If we put ourselves into the shoes of racists who seek to sabotage black upward mobility, we couldn’t develop a more effective agenda than that followed by civil rights organizations, black politicians, academics, liberals and the news media. Let’s look at it.
First, weaken the black family, but don’t blame it on individual choices. You have to preach that today’s weak black family is a legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and racism. The truth is that black female-headed households were just 18 percent of households in 1950, as opposed to about 68 percent today. In fact, from 1890 to 1940, the black marriage rate was slightly higher than that of whites. Even during slavery, when marriage was forbidden for blacks, most black children lived in biological two-parent families. In New York City, in 1925, 85 percent of black households were two-parent households. A study of 1880 family structure in Philadelphia shows that three-quarters of black families were two-parent households.
During the 1960s, devastating nonsense emerged, exemplified by a Johns Hopkins University sociology professor who argued, “It has yet to be shown that the absence of a father was directly responsible for any of the supposed deficiencies of broken homes.” The real issue, he went on to say, “is not the lack of male presence but the lack of male income.” That suggests marriage and fatherhood can be replaced by a welfare check.
The poverty rate among blacks is 36 percent. Most black poverty is found in female-headed households. The poverty rate among black married couples has been in single digits since 1994 and is about eight percent today. The black illegitimacy rate is 75 percent, and in some cities, it’s 90 percent. But if that’s a legacy of slavery, it must have skipped several generations, because in the 1940s, unwed births hovered around 14 percent.
Along with the decline of the black family comes anti-social behavior, manifested by high crime rates. Each year, roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered. Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black person. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011, there were 279,384 black murder victims. Using the 94 percent figure means that 262,621 were murdered by other blacks. Though blacks are 13 percent of the nation’s population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims. Nationally, the black homicide victimization rate is six times that of whites, and in some cities, it’s 22 times that of whites. I’d like for the president, the civil rights establishment, white liberals and the news media, who spent massive resources protesting the George Zimmerman trial’s verdict, to tell the nation whether they believe that the major murder problem blacks face is murder by whites. There are no such protests against the thousands of black murders.
There’s an organization called NeighborhoodScout. Using 2011 population data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 crime statistics from the FBI and information from 17,000 local law enforcement agencies in the country, it came up with a report titled “Top 25 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods in America.” (http://tinyurl.com/cdqrev4) They include neighborhoods in Detroit, Chicago, Houston, St. Louis and other major cities. What’s common to all 25 neighborhoods is that their makeup is described as “Black” or “Mostly Black.” The high crime rates have several outcomes that are not in the best interests of the overwhelmingly law-abiding people in these neighborhoods. There can’t be much economic development. Property has a lower value, but worst of all, people can’t live with the kind of personal security that most Americans enjoy.
Disgustingly, black politicians, civil rights leaders, liberals are talking nonsense about “having a conversation about race.” That’s beyond useless. Tell me how a conversation with white people is going to stop black predators from preying on blacks. How is such a conversation going to eliminate the 75 percent illegitimacy rate? What will such a conversation do about the breakdown of the black family (though “breakdown” is not the correct word, as the family doesn’t form in the first place)? Only black people can solve our problems.
Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.