My wife and I were chatting with old friends — let’s call them the Pauls. We have known each other for decades and still meet a couple times a year to catch up. The Pauls, who live in Michigan, are one of America’s failed experiments with Socialist unionism, lean Left, so our discussions are often … lively.
They are well-educated, intelligent, informed conversationalists. But they argue differently than we, so we sometimes talk past one another. In this, we’re a microcosm of the country at large: we cannot agree, not only because our perceptions differ, but because our reasoning does too. The arguments of the Left usually involve emotion, both positive and negative. Conservatives rely on the opposite half of the brain, on calculation and memory. Thus, both find the others’ points unpersuasive: they’re delivered to the wrong address.
This is frustrating, since both parties — like most Americans, whatever their political persuasion — seek the best interests of the country. There are exceptions, but absent strong proofs to the contrary, we should give our fellow citizens the benefit of the doubt; perhaps they are misguided or misinformed, or both — but not evil of intent. Despite Mr. Paul’s suspicion that given half a chance, “the rich” would grind the poor up for sausage.
Ferguson, Missouri, provides a good example of the contrast. Mrs. Paul says events there were inevitable, given America’s sordid history of race relations. She believes white society systematically destroyed black families in order to assure a docile population of slaves; what we see is a result. She reflects the “Willie Lynch” document — putatively a 1712 slaveowner’s manual advocating familial destruction as a tool of control. It is often cited by those pushing the theory that slavery in America was uniquely vicious, pervasive and evil. That it has been exposed as a fabrication by Jelani Cobb, professor of history at Atlanta’s Spelman College, is irrelevant: both its use and the underlying belief persist.
Guilt. Forgiveness. Despair. Hope. Fear. Relief. Anger. This is the vocabulary of race relations in our country. It is emotional, suited to one side of the political spectrum and used and abused by those with an unhelpful political agenda. When the president and former community organizer sends his attorney general, who thinks that whites cannot be victims of racism, to address the riotous situation in Ferguson, Missouri, what happens? The AG says the Department of Justice will “stand with Ferguson” and talks about his teenage son. At least he didn’t say the child “looked like Michael Brown.” But the message was quite clear, and eerily similar to others we have heard. Think Treyvon Martin. Tawana Brawley. White men are guilty, and damn the facts. The cast of characters even includes Al Sharpton. Again.
This sort of race-hustling is unhelpful to addressing the sociopathy of race in the United States with an eye to fixing it. Instead, we need to look instead at some underlying facts.
Family cohesion, education and steady employment are among the necessary cures for rootlessness, alienation and crime. Over the past 50 years the Left has instituted many programs to address these ills; what has been the result? In 1890, 80 percent of black families had two parents at home, a figure that remained fairly constant through 1960. By 1970 the figure had declined to 64 percent intact; by 1990, it was 38 percent, largely concentrated in the black middle class. It has remained there since. From the early 1970s, this pattern has been duplicated somewhat among white Americans. Both academic Thomas Sowell and the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynahan told us why: the perverse effects of enormous, centralized government programs to fight poverty. And destruction of families is not the worst aspect of these well-intentioned efforts: in 1965, 21 percent of American children lived in poverty. After 30 years and trillions of dollars spent, the rate is still 21 percent.
These direct expenditures have been accompanied by multiple programs for educational opportunities, set-asides for “minority-owned businesses,” “Affirmative Action” in hiring, and much more. None of which, apparently, benefitted the residents of Ferguson, Missouri, Oakland, California, Brooklyn, New York or Cincinnati, Ohio — all sites of riots since 2001.
So, why is it impolitic to ask “when is enough, enough?” Why are these government programs so sacrosanct that they may not be questioned, ineffective though they are? Why can we not suggest that there are other causes here? Because such questions are inconvenient to our political classes, who live on the division and chaos they insist only they can solve. And uncomfortable to those guilty about their own successes and unwilling to give away as much of their own holdings as it might take to assuage their unease. Instead, they prefer to give away yours.
In the name of “fairness,” of course.
Morgan Liddick lives in Centennial.