Dealing with my pancreatic cancer has given me an opportunity to spend a lot of time with Atlanta’s medical health system. It has been a revelation. The medical care I have received is far superior to anything you might have heard about from the Democratic talking points.

Contributing to my care have been the vast numbers of high quality African American professionals and semi-professionals. They have been knowledgeable, kind and intelligent. They, as well as all my caregivers, deserve my praise.

Let me tell you a story to put this into perspective. It’s a story I have told in my memoir, “Too Lazy to Chew: A Memoir of Discovery.” It’s a story that comes from when I worked in the New York City Department of Welfare back in the 1960s.

My fellow caseworkers and I took a dim view of how our mostly black clients were being treated by the system. We believed that the powers that were did not really care about the welfare of these poor people. Administration seemed to be all words and no action.

But then, the NYC Department of Welfare did something unexpected. They came up with a new policy that we all cheered. We thought that they were finally doing something to benefit our clients.

The plan was this: They were going to find clients who had not finished high school, who were mostly single mothers, and help them get a GED. And then those who succeeded were going to be provided with the resources to get a college degree. After this, those who succeeded would be hired by the Welfare Department. They would become case assistants and finally earn a living wage. We believed that this would finally facilitate meaningful upward mobility for these poor women.

But then came the shock. Our current social work assistants were appalled. Indeed, they were furious. This made no sense to us. Case workers — us white case workers. How could they be opposed to giving meaningful help?

Then came the answer. As our current assistants explained, they were the peers of the women now being helped. But they had made different life choices. They did not drop out of high school because they became single mothers. They got jobs and were still working at them.

So where was the fairness, they asked. Where were their college degrees? They were the responsible ones and now the irresponsible ones were going to be their bosses. Where was the fairness?

This is where we are today with respect to responsible African Americans. We are giving them no credit. It’s as if they do not exist. Today we speak about “race relations.” The focus is on the grifters, the revolutionaries, the layabouts. The ones who scream the loudest about being cheated are taken at face value. Many assume they are the “real” African Americans, but they are not.

The real African Americans are the ones I met in the medical health system. The real African Americans are the engineers, the accountants and the social workers who make our system work. They are the real heroes.

Too often, it is assumed that African Americans do not have the ability to keep up with other Americans. This is absurd. Most African Americans are decent, hardworking people who deserve a thank you. God bless them.

One of the lessons we should have learned a long time ago is that the more you reward something, the more you get of it. The more you reward sloth and anger, the more you get of it.

So, let’s start rewarding the good guys. Let’s start putting the focus on the people who have been helping me and helping you. If I can do a little bit to highlight their value, it will please me to no end.

Let me add an addendum. We have also been hearing about how terrible white people are. With all the accusations of racism, we would suppose that every white person who is not a radical socialist must be a white supremacist. Nonsense, more nonsense.

Ordinary white Americans have been called irredeemable. It’s as if they have made no progress in accepting black Americans. Presumably they are as racist as their ancestors were 100 years ago.

But let me explain. If whites are truly irredeemable, race progress is impossible. That’s what irredeemable means — it cannot be fixed.

So, if whites can’t be fixed, racism can’t be fixed. We are doomed to be racists forever, so why try to fix things? It’s a waste of time. Do you think this is true? I don’t. So let’s cut out the absurdities. There is work to do in making America what it should be.

Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus of sociology at Kennesaw State University.


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