What are they talking about?
By Dr. Larry Fedewa (Washington DC, June 8,2020) One issue has been lingering over the activities of the past few weeks which really has to be examined. “Institutional” racism is a term used with, it seems, little clear idea of what it means.
America has had a problem with the treatment of minorities since the beginning. Most prominent among the persecuted minorities have been the African Americans who were held as slaves at the time of the writing of the Constitution. Other minorities have also faced discrimination at various times in our history, including American Indians, Hispanics, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Catholics, the Mormons, the Germans, the Irish, the Italians, the Polish, the Jews and others.
In time all the other minorities have been able to assimilate into the general public with varying degrees of success. The success of African Americans has been much slower and more painful. There have been two periods of turmoil which marked the progress of those of African descent into American society:
The Civil War of the 1860’s and The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.
The results of these two confrontations between the advocates and the opponents of slavery are instructive. In spite of the immense sacrifices suffered by both sides of the “War between the States”, the main benefits to African Americans which endured through the next century were the establishment of a solid legal status for Black citizenship in the passage of the fourteenth and fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution and their freedom to form a mass migration to Northern cities where their opportunities were more productive than in the “Jim Crow” South which dominated the following century.
The Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s brought about a monumental shift in American culture and political affiliations when the federal government adopted responsibility for improving the quality of life for the urban poor by channeling massive amounts of federal tax money ($22 trillion as of 2014 ( The War on Poverty after 50 years, Rachel Sheffield and Robert Rector, 2014)
As Professor Shelby Steele points out, these programs were the Left’s answer to the narrative asserting that the injustices of the past were the sins of the White race against the Black race. This is the origin of “White Guilt” as a political weapon. (White Guilt, 2006).
The effects of this development changed political history: the 1960’s legislation of the Great Society and The War on Poverty led the way to the adoption of the Democrat Party by the majority of Black voters who had been predominantly Republican before 1960 out of deference to Republican Abraham Lincoln, but switched parties in gratitude to the Johnson/Kennedy Democrats who were responsible for the legislation.
It also marked the marriage between the Democrat party and the Civil Rights agenda, which henceforth sought all its goals primarily through politics. This in turn led to the takeover of big city governments (and patronage) by Democrats as well as the “white flight” to the suburbs (and their abandonment of the central cities) in the 1960’s and 70’s.
These “victories” also had the effect on the remaining urban poor Blacks now thinking of themselves as “victims” of White oppression who were not only owed ever more ‘compensation” from White society (whatever that is), but also were not capable of securing their own success by their own efforts.
This is what Steele calls a new form of White exploitation of Blacks. The Left buys the votes of the inner city Blacks by leaving them in control of politicians who enforce the “victim” agenda, most of whom today are themselves Black. But try as they might, things just keep getting worse for them. Why? Sheffield and Rector give one explanation, which is widely accepted by social scientists:
“In his January 1964 State of the Union address, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed, “This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.” In the 50 years since that time, U.S. taxpayers have spent over $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs. Adjusted for inflation, this spending (which does not include Social Security or Medicare) is three times the cost of all U.S. military wars since the American Revolution. Yet progress against poverty, as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau, has been minimal, and in terms of President Johnson’s main goal of reducing the “causes” rather than the mere “consequences” of poverty, the War on Poverty has failed completely. In fact, a significant portion of the population is now less capable of self-sufficiency than it was when the War on Poverty began.
“The lack of progress in building self-sufficiency since the beginning of the War on Poverty 50 years ago is due in major part to the welfare system itself. By breaking down the habits and norms that lead to self-reliance, welfare generates a pattern of increasing intergenerational dependence. The anti-marriage penalties should be removed from welfare programs, and long-term steps should be taken to rebuild the family in lower-income communities.” (Ibid)
This logic leaves no doubts as to the conclusions:
1. There is no “institutional” racism. Racism exists – and probably always will – on both sides, but it is personal, not “institutional”.
2. “White guilt” is not responsible for Black poverty
3. Black victimhood is a state of mind which prevents people from succeeding on their own
4. The burden of self-improvement lies squarely on individual Black people just as it does on everyone else.
5. Welfare programs are responsible for the increase of urban poverty in the 60 years of its existence,
6. The rebuilding of Black institutions of marriage, family, churches, schools, middle class communities, and political organizations is the essence of Black progress in the coming years.
7. White people can help by supporting worthy Black and multiracial causes – and people — with money and time.
Recent events have brought these issues again into focus. This time let’s get it right!
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