There’s something we need to understand about the phrase “soft bigotry of low expectations.”
Chances are, you have probably heard this phrase over and over again. Conservatives tend to use this phrase when describing the left’s racist tendency to condescend to black Americans and other minorities.
Here’s the truth: There is no such thing as “soft” bigotry.
Bigotry is bigotry, plain and simple. The left’s low expectations of minorities are indicative of a type of racism that is even more damaging than the overt racism exhibited by the likes of David Duke and Richard Spencer. Why? Because most people don’t recognize it as bigotry.
But what does it mean?
The “Soft” Bigotry Of Low Expectations
The phrase was originally coined by Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. It refers to the fact that the left’s approach when it comes to minorities — especially in the black community — is based on the notion that they are unable to achieve success in American society.
They couch this belief in the idea that racism in 21st century America is too much of a burden for black Americans to overcome. This faulty belief has manifested itself in the way many leftists approach issues pertaining to black Americans and other minorities.
Professor Thinks The Notion Of Hard Work Is “Whiteness Ideology”
Academia is one of the primary areas of American society where the bigotry of low expectations presents itself. An article written by Pennsylvania State University-Brandywine professor Angela Putman provides an instructive example.
Campus Reform reported that Professor Putman wrote a piece exploring the concept of “whiteness ideologies.” In the article, she criticized the fact that her students believed in the ideas of “meritocracy” and “hard work.”
When she interviewed students, she discovered that most of them believed that “If I work hard, I can be successful.” They also agreed with the notion that “everyone has an equal opportunity to achieve success.”
According to Professor Putman, the idea that people can accomplish their goals if they are willing to work hard enough is an example of “whiteness ideology.” In her estimation, the belief in personal responsibility is something that is exclusive white Americans.
It is astonishing that so many on the left fail to see how insulting this type of argument is. Putman is arguing that a belief in personal responsibility is not inherent in minorities. After all, only white people can succeed if they work hard, right? Putnam’s conclusion implies that if a black American believes they can succeed despite the effects of racism, they are just buying into the “whiteness ideology.”
The fact is, most blacks believe in the value of hard work just as much as whites. Black Americans all across the political spectrum work hard to raise their families and achieve the quality of life they desire.
While an unacceptably large percentage of blacks live in poverty, the majority of us do not. This is not because we subscribe to “whiteness ideology.” Personal responsibility is not a white concept; it is a human concept.
Making Excuses For Bad Behavior
One of the most pernicious ways the bigotry of low expectations displays itself on the left is when they justify bad behavior on the part of minorities. By writing off misdeeds committed by black Americans, they send the message that they expect that we can’t live up to the standards of other Americans. We have a recent example of this in the incident in which Emanuel Kidega Samson, a black man from Sudan, entered a church in Tennessee and opened fire, killing one of the parishioners.
The Washington Post reported that the shooter left a note in his car indicating that the shooting was revenge for the incident where Dylann Roof — an avowed white supremacist — shot and killed nine members of a historically-black church in 2015. When Roof carried out his heinous act, Americans of all races reacted with outrage. The shooting was in the news cycle for weeks — and it prompted a national conversation about racially-motivated violence.
The news about the potential motivation for Samson’s shooting broke only a few days ago, and it has received little coverage in the news media. The attack did not spark any outrage or national conversation. In a few days, the story will likely be forgotten.
Many people on the left avoid honest discussions on the problems within the black community. They deal with issues like black-on-black crime and poverty by ignoring them altogether or blaming them on racism.
The idea that black people must address our own challenges is anathema to the left, who promote the idea that only government can solve our problems. If there are issues in our culture, they should be explained away, rather than addressed. In so doing, they propagate the notion that we lack the will, intelligence, and competence to overcome our struggles.
Are Low Expectations “Soft” Bigotry?
Gerson was unnecessarily diplomatic when he coined the phrase “soft bigotry of low expectations.” The phrase assumes that those who apply lower expectations to the black community are somehow doing less damage than individuals who openly express their racism.
The reality is that there is no soft bigotry, there is only bigotry.
Assuming that blacks are not able to overcome racism in the 21st century is every bit as racist as Richard Spencer arguing that whites are superior by virtue of their race. The difference is that the bigotry of low expectations is harder to identify because it is concealed behind a facade of political correctness.
Black Americans are not weak or incapable. Our ancestors weathered the atrocity of slavery. As a people, we fought through segregation and Jim Crow. With leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Frederick Douglass, we confronted the entire nation when it refused to honor its core value that all men are created equal.
In the time of Jim Crow, many blacks were successful. They were businessmen, doctors, inventors, and artists. No black American living today will ever experience the level of racial hatred these people endured.
Is there still racism in America? Of course there is. Nevertheless, black people cannot allow anyone to convince us that bigotry is too potent a force for us to conquer. If those who came before us can do it, we have no excuse.
“What is possible for me is possible for you.”