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The Black Pathology Biz | The Nation

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The Black Pathology Biz

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This article originally appeared in the November 20, 1989 issue.

About the Author

Ishmael Reed
Ishmael Reed is the publisher of Konch. His The Complete Muhammad Ali will come out next spring.

Also by the Author

Do white pundits, reporters and TV producers have a no-snitch policy on exposing crises in the white community?

Black pathology is big business. Two-thirds of teenage mothers are white, two-thirds of welfare recipients are white and white youth commit most of the crime in this country. According to a recent survey, reported by the Oakland Tribune, the typical crack addict is a middle-class white male in his 40s. Michele Norris of a has cited a study that dis- covered "no significant difference in the rate of drug use during pregnancy among women in the public clinics that serve a largely indigent population and those visiting private doctors who cater to upper-income patients." Yet in the popular imagination blacks are blamed for all these activities, in the manner that the Jews took the rap for the Black Plague, even in countries with little or no Jewish population.

Now that network news shows have become "profit centers," news producers have found a lucrative market in exhibiting black pathology, while coverage of pathologies such as drug addiction, child abuse, spousal battering and crime among whites and their "model minorities" is negligible. According to the news shows, you'd think that two black gangs, the Crips and the Bloods, are both the cause and the result of the nation's drug problem, even though this country was high long before these children were born.

When it comes to singling out blacks as the cause of America's social problems, NBC and CNN are the worst offenders. (The owner of CNN, Ted Turner, once proposed that unemployed black males be hired to carry nuclear warheads on their backs; when pressed he said that he was only kidding.)

Let's look at just one month: October of last year. General Electric's NBC Nightly News ran stones on child abuse, drug trafficking and cocaine pregnancy. Blacks were the actors in all these news shows, yet the August 30, 1988, front page of The New York Times reported that there is as much cocaine pregnancy in the suburbs as in the inner city. That same October, it was revealed on CNN's business program, Moneyline, that U.S. bankers have laundered $100 billion in drug money, $90 billion of which ends up overseas, contributing to the trillion dollars in debt owed by the United States, mugging millions of Americans of jobs and endangering the economic stability of the country.

Also in October, CNN did a series called "Crime in America." According to this series, whites don't commit crimes. They're either victims or on the side of the law--the line promoted by The New York Times, a black pathology supermarket that regularly blames crack use, crime, welfare and illegitimacy on black people and whose journalists and columnists still use the term "black underclass" even though studies, including Blacks and American Society, by the National Research Council, and The Persistence of Urban Poverty and its Demographic and Behavioral Correlates, by Terry K. Adams and Greg J. Duncan, have been unable to locate this underclass. Its neoconservative house organ, The New York Times Magazine, printed in its February 26 issue a puff piece about the ex-editors of the anti-Semitic, anti-black Dartmouth Review.

Earlier last year, on August 20, CNN aired a special about drug-crazed Los Angeles street gangs. It proposed that gang activities were inspired by rap music. If rap music is forcing people to sell drugs, then how does one explain the participation in this industry of a Gregorian chant-loving ex-Vatican diplomat, the Rev. Lorenzo Zorza?

How convenient it is to blame everything on a scapegoat, in this case black youth, who, according to public superstitions, are responsible for all the crime in this country. Yet Gerry Spence, citing a Bureau of National Affairs estimate, writes in his book With Justice for None: Destroying an American Myth, that "the cost of corporate crime in America is over ten times greater than the combined larcenies, robberies, burglaries and auto-thefts committed by individuals. One in five of America's large corporations has been convicted of at least one major crime or has paid civil penalties for serious misbehavior. One way the Crips and the Bloods can improve their image is to do what the big crooks do, buy advertising on TV news shows so that their crimes will rarely be reported." The only difference between white pathology and black pathology is that white pathology is underreported.

By putting out the lie that U.S. crime is black, the networks contributed millions of dollars in free advertising to Lee Atwater's most recent racist political campaign.

Presenting the fact that pathologies are widespread in American society and that American society itself might be pathological would be like showing films about lung cancer to the millions addicted to cigarette smoking. To portray America as a pathological society would interrupt the country's cozy fetal sleep, which requires that the shrill half-wits it elects to office run the sort of campaign that former Confederate officers ran in the 1880s: They threatened whites with a black rapist in every bedroom, an image that's been commercialized by some millionaire feminists in novels and movies for the last decade, proving that the black pathology industry is an equal opportunity gold mine.

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