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Walter Williams
Walter E. Williams
10 Feb 2016
Sloppy Language and Thinking

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3 Feb 2016
Isn't It Strange?

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26 Jan 2016
Education Insanity

Some credit Albert Einstein, others credit Benjamin Franklin, with the observation that "the definition of … Read More.

Blacks Must Confront Reality


Though racial discrimination exists, it is nowhere near the barrier it once was. The relevant question is: How much of what we see today can be explained by racial discrimination? This is an important question because if we conclude that racial discrimination is the major cause of black problems when it isn't, then effective solutions will be elusive forever. To begin to get a handle on the answer, let's pull up a few historical facts about black Americans.

In 1950, female-headed households were 18 percent of the black population. Today it's close to 70 percent. One study of 19th-century slave families found that in up to three-fourths of the families, all the children lived with the biological mother and father. In 1925 New York City, 85 percent of black households were two-parent households. Herbert Gutman, author of "The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925," reports, "Five in six children under the age of six lived with both parents." Also, both during slavery and as late as 1920, a teenage girl raising a child without a man present was rare among blacks.

A study of 1880 family structure in Philadelphia found that three-quarters of black families were nuclear families (composed of two parents and children). What is significant, given today's arguments that slavery and discrimination decimated the black family structure, is the fact that years ago, there were only slight differences in family structure among racial groups.

Coupled with the dramatic breakdown in the black family structure has been an astonishing growth in the rate of illegitimacy. The black illegitimacy rate in 1940 was about 14 percent; black illegitimacy today is over 70 percent, and in some cities, it is over 80 percent.

The point of bringing up these historical facts is to ask this question, with a bit of sarcasm: Is the reason the black family was far healthier in the late 1800s and 1900s that back then there was far less racial discrimination and there were greater opportunities? Or did what experts call the "legacy of slavery" wait several generations to victimize today's blacks?

The Census Bureau pegs the poverty rate among blacks at 28.1 percent.

A statistic that one never hears about is that the poverty rate among intact married black families has been in the single digits for more than two decades, currently at 8.4 percent. Weak family structures not only spell poverty and dependency but also contribute to the social pathology seen in many black communities — for example, violence and predatory sex. Each year, roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered. Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black person. 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. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011, there were 279,384 black murder victims. Coupled with being most of the nation's homicide victims, blacks are also major victims of violent personal crimes, such as assault, rape and robbery.

To put this violence in perspective, black fatalities during the Korean War (3,075), Vietnam War (7,243) and all wars since 1980 (about 8,200) come to about 18,500, a number that pales in comparison with black loss of life at home. Young black males had a greater chance of reaching maturity on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan than on the streets of Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, Newark and other cities.

The black academic achievement gap is a disaster. Often, black 12th-graders can read, write and deal with scientific and math problems at only the level of white sixth-graders. This doesn't bode well for success in college or passing civil service exams.

If it is assumed that problems that have a devastating impact on black well-being are a result of racial discrimination and a "legacy of slavery" when they are not, resources spent pursuing a civil rights strategy will yield disappointing results.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



11 Comments | Post Comment
I've observed that more blacks are stepping out to criticize the crimes of other blacks. It may be that president Obama, aided by Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson and others, have done what no others have. They've shown that even though he is black a president may not be interested in racial equality. Or even if blacks and other minorities survive. That each person must take it upon himself to succeed.
As with all things, it starts slowly.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Richard J. Medicus
Tue Aug 26, 2014 6:51 AM
Not much to say at this time.
Comment: #2
Posted by: W.R. Luchie
Tue Aug 26, 2014 4:37 PM
Speaking personally as an American of Mexican descent and growing up in a predominately Black and Hispanic neighborhood, my friends and myself had three educations: Home, school and church. There was either lots of respect…or lots of fear in us kids, and no sense of entitlement. Everyone worked both at home and out in the farm fields. School was like a vacation: It's where we dreamed.

These years of the 1950's and 60's were happy years. Yes, I saw mom and dad work hard and struggle, and we had holes in our sneakers—where we would put cardboard. And I saw other families live week-to-week. I also saw moms and dads take a branch off a tree and run after friends of mine to give them a good whipping for something they had done or didn't do. Yet today Marshall Gooding is a medical colleague retired from Emory University Medical Center. Jesus Garza is Provost at Fresno State University. And while Charles Bell received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Science from Princeton, he interrupted his studies to become a member of The Spinners (a highly successful singing group), and is today a music producer with Clive Davis.

And there are many of us from the same neighborhood who have done well by doing good. Yes, many of us have made our personal mistakes, like divorce. But it's not because we are Mexican or Black. And it wasn't because we were Mexican or Black that we went on to study and realize our dreams and professions. We attribute it to the love, hope, faith and work ethic instilled in us by our moms and dads—and our teachers, and the opportunities available to us as citizens of our country.

We earned trust, and many of us worked our way through school cleaning lab bottles and doing other odd jobs. Yes, we were entitled…entitled by God to work hard to become who we wanted to be…good people like our mom, dad and teachers.

One last thing. At Lincoln Elementary School where we all attended, there was this mean White teacher—Ms. Drury--who had a 2X4 piece of lumber that she named the “Board of Education,” and would use it with or without anyone's permission. She also wrote on the top of her chalkboard in big letters: WE ALL HAVE TO OVERLOOK THE BROKEN GATE TO SEE THE “FLOWERS” BEYOND THE GATE.

Each day of the whole year she would ask us what this meant.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Rick Martinez
Wed Aug 27, 2014 9:18 AM
Rick, thanks for a most thought provoking letter. The best thing I've read all day.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Tom
Wed Aug 27, 2014 10:55 AM
Williams says "...if we conclude that racial discrimination is the major cause of black problems when it isn't, then effective solutions will be elusive forever."

We should have our national dialogue about race based upon this sentence.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Tom
Wed Aug 27, 2014 11:04 AM
Re: Tom;... How do you begin to have dialogues based upon conclusions. If you challenge the conclusions that people have reached, the conversation is usually shorter than sweet.
Comment: #6
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Thu Aug 28, 2014 8:18 AM
Sir;... It may be time for all of America to confront reality. Why is it blacks are always asked to deal with reality while whites are forever allowed lives of unreality. If you divided up all the leater in the world everyone would get less than 6 square inches. That wouldn't make my work boots, or my belt. It is unreal that I can own several leather jackets, leather gloves, and several pairs of boots. Granted; if I go to a yard sale where I buy most of my clothes, I will buy a leather jacket at a good price any day of the week to send to NAHA for the Natives of South Dakota. I share my unreality with them. Like Jay Leno said about cell phones: There are more working cell phones in the world today than working toilets.
Some people don't like to crap, and would rather phone it in. It is clearly a matter of preference, But there is the lieklyhood that cell phones being light and really cheap to produce might be easier to have than toilets. Toilets suggest an advanced level of civilization all on their own. And like leather; all those people without are going to go without unless some one is willing to give it up for them. No one in America is willing to do this for the blacks. What the government has been able to do against the wishes of a large minority of the people has for obvious reason, failed. We cannot make people change their minds with a law. That measure of consensus essential to democracy is missing here. Many of us are inclined to do what is right without a law. It takes more than a law to get people inclined to do what is right, just, and moral.
Comment: #7
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Thu Aug 28, 2014 8:35 AM
Most times, I agree with Professor Williams. He always uses facts, logic, and reason to construct his arguments. But, in this case, his argument is weak because his central premise is wanting. His premise, "Though racial discrimination exists, it is nowhere near the barrier it once was." is faulty because it ignores the structual racism of the so-called war-on-drugs which is, in fact, a war against human beings. Humans, not drugs, are being killed, assaulted, robbed, and arrested by the millions. This war which has been escalated every year for the last forty years has been mainly waged against the lower classes and now also includes a few million middle class victims. The result is that, just in the last several decades, a huge mountain of injustice has been heaped onto the poor and powerless.

I will pose a few questions which should explain this injustice to any honest person. How many members of the ruling class and political class have been repeatedly stopped and searched for drugs and guns? How many of them have been stopped and frisked even once? How many of them have been attacked by a police gang because they were suspected of possessing a weapon or illegal cigarrete, or anything else? How many of them have ever been thrown to the ground, had their face pushed into the pavement, and guns pointed at their head? How many of them have had their doors kicked down and their homes invaded by SWAT goons looking for guns, drugs, and cash while other goons point guns at the heads of their terrified women and children. The answer to all these questions is, ZERO. All this Gestapo crap is reserved for poor and powerless.

Many members of the underclass, including many blacks, have good reasons to be very angry. That is the reason why many of them say things like "F_ the police" and "Shoot the police."
Comment: #8
Posted by: Rick
Fri Aug 29, 2014 3:06 PM
Re: Rick;... It does not matter how good a line of logic is, or how correct the facts arranged to support ones conclusions. Reason is simply a tool, and if one does not begin with a moral sense and seek a moral goal, all the logic in the world will be useless. A computer program that initiates a thermonuclear reaction, and all the reasoning going into the development of that device into a functional weapon may all be based upon the surest facts and reasons, but in its motivation and goal it is not moral. Computers are in every sense logical, and not one bit moral unless used in a moral fashion.
It is certainly absurd to see this wizard of economy stumble around the temple of ethics in spurs and unwashed. He will begin some article in this fashion: Strong armed robbery is wrong, and that we can agree; so Taxes which share many of the qualities of strong armed robbery must be wrong. It is akin to saying a cat and a dog are alike because each has four legs and a tail. Like is not the same as identical. Syllogism is the earliest form of logic common even to children who learn in this method to distinguish one thing from another. A syllogism can refine a definition, but that is hardly the problem in ethics. In all physical forms we are dealing with definitions, with identities.
In all moral forms, what is commonly called transcendent concepts, we are talking of a certain quality, a spiritual value, a meaning with no physical being. While it is absolutely correct to look in human behavior and forms for justice, to look for tangible evidence of morality in human relationships, only a simpleton tries to simplify what is a situation with more variables than fixed quantities. Math is easy. Morality is every life's labor, and it is an essential labor because happiness, personal and social, grow out of morality.
Those who want to cast every argument into right or wrong are idiots. The rightness and wrongness of most situations is obvious. What would you desire for yourself might be asked in relation to every human sitution. What can actually be known of other's motivations, and of those situtions and circumstances that have gone into making people who they are -desiring for themselves- what they have, or something entirely other- is nil. You might simplify a stick figure like Mr. Williams into so many pluses and minuses that make up the man. There is a like ability to reduce the brutality of some people to the brutality they have always known. Just as these transcendent concepts are infinites, so are human lives infinites, and not because infinitely long, but because their identity and motivation are uncertain and indefinable.
How often do we see people reduced to a label? Do you like it. Does anyone like it, or is it simply a spiritual prelude to a physical destruction? To turn people into objects. To judge them simply by simplistic notions of right and wrong that do not take into account the complexity of all people and all motivation is to to do them a wrong, and this I refuse to do.
For example: When Mr. Williams confuses taxes with theft he must do the same with dues, or with any fee associated with any organization. We must agree to the rules of society to belong in that society, and then it becomes fair to try to change that society. There has never been a form of society that existed without social obligation. Many of these people who resist the government would reconstitute the Ante Bellum South in a modern world. The inability of the South to enforce and collect taxes, even in kind, spelled its defeat long before it was evident to anyone in the North. Here is a fact. No one can defend their piece of commonwealth from the common people. No one can defend their piece of the commonwealth from criminals or enemies. Only this whole people united in defense of our commonwealth can defend it against criminals and enemies. I don't deny that in many respects our government is the enemy of this people and even of humanity. That is not the issue, exactly. As constituted, the government divides this people, and gives unequal protection to certain groups. In the face of great economic inequality there is no hope for political equality. Without the political equality to keep us strong, and empower us against enemies foreign and domestic, there is no hope of correcting the government. And yet; we must deal with the government we have rather than abandon it without replacement which would expose all of us to destruction by enemies.
There is no getting around the fact that revolution is legal in America. Even if violent over throw of the government is illegal, to demand and to work for great social change, and to seek democratic consensus for such a change has never been illegal. We should not support a government that does not deliver the goods that every government should deliver, that good as clearly stated as the goal of our government. If you give them money with a hard heart, you only give them trash. The money and the wealth that money represents can be taken back by this people, but as long as the government is not too bad while little good, even for defense, it will have some legitimacy. So taxes are not theft, and every government must demand taxes. It is unfair taxes which load the highest burden onto the most exploited that is the problem. But if the rich won't pay and plead poverty, and no one else has anything left to offer, and the government is morally and financially bankrupt, then it is time to declare capitalism a bust, and find a better form of economy. Then, the government that has made the support of capitalism its forst priority will fall.
Comment: #9
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Aug 30, 2014 6:14 AM
"When Mr. Williams confuses taxes with theft he must do the same with dues, or with any fee associated with any organization."

You are confusing voluntary relations with coercive or violent relations. The situation where a person voluntarily joins an organization and voluntarily agrees to pay dues is the exact opposite of a situation where a person is forced to join an organization and forced to pay dues. It is the same difference that exists between an act of love and an act of rape. By the way, there are rapists who, just like yourself, convince themselves that their victims wanted to be raped, or deserved to be raped, or would benefit from being raped. Likewise, there are rapists, like yourself, who believe that the legalization of rape would benefit "society". They believe that the individual must submit to what he and his fellow rapists have concluded is best for "society". Like yourself, rapists do not acknowledge the existence of individual rights. They do not respect the right of any of their victims to say, NO. To them and you, no means yes. Like rapists, you and your fellow collectivists want to force your will onto your victims.
Comment: #10
Posted by: Rick
Sat Aug 30, 2014 10:56 PM
Rick wrote: How many members of the ruling class and political class have been repeatedly stopped and searched for drugs and guns? How many of them have been stopped and frisked even once? How many of them have been attacked by a police gang because they were suspected of possessing a weapon or illegal cigarrete, or anything else? How many of them have ever been thrown to the ground, had their face pushed into the pavement, and guns pointed at their head? How many of them have had their doors kicked down and their homes invaded by SWAT goons looking for guns, drugs, and cash while other goons point guns at the heads of their terrified women and children.

Why are you doing all this crap? You're mad because repercussions don't seem to occur to the "ruling class." Well, what do you care about that? Just stop doing drugs and guns and you won't have to worry about what someone else is getting away with or not getting away with.
Comment: #11
Posted by: SoCalGal
Thu Dec 11, 2014 1:14 AM
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