Monday, August 13, 2007

Are you black enough?

Our country can be such a ridiculous place. We suffer through decades of segregation, wrongheaded race-based social protection policy and Jim Crow laws only to arrive at this: Senator Clinton (or Obama, for that matter) are you black enough?

Senator Clinton, are you black enough?

The question usually aimed at her darker opponent from Chicago triggered a burst of laughter from Hillary Rodham Clinton. She recovered from the barb and proceeded by not answering it.
The national crisis with African-Americans, she said, concerned the "1.4 million young men of color between the ages of 16 and 24 who are out of school, and out of work and too often out of hope. It includes nearly one out of every three young African-American men. They're not earning legal wages or learning marketable skills; many grow up without fathers, locked up in prisons, or end up losing their lives, or taking lives, due to guns and violence."
Of course, it is a terrible situation. But let me remind you that blacks in America were on their way up, doing well in the level playing field (and even making great strides while playing 'uphill,' so to speak, before civil rights reform) until they were crushed by welfare dependence.

Statistically its not so hard to see. A perfect example of the ability of men of any race to excel in an environment which does not specifically limit them is the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta. In 1900 Indiana Judge Robert Taylor noted
"[the Delta allows] the negro to better his condition...In considerable and increasing numbers he is buying land and becoming an independent cultivator...Nowhere else in the south are as favorable opportunities offered to the black man as in the reclaimed Mississippi lowlands, and nowhere else is he doing as much for his own uplifting."
In 1900 the average family on the Delta made $1,000 -- or about $20,000 of todays dollars, in a time when a little could buy a lot. But that number came from over 120,000 blacks and only 20,000 whites. Indeed, blacks in the Delta were making equivalent (or better) sums of money than many whites all over the South, primarily due to their efforts "for [their] own uplifting".

The early 20th century was not a good time for America. Growing pains rarely are. One particular nastiness that developed was a departure from so-called "Social Darwinism" which respected black men enough to allow them to compete -- as men -- against whites. Largely fueled by politician-inspired racism 100% Americanism, the rebirth of the KKK and Jim Crow laws hurt not only blacks but any non-Anglo-Saxon immigrant, Catholics, Jews, gamblers and drinkers. However, out of the mix of the Depression rose a black society that was gathering itself, and was beginning to truly compete in America. This was not accomplished by advantaging them; it was accomplished by not disadvantaging them.

E. Franklin Frazier studied black family economics in the 1930's and noted a disproportionately high number of "urban Negro families with women heads". Throughout the 1940's almost 25% of all black families were headed by females. However this number was static through the 1950's, but increased from 25% to over 40% in the period of 1965 to 1980. This period coincides perfectly with well-meaning (or power hungry) folks like Senator Clinton implementing the unfortunate cycle of welfare dependence.

Blacks in America have still not recovered from the blow they received at the hands of white welfare checks. And rather than recognizing this fact, our current "Black leaders" (whether black, sort of black, or not black) are striving to continue faster down the same path, to throw good money after bad.

So, Senator Clinton, I ask you this: Are you black enough to recognize that the way you fix "economic crises" that are staggeringly race based is not by unfairly advantaging or disadvantaging one side?

Barry, John. Rising Tide, 1998.
Darity, et al. Changes in Black Family Structure: Implications for Welfare Dependency. The American Economic Review, Vol. 73, No. 2, pp. 59-64.