It’s impossible to get away from the decimation going on in black communities in major American cities. The rioting and looting, the astonishing and unabashed lawlessness, the bitter racist hatred by some, and the overall lack of hope in the American dream.
The natural question is: Why? What in the world has happened?
The ugly legacy of slavery is often cited, followed by the Jim Crow laws in the South. There may well be remnants of those injustices, but American blacks were moving further away from those remnants until about 50 years ago. Walter Williams, an esteemed black economist at George Mason University, points to something much more recent, with compelling statistics and his life story.
He was brought up in the projects in Philadelphia in the 1940s and 1950s, a time when racism was certainly more rampant and Jim Crow laws enmeshed in the South. But he writes the projects that were all black were so safe that people left windows open and often went to bed with doors unlocked. He never saw a cop inside his schools the whole time. Within two generations, doors were locked and bolted and windows were barred in the very same project, and 400 police officers now patrol the hallways of Philadelphia schools. Crime stats similarly reflect this nose dive in the black community.
The wrong turns
Williams and many others point the finger of culpability at the disintegration of the black family and waning influence of the church. When faith and family fall apart, society falls apart. The advent of federal programs that take the place and responsibility of fathers through welfare combined with a societal revolution against Judeo-Christian moral norms to wreak havoc.
Since the heavy advent of both of those dynamics, the black family has gone from solid and strong to an endangered species. Illegitimacy in 1938 was 11 percent for blacks and 3 percent for whites. Today it has soared to 73 percent for blacks and 30 percent for whites. This epidemic alone creates catastrophic forces, not the least of which is young black men with no male role model, no example of what it is to be a responsible man, and just enough money from the government to keep them from having to work — stealing their purpose and hope. This toxic brew is everywhere, but shows up most in the depressing crime and prison stats for young black men.
And while the percentage of people saying they regularly attend church in the black community remains high, the church itself has become such a politicized institution that the media seek out black pastors to speak on political issues, while political candidates always make the rounds to those churches during election season. This dynamic of political involvement is true in white churches (alas, that they are thusly separated) but like the illegitimacy rate, at a lower level. Such politicization undermines the spiritual authority and power of the Christian church.
Williams is far from alone. Similar stories are told by many older, successful blacks such as Thomas Sowell, a black economist at Stanford University who grew up in poverty in rural North Carolina; Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins who grew up in of poverty in Detroit’s inner city; Clarence Thomas, U.S. Supreme Court justice who grew up in poverty in rural southern Georgia; Condoleeza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State who grew up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama; Herman Cain, former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza who grew up in poverty in Atlanta; Larry Elder, lawyer, author and radio host, who grew up in poverty in South Central L.A., and many others.
Enter human nature
But we humans are loath to blame ourselves for our circumstances. It’s a universal truth. We all look for someone else to self-righteously blame. The rich. The boss. Bad schools. Terrible parents. And so on. And there are those who will seek to take advantage of this human nature and provide avenues for blame outside ourselves. In the case of the plight of inner city blacks, the blame has most recently fallen to cops — interestingly, including black cops. This has benefitted politicians and movement leaders while actually enabling the poor behavior. But even though there are a few bad cops, it is irrelevant to the root causes.
This explains how a city like Chicago can have 500 murders in a year, almost entirely black on black, with nary a peep from the black-supported politicians and black leaders — including the nation’s first black president. And yet Milwaukee up the road will spiral out of control with riots and violence when a black police officer shoots an armed black man trying to get away. It makes no sense — except through the lens explained above.
It also makes the solutions to the problems blacks face radiantly obvious — but politically punishing.
However, the price of doing nothing is not the occasional black man killed by police, it is the thousands of blacks killed by other blacks, a gut-wrenching number of them children. It is the absence of avenues to better lives. It is the loss of hope among so many inner-city blacks — perhaps the greatest loss to the human soul.
If Black Lives Matter and politicians will not address these root causes, then others need to.
(The cover picture of Tyshawn Lee, a young boy murdered in gang violence, represents the true, massive violence against blacks: That done by other blacks, including to children.)
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