The Southern Tradition and the Black Experience

I am, to say the least, honored to receive your Richard Weaver Award and to be invited to share some thoughts with you tonight. Richard Weaver observed, in Ideas Have Consequences: "There is ground for declaring that modern man has become a moral idiot. . . . For four centuries every man has been not only his own priest but his own professor of ethics, and the consequence is an anarchy which threatens even that minimum of consensus of value necessary to the political state." Refusing to despair, Dr. Weaver fashioned his book as a weapon in a protracted war for spiritual renewal. Yet, reflecting on the ravages of what he called the "hysterical optimism" of modern man, he added, "Whether man any longer wants to live in society at all or is willing to accept an animal existence is a question that must be raised in all seriousness." With those words in mind, permit me some reflections on the deepening racial crisis in America and the constructive insights that may be brought to bear by the Southern conservative tradition for which Dr. Weaver spoke.

About 50 percent of black teenagers do not attend school, and the black unemployment rate runs several times higher than that for whites. Plausible analyses project a substantial majority of black males dead, on drugs, or in jail by the age of 25. Blacks may be pardoned for hyperbole in speaking of creeping genocide, for they are getting too close to the truth...

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