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When the eight Democratic presidential candidates recently debated at Howard University, the opportunity presented itself on many occasions for the candidates discuss the social pathologies facing much of black America. In a debate that focused on poverty and education, two trends went completely unmentioned: (1) the nearly 70 percent of black children who are born out-of-wedlock; and (2) the taunting of black children who take their studies seriously.
To his credit, Barack Obama came close on two occasions. First, he acknowledged the "absolutely critical" need for "African-Americans and other groups to take personal responsibility to rise up out of the problems that we face." Second, while addressing the achievement gap between blacks and whites in school, Mr. Obama said: "The reason that we have consistently had underperformance among these children, our children, is because too many of us think it is acceptable for them not to achieve." Mr. Obama's opponents, however, seemed to be echoing a charge that appeared in one of Sister Souljah's rap diatribes: "America is always trying to strangle and silence black people." For example, told that blacks make up 69 percent of teen-agers diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, Sen. Joe Biden said, "[T]here's neglect on the part of the medical and the white community focusing on educating the minority community out there." This, more than a quarter century since the media and schools became (and have remained) obsessed over the HIV/AIDS scourge.
The Sister Souljah moment occurred 15 years ago. In a June 1992 speech to the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition, then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, who had already clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, courageously confronted the hatred and violence that pervade the gangsta rap and its culture. "You had a rap singer here last night [on a panel] named Sister Souljah," Mr. Clinton said. Then he disapprovingly quoted her. "If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?" Sister Souljah suggested to The Washington Post a month earlier. "So if you're a gang member and you would normally be killing somebody, why not kill a white person?"
Regarding the misogyny, hate and violence that envelop gangsta rap and its culture, the Democrats (in general) and the Clintons (in particular) have moved a long way since 1992 — in the wrong direction. Sen. Hillary Clinton effectively embraced and exploited it in March 2007 by pocketing $800,000 from a Florida fund-raiser hosted by hip-hop star Timbaland, one of the most foul-mouthed and misogynistic rappers in the country.
At the Howard debate, the Democrats' consensus solution to the education problems afflicting minorities — New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson candidly acknowledged that "one out of two African-Americans, Latino kids don't make it through high school" — was to throw much more money at the public schools. It's no surprise that "solution" was offered during a debate in D.C., which, according to the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, spent $15,511 per student in 2002-03. That's 71 percent higher than the national average of $9,053 per student. (Both figures are expressed in constant 2004-05 dollars). As this page has documented over the years, the standardized test results (National Assessment of Educational Progress) of D.C. Public Schools are among the worst in the nation. If money were the solution, the schools would be exemplary.
Nearly all the Democratic candidates at the forum echoed Sen. Chris Dodd's pledge to "eliminate the [prison-sentencing] distinction between crack cocaine and powder cocaine." Once again, the fact that these statements were made in Washington should give one pause. A major reason why prison sentences for crack cocaine offenses are longer than sentences for powder cocaine relates to the urban bloodbaths in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1991, during the D.C. crack epidemic, the city recorded 489 killings, nearly three times the 167 homicides in 2006. During the early 1990s, when the national murder rate was nine per 100,000 residents, Washington's crack-related murder rate was about 80 per 100,000 residents.
If Democrats refuse to acknowledge reality, how can they govern effectively as president?
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
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