- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 15, 2001

Once again, Mary Frances Berry, the chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, has demonstrated what a ferociously partisan and deeply polarizing figure she is. In a 35-minute speech delivered at an NAACP annual convention luncheon, the ostensibly politically independent Miss Berry, who has contributed about $25,000 to Democratic candidates over the years, recounted how thrilled she was when she learned that Sen. James Jeffords quit the Republican Party, thus giving control of the Senate to the Democrats. Fair enough. Even "Independents" can be liberals. But the abrasive Miss Berry couldn't let it go at that. In a hateful aside that drew guffaws and applause, Miss Berry added, "Before that, I was just wondering when Strom Thurmond was gonna die."
Miss Berry's divisive outlook is so blinded she has, paradoxically, become one of the biggest obstacles to the cause explicit in the name of the organization she was addressing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. A premier practitioner of the politics of victimization, Miss Berry insists that the plight of disadvantaged minorities in America is largely and directly attributable to the racism that she says afflicts their lives. Yet, regarding two of the biggest problems that confront black America an utterly dysfunctional urban educational system and an out-of-wedlock birthrate of nearly 70 percent Miss Berry exacerbates one (education) and refuses to acknowledge the other (illegitimacy). It is so much easier being a race-baiter and a self-proclaimed victim than it is attacking such intractable, but not insoluble, problems.
Despite numerous polls that demonstrate black Americans support school vouchers, Miss Berry remains a staunch foe of educational choice for poor families. With 63 percent of black fourth-graders failing to read at the basic level, according to last year's National Assessment of Educational Progress test, it is Miss Berry, in a superb contemporary rendition of the racially inspired obstinacy of George Wallace in the 1960s, who is standing in the schoolhouse door.
On the crucial issue of illegitimacy, Miss Berry has preferred to stick her head in the sand. Indeed, during the question-and-answer period following a victimization speech Miss Berry delivered at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville during the 1980s, when the black illegitimacy rate reached 60 percent, she pretended not to understand a questioner's recitation of the steady progression of the black out-of-wedlock rate from 25 percent to 60 percent. "Mego," she disingenuously pleaded, "My eyes glaze over."
For Miss Berry and many other race-baiters including NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, who fathered five illegitimate children as a young man, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has fathered at least one illegitimate child while in his 50s it is so much easier to attribute serious problems in black America to perceived racism supposedly exemplified by a seeming epidemic of church-burnings, which turned out to be a hoax, and Confederate flags. In doing so, Miss Berry and her ilk manifestly fail in their leadership roles and for that she should be ashamed of herself.

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