- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

For black politicians and the civil rights establishment it is an article of faith that progress for black people requires racial politics and government programs. How about examining this vision with a few simple, common-sense questions?

Whether you’re black, white or polka dot, to take advantage of opportunities, you must be prepared. A large part of preparation is a decent K-12 education.

For children to do well in school, there are some minimum requirements. Someone must make them do their homework, see that they get a good night’s rest, prepare a breakfast and make sure they get to school on time and obey school authorities. This is not rocket science, but here’s my question: Can those requirements be met by a president, member of Congress or a mayor?

If those requirements aren’t met, there’s little hope a child will be academically prepared to take advantage of opportunities. Spending more money on education cannot replace poor parenting. If it could, black academic achievement would be much higher.

Many studies show children raised in stable two-parent households do far better than those raised in single-parent households. They are less likely to give birth out-of-wedlock, less likely to engage in criminal behavior and more likely to complete high school.

Historically, black families have been relatively stable. From 1880 to 1960, the proportion of black children raised in two-parent families held steady at around 70 percent; in 1925 Harlem, it was 85 percent. Today, only 38 percent of black children are raised in two-parent families. In 1940, black illegitimacy was 16 percent; today, it’s 70 percent.

Stable two-parent families are vital for a child’s development. Unstable families aren’t politically correctable by presidents, legislators and mayors.

In many black areas, businessmen must install bars and roll-down gates on their storefronts, hire security and pay high insurance rates. Security precautions add significantly to business costs. Who do you think pays these extra costs? The businessman pays through a lower return, and his customers pay via higher prices and less convenience.

A tiny percentage of the black community is allowed to impose high costs on its overwhelmingly law-abiding residents. Criminals, vandals and thugs have turned once viable shopping areas into economic wastelands. Ensuring public safety is a job for politicians, and they fail miserably. The police, courts and jails allow thugs to prey on the black community with near impunity.

Solutions to the most serious problems facing black Americans will not be found in the political arena. Otherwise, the problems would have been long solved with the civil rights legislation, litigation and the more than $8 trillion spent on poverty programs since 1965. Or the problems would have been solved by the two terms of Bill Clinton, whom some blacks called the first black president.

Perhaps the biggest roadblock to solutions is the widely held vision of the problem black people face, namely racial discrimination. That vision calls for civil rights strategies. Truth is, the black civil rights struggle is over and has been won. At one time, black Americans did not have the constitutional protections enjoyed by others. Today, there are no constitutional protections denied blacks.

That’s not to say every vestige of discrimination has been eliminated. But the devastating problems of a large proportion of the black community are not civil rights problems and won’t be solved in the political arena.

Walter E. Williams is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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