Walter Williams: Insults to Black History

Many whites are ashamed, saddened and feel guilty about our history of slavery, Jim Crow and gross racial discrimination. Many black people remain angry over the injustices of the past and what they see as injustices of the present. Both blacks and whites can benefit from a better appreciation of black history.

Often overlooked or ignored is the fact that, as a group, black Americans have made the greatest gains, over some of the highest hurdles, and in a shorter span of time than any other racial group in history.

For example, if one totaled up the earnings and spending of black Americans and considered us as a separate nation with our own gross domestic product, we would rank well within the top 20 richest nations. A black American, Gen. Colin Powell, once headed the world’s mightiest military. Black Americans are among the world’s most famous personalities, and a few black Americans are among the world’s richest people such as investor Robert F. Smith, IT service provider David Steward, Oprah Winfrey, and basketball star Michael Jordan. Plus, there was a black U.S. president.

The significance of these achievements cannot be overstated. When the Civil War ended, neither a slave nor a slave owner would have believed such progress would be possible in less than a century and a half — if ever. As such, it speaks to the intestinal fortitude of a people. Just as important, it speaks to the greatness of a nation in which such gains were possible. Nowhere else on earth could such progress been achieved except in the United States of America.

The issue that confronts us is how these gains can be extended to about one-quarter of the black population for whom they have proven elusive. The first step is to acknowledge that the civil rights struggle is over and won. At one time, black Americans did not enjoy the constitutional guarantees as everyone else. Now we do. While no one can deny the existence of residual racial discrimination, racial discrimination is not the major problem confronting a large segment of the black community.

A major problem is that some public and private policies reward dependency and irresponsibility. Chief among these policies is the welfare state that has fostered a 75% rate of out of wedlock births and decimated the black family that had survived Jim Crow and racism. Keep in mind that in 1940 the black illegitimacy rate was 11% and most black children were raised in two-parent families. Most poverty, about 25%, is found in female-headed households. The poverty rate among husband-and-wife black families has been in the single digits for more than two decades.

Black people can be thankful that double standards and public and private policies rewarding inferiority and irresponsibility were not a part of the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. If there were, then there would not have been the kind of intellectual excellence and spiritual courage that created the world’s most successful civil rights movement. From the late 1800s to 1950, some black schools were models of academic achievement. Black students at Washington’s Dunbar High School often outscored white students as early as 1899. Schools such as Frederick Douglass (Baltimore), Booker T. Washington (Atlanta), P.S. 91 (Brooklyn), McDonogh 35 (New Orleans) and others operated at a similar level of excellence.

Self-destructive behavior that has become acceptable, particularly that in predominantly black schools, is nothing less than a gross betrayal of a struggle, paid with blood, sweat and tears by previous generations, to make possible today’s educational opportunities that are being routinely squandered. I guarantee that blacks who lived through that struggle and are no longer with us would not have believed such a betrayal possible.

Government should do its job of protecting constitutional rights. After that, black people should be simply left alone as opposed to being smothered by the paternalism inspired by white guilt. On that note, I just cannot resist the temptation to refer readers to my “Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon,” which grants Americans of European ancestry amnesty and pardon for their own grievances and those of their forebears against my people so that they stop feeling guilty and stop acting like fools in their relationship with Americans of African ancestry.

Photo credit: Kheel Center (Creative Common) – Some rights reserved


WalterWilliamsWalter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

The views expressed in opinion articles are solely those of the author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by Black Community News.

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  1. “….they stop feeling guilty and stop acting like fools in their relationship with Americans of African ancestry.” ‘My doctor’ never fails to get to the root causes of the problems within both the black and white communities! Kudos, old man! Thank you for your ever ‘common sense’ commentaries.

    As noted those “public and private policies reward dependency and irresponsibility” were largely instituted by the democrat President Lyndon Baines Johnson with his not so “Great Society.” Both black and white ‘families’ have been in decline since that LBJ mess became the ‘new’ American Society. Every American cultural statistic from births to deaths (abortions, thank you SCOTUS of ’73) is in the toilet! We have ‘spawned’ generations of children that have been ‘indoctrinated’ and NOT educated. That LOST culture war may be redeemable, however, folks are long past the need to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ and it may already be too late!

    Billy Graham stated the basic reason, like a Nostradamus of his time, when he said, “Only God Can Change The Hearts of Men!”

    • Concerned USMC Vet

      Maybe I missed something in your thesis, but between the 1920’s and 1950’s African Americans were struggling for their rights. That struggle occurred long before and since that time span. Racism has existed since slavery was instituted in this country. The equality promised to all in the Constitution was not upheld. You mention social programs as if they are unwarranted. For many blacks and whites they are the last refuge from homelessness and ill health. We have shining examples of success but far more examples of failure. Resources need to be allocated to better schools, racial justice, community empowerment, and criminal justice reforms. These are good investments which will help to solve an intractable problem.

      • Concerned American

        Concerned American It only took a Civil War and the lost of countless lives to uphold the Constitution. How much more blood do you want spilled? Take the free Constitution 101 course at Hillsdale College to learn more of our real history. You talk about many more failures than successes. Failure on whose part? Why does so much of the black community want to rely on the government to take care of them instead of using self reliance? Would seem a new form of slavery the Democratic Party has developed and promoted using underlying insidious racist practices meant to keep blacks and poor in their created form of slavery. Can we not learn how to live on our own resources? Many have and are called Uncle Toms. Think. Why have some traded one form of slavery for the Democrat Party slavery of mind control? Beware they are insidious. Remember wanting to teach “Black English” in schools. I think it was a way to keep blacks in their place and not want them to learn to compete. Just a thought.

  2. I don’t know if it is paternalism inspired by white guilt vs the greed and need to keep the black community anchored to the communist democrat party.
    The great welfare state has destroyed families of all races and it should gradually be discontinued as a lifestyle that is better than self support and self respect.
    Serving in the military for over two decades, I lived and learned in a multi-racial, multi-national community. We would have discussions about world events and politics, sometimes religion but after the conversation was concluded we were all soldiers and comrades n arms responsible for each others welfare and life.
    I only this nation could come together as one and have a civil discord