Individualism in the Harlem Barbershop

For a fascinating social psychological study, I suggest you view the following video on You Tube: “Guy Brings His White Girl to Barbershop in Harlem.”

To summarize, an ABC news team staged an incident where a black hairdresser (played by an actress) in an all-black barbershop in Harlem began to criticize her customer for bringing a white girlfriend into the shop with him.

The hairdresser’s basic premise was the victim mentality. About white people she said, “They’re ruining the black family.”

She also asked her customer, “You couldn’t find a strong black woman for [yourself]?” and commented, “I hope you all don’t plan on having any children.”

If racism is really a form of collectivism (group identity over individual identity), then this mentality is certainly a good indication of racism.

Most of the customers in the busy shop did not respond verbally. However, when interviewed later (after the nature of the set-up was revealed), all of them indicated they did not agree with the hairdresser at all, and in fact where horrified by her comments.

Several people did speak up, even before learning it was an act. They largely argued from the individualist premise. One fellow customer shot back that the customer’s girlfriend is not a white woman, but simply a woman.

Right there, you have the essence of the individualist point-of-view over the collectivist one. Without collectivism, no racism is possible.

The most revealing moment of the video came when the hairdresser stated, “It’s the way my mother taught me.” Another customer retorted, “And not everything your mother taught you have you abided by.”


Reason, facts and logic over tradition, emotion or group conformity. There you have the essential ingredient for fighting racism or any other form of collectivism: Objective truth.

If this video is any indication, the victim mentality and collectivism are not doing so well in the black population; and individualism still has a chance to reign supreme.

But it’s not what we’re seeing politically. Blacks, in overwhelmingly huge numbers, support the Democratic Party (not just Obama). The Democratic Party is the unapologetic mouthpiece for collectivism: Racial quotas; collectivized health care; wealth redistribution; public ownership of the mortgage and banking industry via federal agencies.

The Republican Party has plenty of collectivist trends running through it, as well. But appeals to individualism by Republicans never seem to resonate with black voters. Perhaps if Republican leaders championed the cause of the individual in a principled way, instead of constantly compromising away their positions on taxes, the budget and Obamacare, they’d make some inroads with the black population.

The attitude of the black customers in this video stands in stark contrast to what passes for civil rights leadership. Civil rights leaders (Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, etc.) play up the victim mentality. They’re not overtly anti-white like the fictitious black hairdresser in this video. But they condone all sorts of attitudes and policies that imply the victim-oriented, collectivist view.

For example, die-hard supporters of Obama (white and black) are quick to label any opposition to Obama’s policies “racist.” You might ask, “What does racism have to do with whether health care should be a free market, or socialized by the government? Or whether government should be limited to protecting us from criminals, or redistributing wealth and property in the name of fairness?” No answer is given, other than, in essence, “It’s time the black people have a shot, and you shouldn’t criticize Obama.”

This differs little from saying, “By not supporting Obama, you’re ruining the black family.”

This is collectivism in favor of black people, which is just as erroneous as collectivism in favor of white people or any other demographic or racial group.

The fascinating thing, if this video is any guide? Most black people don’t buy the collectivist and anti-individualist attitudes so prevalent among our political and intellectual leaders.

So why do they keep endorsing and voting for such attitudes in the ballot box?

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