This essay examines specifically how the left, in its self-proclaimed quest to elevate African Americans by means of myriad “social justice” campaigns, has in fact done incalculable harm to the black community in the United States.
1) How the Left Created Black Victimology and Black Rejection of American Values
2) Affirmative Action: How the Left Has Harmed Blacks through the Bigotry of Low Expectations
3) How the Left Consigns Blacks to Substandard Education
4) How the War on Poverty Devastated the Black Community
5) How the Failed Crusade of “Sex Education” Harmed the Black Community
6) The Crime Wave that Has Decimated Black America
7) How Blacks Have Been Victimized by Leftist Policies Concerning AIDS
8) How the Left Demands Black Conformity of Thought
At the dawn of the civil rights era of the 1950s and ’60s, Americans came face to face with the defining social and political issue of their time: the need to address their country’s lingering racial injustices. Those inequities were particularly abhorrent in the South, where, following the long epoch of slavery, Jim Crow laws mandating segregation treated blacks as less than fully human from the 1890s through the early 1960s. Conditions for blacks in the North, though not nearly ideal, were considerably better. While northern blacks also encountered plenty of prejudice and discrimination, they at least had an elementary sense of personal security and were treated with far more respect than their southern counterparts.
Around the middle of the twentieth century, there were hints that racial justice would become the trend of America’s future from border to border. Membership in the NAACP increased tenfold during World War II, reflecting a growing awareness—among both blacks and whites—of the urgent need for reform. Two years after the war’s end, Jackie Robinson broke major league baseball’s color bar. A year later, President Harry Truman announced that segregation would be eliminated from the nation’s armed forces. Truman also appointed blacks to numerous government posts in his administration. Many whites, particularly in the South, were reluctant to accept black Americans’ ever-growing inclusion in once exclusively-white realms. Nevertheless, white racial attitudes were gradually but indisputably evolving in every region of the country. Consider the following:
Clearly, from the World War II era through the early 1960s white Americans’ racial attitudes grew decidedly more enlightened. This was reflected not only in polls, but also in the fact that Lyndon Johnson, when contemplating a possible run for the presidency in 1960, publicly pushed for the passage of new civil rights legislation—well aware that no longer could a candidate perceived to have segregationist ideals win a national election in the United States. In short, the steady and inexorable transformation of white attitudes toward blacks had set the stage for the golden years of a civil rights movement that would make powerful appeals to America’s conscience. In December 1956, after a court order officially desegregating Montgomery, Alabama’s buses took effect in response to the boycotts inspired by the famous Rosa Parks incident, Martin Luther King, Jr. declared: “There is a new Negro in the South, with a new sense of dignity and destiny.”
In 1956, in large part because of King’s charismatic presence and gifted oratory, media coverage of racial issues grew to unprecedented levels. Time, Life, and Newsweek tripled their coverage of civil rights topics that year. Civil rights reform was on America’s mind, as evidenced by a massive wave of demonstrations in the late 1950s and early 1960s. These rallies were led by such organizations as the NAACP, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the newly formed Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Boycotts, sit-ins, voter-registration drives, and protest marches spread like wildfire across the American South. In 1960 alone, some 70,000 students staged sit-ins in about 100 southern cities, occupying seats in such traditionally segregated facilities as lunch counters, restaurants, and libraries. And the media took notice. Whereas during 1959 The New York Times had given coverage to just 10 civil rights demonstrations in the entire country, in 1960 that figure grew to 414.
Over a ten-week span in mid-1963, some 758 civil rights demonstrations took place in 186 American cities, with many white participants. The summer of 1963 alone saw 50 southern cities agree to desegregate their public facilities. Without a doubt, the psychological transformation that civil rights leaders had hoped for was well underway.
Because he recognized the unmistakably evolving racial attitudes of white Americans, Dr. King based his appeals for racial justice on the increasingly self-evident premise that it was morally imperative. Committed to helping perpetuate the remarkable social and economic gains that blacks had made during the 1940s and 1950s, King foresaw an America where one day racial unity would render segregation nothing more than a distant, unhappy memory. And indeed the continuing evolution of white attitudes during subsequent decades has demonstrated beyond any doubt that King’s confidence in that vision was well founded. Virtually all contemporary polls of white Americans show that well over 90 percent now favor integrated schools and public accommodations; that almost all oppose employment discrimination against members of any race or ethnicity; that nearly 90 percent approve of interracial marriage; and that more than 90 percent would be willing to vote for a black presidential candidate.
But even as such major attitudinal changes were occurring, key positions in the civil rights movement’s leadership were being claimed by a cadre of anti-American leftists who uniformly characterized the United States as a veritable snake pit of racist vipers. In the names of “social justice” and “liberalism,” they pledged to defend blacks from whites, whom they depicted uniformly as reactionaries intent on restoring Jim Crow. White America, they explained, was racist to its rotten, capitalist core, and the only solution would be to revolt against its traditions, its values, and its institutions. Their assertion that American society was irredeemable, and that nothing short of a revolutionary transformation could rectify the nation’s moral inadequacies, became the dominant vision of the new civil rights movement. Among the notable figures in this development were Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, and their Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, and their Black Panther Party; and Malcolm X and his Nation of Islam. They preached Black Power, racial hatred, and violent revolution against a satanic white America.
In a related development, the 1960s saw the emergence of a hateful, anti-white creed known as black liberation theology, whose foremost promoter was the Rev. James Cone. Cone’s views served to lend the Black Power Movement’s radicalism the implied legitimacy of a spiritual and theological framework. Claiming that “black values” were superior to American values, Cone’s writings posited a black Jesus who would lead his African American disciples in rebellion against an oppressive United States. “This country was founded for whites, and everything that has happened in it has emerged from the white perspective,” Cone wrote. “What we need is the destruction of whiteness, which is the source of human misery in the world.”
Cone characterized white society as the antichrist, and the white church as an institution that was racist in toto. Thus he posited “a desperate need for a black theology, a theology whose sole purpose is to apply the freeing power of the gospel to black people under white oppression.” In his landmark book Black Theology and Black Power, Cone wrote: “All white men are responsible for white oppression…. Theologically, Malcolm X was not far wrong when he called the white man ‘the devil.’” In that same volume, Cone penned these sentiments about universal black goodness and white evil: “Whiteness, as revealed in the history of America, is the expression of what is wrong with man. It is a symbol of man’s depravity. God cannot be white even though white churches have portrayed him as white…. The coming of Christ means … destroying the white devil in us.”
In his book A Black Theology of Liberation, Cone advanced the notion of a deity that sided with blacks, and against whites: “Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the Black community. If God is not for us and against White people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of Black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the Black community … Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy.”
During the same period, there emerged in America a New Left movement that despised the country and everything for which it stood. As a logical outgrowth of this hatred, the New Left sought to create a new socialist order—for which a prerequisite would be to wipe clean the slate of the old order.
Toward this end, the left initiated a campaign to invert the nation’s power hierarchy, i.e. to help blacks unseat whites as the “privileged” race of a new social order. The pursuit of this objective required the left to eschew Dr. King’s dream of a color-blind society, which it did. As Dinesh D’Souza observed in 1995, “It is no exaggeration to say that a rejection of [King’s’ vision] of a regime in which we are judged solely based on the content of our character is a virtual job qualification for leadership in the civil rights movement today.” Boston University law professor Andrew Kull concurred that “the color-blind consensus, so long in forming, was abandoned with surprising rapidity.”
A few examples will serve to illustrate just how far from King’s ideals some of today’s leading activists and leftist scholars have strayed:
Because such views have diffused widely throughout the black community, it is hardly surprising that, as historian David Garrow once observed, “there is less integrationist sentiment in black America now than at any time since King’s death.” Along the same lines, black scholar David Bositis sees “something of a movement in the African American community away from integration.” Black columnist Michael Meyers agrees that “Dr. King’s integrationist approach to tearing down America’s racial walls is no longer in vogue.”
King’s vision was shattered not by conservatives seeking to “turn back the clock” vis a vis civil rights; indeed conservative Republicans supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act in greater numbers than did their Democrat counterparts. Rather, the vision was destroyed by the legions of prominent leftists who took the reins of the civil rights movement and began to flood the halls of academia—individuals who were influential in shaping public opinion because of their perceived authority on the subject of race. In recent decades they and their successors have assiduously cultivated the notion that African Americans are the hapless victims of a status quo that oppresses blacks at every turn. High-profile figures such as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Louis Farrakhan, along with organizations like the NAACP, uniformly depict whites as racists. Meanwhile they assure blacks that their country loathes and mistreats them as egregiously as ever. This message, quite predictably, has bred a sense of defeatism, bitterness, resentment, and victimhood in much of the black community—needlessly consigning millions of otherwise talented people brimming with potential, to unproductive, miserable lives.
A notable illustration of how the left invariably continues to assume the very worst about whites was provided by the infamous “Group of 88” Duke University professors who signed and published a full-page “listening statement” in the April 6, 2006 edition of the Duke Chronicle, quoting several black Duke students who had complained about the supposedly rampant racism on their campus, and condemning three of Duke’s white lacrosse players who recently had been accused of rape by a local black stripper. (The charges eventually would be proven entirely false.) Presuming the athletes to be guilty from the outset, the professors solemnly pondered “the anger and fear of many students who know themselves to be objects of racism and sexism, who see illuminated in this moment’s extraordinary spotlight what they live with everyday.”
Academia is replete with eminent professors who, like Duke’s “Group of 88,” view the United States as a nation that is bigoted to its core:
Other notables have joined this chorus of professors lamenting America’s alleged bigotry:
According to polling data, black Americans at large seem to agree with the foregoing assessments. A December 2006 poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation for CNN found that 49 percent of black respondents said that racism was a “very serious” problem in America, and another 35 percent called it “somewhat serious.” In other words, 84 percent of blacks viewed racism as a concern meriting the qualifier “serious.”
Similarly, a March/April 2008 poll conducted by CNN, Essence magazine, and the Opinion Research Corporation asked respondents this question: “How serious a problem do you think racial discrimination against blacks is in this country: a very serious problem, a somewhat serious problem, not too serious, or not at all serious?” Some 43 percent of black respondents said that discrimination was a “very serious” problem in America, and another 44 percent called it “somewhat serious.” Put another way, 87 percent of blacks viewed discrimination as a concern meriting the qualifier “serious.”
This belief has profound implications for black Americans—causing them to view themselves as a demographic whose unique history will forever set them apart from mainstream American culture, and to believe that they must be perpetually on guard against the culture’s relentless assaults upon their rights and their dignity. Such an outlook leads them, quite naturally, to seek to distance themselves from the culture. It also leads them to reject its norms—vis a vis such variables as dress, speech, behavior, and demeanor—and to view these as illegitimate constructs imposed upon blacks by a hostile oppressor race.
Among the most notable “white” norms rejected by many contemporary blacks is the notion that success in school is a laudable achievement in which they can take great pride. Black anthropologist Signithia Fordham, for one, has observed that many black students intentionally perform poorly in school for fear of incurring the disapproval of their black peers who construe striving for academic excellence as an attempt to “act white.” “Kids are worried about being cut off by their own community,” she elaborates, “and uncertain about being accepted by the other [white] community…. They choose to avoid adopting attitudes and putting in enough time and effort in their schoolwork because their peers (and they themselves) would interpret their behavior as ‘white.’” According to Fordham, black youngsters are also reluctant to speak standard English, be punctual, attend the opera or ballet, study in the library, do volunteer work, and visit museums—all to avoid the appearance of “acting white.”
Concurring with these remarks, a black assistant principal has said, “I have run across blacks who do not want to seem white. [They fear that] if they achieve, they might fall into that category.” Illustrative of this observation was one particular outstanding black high-school student in Washington, DC who, while receiving a special scholarship, stepped to the podium and told the parents and teachers in attendance that his black classmates had nicknamed him “whitey” because of his diligent study habits. Similarly, a black UC Berkeley student recalled that during high school, “I got a lot of criticism about speaking proper speech…. They [other youngsters] would say, ‘Why do you talk like you’re white?’” A successful black middle-school student in Oakland told Time magazine that her low-achieving black peers, who generally accused studious blacks of acting like whites, often threatened her with violence.
Cedric Jennings, a hardworking District of Columbia high-school student, reported a similar experience to The Wall Street Journal. Most of his classmates, he explained, were poor students and considered him a traitor to his race because he studied a great deal. “The charge of wanting to be white, where I’m from, is like treason,” said Jennings. “Doing well [academically] here means you better not show your face.”
In July 1999 The New York Times quoted an eighteen-year-old black student who explained: “When you’re on the streets, you speak Ebonics…. When you’re in school, you speak proper English. But when you talk too proper, your peers will call you white and say you’re a cracker.”
In his book Losing the Race, John McWhorter, a black professor of linguistics at UC Berkeley, expands upon this theme:
“As I have noted, it is a long-established and well-documented feature of black American culture for children to tease and harass black kids who show an affinity for school. We recall … a middle-class black student opting for advanced placement classes in Evanston, Illinois, recounted being told ‘Oh, you’re an oreo’ because ‘getting good grades was always connected to white people.’ … Berkeley High School principal Theresa Saunders (who is black) notes, ‘We see it time and time again: [black] kids come in quite talented, and by the end of ninth grade year, they’re goofing off. The peer culture is such that it doesn’t acknowledge or reward academic achievement.”
According to McWhorter, “These [black] students are not stupid or willfully lazy—they are simply victims of a fundamental association of school with an ‘other’ culture sensed as oppressive.” He explains that their “resistance to standard English”—which in many black communities has taken “a particularly pointed, hostile tenor—represents part of a general rejection of whites.”
Positing a cause-and-effect relationship between this black rejection of “white” norms and a “widespread cult of anti-intellectualism” among blacks, McWhorter writes:
“Consider the data: even in middle-class suburbs, increasing numbers of middle-class black students tend to cluster at the bottom of their schools in grades and test scores…. Why? All through modern black American culture, even throughout black academia, the belief prevails that learning for learning’s sake is a white affair and therefore inherently disloyal to a proper black identity. Studying black-related issues is okay, because learning about oneself is authentic. But this impulse also implicitly classifies science as irrelevant, which is the direct cause of the underrepresentation of minorities in the hard sciences. The sense that the properly ‘black’ person only delves into topics related to himself is also why you can count on one hand the number of books by black Americans that are not on racial topics.
“The belief that blacks and school don’t go together has its roots in slavery’s refusal to let blacks be educated. But it gained strength in the mid-1960s, when black separatism rejected traits associated with whites as alien, and black students, in this spirit, began teasing their fellows who strove to excel in school as ‘acting white,’ a much harsher taunt than merely dismissing them as nerds….
“The ‘acting white’ charge—which implies that you think yourself different from, and better than, your peers—is the prime reason that blacks do poorly in school. The gifted black student quickly faces a choice between peer group acceptance and intellectual achievement. Most, out of an utterly human impulse, choose the former. Even if they open themselves to schooling in college or later, their performance all too often permanently suffers from the message they long ago internalized that ‘the school thing’ is an add-on, not a mix-in.”
A related phenomenon that has drawn the notice of social and behavioral scientists is the physical posture which many young black males assume when they are out in public. Black psychologist Richard Majors, for instance, deems the characteristic aloof swagger or “cool pose” of inner-city black teenagers “a tactic for psychological survival,” a coping mechanism designed to insulate their psyches from the choking yoke of white oppression. Enabling them to “appear competent and in control in the face of adversity,” the cool pose purportedly affords them “a source of dignity and worth, a mask that hides the sting of failure and frustration.” Dr. Majors explains that the cool pose is characterized by a combination of speech, mannerisms, gestures, and movements that “exaggerate or ritualize masculinity.” The “essence of cool,” he adds, “is to appear in control, whether through a fearless style of walking, an aloof facial expression, the clothes you wear, a haircut, your gestures, or the way you talk. The cool pose shows the dominant culture that you are strong and proud, despite your status in American society.”
In an article outlining Dr. Majors’ conclusions, The New York Times stated, “While the cool pose is often misread by teachers, principals, and police officers as an attitude of defiance, psychologists who have studied it say it is a way for black youths to maintain a sense of integrity and suppress rage at being blocked from usual routes to esteem and success.” This rage is heightened, according to Majors, by the fact that black males in America are becoming “an endangered species.”
Implicit in the related themes of the “cool pose” and the black aversion to “acting white,” is the planted axiom that whites generally are evil and, consequently, that their culture is something to be despised or defied rather than embraced. The significance of all this can hardly be overstated. It is a mindset that virtually guarantees unhappiness and failure; people who largely reject the norms and traditions of the society in which they live, have little chance of succeeding economically, professionally, or academically.
Unfortunately, thanks to the relentless drumbeat of the left, the notion that America is a land of unyielding white racism has become an article of faith for large numbers of blacks. In his Winter 2001 article “What’s Holding Blacks Back?,” John McWhorter writes that in the 1990s, which he personally deemed an era “of bracing progress for my race,” he himself “came to realize that this feeling made me odd man out among most black Americans.” Says McWhorter:
“In every race-related debate—whether over Rodney King, O. J. Simpson, the Million Man March, Ebonics, or affirmative action—almost every black person I knew, many with backgrounds as comfortable as my own, started from the fierce conviction that, decades after the Civil Rights Act, whitey’s foot remains pressed upon all black Americans’ necks. For most black Americans, the rapid increase of the black middle class, of interracial relationships and marriages, and of blacks in prestigious positions has no bearing on the real state of black America. Further, they believe, whites’ inability to grasp the unmistakable reality of oppression is itself proof of racism, while blacks who question that reality are self-deluded…. These beliefs, rather than what remains of racism itself, are the biggest obstacle to further black progress in today’s America. And all are either outright myths or severe distortions of truth.”
McWhorter laments what he terms “a deeply felt cult of victimology that grips the entire black community”:
“The victimology cult has … engendered a cult of black separatism. Inspired by the Black Power movement of the 1960s, which violently rejected whites as terminally evil, today’s separatism, in the same vein, flirts disastrously with the idea that, because white racism ineluctably drives black people outside the bounds of civic virtue, blacks shouldn’t be seriously punished or morally condemned for criminal behavior. Black transgressiveness is understandable, even ‘cool.’ A typical consequence of this view was the feting of the four black youths who maimed several people in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict, with the Nation of Islam setting up a defense fund for the ‘L.A. Four.’ [Another] recent manifestation of the idea was Jesse Jackson’s intervention when a Decatur, Illinois, high school suspended for two years seven black teenagers who injured bystanders during a gang fight at a school football game. Jackson painted this response to thuggery as a racist attempt to deny ‘our children’ an education.”
In McWhorter’s estimation:
“Victimology, separatism, and anti-intellectualism underlie the general black community’s response to all race-related issues.… Today, these three thought patterns impede black advancement much more than racism; and dysfunctional inner cities, corporate glass ceilings, and black educational underachievement will persist until such thinking disappears. In my experience, trying to show many African-Americans how mistaken and counterproductive these ideas are is like trying to convince a religious person that God does not exist: the sentiments are beyond the reach of rational, civil discourse.”
The left today encourages blacks not only to view themselves as victims, but also to exploit the implied moral superiority conferred by that status. Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Shelby Steele, who is black, explores the roots of this phenomenon:
“The most obvious and inarguable source of black innocence is the victimization that blacks endured for centuries at the hands of a race that insisted on black inferiority…. Like all victims, what blacks lost in power they gained in innocence—innocence that, in turn, entitled them to pursue power. This was the innocence that fueled the civil rights movement of the sixties and that gave blacks their first real power in American life—victimization metamorphosed into power via innocence. But this formula carries a drawback that I believe is virtually as devastating to blacks today as victimization once was. It is a formula that binds the victim to his victimization by linking his power to his status as a victim. And this, I’m convinced, is the tragedy of black power in America today. It is primarily a victim’s power, grounded too deeply in the entitlement derived from past injustice and in the innocence that Western/Christian tradition has always associated with poverty.”
In a similar vein, Steele criticizes the left’s continuing depiction of whites as “exploiters”:
“In the sixties, blacks and white liberals often engaged in something that might be called the harangue-flagellation ritual. Blacks felt anger, white liberals felt guilt, and when they came together blacks would vent their anger by haranguing the whites, who often allowed themselves to be scourged as a kind of penance. The ‘official’ black purpose of this was to ‘educate’ whites on the issue of race, and in the sixties this purpose may sometimes have been served. But [today], after a marked decline in racism and … decades of consciousness-raising, the rite had become both anachronistic and, I think, irresponsible….”
“Possibly white guilt’s worst effect,” Steele wrote in 2006, “is that it does not permit whites—and nonwhites—to appreciate something extraordinary: the fact that whites in America, and even elsewhere in the West, have achieved a truly remarkable moral transformation. One is forbidden to speak thus, but it is simply true. There are no serious advocates of white supremacy in America today, because whites see this idea as morally repugnant. If there is still the odd white bigot out there surviving past his time, there are millions of whites who only feel goodwill toward minorities.”
A similar sentiment is expressed by the black Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson, who writes: “America, while still flawed in its race relations … is now the least racist white-majority society in the world; has a better record of legal protection of minorities than any other society, white or black; [and] offers more opportunities to a greater number of black persons than any other society, including all of Africa.”
But insights like those of McWhorter, Steele, and Patterson are anathema to those African Americans who have long imbibed the endlessly repeated leftist falsehood which claims that white society will forever oppose black progress and racial equity. Blacks who accept that premise can be expected with great certainty to reject the society’s values and traditions, to see themselves as “outsiders” who are not accepted by the white majority, and to consequently refuse to engage fully in the society’s traditions or the opportunities it affords.
The anti-intellectual mindset discussed in the previous section results largely from the fact that many blacks have rejected such “white” values as studying, excelling in school, and speaking standard English. Not surprisingly these students, as a group, have lagged far behind their white peers in terms of academic achievement. But true to form, the left ascribes their underachievement to inequities allegedly inherent in American society, education, and standardized testing—rather than to its own relentless drumbeat of defeatism and anti-Americanism. And, to help rectify the problem of black failure in school, the left passionately advocates a system of racial preferences most commonly known as affirmative action.
The concept of affirmative action originally grew out of the premise that the racist barriers preventing talented blacks from getting good jobs and attending good schools should be eliminated, and that a condition of genuine equal opportunity—without preferential treatment or lowered standards—should be instituted. The precursors of the term “affirmative action” were such phrases as “positive effort” and “affirmative program,” which by 1960 were already in wide use among civil rights activists. The seemingly innocuous entry of “affirmative action” into the American lexicon occurred on March 9, 1961 when President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925, which stated that because discrimination was “contrary to the Constitutional principles and policies of the United States,” federally funded projects should “take affirmative action” to ensure that their hiring and employment practices were untainted by bias with regard to “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
“As initially presented,” writes sociologist Thomas Sowell, “affirmative action referred to various activities, such as monitoring subordinate decision-makers to ensure the fairness of their hiring and promotion decisions, and spreading information about employment or other opportunities so as to encourage previously excluded groups to apply—after which the actual selection could be made without regard to [group] membership.” Affirmative action, in other words, was synonymous with equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.
But before long, prominent leftwing organizations were offering alternative definitions of what was meant by “affirmative action.” In 1961, for instance, a National Urban League official announced that “being colorblind … is no longer a virtue. What we need to be is positively color-conscious.” A year later, the Congress of Racial Equality began pressuring employers to give hiring preferences to blacks as compensation for past discrimination, while Urban League President Whitney Young candidly recommended, for similar reasons, “a decade of discrimination in favor of Negro youth.” The NAACP also joined the chorus of those pushing for preferences, just a few years after having passionately advocated colorblindness in the Brown v. Board of Education case.
Soon the distinction between equal opportunities and equal outcomes would not only blur, but would actually shift in favor of the aforementioned, color-conscious ideal favored by the NAACP, CORE, and the National Urban League. In the mid-1960s, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) changed the legal standards by which employment discrimination was to be judged, tacitly endorsing the idea that unequal outcomes were prima facie evidence of unfair labor practices. Soon thereafter, both private and public institutions began implementing policies that gave preference—by means of racially distinct standards and rating systems—to minorities, particularly blacks, in an effort to raise their representation in a given workplace.
Beginning cautiously and secretively, this process was driven principally by the courts and the federal government’s newly created civil-rights divisions, among which were the EEOC, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), and the Office of Civil Rights. These new agencies were staffed, for the most part, with black activists and white leftists. The policies they endorsed were generally signed into law behind closed doors, without democratic debate, by judges and bureaucrats.
In light of the fact that the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s underlying ideal of colorblindness had recently won the hearts and minds of most Americans, advocates of racial preferences well understood that only under a veil of secrecy could their blatantly color-conscious proposals gain a foothold in the United States. As Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom explain in their book America in Black and White, “[T]he move toward race-conscious preferential policies was quiet, gradual and subtle—not the sort of tale that makes for headline news. Regulatory guidelines and executive orders governing such matters as federal contracting rules are low-visibility items.” In short, the public had no idea that such enormous changes were furtively taking place.
Today affirmative action (which began as a liberal ideal for equal opportunity) is synonymous with the leftist ideal of achieving equal outcomes by any means necessary, including group preferences and double standards. Defenders of preferences claim that these policies are little more than “tie-breakers,” designed merely to tip the scales in favor of a minority applicant over a white applicant of basically equivalent credentials. They dismiss any suggestion that preferences sacrifice a commitment to excellence in favor of “diversity.” Former Equal Employment Opportunity Commission chairman Clifford Alexander, for one, says that affirmative action “has nothing to do with finding unqualified black men or women. It is about finding qualified black people who … have been overlooked.” Historian John Hope Franklin heartily agrees that the policy “makes no compromise with respect to ability.”
There is a large body of evidence, however, showing that preferential policies bear far less resemblance to “tie-breakers” than to the virtual abandonment of standards. Thus the left, in the name of “social justice” and “civil rights,” has resurrected from yesteryear the practice of racial discrimination—the only difference being that the roles of “oppressor” and “victim” have been reversed. Paralleling the classic leftist/Marxist model, whites fulfill the role of the “ruling class” that must be overthrown, while blacks represent the proletariat that must rise up to forcibly demand its rights and depose its oppressors. Under the banner of “liberalism,” the left has become the passionate advocate of policies that were neither endorsed nor even foreseen by the pioneers of “affirmative action” in the Sixties.
In recent decades, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores of white applicants to American colleges and universities have been, on average, about 200 points higher than those of their black counterparts. Nonetheless, black students have been admitted to most academically competitive schools at much higher rates than whites. At Amherst College in 1995, for instance, 51 percent of black applicants were admitted vs. just 19 percent of white applicants. At Rice University that same year, the corresponding numbers were 52 percent and 25 percent for blacks and whites, respectively. At Bowdoin College, the figures were 70 percent and 30 percent. In their 1998 book The Shape of the River, Ivy League professors William Bowen and Derek Bok report that at five of our country’s most elite universities, black applicants whose SAT scores fell within the 1200 to 1249 range had a 60 percent chance of admission, whereas whites with similar scores had just a 19 percent chance.
A 1998 CEO study of six public colleges and universities in North Carolina found that the “degree of preference in admissions given to blacks over whites” ranged from a ratio of 177.1 to 1 at NC State, to 3.4 to 1 at Chapel Hill.
At America’s top law schools, blacks have been admitted at fully 17.5 times the rate that a colorblind process would allow. At UCLA Law School in 1994, a black applicant with a college Grade Pont Average (GPA) between 2.5 and 3.5, and a Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) score between 60 and 90, had a 61 percent chance of admission. The corresponding rates for similarly qualified Asians and whites were 7 percent and 1 percent, respectively. Consider also Texas Law School, which in 1992 rejected 668 white applicants before rejecting a single black. Fully 100 percent of blacks who scored between 189 and 192 in the school’s academic rating system were admitted, as compared to just 6 percent of whites.
According to a 2002 CEO study of Virginia law schools:
“The law schools at the University of Virginia and William & Mary give massive preference to black applicants over their Hispanic, white, and Asian counterparts. The relative odds of admission of a black over a white applicant for UVA, controlling for other factors, were almost 650 to 1 in 1998 and 730 to 1 in 1999…. At William & Mary, black-white odds ratios were roughly 350 to 1 in 1998 and 170 to 1 in 1999.… At UVA, with an LSAT score of 160 and a GPA of 3.25, a black in-state male applicant in 1998 would have had a 96 percent chance of admission, versus only a 3 percent chance for identical Hispanic and white applicants, and a 7 percent chance for an identical Asian applicant.”
At medical schools the situation is much the same. The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) scores of blacks who are accepted are actually lower than those of whites who are rejected.
According to a 2001 Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO) study of admissions at the University of Maryland Medical School, “The relative odds of admission of a black over a white applicant were 61.5 to 1 in 1996, 35.9 to 1 in 1997, 40.7 to 1 in 1998, and 20.6 to 1 in 1999.” This study also found: “For 1999, the probability of admission of a black applicant with a total MCAT score of 45 and a science GPA of 3.5 was 90 percent, as compared to 31 percent for a similar white applicant, 23 percent for an Asian applicant, and 53 percent for a Hispanic applicant.”
Another 2001 CEO study examined admissions patterns at the medical schools of Michigan State University, SUNY Brooklyn, the University of Washington, and the Medical College of Georgia. The study explained that in order for schools to admit a higher proportion of students from a demographic group that under-performs in comparison to other groups, “admission officers must essentially reach down into the applicant pool and pull up certain students, a practice that results in at least some students with better credentials than [others] being rejected … despite their superior qualifications.”
The extent of these preferences is nothing short of shocking. In 1996, for instance, black applicants were 19 times likelier than equally qualified whites to be admitted to Georgia Medical College. That same year blacks were 23 times likelier than academically equivalent whites to be admitted to SUNY Brooklyn, and a year later blacks were 30 times likelier than comparable whites to be admitted to the University of Washington. In some years at each school, the disproportions were not quite so extreme. But in general, black students were still between 4 and 14 times likelier to be admitted to a given medical school than were their white counterparts of equivalent credentials.
The CEO researchers also calculated—in terms of absolute percentages—the likelihood of admission for black, white, Hispanic, and Asian applicants with the same test scores and grades. Again, the results were startling. For example, consider those students with MCAT scores of 30 and GPAs of 3.25. At the Medical College of Georgia in 1996, black applicants with such credentials had a 51 percent chance of admission. For Hispanics, whites, and Asians, the corresponding figures were 14 percent, 5 percent, and 2 percent.
At Michigan State College of Human Medicine in 1999, black applicants with the aforementioned credentials had a 43 percent chance of admission. The corresponding numbers for other groups were: 26 percent for Hispanics, 5 percent for whites, and 3 percent for Asians.
For similarly qualified applicants to SUNY Brooklyn in 1999, the likelihood of admission was 25 percent for blacks, 13 percent for Hispanics, 3 percent for whites, and 3 percent for Asians.
At the University of Washington in 1997, the numbers were 61 percent for blacks, 20 percent for Hispanics, 5 percent for whites, and 4 percent for Asians.
A 2001 CEO study of the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSM) reported the following:
“UMSM generally admits blacks with much lower test scores and science GPAs as compared with whites, Hispanics, and Asians…. The relative odds of admission of a black over a white applicant were 61.5 to 1 in 1996, 35.9 to 1 in 1997, 40.7 to 1 in 1998, and 20.6 to 1 in 1999. The odds ratios translate into massive preferences favoring blacks over other groups. For example, in 1996, the probability of admission for a black applicant with a total MCAT score of 45 and a science GPA of 3.5 was 97 percent—roughly three times the probability of a similarly qualified white, Asian, or Hispanic…. For 1999, the probability of admission of a black applicant with a total MCAT score of 45 and a science GPA of 3.5 was 90 percent, as compared to 31 percent for a similar white applicant, 23 percent for an Asian applicant, and 53 percent for a Hispanic applicant. These statistics control for sex, residency, and whether the person had a parent graduating from UMSM.”
In 2006 a CEO study of admissions at the University of Michigan Medical School (UMMS) found that the school “awarded a very large degree of preference to blacks over whites and Asians with the same credentials and background for every year analyzed (1999, 2003, 2004, and 2005).” “In every year,” said the researchers, “odds ratios favoring black over white candidates in admission—controlling for test scores, grades, Michigan residency, sex, and alumni connections—were very large. In 1999, the odds favoring blacks over whites with the same background and credentials were 38 to 1; they remained high (21 to 1) in 2005.” The study calculated that the probability of admission for an in-state male candidate, with no parent[al] connection to UMMS and with an MCAT score and science GPA equal to the medians for black admittees, was 72 percent if he was black, 17 percent if he was Hispanic, 6 percent if he was white, and 2 percent if he was Asian.
Obviously these immense double standards in the admissions process hurt those non-black students who are casualties of academia’s quest for “diversity.” But there are lamentable consequences also for those black students who are preferentially admitted. Because they are often enrolled in schools for which they are academically under-prepared, these students’ college careers are commonly beset with failure.
Consider the example of Berkeley, where one year the average composite SAT scores of incoming black freshmen was 952 — well above the national average of 900, but far below the 1,232 average of Berkeley’s first-year white students and the 1,254 average of its Asian freshmen. That same year, the median high-school grade-point-average (GPA) of Berkeley’s entering black freshmen was 3.52, significantly lower than the 4.0 median of their white and Asian counterparts. In fact, from the early 1970s to the mid-1990s it was standard procedure for blacks to be admitted to Berkeley with comparatively weak scholastic credentials. It is not surprising, then, that their dropout rate during that period was about 70 percent—much higher than that of their non-black peers.
Notwithstanding anti-affirmative action measures that some states have introduced in recent years, a scenario of extreme double standards continues to pervade most of American higher education. Fully two-thirds of blacks who started college after 1979 have dropped out and failed to graduate. In a major study examining the performance of students at some 300 major colleges and universities, the respective graduation rates of white and black students were 57 percent and 34 percent.
Common sense tells us that black students who meet their schools’ normal admissions criteria should fare better academically than those who are recruited mainly for their skin color—and indeed experience bears this out. Between 1982 and 1987, for example, 42 percent of blacks admitted to Berkeley under normal standards graduated, while only 18 percent of those admitted on affirmative action did the same. The picture was similar for Hispanics: Those admitted under the regular standards had a 55 percent graduation rate, as compared to 22 percent for the affirmative action “beneficiaries.”
The strong connection between SAT scores and graduation rates suggests that any school which admits a particular subset of students under artificially low standards does those students a great disservice, virtually condemning them to scholastic failure. One study found that among Berkeley’s entering freshmen, fully 88 percent of those with SAT scores in the 1,300s eventually graduated. For students with scores in the 1,100s, 900s, 800s, and 700s, the corresponding graduation rates were 83 percent, 72 percent, 62 percent, and 58 percent—whatever their race.
With regard to black students in particular, the pattern is just as clear. Blacks with SAT scores between 851 and 1,000 have a 77 percent graduation rate from colleges whose overall SAT average is 900. By contrast, blacks who score between 700 and 850 on the SAT graduate from those same schools only 56 percent of the time, and blacks whose SAT scores are below 700 have just a 38 percent chance of graduating.
According to Heritage Foundation sociologist Thomas Sowell, “where the racial preferences in admissions are not as great, the differences in graduation rates are not as great.” “Racial preferences,” he writes, “reduce the prospects of black students graduating.” Sowell points out that at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where test score differences between black and white students have been more than 200 points, the respective graduation rates for black and white students were 39 percent and 72 percent. By contrast, at the University of Colorado at Denver, where the SAT score difference was a mere 30 points, the black vs. white graduation rates were also very similar: 50 percent for blacks and 48 percent for whites. “You are not doing anybody a favor by sending them where they are more likely to fail, rather than where they are more likely to succeed,” Sowell explains.
Dr. Sowell elaborates further on affirmative action’s negative consequences for its intended beneficiaries:
“For people on the left,… blacks are trophies or mascots, and must therefore be put on display…. The problem with being a mascot is that you are a symbol of someone else’s significance or virtue. The actual well-being of a mascot is not the point…. In academia, lower admissions standards for black students is about having them as a visible presence, even if mismatching them with the particular college or university produces high dropout rates.
“The black students who don’t make it are replaced by others, and when many of them don’t make it, there are still more others. The point is to have black faces on campus, as mascots symbolizing what great people there are running the college or university. Many, if not most, of the black students who do not make it at big-name, high-pressure institutions are perfectly qualified to succeed at the normal range of colleges and universities. Most white students would also punch out if admitted to schools for which they don’t have the same qualifications as the other students. But nobody needs white mascots.”
It should also be noted that the negative consequences of placing students in colleges for which they are unprepared persist long after their schooling is over. One study found that by the age of thirty-two, blacks who had dropped out of upper-echelon colleges were earning about 25 percent less than blacks who had graduated from less-selective colleges. In other words, schools that tried to demonstrate racial “virtue” by admitting under-qualified black students actually did considerable long-term harm to those very students.
Apart from the issue of how affirmative action does a disservice to black and non-black students alike, it is important to address the question of whether such policies were ever necessary in the first place—even as a temporary measure to rectify historic discriminations.
Proponents of racial preferences generally turn a blind eye to the fact that black progress was already well underway, and proceeding at a brisk pace, long before the era of affirmative action. In fact, between 1940 and 1960 African Americans were, in many ways, improving their social and economic position faster than they would after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, or after the dawn of far-reaching affirmative action programs in the early 1970s. The pre-1960 economic progress of blacks was in large part a result of their massive migration from the rural south to northern cities, where the employment and earning opportunities open to them were far superior. Without a doubt, the strides they made in the space of just two decades must be ranked among the greatest achievements of any demographic group in American history—an ascent they began from the very bottom rung of the social ladder.
Whereas in 1940 only 10 percent of black men held middle-class jobs, by 1960 this figure had more than doubled, reaching 23 percent. Between 1940 and 1950 the earnings of the average black man, in real dollars adjusted for inflation, grew by a remarkable 75 percent (about twice the rate at which white male incomes grew), and increased by another 45 percent during the 1950s. By 1960, black male incomes were 2.5 times greater than they had been twenty years earlier, and black female incomes were 2.3 times greater. In two decades, the black poverty rate had virtually been cut in half.
Apart from income, there were additional barometers of black Americans’ growing prosperity. For instance, between 1940 and 1960 the percentage of blacks who owned homes rose by 65 percent, as compared to a 42 percent rise for whites. In 1940 black life expectancy at birth was just 53 years, fully 11 years lower than the white figure. By 1960 the black average had risen by ten and a half years, while the corresponding white figure had increased by only half that much. During that same twenty-year period, the percentage of blacks who attained high-school diplomas more than tripled, while the corresponding figure for whites grew at only one-fifth that rate.
Clearly, it is intellectually dishonest to credit “affirmative action” for setting in motion trends that were already well underway and gaining momentum long before that term ever made its first appearance in the American lexicon.
Few Americans are aware that by 1971, black couples with two working spouses were earning 5 percent more than white couples of the same description in every part of the United States except the South. Notably, this was before affirmative action became widespread and, more importantly, before it became synonymous with racial preferences. Since 1981, black families with two college-educated, working spouses have earned slightly more than white families of the same description in every age group and in every region of the country. As scholar and author Charles Murray writes, “There’s hardly a single outcome—black voting rights, access to public accommodation, employment, particularly in white-collar jobs—that couldn’t have been predicted on the basis of pre-1964 trend lines.”
Nevertheless, the left saw those trend lines as fertile ground in which to sow the seeds of its own utopian vision. Reasoning from the premise that any situation where blacks still lagged behind whites was prima facie evidence of lingering societal discrimination, the left created affirmative action, a policy tailor-made to embitter blacks and whites alike by:
By so doing, the left has prevented millions of blacks from accurately identifying the principal cause of their social and economic ills, and thus from taking the steps necessary to cure those ills.
The left commonly identifies socioeconomic factors as the cause of racial gaps in academic performance. One New York newspaper, for instance, reported in February 1999: “Research continues to demonstrate the link between wealth and academic performance. The United Negro College Fund found that 53 percent of college-bound black students taking the SAT in 1996 had family incomes below $30,000, compared with 18 percent of whites.” This implies that if economic inequalities could be eliminated, differences in test scores would diminish or disappear altogether.
Plausible though this theory sounds, however, it is discredited by hard evidence. Non-black students from families with yearly incomes of under $10,000 score 44 points higher than the overall black average. White students from families earning $10,000 to $20,000 outscore black students from families earning $70,000 or more. Asian American students whose families earn $6,000 or less score higher on the math SAT than black students whose family incomes are $50,000 or more.
It appears that black scholastic underachievement has nothing whatsoever to do with income, and a great deal to do with: (a) what Professor John McWhorter calls an “anti-intellectual” mindset; and (b) the black community’s widespread rejection of so-called “white” values such as studying (as discussed previously).
Consider, as evidence of this, the research of Stanford sociologist S.M. Dornbush. Intrigued by the scholastic excellence of impoverished Asian American students, Dornbush found that they simply “work a heck of a lot harder” than their peers to raise their SAT scores and school grades. His findings about study habits are consistent with those of a survey which found that 21 percent of black twelfth-graders watched five or more hours of television per weekday, more than triple the viewing time of their white peers. In addition, 20 percent of blacks reported spending at least an hour per day playing video games, nearly twice the corresponding percentage for whites.
In another study, Harvard researcher Ronald Ferguson found that black high-school students “watch twice as much TV as white kids—three hours a day as opposed to one and a half hours a day.” A 1996 survey of fourth-graders yielded similar results: 69 percent of blacks but just 37 percent of whites watched four or more hours of television daily, and blacks were three times likelier than whites to watch at least six hours of TV per day. The respective television viewing habits of black and non-black children may well reflect deep cultural differences in attitudes toward education. In national studies asking students to name the lowest grade they could receive without angering their parents, blacks consistently name lower grades than whites or Asians.
George Mason University professor Walter E. Williams, who is black, puts it this way:
“At one time in black history, there was a high value placed on education, so much so that blacks risked punishment to acquire education in areas of our country where black education was prohibited…. I know there was a time when schools and black parents cooperated with one another to see to it that children behaved in school and did their work. In principle, the solution to black education problems is not rocket science. The problem is summoning the will.”
Leftists commonly claim that there is inadequate funding of the big-city public schools that most black test-takers attend. Such schools, they claim, are starved for money, whereas white students are likelier to attend comparatively wealthy suburban schools. Yet such assertions are entirely unfounded. Research in fact shows that the higher the percentage of minority students in a school district, the higher the per-pupil expenditures. Mostly-minority school districts spend fully 15 percent more money on each student than districts where minority enrollment is below 5 percent. Moreover, per-pupil spending in the central cities of metropolitan areas—regardless of race—is identical to spending levels in the surrounding suburbs.
Notwithstanding the large expenditures on black students’ schooling, those youngsters have essentially nothing to show for it. Throughout their educational careers, black students as a whole perform very poorly in comparison to their white peers. For example, black 17-year olds lag several years behind their white peers in terms of their proficiency in reading (3.9 years), math (3.4 years), science (5.4 years), and writing (3.3 years). In other words, they function at the level of white children who are roughly three-and-a-half to five-and-a-half years younger.
Nationwide, only 13 percent of black fourth-graders and 11 percent of black eighth-graders score as “proficient” in exams that measure their reading abilities. Fully 59 percent of black fourth-graders and 49 percent of black eighth-graders score “below basic,” meaning that they do not possess the necessary knowledge and skills. In math, only 12 percent of black fourth-graders score “proficient,” and 40 percent score “below basic.” For black eighth graders, the corresponding figures are 8 percent “proficient” and 59 percent “below basic.”
Money alone cannot solve this problem. Consider the Washington, DC school budget, which allocates some $15,000 per year—more than any other American city—to the education of each pupil (the vast majority of whom are black). Notwithstanding this immense financial investment, black student academic achievement in DC ranks as the lowest in the United States. In reading, just 7 percent of the city’s black fourth-graders score “proficient,” while 71 percent score “below basic.” For DC eighth-graders, the numbers are 6 percent “proficient” and 58 percent “below basic.” In math, the black fourth-graders score 5 percent “proficient” and 59 percent “below basic”; eighth-graders are 3 percent “proficient” and 73 percent “below basic.”
Writes Walter E. Williams:
“Racial discrimination has nothing to do with what’s no less than an education meltdown within the black community. Where black education is the very worst, often the city mayor is black, city council dominated by blacks, and often the school superintendent is black, as well as most of the principals and teachers, and Democrats have run the cities for decades. I’m not saying there’s a causal connection, just that one would be hard put to chalk up the rotten education to racial discrimination.”
Though public schools have done such a poor job of educating black youngsters (many of whom are already hamstrung by the previously discussed anti-intellectual biases present in many sectors of the black community), the left nonetheless opposes proposals that would allow parents to divert a portion of their tax dollars away from the public school system, and to use those funds instead to help cover the tuition costs for private schools to which they might prefer to send their children. For example, the National Education Association (NEA) contends that voucher programs “compromise the Association’s commitment to free, equitable, universal, and quality public education for every student.” (Helping the NEA to lobby against vouchers and parental choice have been such leftist stalwarts as People for the American Way, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the NAACP.)
Extolling vouchers as a means of promoting free-market competition among schools, the economist Friedrich von Hayek once wrote:
“As has been shown by Professor Milton Friedman … it would now be entirely practicable to defray the costs of general education out of the public purse without maintaining government schools, by giving the parents vouchers covering the cost of education of each child which they could hand over to schools of their choice. It may still be desirable that government directly provide schools in a few isolated communities where the number of children is too small (and the average cost of education therefore too high) for privately run schools. But with respect to the great majority of the population, it would undoubtedly be possible to leave the organization and management of education entirely to private efforts, with the government providing merely the basic finance and ensuring a minimum standard for all schools where the vouchers could be spent.”
Many black DC parents desperately wish to take their children out of their city’s abysmal public school system and enroll them in private schools; unfortunately the cost of doing so is prohibitive for most. Each year thousands of low-income black students in DC apply for 100 partial scholarships (offered by the Washington Scholarship Fund) to private local schools. Parents have been known to camp for several days outside the school of their choice in order to secure an opportunity to reserve an admission slot for their child.
Other black DC families view home schooling as a viable alternative to the public schools. According to the National Home Educators Research Institute, the largest recent increase in home schooling in America has occurred in Prince George’s County, which borders DC’s east side and is the nation’s largest majority-black county.
When the “War on Poverty” officially started in 1964, the number of Americans living below the official poverty line had been declining continuously since the beginning of the decade and was only about half of what it had been in 1950. Between 1950 and 1965, the proportion of people whose earnings put them below the poverty level—without counting government benefits—decreased by more than 30 percent. Nonetheless, the left saw this state of affairs as fertile ground in which to sow the seeds of interventionism. President Johnson explained that the goal of his “War” was not simply to provide more material goods to the poor, but to reduce dependency, “break the cycle of poverty,” and make “taxpayers out of tax eaters.” Johnson further claimed that his programs would bring to an end the “conditions that breed despair and violence,” those being “ignorance, discrimination, slums, poverty, disease, not enough jobs.” He assured Americans that the investment, over time, would pay huge dividends for society.
But if we use President Johnson’s own stated goals as a measure of the War on Poverty’s effectiveness, we can only conclude that the undertaking was a monstrous failure. Dependency on the government did not decline, but skyrocketed. Between the mid-Sixties and the mid-Seventies, the dollar value of public housing rose nearly fivefold and the amount spent on food stamps rose more than tenfold. From 1965 to 1969, government-provided benefits increased by a factor of 8; by 1974 such benefits were an astounding 20 times higher than they had been in 1965. Also as of 1974, federal spending on social welfare programs amounted to 16 percent of America’s GNP, a far cry from the 8 percent figure of 1960. By 1977 the number of people receiving public assistance had more than doubled since 1960. By 1994 the number stood at about 5 million, five times the 1965 figure.
Conventional welfare programs were founded on the premise that all social and behavioral problems—such as crime, drug abuse, illegitimacy, and child abuse—could ultimately be traced to material poverty or low family income. The focus of such programs, consequently, was to boost low incomes with an infusion of taxpayer cash, under the assumption that this would greatly diminish, if not entirely eliminate, the related pathologies.
But the proponents of this basic assumption entirely ignored the historical record as regards poverty and social problems. Heritage Foundation Senior Research Fellow Robert Rector explains:
“In 1950 around one third of Americans were poor; back in the 1920s more than half of Americans were poor by today’s standards. If having a low income were the key cause of crime, illegitimacy, drugs, or child abuse, for example, then earlier periods should have been simply awash in those problems. Instead the opposite is the case, most social problems seem to have gotten worse as incomes rose. Clearly poverty is not the cause behind the growth of these social problems. Instead, it is the ethos within families that is critical; the norms and values imparted to children concerning: marriage, work, education, and self-control. Conventional welfare, by undermining this ethos (especially with regard to work and marriage), has increased rather than diminished most social problems.”
There is, indeed, voluminous evidence of welfare’s counter-productivity. In a study that controlled for all relevant social and economic factors (such as race, family structure, mothers’ IQ, mothers’ education, family income, and neighborhood), Dr. June O’Neill and Anne Hill found that the more time a child spent on welfare, the lower that child’s IQ and overall cognitive abilities were, making it “clear that it is not poverty but welfare itself which has a damaging effect on the child.”
A similar study by University of Michigan researchers Mary Corcoran and Roger Gordon found that boys who are raised in welfare-dependent families grow up to have greatly diminished success in employment and earnings, as compared to boys raised in non-welfare families.
Research further shows that teenage girls raised in welfare-dependent homes are two to three times more likely to drop out of high school than are their peers (of similar race and socioeconomic background) who are raised without welfare. As Robert Rector puts it: “Analysis shows that these effects are caused by welfare per se, not simply poverty; a poor child without welfare will do better than a similar poor child with welfare.”
Coinciding precisely with the rise of the welfare state, in the mid-1960s the out-of-wedlock birth rate (which stood at 7.7 percent at the time) began a rapid and relentless climb across all demographic lines, a climb that would continue unabated until 1994, when the Welfare Reform Act put the brakes on that trend. Today the overall American illegitimacy rate is about 33 percent (26 percent for whites). For blacks in particular, it hovers at near 70 percent—approximately three times the level of black illegitimacy that existed when the War on Poverty began.
Illegitimacy is a profoundly important topic because it has a great influence on all statistical indicators of a population group’s progress or decline. In 1987, for the first time in the history of any American racial or ethnic group, the birth rate for unmarried black women surpassed that for married black women, and that trend continued uninterrupted until the passage of welfare reform. The black out-of-wedlock birth rates in some inner cities now exceed 80 percent. In Washington, DC, 97 percent of all babies born to black teens are out of wedlock. Because unmarried teenage mothers—whatever their race—typically have no steady employment, nearly 80 percent of them apply for welfare benefits within five years after giving birth to their first child. No group can withstand such a calamitous breakdown of its family structure without experiencing devastating social consequences.
Not surprisingly, father-absent families—black and white alike—generally occupy the bottom rung of our society’s economic ladder. Unwed mothers, regardless of their race, are four times more likely to live in poverty than the average American. Female-headed black families earn only 36 percent as much as two-parent black families, and female-headed white families earn just 46 percent as much as two-parent white families. Not only do unmarried mothers tend to earn relatively little, but their households are obviously limited to a single breadwinner—thus further widening the income gap between one-parent and two-parent families. Fully 85 percent of all black children in poverty live in single-parent, mother-child homes.
The absence of marriage and family life is the single most reliable predictor of a self-perpetuating underclass. Says Robert Rector:
“Out-of-wedlock childbearing and single parenthood are the principal causes of child poverty and welfare dependence in the U.S…. Children born out-of-wedlock to never-married women are poor fifty percent of the time. By contrast children born within a marriage which remains intact are poor 7 percent of the time. Thus the absence of marriage increases the frequency of child poverty 700 percent.”
The dissolution of the black family has had a profound effect not only on the number of black female welfare recipients, but also on the incomes of black males. Divorced, separated, and single men of all races work 20 percent fewer hours and earn 30 percent less money than married men. The fact that there are proportionately twice as many unmarried black men as unmarried white men has enormous implications for the relative incomes of each race. Yet when we compare the earnings of similarly educated men living in similar family structures, the racial income gap not only disappears but actually shifts in favor of blacks.
While the overall black poverty rate remains about two-and-a-half times higher than the white poverty rate (24 percent vs. 10 percent), the “face” of black poverty has changed dramatically in recent decades. At one time, almost all black families were poor, regardless of whether one or both parents were present. Today, however, two-parent black families are rarely poor. Among black families where both the husband and wife work full-time, the current poverty rate is a mere 2 percent. Moreover, the relatively small (13 percent) income disparity between black and white two-parent families completely disappears when we take into account such factors as occupational choices, educational attainment, age, geographic location, and comparative skills.
The clear lesson is that intact families are far more likely to be prosperous than are fatherless families, regardless of their race. As social commentator George Gilder explains, “poverty stems mainly from the breakdown of family responsibilities among fathers.” “If work effort is the first principle of overcoming poverty,” he adds, “marriage is the prime source of upwardly mobile work.” Gilder elaborates on this theme:
“It is love that changes the short horizons of youth and poverty into the long horizons of marriage and career. When marriages fail, the man often returns to the more primitive rhythms of singleness. On the average, his income drops by one-third and he shows a far higher propensity for drink, drugs, and crime. But when marriages in general hold firm and men in general love and support their children, lower-class style changes into middle-class futurity.
“The key to the intractable poverty of the hardcore American poor is the dominance of single and separated men in poor communities. Black ‘unrelated individuals’ are not much more likely to be in poverty than white ones. The problem is neither race nor matriarchy in any meaningful sense. It is familial anarchy among the concentrated poor of the inner city, in which flamboyant and impulsive youths rather than responsible men provide the themes of aspiration. The result is that male sexual rhythms tend to prevail, and boys are brought up without authoritative fathers in the home to instill in them the values of responsible paternity: the discipline and love of children and the dependable performance of the provider role…. [A] condition of widespread illegitimacy and family breakdown can be a sufficient cause of persistent poverty, separating men from the extended horizons embodied in their children.”
Former National Urban League president Hugh Price concurs that black economic progress—like the economic advancement of any other group—is largely contingent on family solidarity. He observes, for instance, that “[b]lacks blessed with strong family and community support, solid education and social skills, personal drive and a dose of good luck have surged into the social and economic mainstream.” “There are three things black parents must persuade their teenagers to do,” adds Price. “First, get their high-school diploma. Second, get married before having their first child. Third, hold off on having their first child until after they turn twenty themselves. Only about 8 percent of children raised in households that follow these rules experience poverty. By contrast, 80 percent of youngsters that ignore these rules end up poor.”
Articulating a similar theme many years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Nothing is so much needed as a secure family life for a people to pull themselves out of poverty.”
Indeed, without stable families to provide their children with emotional support, physical safety, and ethical codes by which to live, the poor are destined to remain poor—whatever their race. In the absence of families, whites and blacks alike tend to grow up economically and morally deprived. It is not white racism, but the cataclysmic breakdown of the black family, that has created what we call the black underclass—a growing entity whose constituents differ qualitatively from members of the also-growing black middle class. Cleve Freeman, a middle-class black from Los Angeles, described this cultural divide: “Even though I am black and [was] raised in a tough part of this city, there are two different cultures of black people. They [in the underclass] are operating in a different world. We don’t know them.”
Children in single-parent households are raised not only with economic, but also social and psychological, disadvantages. For instance, they are four times as likely as children from intact families to be abused or neglected; much likelier to have trouble academically; twice as prone to drop out of school; three times more likely to have behavioral problems; much more apt to experience emotional disorders; far likelier to have a weak sense right and wrong; significantly less able to delay gratification and to control their violent or sexual impulses; two-and-a-half times likelier to be sexually active as teens; approximately twice as likely to conceive children out-of-wedlock when they are teens or young adults; and three times likelier to be on welfare when they reach adulthood.
In addition, growing up without a father is a far better forecaster of a boy’s future criminality than either race or poverty. Regardless of race, 70 percent of all young people in state reform institutions were raised in fatherless homes, as were 60 percent of rapists, 72 percent of adolescent murderers, and 70 percent of long-term prison inmates. As Robert Rector has noted, “Illegitimacy is a major factor in America’s crime problem. Lack of married parents, rather than race or poverty, is the principal factor in the crime rate.”
A major study of 11,000 individuals confirmed that “the percentage of single-parent households with children between the ages of 12 and 20 is significantly associated with rates of violent crime and burglary.” Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, Dr. June O’Neill likewise has found that young black men raised in one-parent homes are twice as likely to commit crimes when compared to black men raised by intact families—even after controlling for a wide range of variables such as family income, urban residence, neighborhood environment, and parents’ education. O’Neill further reports that if young males raised by one parent reside in a neighborhood with many other single-parent families, they are fully three times likelier to engage in criminal activity than are their peers with two parents.
Since the black illegitimacy rate is so high, obviously the aforementioned pathologies plague blacks more than they affect any other demographic. “Even if white people were to become morally rejuvenated tomorrow,” writes Walter E. Williams, “it would do nothing for the problems plaguing a large segment of the black community. Illegitimacy, family breakdown, crime, and fraudulent education are devastating problems, but they are not civil rights problems.”
The left, however, paints a very different picture. Playing its all-purpose trump card, it characterizes such problems as nothing more than by-products of white racism. Unfortunately that view, through decades of constant repetition, has won the minds of many black Americans. “Instead of admitting that racism has declined,” observes Shelby Steele, “we [blacks] argue all the harder that it is still alive and more insidious than ever. We hold race up to shield us from what we do not want to see in ourselves.”
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson of Los Angeles, who has counseled many black teenagers in youth detention centers, has witnessed firsthand the struggles faced by fatherless youngsters. “When I observed and spoke to those young men,” says Peterson, “I could see that truly their need was not for affirmative action, not welfare, not programs, but the crucial need in the lives of those young men was the attention of a father. It was, finally, heartwarming to observe some of the boys … who stood and shared the need they felt for a close father figure.”
The left commonly ascribes the black community’s high rates of broken homes and teenage pregnancies to a phenomenon they call the “legacy of slavery,” whose underlying assumption is that these pathologies were inflicted on the black race by the transatlantic slave trade. Black scholars Alvin Poussaint, Patricia Williams, and Molefi Asante, to name just a few, trace the currently high rate of out-of-wedlock black births back to slavery. Presumably, the numberless black families torn asunder by slavers, coupled with the horrid degradation suffered by the race as a whole, somehow damaged black people’s ability to form and preserve family units.
As Daniel Patrick Moynihan expressed it in 1965, “It was by destroying the Negro family that white America broke the will of the Negro people.” Three centuries of “injustice,” he added, had caused a “tangle of pathology” that had left “deep-seated structural distortions in the life of the Negro American.” “In its lasting effects on individuals and their children,” Moynihan explained, American slavery was “indescribably worse than any recorded servitude, ancient or modern.” Two years earlier, Moynihan and Professor Nathan Glazer had written, “The experience of slavery left as its most serious heritage a steady weakness in the Negro family.”
“The most rudimentary type of family organization,” asserted another writer of the period, “was not permitted to survive [under slavery], to say nothing of the extensions of the family. The mother-child family, with the father either unknown, absent, or, if present, incapable of wielding influence, was the only type of family that could survive.”
More recently, Professor Orlando Patterson lamented that “275 years of assault” by white slavers “on the key roles of father and husband … messed up the gender relations of African American men and women, and they’re still very fragile.”
Though this plausible-sounding theory has gained wide public acceptance, it is utterly discredited by weighty evidence. Throughout the epoch of slavery and into the early decades of the twentieth century—when discrimination was much greater than it is today—most black children grew up in two-parent households. An unmarried teenage girl raising a child alone was rare among blacks.
Post-Civil War studies revealed that most black couples in their forties had been together for at least twenty years. In southern urban areas around 1880, nearly three-fourths of black households were husband-or father-present; in southern rural settings, the figure approached 86 percent. During the ensuing half-century, this norm remained essentially unchanged. In 1925 New York City, for example, about 85 percent of kin-related black households were headed by two parents; no more than 8 percent of black females aged twenty-five to forty headed father-absent households; and more than 80 percent of black children under the age of six lived with both parents. As of 1940, the illegitimacy rate among blacks was approximately 15 percent—a far cry from the current figure of 70 percent.
As late as 1950, black women nationwide were more likely to be married than white women, and only 9 percent of black families with children were headed by a single parent. In the 1950s, black children had a 52 percent chance of living with both their biological parents until age seventeen; by the 1980s those odds had dwindled to a mere 6 percent. In 1959, only 2 percent of black children were reared in households in which the mother never married; today that figure approaches 60 percent.
Without question something has gone terribly wrong in recent years, but clearly it has nothing to do with slavery. During the nine decades between the Emancipation Proclamation and the 1950s, the black family remained a strong, stable institution. It is intellectually irresponsible to ascribe its current crisis to some residual influence of slavery.
There is far more evidence that the cataclysmic destruction of the black family was set in motion by the left, which for decades has encouraged blacks to view themselves as outcasts from a hostile American society; to identify themselves as perpetual victims who are entitled to compensatory privileges designed to “level the playing field” in a land where discrimination would otherwise run rampant; and to reject “white” norms and traditions as part and parcel of the “racist” culture that allegedly despises blacks. It is not inconceivable that one of those traditions which many blacks have chosen to abjure is the institution of marriage. In their book America in Black and White, Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom make this profoundly important observation:
“In the past three decades the proportion of intact married-couple families has declined precipitously even though the fraction of black women aged fifteen to forty-four who were divorced, separated, or widowed also went down.… It is thus not divorce but the failure to marry that has led to such a momentous change in black family patterns. The marriage rate for African Americans has plummeted in the past third of a century. In 1960 … [b]lack women were only a shade less likely to marry than white women; 72 percent of black females and 76 percent of white females had married. …Today a clear majority of African American women aged fifteen to forty-five have never been married, as compared with just a third of their white counterparts….[B]y the time they reach their late twenties, …seven out of ten white women today have married. The figure for black females of the same age is only four out of ten. Many fewer black women are marrying, and yet they continue to have children—which was not the case in an earlier era.”
As of 1966, fertility rates among teenage girls in the United States had been declining steadily for about a decade. Rates of venereal disease had been declining as well: the rate of infection for gonorrhea declined every year from 1950 to 1959, and the rate of syphilis infection in 1960 was less than half of what it had been ten years earlier. Unwilling to leave well-enough alone, however, the left demanded that sex education be added to public-school curricula nationwide, and that government-funded “family planning” (abortion) services be made more widely available. The American School Board Journal stressed the urgency of combating “illegitimacy and venereal disease,” while the head of Planned Parenthood spoke of the need to reduce “the incidence of out-of-wedlock births and early marriage necessitated by pregnancy.”
By 1968, almost half of all American schools—public and private, religious and secular—had instituted sex education programs for their students; these programs continued to spread widely throughout the American educational system in the 1970s. “Family planning” clinics proliferated exponentially from the mid-Sixties to the mid-Seventies. In the late Sixties, federal expenditures for “family planning” and “population” legislation grew from $16 million annually to about $200 million; by 1978 the figure stood at $279 million. Whereas in 1969 fewer than 250,000 teenagers used the services provided by abortion clinics, by 1976 their number had risen to 1.2 million. By the early 1980s, almost two thirds of the funding received by “family planning” agencies came from the federal government.
Did any of these measures have a beneficial effect on society? The numbers tell the story: Between 1970 and 1980, the pregnancy rate among 15- to 19-year-olds rose by more than 40 percent. Among unmarried girls aged 15 to 17, birth rates rose 29 percent between 1970 and 1984—even as the number of abortions more than doubled during the same period. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the percentage of unmarried teenage girls who were sexually active rose dramatically during these years. The rate of teenage gonorrhea in 1975 was three times higher than it had been in 1956.
As noted earlier, today the illegitimacy rate among African Americans is nearly 70 percent, a figure far higher than had ever existed even in the days of Jim Crow segregation or, before that, slavery. The corresponding figures for Hispanics and whites are 46 percent and 26 percent, respectively. While considerably lower than the black rate, these numbers, too, are astronomical in comparison to the era before the left had foisted upon the United States its special insights vis a vis human sexuality.
Black victims of violent crime constitute a most noteworthy category of people who have been devastated by the brainstorms of the left. Consider this: The number of murders committed in the United States in 1960 was lower than in 1950, 1940, or 1930. The 1960 murder rate, in proportion to population, was less than half of what it had been a quarter-century earlier. Nonetheless, in the 1960s the left decided that it was time to inject its own utopian insights into the criminal-justice system in order to rid humanity of crime entirely, once and for all. As Thomas Sowell has pointed out in his book The Vision of the Anointed, the major players in this crusade included Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, the chief judge of the powerful DC Circuit Court of Appeals David Bazelon, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson.
Each of these individuals favored a “therapeutic” approach to criminal justice, stressing the “rehabilitation,” rather than the punishment, of offenders. Judge Bazelon explained, for example, that the real problem was not “the so-called criminal population” but rather society’s “vindictiveness,” its “primitive” and “highly irrational” “need to punish” people for its own “social failure,” a failure for which the “criminal serves as a scapegoat.” The “dehumanizing process” of punishment, said Bazelon, results in a “social branding” that only promotes more crime. In response to this perspective, which was widely embraced by the aforementioned individuals and a plethora of additional “experts” in the fields of criminal justice and social science, in 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court imposed rules on confessions and searches that accompanied a popular sentiment increasingly opposed to capital punishment—and in 1972 struck down the death penalty as an “arbitrary and capricious” practice.
Thomas Sowell elaborates:
“A series of landmark Supreme Court decisions in the 1960s changed the course of criminal justice in the United States. Mapp v. Ohio (1961), Escobido v. Illinois (1964), and Miranda v. Arizona (1966) successively expanded the rights of criminals in the custody of the police by making their convictions invalid if the procedures specified by the courts were not followed in detail by the police. Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) required states to provide free attorneys to criminal defendants, subject to the threat that their convictions would be overturned, even if their guilt was unquestioned, when such attorneys were not provided. In California, even when state-appointed attorneys were supplied, if these attorneys’ defense strategies were second-guessed by appellate judges and considered inadequate, convictions could be overturned on grounds of denial of the constitutional right to counsel.”
These and many additional anti-punishment measures, coupled with the aforementioned trend toward an ever-escalating illegitimacy rate and a rejection of American institutions (such as law-enforcement), resulted in a sudden and dramatic rise in crime rates nationwide. Between 1961 and 1974, the murder rate in the U.S. more than doubled. The rate at which citizens were victimized by violent crimes tripled. Those who were most affected included blacks and the poor, in whose names the “inequities” of an allegedly discriminatory justice system had been overhauled. In other words, tens of thousands of black lives were sacrificed at the altar of leftist dogma.
In 2006, according to the Uniform Crime Reports (which are prepared annually by the FBI), blacks, who make up roughly 13 percent of the U.S. population, accounted for 39 percent of all arrests for violent crimes—including 41 percent of weapons violations, 34.5 percent of aggravated assaults, 56 percent of robberies, 32.5 percent of rapes, and 51 percent of murders/manslaughters. Blacks were also arrested for 29 percent of all property crimes—including 29 percent of burglaries, 35 percent of motor vehicle thefts, 22 percent of arsons, 30 percent of fraud cases, and 32 percent of embezzlements.
Given these statistics, it is not surprising that some 42 percent of all prison inmates in the United States are black. In some urban areas, the figures are much higher. This results in an enormous amount of lost potential in the black community.
To many leftists, merely stating such facts is equivalent to race-bashing. Hillary Clinton, for one, has claimed that media reports about the misdeeds of black outlaws perpetuate negative “stereotypes” about black criminality.White author Maurice Berger, denying that black criminality is even a problem worthy of concern, derides “the myth of the danger” that is “associated with blackness.” Black author Ralph Wiley puts it somewhat more crudely: “When they [whites] want to say niggers, they say crime.”
It is similarly common for leftists to view the foregoing statistics as evidence of racism in America’s criminal-justice system. At a presidential primary debate in January 2008, for instance, Senator Barack Obama asserted that blacks and whites “are arrested at very different rates, are convicted at very different rates, [and] receive very different sentences … for the same crime.” Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, condemned the “disgrace of a criminal-justice system that incarcerates so many more African-Americans proportionately than whites.”
But such claims are unfounded, As Heather MacDonald explains in an important April 2008 article:
“The black incarceration rate is overwhelmingly a function of black crime…. From 1976 to 2005, blacks committed more than 52% of all murders in America. In 2006, the black arrest rate for most crimes was two to nearly three times blacks’ representation in the population. Blacks constituted 39.3% of all violent-crime arrests, including 56.3% of all robbery and 34.5% of all aggravated-assault arrests, and 29.4% of all property-crime arrests.
“The advocates acknowledge such crime data only indirectly: by charging bias on the part of the system’s decision makers…. But in fact, cops don’t over-arrest blacks and ignore white criminals. The race of criminals reported by crime victims matches arrest data. No one has ever come up with a plausible argument as to why crime victims would be biased in their reports.
“Racial activists also allege that prosecutors overcharge and judges oversentence blacks…. In 1997, criminologists Robert Sampson and Janet Lauritsen concluded that ‘large racial differences in criminal offending,’ not racism, explained why more blacks were in prison proportionately than whites and for longer terms.
“A 1994 Justice Department survey of felony cases from the country’s 75 largest urban areas discovered that blacks actually had a lower chance of prosecution after a felony than whites did and that they were less likely to be found guilty at trial. After conviction, blacks were more likely to receive prison sentences, however—an outcome that reflected the gravity of their offenses as well as their criminal records.”
Not only are blacks far more likely than whites to commit violent crimes, but they are also significantly more prone to be victims of such offenses. Black males are about twice as likely as white males to be robbed or assaulted. As of 2004, the homicide rate for black males aged fifteen to twenty-four was 77.6 per 100,000 – as compared to 5.9 per 100,000 for Americans as a whole.Among black males aged fifteen to thirty-four, homicide is now the leading cause of death. Black females are killed far less frequently than black males, but are still sent violently to early graves at five times the rate of white females. Overall, blacks constitute about half of all homicide victims in the United States each year, and are eight times more likely to be murdered than whites.
This high incidence of violence against blacks, it should be noted, has almost nothing to do with whites. Of all black homicide victims in the United States, 94 percent are slain by other blacks. Of all the violent crimes committed each year against blacks nationwide, about 75 percent are perpetrated by fellow blacks, and only 12 percent by whites.
The statistics on interracial crime are also worthy of note, particularly because of what they may reveal about the depth of anti-white animus that African Americans have developed as a direct result of the left’s incessant claims that whites as a whole seek to oppress and abuse black people. FBI and Justice Department data reveal that: (a) black perpetrators commit more violent crimes against whites, who are 45 percent of their victims, than against other blacks, who are 43 percent of their victims; (b) statistically, the “average” black is approximately 39 times more likely to violently attack a white person than vice versa, and 136 times more likely to rob a white person than vice versa; and (c) black-on-white rape is 115 times more common than white-on-black rape.
In the first five years of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, sexually transmitted AIDS was almost entirely confined to the white homosexual communities in three major cities—New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. In the name of “civil rights,” leftist gay leaders and their Democratic Party allies who controlled these cities politically, enacted policies to prevent public health officials from implementing methods that had proven effective in combating epidemic diseases in the past—methods such as testing, reporting, contact tracing, and infection-site closing. In the calculus of the gay left, any attempt by public health authorities to close the public bathhouses wherein AIDS was being spread, posed a “threat” to “gay liberation.”
Janice Shaw Crouse, Senior Fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, observes:
“We treat HIV/AIDS differently from any other public health threat. While doctors are required by law to report nearly 50 communicable diseases (including tuberculosis, measles, syphilis, meningitis), and people with those communicable diseases are ordered by law to get treatment or go to jail, United States laws prohibit disclosure of anyone’s HIV status. Even the HIV tests use a code name to avoid identifying any infected persons. Thus, the only way anyone knows that a person has the virus is if that information is voluntarily given. Yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) repor[t] that in the United States there are 40,000 new HIV cases per year and about 900,000 people living with the disease, with nearly 250,000 of those people unaware that they are infected. In response, the CDC recommends that the public be non-judgmental and [identifies] racism, discrimination, stigma and homophobia as reasons for the spread of the epidemic!”
Many thousands of people have died as a result of such policies, and no demographic has been affected more disastrously than blacks, among whom the prevalence of AIDS has risen more sharply than among the members of any other group in the past two decades. Today African Americans, who represent about 13 percent of the U.S. population, account for approximately half of all newly diagnosed AIDS cases. In 2005, the AIDS case rate per 100,000 black adults/adolescents was 10 times that of whites.
Jesse Jackson offers this perspective on the problem: “Because of poverty, ignorance and prejudice, AIDS has been allowed to stalk and kill black America like a serial killer. … But we have also been a compliant victim, submitting through inaction…. It is now time for us to fight AIDS like the major civil rights issue it is.”
But Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson rejects Jackson’s assertion: “When Jackson calls anything a civil rights issue, you know he’s exploiting black immorality for personal gain. I would like Jackson to explain how AIDS is a civil rights issue. In reality, it is a moral issue. It will not be cured until black Americans stop listening to their immoral leaders.”
In Peterson’s view, the root cause of the black AIDS epidemic is related to African Americans’ widespread rejection of the traditional (sexual) norms of a society they view as racist and unworthy of their respect. Says Peterson:
“No one, not even the ‘evil white man,’ is forcing black people to have rampant, irresponsible sex. AIDS punishes anyone who is sexually immoral; it does not care about skin color. The solution to the black AIDS epidemic is simple…. It requires nothing more than a return to God, family and responsibility. The AIDS problem would almost disappear if blacks would take responsibility for their out-of-control lifestyles.”
A hallmark of classical liberalism was its spirit of toleration for different beliefs and ideas, and its respect for individual freedom of thought. Yet in modern leftism, we find precisely the opposite: intolerance of opposing viewpoints, and the promotion of groupthink. The left interprets as treason any deviation from its own intellectual orthodoxy, if exhibited by a member of a so-called “victim” group who theoretically ought to occupy a place in the phalanx of revolutionary agitators. We see this phenomenon manifested with particular clarity by leftist leaders in the African American community. A few examples will serve to illustrate:
Such “liberalism” in no way resembles the classical liberalism of which toleration was a most visible emblem. Yet every one of the foregoing speakers would identify him or her self as a liberal.
So today we have a situation where blacks who otherwise would venture to think for themselves and to challenge the leftist dogmas that have so decimated their race, are prevented from doing so by the fear that they will be branded as sell-outs, “Uncle Toms,” and race-traitors. This is a classic illustration of how the totalitarian left aims to control the very thoughts of those on whose behalf it professes to act.
Shelby Steele puts it this way:
“Today a public ‘black conservative’ will surely meet a stunning amount of animus, demonization, misunderstanding, and flat-out, undifferentiated contempt. And there is a kind of licensing process involved here in which the black leadership—normally protective even of people like Marion Barry and O. J. Simpson—licenses blacks and whites to have contempt for the black conservative. It is a part of the group’s manipulation of shame to let certain of its members languish outside the perimeter of group protection where even politically correct whites (who normally repress criticism of blacks) can show contempt for them.”
 William G. Mayer, The Changing American Mind: How and Why American Public Opinion Changed Between 1960 and 1988 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993), p. 366. Paul B. Sheatsley, “White Attitudes Toward the Negro,” Daedalus (Winter 1966), pp. 219, 222.
 William G. Mayer, The Changing American Mind: How and Why American Public Opinion Changed Between 1960 and 1988 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993), p. 366. Paul B. Sheatsley, “White Attitudes Toward the Negro,” Daedalus (Winter 1966), pp. 219, 222.
 David R. Goldfield: Black, White, and Southern: Race Relations and Southern Culture, 1940 to the Present (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1990), p. 120. Gerald N. Rosenberg, The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring about Social Change?, p. 134.
 Micah Altman and Philip Klinkner, “Measuring the Difference between White Voting and Polling on Interracial Marriage.” 2006.
 Andrew Bostom, “The Racist Theology of Obama’s Church: Breaking the James Cone of Silence,” AndrewBostom.org (March 19, 2008).
 William Allen, Drew Days, Benjamin Hooks, and William Bradford Reynolds, “Affirmative Action and the Constitution” seminar at the American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC (May 21, 1985), p. 3. Cited by Dinesh D’Souza, The End of Racism, p. 164.
 Statement of Commissioners Blandina Ramirez and Mary Frances Berry, Toward an Understanding of Stotts, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (January 1985). Cited by Dinesh D’Souza, The End of Racism, p. 165.
 Michael Zak, “Credit Where Credit Is Due: The Republicans Passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” GOPUSA (August 8, 2003).
 Fred Lucas, “Pastor Got $1.5 Million in Clinton Earmarks before Endorsement,” CNS News (January 24, 2008).
 Leonard Jeffries, “The State of the Black World: The Struggle Continues” (January 8, 2007).
 Tim Wise, “White Whine: Reflections on the Brain-Rotting Properties of Privilege,” ZNet (April 20, 2004).
 Ibid. [Notwithstanding Wright’s implication that the harsh anti-crack penalties were instituted by racist legislators for the purpose of incarcerating as many blacks as possible, the Congressional Record shows that such was not at all the case. In 1986, when the strict, federal anti-crack legislation was being debated, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC)—deeply concerned about the degree to which crack was decimating the black community—strongly supported the legislation and actually pressed for even harsher penalties. In fact, a few years earlier CBC members had pushed President Reagan to create the Office of National Drug Control Policy. See John DiIulio, Jr., “My Black Crime Problem, and Ours,” City Journal (Spring 1996), pp. 19-20.]
 John McWhorter, Word on the Street: Debunking the Myth of ‘Pure’ Standard English (New York: Basic Books, 2001), p. 231.
 Robert Lerner, Ph.D. and Althea K. Nagai, Ph.D., “Racial and Ethnic Preferences in Undergraduate Admissions at Six North Carolina Public Universities,” Center for Equal Opportunity (June 1998).
 Robert Lerner and Althea Nagai, “Racial and Ethnic Preferences at the Three Virginia Public Law Schools,” Center for Equal Opportunity (April 25, 2002).
 Michael Levin, Feminism and Freedom (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1987), p. 119. Charles Murray, “The Coming of Custodial Democracy,” Commentary (September 1988), p. 24. Ethan Bonner, “Colleges Look for Answer to Racial Gaps in Testing,” The New York Times (November 8, 1997), p. A12.
 Robert Lerner and Althea Nagai, “Racial and Ethnic Preferences and Consequences at the University of Maryland School of Medicine,” Center for Equal Opportunity (April 3, 2001).
 Robert Lerner and Althea Nagai, “Preferences and Consequences at the University of Maryland School of Medicine,” Center for Equal Opportunity(April 3, 2001).
 Althea Nagai, “Racial and Ethnic Admission Preferences at the University of Michigan Medical School,” Center for Equal Opportunity(October 17, 2006).
 Arch Puddington, “What to Do about Affirmative Action,” Commentary(June 1995), p. 23. Thomas Sowell, Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Realty?, pp. 49-50. Thernstrom, America in Black and White, pp. 187-188, 234.
 Tony Snow, “Blacks Should Not Abandon King’s Dream,” Conservative Chronicle (September 7, 1994), p. 28. Walter E. Williams, “White People Are Divine,” More Liberty Means Less Government (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1999), p. 6.
 Walter E. Williams, “The Poverty in Black Education Is Not Due to Racial Discrimination or Lack of Money in D.C., Capitalism Magazine (July 5, 2006).
 Stephen Powers and Stanley Rothman, The Least Dangerous Branch? Consequences of Judicial Activism (Praeger Publishers, 2002), p. 53.
 Walter E. Williams, “The Poverty in Black Education Is Not Due to Racial Discrimination or Lack of Money in D.C.,” Capitalism Magazine (July 5, 2006).
 “What’s So Liberal about Keeping Children in Dreadful Schools?” The Washington Post (February 23, 2003).
 Christine Kim and Robert Rector, “Welfare Reform Turns Ten: Evidence Shows Reduced Dependence, Poverty,” The Heritage Foundation(August 1, 2006).
 Douglas Smith and G. Roger Jajoura, “Social Structure and Criminal Victimization,” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, February 1988, pp.27-52. Cited in Robert Rector, “The Effects of Welfare Reform,” The Heritage Foundation (March 15, 2001).
 M. Anne Hill and June O’Neill, Underclass Behaviors in the United States: Measurement and Analysis of Determinants (New York: Baruch College, March 1990). Cited in Robert Rector, “The Effects of Welfare Reform,” The Heritage Foundation (March 15, 2001).
 Tamar Lewin, “Black Children Living With One Parent Put at 55%,” The New York Times (July 15, 1990), p. 17. Bill McAllister, “To Be Young, Male, and Black,” Washington Post (December 28, 1989), p. A1. Jared Taylor, Paved with Good Intentions, p. 297.
 Heather MacDonald, “High Incarceration Rate of Blacks Is Function of Crime, Not Race,” Investor’s Business Daily (April 28, 2008).
 Susan Brink, “Black Men’s Shorter Life Span May Be Attributable to the Stresses of Their Position in Society,” Los Angeles Times (September 24, 2007).
 Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, “Percent distribution of murders and nonnegligent manslaughters known to police, by race of victim, United States, 1964-2006” [Table 3.123.2006 pdf file format (26k)]
 Deborah Kong, “NAACP Opposes California Initiative to Bar Racial Classifying” AAD Project (July 9, 2002).
 Letha See, Human Behavior in the Social Environment from an African American Perspective (New York: Routledge, 1999), p. 73.
 Media Research Center, “Clarence Thomas Accepted Award on Behalf of Woman Who Wished Him Dead,” (December 10, 1999).
 Yaacov Shavit, History in Black: African Americans in Search of an Ancient Past (New York: Routledge, 2001).
Is Racism Responsible for the Problems of Black Americans? (facts about illegitimacy rates)
By Walter E. Williams
July 29, 2020