishment what it doesn’t want to hear. The reality, of course, is a little different. More often than not, the speaker of truth to power knows full well that they will not suffer for their criticism and will almost certainly reap vast rewards from their liberal brethren for their faux “courage.”

What about speaking truth to power to liberals? It is far more certain that a liberal who strays from orthodoxy is treated with savage contempt by the left and would suffer both professional harm and personal ostracism.

That’s what makes this op-ed in the Los Angeles Times remarkable. David Lehrer and Joe R. Hicks take on the civil rights establishment in a way they are probably not used to. And in so doing, shine a spotlight on why race hustlers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton do black people in America no good:

What isn’t reasonable or appropriate is the hysterical response of some civil rights leaders and advocates who have peddled a dishonest and hyperbolic analysis of the tragedy. Unfortunately, their message has been repeated ad nauseam and has become the settled wisdom for some: Young black males are at physical risk in this country, and it is the bigotry of whites that has put a target on their backs.

Jesse Jackson said last year that blacks were “under attack.… Targeting, arresting, convicting blacks and ultimately killing us is big business.” Last week he said, “A wave of nameless fear is gripping our country.” The musings of Martin Luther King III and the Rev. Al Sharpton echoing the same theme — America is a dangerous place for young black males — have been widely reported. Benjamin Jealous of the NAACP warned that black youth be advised on how to dress and talk, and talked of how hard it is to tell them to be “timid about asserting” their freedom. Tavis Smiley opined that the verdict was “just another piece of evidence of the incontrovertible contempt that this nation often shows and displays for black men.”

We received a newsletter from an African American civil rights lawyer who wrote about walking into a convenience store last Saturday night: “Wow. All these people have heard the verdict. Do they now think that I am fair game? Will someone hurt me now that they know that Zimmerman walked?”

What is so insidious about this message of victimhood and division is its dishonesty. Despite the tragic death of Martin under circumstances that no one will ever know the true nature of, there is no “big business” of killing blacks in America. There is no wave of bigotry directed at blacks. All this talk is demagogic posturing, and it’s dangerous. Young people will absorb this message and view the “other” with suspicion and fear.

Calling out civil rights leaders for exaggeration and hyperbole? Perish the thought. And stoking the fires of racial tension, as the authors point out, is big business for some:

It is clear that the Sharptons and Jacksons have a vested interest in keeping tension alive. Their relevance, audiences and fundraising are contingent on there being a perception that racial barriers remain, that fears persist and that their role as firemen is needed. The biggest threats to their continued viability is tolerance and an acknowledgment that inter-group relations are improving, that there is no war on black youth and that the country that elected Barack Obama to the presidency twice isn’t demonizing kids who look like the first family.

We would all do well to spend our energies on issues that are real and the implications of the tragic Trayvon Martin death that make sense.

One might expect such strong words from conservatives, not the former regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (Dreher) or former Executive Director of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission (Hicks). But at bottom, civil rights is not about left or right, or even black and white. Civil rights is about America and making the words in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution mean the same for all Americans. When the authors point out that race hustlers like Jackson and Sharpton actually damage the cause they purport to fight for, they are speaking as true civil rights advocates who have an interest in seeking accommodation between the races, not ratcheting up tension for fame and profit.

It’s refreshing to witness real “speaking truth to power.”