Honest Examination of Race
One definition given for insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results; it might also be a definition of stupidity. Let’s look at some cities where large percentages of black Americans live under poor conditions.
Experiencing a violent crime rate of 2,137 per 100,000 of the population, Detroit is the nation’s most dangerous city. Rounding out Forbes magazine’s 2012 list of the 10 most dangerous cities are St Louis; Oakland, Calif.; Memphis, Tenn.; Birmingham, Ala.; Atlanta; Baltimore; Stockton, Calif.; Cleveland; and Buffalo, N.Y. The most common characteristic of these predominantly black cities is that for decades, all of them have been run by Democratic and presumably liberal administrations. Some cities — such as Detroit, Buffalo, Newark, N.J., and Philadelphia — haven’t elected a Republican mayor for more than a half-century. What’s more is that in most of these cities, blacks have been mayors, chiefs of police, school superintendents and principals and have dominated city councils.
You might ask, “What’s the point, Williams?” Let’s be clear about it. I’m not stating that there’s a causal relationship between crime, poverty and squalor on the one hand and, on the other, Democratic and black political control over a city. Nor am I saying that blacks ought to vote Republican. What I am saying is that if one is strategizing on how to improve the lives of the poorest black people, he wants to leave off his to-do list election of Democrats and black politicians. Also to be left off the to-do list is a civil rights agenda. Racial discrimination has little to do with major problems confronting black people.
Today 72 percent of black babies are born out of wedlock. Being born and finding out that your mother is 17 years old, that your grandmother is 35 and that you don’t know who or where your father is is not a good start on life. In fact, it’s a near guarantee for school dropout, poverty and crime, but such a start in life has nothing to do with racial discrimination.
Law-abiding poor black people suffer the nation’s highest rates of criminal victimization from assaults and homicide. More than 50 percent of homicide victims are black. Would anyone claim that this victimization is caused by racist groups preying on the black community? In addition to victimization, the level of lawlessness in many black communities has the full effect of a law banning economic growth. That’s because the thugs are equal-opportunity thugs who will rip off a black-owned business just as they’d rip off a white-owned business.
Black education is a disaster, but who runs the violent, disruptive big-city schools, where education is all but impossible? For the most part, it’s not white people. Go to a city such as Detroit and you’ll find that blacks have been superintendents, principals and most of the teachers for years. Most black high-school students, in Detroit and other cities, can’t read, write and compute as well as sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade white students, but is it because of racism? What the elite teach is not only futile but counterproductive. For example, speaking standard English in an English-speaking country is critical for self-improvement. But that’s not the lesson from the nation’s multiculturalists, who call for the celebration of native languages and dialects. Sloppy-minded academics and assorted hustlers have taught that poor English, gangsta rap, men wearing pigtails and thug behavior should not be criticized but become a part of the celebration of diversity.
Black people could benefit from an honest examination of the bill of goods they’ve been sold. Such an examination would not come from black politicians, civil rights leaders or the black and white liberal elite. Those people have benefited politically and financially from keeping black Americans in a constant state of grievance based on alleged racial discrimination. The long-term solution for the problems that many black Americans face begins with an absolute rejection of the self-serving agenda of hustlers and poverty pimps.
Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.