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Former VP Cheney Staffer Says There Is No Such Thing as a Singular “Black Community” in America

Is there such a thing as “the black community” in America? You hear it all the time in news reports, such as those covering the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and from politicians and activists alike. However, is it is just a polite-sound way to say “a group of black people” or does it speak to a genuine community of disenfranchised Americans? According to Ron Christie, himself a black man and former domestic policy advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney, it most certainly doesn’t.

In a column for The Daily Beast, Christie says that the “concept of a ‘black community’ or ‘black America’ led by figures like Al Sharpton is counterproductive and, at best, outdated.” He says that we as an American community should focus more on “what unites us.” Arguably any advice of this sort from a member of Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff is seen, at best, as suspect. However, in many of his points Christie is right.

“We will never live up to our national motto of E Pluribus Unum,” he writes, “until we stop hyphenating Americans and seeking to classify our fellow citizens based on race, ethnicity, and gender.” Christie cites activists – called “racial agitators” on Fox News – like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

However, Jackson and Sharpton aren’t even in the same leagues. Jackson has traveled the world freeing political prisoners and Sharpton has traveled to sites of terrible tragedies only to insert his name or narrative into a situation after-the-fact. When President Obama was elected, Jackson – huddled in a crowd like everyone else – quietly wept, while Sharpton took a media victory lap saying, “Tonight we gloat …” (emphasis mine).

Yet, Christie is incorrect when he says that that by calling attention to racial issues we are only furthering the divide between white- and black-Americans. Instead, it’s how we talk about racism that does that.

So while there isn’t some monolithic “black community” in this country, there is, sadly, a “black America,” where people of color are treated differently. They are more likely to be arrested, more likely with police force than white arrestees. Black children are more likely to live in poverty. They are also more likely to live in single-parent homes, to which the reaction is often one of judgment about their sense of family values.

Honestly, no one person – neither Christie or Sharpton – knows how to “fix” this, since much of it deals with what people believe in their hearts, against reason or logic. Things like patience, compassion, and education (with a sense of the other person’s state-of-mind) are our only weapons of consequence to combat the ignorance that makes us a hyphenated people.


Photo (2011) by Timothy Krause via Flickr

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.