- - Wednesday, July 31, 2019


Since President Trump denounced Rep. Elijah Cummings, Maryland Democrat, and the deplorable conditions in parts of his congressional district in Baltimore, media outlets and Democrats have been working overtime to call Mr. Trump a racist.

For the most part, the media have focused entirely on criticism of Mr. Trump, rarely mentioning that Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential candidate, called Baltimore a “Third World country” in a 2015 interview or that Catherine Pugh, as a black mayor of Baltimore, toured a part of the city and assailed conditions there on video, saying she could smell the rats. 

None of the stories has focused on the real problem, which my longtime friend and Fox News contributor Juan Williams nailed in an interview he gave me in 2006 when his book “Enough” came out.

Mr. Williams, whom I got to know when we were both Washington Post reporters, told me “phony” black leaders and a black “culture of failure” have led to the kinds of conditions we see in Baltimore and other urban centers.

Mr. Williams lashed out at leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who create support by focusing on “victimhood.”

“That says to an individual, ‘You can’t help yourself, you can’t help your family, and therefore all you can do is wait for the government to do something for you,’” said Mr. Williams, who was then also a senior correspondent for National Public Radio. “I think it is a message of weakness and ineffectual thinking that is absolutely crippling the poor and especially minorities in the United States.”

In the book, Mr. Williams, who is black, cites a long tradition of black self-reliance.

“You had Frederick Douglass, who said, ‘Let’s get African-Americans in the Union Army to fight for their own freedom.’ Crispus Attucks obviously was shedding black blood for the independence of the country and making the case that black Americans had every right to be full citizens with full obligations and privileges that come with citizenship.

“And you come forward from there to Booker T. Washington, who said, ‘Let’s establish trade schools, and let’s own land, in order to establish a black economic base that will deal with poverty but will also deal with the whole notion of equality and equal rights in the country.’ You come forward from that to Dr. King.”

But in recent decades, “That tradition has been abandoned by people who say, ‘What if we portray people as victims? If we have a larger pool of poor people, then we are eligible for a bigger government grant,’” Mr. Williams said. “[Black leaders] maintain their positions of power by mismanaging people. They say that the way we get power is by pretending to be so weak and impotent that we have to say, ‘It’s the result of what the government is doing, and we have to wait for the government to help us.’ I just think it’s criminal to tell people that kind of sad message.”

Beyond opportunistic leaders, Mr. Williams takes aim in the book at “a culture of failure” among blacks.

“That culture says that you are acting white if you’re a good student, that says that going to jail is just a rite of passage, or that crime is acceptable in the black community,” Mr. Williams said. “You know, you celebrate drug dealers and gangs, and you say, ‘That’s authentically black’ when you see criminal behavior. How self-defeating! What a negative image to take on to yourself, but even worse, to put on your children.”

Rap music only furthers this destructive message, according to Mr. Williams. And schools are not being held accountable in part because the Democrats are “in the pockets of the [teachers’] unions,” Mr. Williams said.

Instead of blaming white society, black leaders should be encouraging African-Americans to get a good education and avoid drugs, Mr. Williams told me.

Mr. Williams pointed out that the NAACP has yet to lead a march against drug dealers.

“You change the culture by getting groups like the NAACP to start admitting that what’s really undermining the success of black families and black children is when a crack house opens in the neighborhood and people tolerate and allow that to happen,” Mr. Williams said.

And they should be saying, “If you finish high school or go to college, if you make sure that your kids have wonderful experiences instead of sitting in front of the TV, if you teach them to work hard, this is a country that will reward you,” Mr. Williams said.

In calling the book “Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-end Movements, and Culture of Failure that are Undermining Black America — and What We Can Do About It,” Mr. Williams issues this call-to-arms: “Enough of these phony leaders who focus on victimhood and victimization. Enough of this kind of dead-end talk about celebrating criminals and bad behavior. Let’s look at what works and how people can lift themselves up.”

• Ronald Kessler, a former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, is the author of “The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game.”

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