Hi, I’m David Brooks. Again. Like the rest of you, I too am deeply disturbed by the fact that black people keep rioting. I sometimes find myself almost wanting to weep with admiration when they protest peacefully, but now it seems that every time I open a bottle of overpriced wine at one of my social gatherings, the topic immediately turns once more to ‘The Negro Problem’. No matter how long I let the wine breathe, it always leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Of course, my liberal friends tell me that what the poor need is more money, but America has been incredibly generous to these people, and, as always, they have not performed well for us. Indeed, we’ve given them the equivalent of $14,000 a year, and yet they continue to squander their allowance.
It’s true that we don’t give them the money directly. And, to be fair, a large amount of that money is eaten up by Medicaid. But I am not persuaded. After all, I don’t directly have the cash value of my stocks, but having them nonetheless provides a great cushion to my rich sense of self.
Recently at one of my soirees, a self-avowed communist pointed out that America, unlike nearly every other OECD country, except Turkey and my beloved Israel, actually spends more on its wealthy students than its poor. As she spoke, her male companion sipped my wine and complained generally about its notes of bourgeois self-satisfaction and hints of class antagonism. Done with her own diatribe, he continued on about how I’m missing the bigger picture—within OECD countries, the U.S. is near the bottom in terms of spending on social benefits, but it’s at the top in terms of inequality. He then complained about how the rich spend more on their kids’ education than any other economic class does, and how poor people with college degrees do about as well as rich high school dropouts. They both then began yammering about exploitation, alienation, capitalism, racism, and so on, so I ignored them.
You see, the real problem here is that poor people have a failed moral ecology. The Freddie Gray’s of the world are more likely to go to jail than the ballet. What they need are tutus, not handouts. Sure, jobs are all well and good, and there may be some logic in the notion that providing a fair chance at an equal education and a decent job might do something to reduce the incredibly high unemployment rate among African Americans, which could also have a negligible effect on other issues, such as seeing a point in going to school in the first place. But in the end, we don’t have a jobs or an education problem: we have a morality problem. These people are systematically corrupted. According to David Simon, whose brilliant show, “The Wire,” provides white people with all they really need to know about race in America, black people have even started to say incredibly indecent words to the very police who are murdering them. One fears to imagine just how far they can sink.
So what should we do? I’ve thought a lot about this in the last couple of hours, and I am at a loss. Unfortunately, nobody else seems to know either. Aside from W. E. B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin, Franz Fanon, Angela Davis, Bell Hooks, Robin Blackburn, Cornel West, Michelle Alexander, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and a whole host of other thinkers, academics, and activists who have been raging on about this issue for the last few hundred years, it seems that we don’t have a single person who can show us how to begin to tackle these intractable issues. Hopefully, that person will show up at my next dinner party.