Dick Lamm, a former governor of Colorado, recently said that blacks and Hispanics are more victims of their own culture than of a discrimination that undeniably exists. You would have thought he called for a second Holocaust, considering the reaction his remarks elicited.
The head of a Latino group called him “a hard core racist.” Gary Hart, a former senator and presidential candidate, is quoted as going nearly as far, saying the fellow Democrat’s statements appeared to “condone sophisticated kinds of … racial characterization.” A state legislator accused Lamm of “demonizing.”
The leader of a Denver ministers group called the remarks “appalling,” and the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League said they could lead to “greater prejudice rather than to greater understanding.”
A Denver official told a newspaper he was outraged that “someone would be so open with a sense of bigotry and extremism.” Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., told another paper Lamm’s words “belittle” Hispanics and blacks.
One or two people have piped up in Lamm’s defense, but in the face of the bombardment that has greeted a Vail speech based on a book he wrote, the main thingLamm has going for him is more important than a few voices of support or the narrow-minded, inquisitorial, anti-intellectual, ad hominem, speech-squelching, politically correct blather he has encountered.
The main thing he has going for him is an intellectual integrity that is willing to look social reality in the face and reach some obvious conclusions.
It is simply true, as Lamm points out, that many Asians and Jews are taught from the get-go to study hard, that in fact they do, and that their academic accomplishments mirror this childhood instruction.
It is also true that blacks and Hispanics have high rates of dropping out of high school and low rates of graduating from college. Isn’t it reasonable to conclude — as Lamm does — that one explanation is that large numbers of them did not grow up in the same culture of learning as Jewish and Asian children?
The point is not that all people in any given group will have the same set of values, but that you can make generalizations that help explain inescapable statistical facts about segments of American society.
The point is that, if you talk about these issues openly, you may be able to change some of what is emphasized in the raising of children and afford them opportunities.
Nothing in this thesis alleges an inferiority or superiority in any group, insists that factors such as discrimination cannot be at play or suggests the groups faring poorly should be unfaithful to enriching and even ennobling ancestral traditions.
The idea is merely that a variety of behavior, traits and attitudes acquired from family and community can have an enormous impact. Deny this, and you deny a mighty part of what both the social sciences and common sense tell us. You deny something as plain as the nose on your face, and you do something worse. You get in the way of change that could make the lives of millions of people far better.
Examiner columnist Jay Ambrose is a former editor of two daily newspapers. He may be reached at SpeaktoJay@aol.com