DECODING THE FAILURE
In 1940, when blacks were politically impotent, their poverty rate was 87 percent. By 1960, before blacks achieved much political power, it fell to 47 percent. During that interval, in various skilled trades, the incomes of blacks relative to whites more than doubled.What happened? It wasn't due to the Great Society, it wasn't due to goverment programs and careful application of welfare. That astounding shift, cutting an incredibly high poverty rate almost in half was not due to the federal government passing out money it took from others by force.
Williams lists a few factors, such as a move from the rural south to more urban areas where opportunities could be taken advantage of, and both Truman and Kennedy pushed for an end to systematic and official state discrimination which primarily existed in the South and Northeast in America.
Yet there was another factor: society was changing. After fighting alongside blacks in the military in some areas, soldiers came back with a different attitude, and they carried that into the culture of the US and around the world. The society was shifting away from the past and the civil rights movement which started in the 50s was a result of this. Spreading from churches across America, the attitudes shifted and blacks benefited from the change.
It isn't that blacks did not benefit from government intervention and federal programs, it is that society's shift did far more than these programs did and didn't cost money or violate the US Constitution. Culture is what people are like and want to do (or are shamed to not do), law is what they are forced to not do. The difference is critical: you cannot legislate morality, we're told by the left, yet that's exactly what these social programs are trying to do. By law they are trying to force a certain moral code on everyone at the expense of the majority to benefit the minority. Those laws often have unintended and destructive side effects.
Williams has another stat which you've probably heard of already:
In 1940, 86 percent of black children were born inside marriage, and the illegitimacy rate among blacks was about 15 percent. Today, only 35 percent of black children are born inside marriage, and the illegitimacy rate hovers around 70 percent.That's directly traceable to two things: the war on poverty which began to reward having children - whether in a marriage or not - and a society which decided all those morals the nation had clung to were stupid and outdated and should be rejected.
Then Mr Williams gets to an especially painful admission for a black man:
Blacks hold high offices and dominate the political arena in Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New Orleans and other cities. Yet these are the very cities with the nation's most rotten schools, highest crime rates, high illegitimacy rates, weak family structure and other forms of social pathology.Racists leap on this and scream "See? Its the color of their skin which makes these things happen!" And on its face, that's difficult to counter: black men and women in power, awful results. Yet when you dig deeper you see two things behind the faces which better explain the problems. The first is best explained by looking elsewhere.
For about seventy-five years or more after the civil war, the American South was a pretty poor place economically. Ruined by war and crushed by tyrannical Northern government, the South had a rough time rebuilding following the war. Yet the rebuilding shouldn't have taken as long as it did, and there is one reason that stands out above the many. It was the good old boy system. Like the Old Boy system in England where former chums from exclusive schools formed a network of friendship and shared elitism, the Good Old Boys of the South set up their own network.
These were the socially approved, white Democrats who held the right positions and were related to the right people. They gained power not through popularity or personal achievement, not through merit but because they were in the network. If they did something that would hurt them or the network, well the Good Old Boys made sure it went away. Some tattered vestiges of that network still exist in the south, and the presence is still felt.
What happens when Joe Bob Cletus the 6th ends up as mayor or governor simply because he's Joe Bob's son? Well he's not necessarily any good at his job. In fact he might be stupid, corrupt, incompetent, and worthless at his job. But he's in the network and he'll get it til he dies or passes it on to the next guy. After a few generations these people are filling more and more positions of power and the level of corruption and incompetence becomes overwhelming. Visit South Caroline some time and ask yourself how some of the highest and most broad-reaching taxes in the nation could result in so little actual effect on the state. Good Old boys in power, that's how.
Due to this system of gaining power by belonging to the correct group, this system of advancement not through achievement but through action to affirm a specific type of person, the incompetent and unworthy gain power. This can take effect in a lot of ways.
When any group - be they Hispanic, or lesbians, or Christians, or Blacks - picks "their kind" for power simply because of their belonging to the right group long enough, the same thing happens. The undeserving, the incompetent, the corrupt, and the unready end up in power more and more. And as they do, they bring others of their kin to that position as well: the more capable and able being intimidating and unwelcome.
Thus, Detroit, which has put Blacks in positions of power largely because of the hue of their skin for decades is now almost in complete collapse. It isn't because of their ethnic background or melanin content. It isn't because they are genetically inferior or prone to incompetence and corruption. Its because of a form of affirmative action which puts people in positions to do the most damage regardless of their ability and trustworthiness. Marion Barry, corrupt, drug taking philanderer, got reelected to Mayor of Washington DC after being convicted of bribe taking and drug purchase. Why? Because he was black and the man was keeping him down. All those videos and testimony were lies, perpetrated by the white man. We'll show the cracka' who's boss in Chocolate City.
The second major influence is the political bent of the people in power. California is run almost entirely by whites and Hispanics, blacks do not have a significant base of power in the California State government. It is not ever listed in the bigot's litany of "see how them blacks is awful?" areas because there aren't enough blacks there to support the idiot thesis. Yet the state is in almost total collapse on a scale far greater than Detroit. It hasn't been crumbling as long, but it is heading the same place even faster. Why?
Well if you read some pundits, they blame the voters and the initiative process. Those idiots voted to lower their own taxes, can you believe it? The gall of these people! Yet while some blame has to be shared by the people - after all, they voted for the governments they have, and some of the ballot measures were stupidly self destructive - the bulk has to be carried by the leftist culture and politics of the state.
It wasn't color of skin that said illegals get to share in all welfare programs of the state. It wasn't ethnic heritage that blocked drilling for oil and all new power plants for thirty years in California. It wasn't race that cause the state to spend so much money on political correctness and crush business to the point of it fleeing California. It was leftist ideology. That leftist idiocy relied on two things: a continuous, endless cash flow by the wealthy, and the rainbows and skittles dreams of the left that their ideas will all work out in the end because of how very enlightened, special, and brilliant they all are. Those fool's dreams fall apart in the harsh light of reality, even in California.
When you combine that leftist stupidity with a network of insider deals and state worker union wallet padding for decades even as the very areas that get the most money perform the worst, such as education, that combination means a collapse across the board. California's financial condition has gotten so incredibly dire that they are violating basic leftist tenets, such as adding new oil drilling and actually, gasp, cutting some spending in the state budget.
That cultural bent: the left demanding goodies be given to everyone with a hand out and the rich be punished for daring to achieve beyond others, combined with a destruction of basic morality which is demonstrated every day openly and publicly has resulted in a corrosion of one of the world's biggest economies. California alone was the tenth largest economy on earth a few years back. Now its bankrupt, and bleeding debt like a gushing throat wound.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE DREAM?
This combination of the leftist culture and politics with the affirmative action system of promotion and power results in misery and failure everywhere, every time it is tried, in every instance of history. Sometimes the power, wealth, and momentum of an area can be so great the damage takes time to show, but it is inevitable. The United States, far from rejecting this principle and backing away from it just demonstrated it's more than willing to have more of the same by voting in an inexperienced, unready man based almost exclusively on his skin color and embraced the hard left's idiot ideology in the process. 96% of blacks voted for Barack Obama and despite protestations to the contrary such as by Colin Powell, that was largely because he looked like them, not because he was so clearly a superior choice.
As the months have gone by, the US is rapidly experiencing increasing regret over this rash choice, but the damage has been done to the tune of over a trillion dollars in half a year's time. Martin Luther King jr might have approved of President Obama and the Democratic Party's idiotic policies and spending lately, but his dream would never have. Treating everyone, politician or not, by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin would benefit the entire country.
*Hat Tip to LaShawn Barber for pointing me to the Walter Williams column.