Cultural comparisons reflect realism, not racism

(John Andrews in the Denver Post, Aug. 6) Thought police on patrol: it’s not a pretty sight. To me it’s un-American. And when the insult to freedom is compounded by injury to opportunity, because leaders won’t face facts, it’s downright tragic. Sadly, that’s where things stand right now in the kangaroo court case of The Status Quo vs. Richard Lamm. The former Democratic governor is guilty of “hate” and “racial profiling” according to Sen. Ken Salazar and ex-Sen. Gary Hart. He’s condemned by black legislator Terrance Carroll for “demonizing” and by Hispanic clergy leader Butch Montoya for “extremism.”

Republican state chairman Bob Martinez charges Dick Lamm with making “bigoted remarks… inciting fear and suspicion and distrust.” Bruce DeBoskey of the Anti-Defamation League says Lamm’s comments will “lead to greater prejudice.” “Hard-core racist,” says Latino activist Veronica Barela. Offensive to Dr. King’s memory, adds black pastor Paul Burleson. Slaps America in the face, summarizes Sen. Salazar.

So there’s your jury verdict; sentencing is next. Banishment to Siberia awaits the outspoken politician-turned-professor unless he apologizes and pays restitution. Even then, the implacable establishment may order branding. TH for “too honest,” seared on the blasphemer’s cheek, will deter potential signers of his next petition.

What impermissible idea has Dick Lamm voiced to arouse such outrage? In a January book and a July speech, he dared suggest that Americans of African or Mexican descent should first look inward at their own habits and attitudes, rather than outward at “racism and discrimination [which] clearly still exist,” to account for the lagging educational and economic performance in those communities. Horrors.

A remedial dose of “Japanese or Jewish values, respect for learning and ambition” could do a lot to help discouraged residents of our ghettos and barrios help themselves, Lamm writes in Two Wands, One Nation. Citing statistics (difficult to dismiss as bigotry), he goes on:

“When two-thirds of black births are out-of-wedlock births, it is hard to write a happy or prosperous future for black America. When close to 50 percent of Hispanic students don’t graduate from high school, it is hard to see Hispanics following the typical American route to prosperity.” Most of us from whatever ethnicity would call this realism. It’s bizarre to hear Butch Montoya label it extremism.

But remember it was Mr. Montoya who helped orchestrate the protest last spring when Superintendent Michael Bennet closed the low-performing, chronically dysfunctional Manual High School. Bennet argued we owe inner-city children an education that lifts them. Montoya, despite his experience overseeing the police department, seemed less interested in rescuing kids than in demagoguing the ‘hood.

His claque used the same angry rhetoric of victimization and white guilt against DPS that they are using against Dick Lamm. Theirs is a shameful failure of leadership, of adulthood itself. How are young people, brown or black or any color, supposed to learn that character means hearing the message, even when bitter, and not simply shooting the messenger – if so-called adult leaders do the opposite?

The message that tells kids to work harder, study longer, save more, complain less, stop resenting and start achieving, is no hot-fudge sundae in any era. To the teenage sweet-tooth in our spoiled urban culture of multicultural excuse-making, it’s castor oil. Yet the only choices for any of America’s population groups are to swallow it and thrive – or spit it out, sicken and die. There is no third way.

We should thank Dick Lamm for being the unwelcome messenger, the curmudgeon with the tough love. He’s only repeating what nonwhite truth-tellers like entertainer Bill Cosby, economist Thomas Sowell, and former education secretary Lauro Cavazos have already said: Culture matters, and unlike race, culture can be chosen and changed.

Constructive criticism of comparative cultural outcomes is thus the very opposite of racism. Will the Burlesons and the Barelas of inner-city Denver bravely champion that choice, that change? Or will they stay trapped in the blame game? Our future together as Americans, not just for this or that race but for all of us, depends on the answer. ------------------------------- For further reading: Here is Dick Lamm's own 8/2 statement in the Post, after the controversy was already boiling. Here are a critical Jim Spencer column from the preceding day, and a Mike Rosen piece in Lamm's defense.