Sunday, August 4, 2013

Racial Progress and the Welfare State

A few weeks ago, before the trial ended, one of my friends asked me what I thought the verdict would be in the Trevon Martin case. I replied that I hadn't given it much thought and, anyway, the jury in these media circus trials will always have more facts than I do. The friend seemed mystified that I had no strong position one way or the other. I suspect that I was being led into a discussion of the racism exhibited by pundits on both sides as if the trial were about racism rather than homicide. If you were following the case, you would have seen that the incident really had nothing to do with race; but for the media, it was issue number one.

Walter E. Williams and Thomas Sowell are among my favorite intellectuals because they combine a penchant for facts, superior knowledge, reason and common sense. On the subject of race they also have a valuable perspective to communicate and racists don’t intimidate them.

 In "Black Sabotage" Williams cites some startling statistics:
. . .  black female-headed households were just 18 percent of households in 1950, as opposed to about 68 percent today. In fact, from 1890 to 1940, the black marriage rate was slightly higher than that of whites. Even during slavery, when marriage was forbidden for blacks, most black children lived in biological two-parent families. In New York City, in 1925, 85 percent of black households were two-parent households. A study of 1880 family structure in Philadelphia shows that three-quarters of black families were two-parent households.
The poverty rate among blacks is 36 percent. Most black poverty is found in female-headed households. The poverty rate among black married couples has been in single digits since 1994 and is about 8 percent today. The black illegitimacy rate is 75 percent, and in some cities, it's 90 percent. But if that's a legacy of slavery, it must have skipped several generations, because in the 1940s, unwed births hovered around 14 percent.
Each year, roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered. Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black person. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011, there were 279,384 black murder victims. Using the 94 percent figure means that 262,621 were murdered by other blacks. Though blacks are 13 percent of the nation's population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims. Nationally, the black homicide victimization rate is six times that of whites, and in some cities, it's 22 times that of whites.
Williams says that “having a conversation [with white people] about race . . . is beyond useless." Blacks need to fix their own problems:
Disgustingly, black politicians, civil rights leaders, liberals and the president are talking nonsense about "having a conversation about race." That's beyond useless. Tell me how a conversation with white people is going to stop black predators from preying on blacks. How is such a conversation going to eliminate the 75 percent illegitimacy rate? What will such a conversation do about the breakdown of the black family (though "breakdown" is not the correct word, as the family doesn't form in the first place)? Only black people can solve our problems.
In "Who is Racist?Sowell places part of the blame for deterioration of the black family on black "leaders:"
Over the generations, black leaders have ranged from noble souls to shameless charlatans. After the success of the civil rights insurgency, the latter have come into their own, gaining money, power and fame by promoting racial attitudes and actions that are counterproductive to the interests of those they lead.
 A position I have maintained for decades is that the rise in illegitimacy and deterioration of families, especially black families (see statistics at, has coincided with the growth of the welfare state. Indeed, it likely was a principal cause. Discover The describes the connection well in "How the Welfare State Has Devastated African Americans."

As Williams and Sowell point out, it was not always this way. As demonstrated by at least one prominent public figure, America began the 20th Century with optimism and hope -- among both blacks and whites -- that blacks could realize the American Dream.  Booker T. Washington’s autobiography Up from Slavery (free pdf here) is an inspiring story of a one-time slave who became a nationally respected educator, author and orator. In inspiring speeches around the country Washington advocated mutually beneficial relations among the races and black progress through traditional American values – working hard and striving for excellence. In an address before the National Education Association in Madison, Wisconsin, he advised:
 . . . that the policy to be pursued with references to the races was, by every honourable means, to bring them together and to encourage the cultivation of friendly relations, instead of doing that which would embitter. I further contended that, in relation to his vote, the Negro should more and more consider the interests of the community in which he lived, rather than seek alone to please some one who lived a thousand miles away from him and from his interests. . . . the whole future of the Negro rested largely upon the question as to whether or not he should make himself, through his skill, intelligence, and character, of such undeniable value to the community in which he lived that the community could not dispense with his presence. I said that any individual who learned to do something better than anybody else—learned to do a common thing in an uncommon manner—had solved his problem, regardless of the colour of his skin, and that in proportion as the Negro learned to produce what other people wanted and must have, in the same proportion would he be respected.
Later in his widely distributed address at the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895 he spoke of his own spiritual growth, which stands in stark contrast to the divisive messages we see in the media today
In my early life I used to cherish a feeling of ill will toward any one who spoke in bitter terms against the Negro, or who advocated measures that tended to oppress the black man or take from him opportunities for growth in the most complete manner. Now, whenever I hear any one advocating measures that are meant to curtail the development of another, I pity the individual who would do this. I know that the one who makes this mistake does so because of his own lack of opportunity for the highest kind of growth. I pity him because I know that he is trying to stop the progress of the world, and because I know that in time the development and the ceaseless advance of humanity will make him ashamed of his weak and narrow position. One might as well try to stop the progress of a mighty railroad train by throwing his body across the track, as to try to stop the growth of the world in the direction of giving mankind more intelligence, more culture, more skill, more liberty, and in the direction of extending more sympathy and more brotherly kindness.
How tragic it is that the magnanimity of Booker T. Washington is no longer the ideal being widely pursued both by many self-appointed black leaders and by white leaders who espouse economic progress, equality and justice for blacks.