The Cold Hard Truth

The Cold Hard Truth

By J.L. Chestnut. Jr.

Vol. 12, No. 3, 1990, p. 24

There is a growing army of poor, suffering black souls all over America. They are the “Unreachables.”

They form the core of the crime and welfare problem. They make up the statistics on welfare cheats, crime increases, illegitimate children and the myriad pathologies that a society structured, in part, on racial hate exfoliates.

Totaling up these statistics and their racial substratum, many Southerners and more than a few unreconstructed Northerners are able to impute a covering veil of immorality to all black people. I get sick of hearing it.

But no race, no religion, no ethnic group is inherently bad, nor does any race have a monopoly on fostering social disintegration.

A given set of conditions–urban society, immutable racism, cultural conflict and hopelessness–will develop a pattern of racial hostility that finds expression in the lack of incentive and contempt for the established social order. It afflicts whites, Asians, Hispanics and all others.

In turn, some people turn to crime, get on welfare and even derive a secret joy in “getting back” at society by cheating.

These are the unreachables–the black people who somehow just have not been able to cope with society’s harsh denials of their essential dignity.

The NAACP hasn’t been able to reach these people.

The Urban League hasn’t.

Black politics has done little or nothing.

The churches have failed completely.

The unreachables will flourish and multiply as long as society ruthlessly segregates them in drab inner city public housing, relegates them to no or sporadic employment, and the police are permitted to beat and treat them like animals.

I know you don’t think it happens but it does. It happens every day.

These are the people to whom real estate brokers close their doors and who are confined to filthy, unlivable ghettos. They are the people who can’t find jobs anywhere and when they do are forced to accept jobs as underemployables. In essence, they are the people who just don’t give a damn.

These are the unreachables.

And, unless some of us, or some of our organizations, including our churches, start reaching them soon, they will continue to grow, and grow, and grow, and grow.

The world, in ways, has been good to me as compared to the unreachables. I have also worked hard. But, I must confess I identify completely with the unreachables. I am not impressed by the lucky ones among us.

And, I have no interest in reading George Bush’s Republican lips.

I have read the parched lips and contorted faces of innocent babies addicted to “crack” in the overcrowded, run-down wards of inner-city hospitals.

America would be better served if it read the Bible. Reading George Bush’s lips hardly helps.


J. L. Chestnut is an Alabama trial lawyer and writer.