by Walter E. Williams
National Townhall Columnist/
President Barack Obama and his first attorney general Eric Holder called for an honest conversation about race. Holder even called us "a nation of cowards" because we were unwilling to have a "national conversation" about race. The truth of the matter is there's been more than a half-century of conversations about race. We do not need more. Instead, black people need to have frank conversations among ourselves, no matter how uncomfortable and embarrassing the topics may be.
Among the nation's most dangerous cities are Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Baltimore, Memphis, Milwaukee, Birmingham, Newark, Cleveland and Philadelphia. These once-thriving cities are in steep decline. What these cities have in common is that they have large black populations. Also, they have been run by one political party for nearly a half-century, with blacks having significant political power. Other characteristics these cities share are poorly performing and unsafe schools, poor-quality city services, and declining populations. Each year, more than 7,000 blacks are murdered. That's a number greater than white and Hispanic murder victims combined. Blacks of all ages are killed at six times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined. According to the FBI, the police kill about 400 people a year; blacks are roughly one-third of that number. In Chicago alone, so far this year, over 2,000 people have been shot, leaving over 320 dead. It's a similar tale of mayhem in other predominantly black cities.
Heather Mac Donald's most recent book, "The War on Cops," points out some devastating and sobering statistics: "Blacks were charged with 62 percent of all robberies, 57 percent of all murders, and 45 percent of all assaults in the 75 largest U.S. counties in 2009, while constituting roughly 15 percent of the population in those counties. From 2005 to 2014, 40 percent of cop-killers were black. Given the racially lopsided nature of gun violence, a 26 percent rate of black victimization by the police is not evidence of bias."
The primary victims of lawlessness are black people. To address this problem and most others, black people should ignore the liberal agenda. If civil authorities will not do their job of creating a safe environment, then black people should take the initiative. One example comes to mind. In 1988, at the request of residents, black Muslims began to patrol Mayfair Mansions, a drug-infested, gang-ridden, unsafe Washington, D.C., housing project. The gangs and drug lords left. The Nation of Islam sentinels were not deterred by the wishes of politicians and the American Civil Liberties Union. They didn't feel obliged to give kid glove treatment to criminals. Black residents of crime-infested neighborhoods should set up patrols, armed if necessary, to challenge thugs, gangs, drug dealers and other miscreants and make black neighborhoods safe and respectable. No one should have to live in daily fear for his life and safety. Most Americans have no idea of -- and wouldn't begin to tolerate -- the climate of fear and intimidation under which so many black people live.
Without self-initiative, there is not much that can be done about the high crime rate in black neighborhoods. Black and white liberals and their allies in the ACLU, as well as many libertarians, will not countenance the kind of tools needed to bring about civility. For example, the Chicago Police Department recently entered an agreement with the ACLU to record contact cards for all street stops. The ACLU claimed that police were disproportionately targeting minorities for questioning and searches. The practical result will be fewer investigative stops by policemen and more crime, and it will be black residents who suffer.
Black people have the capacity to run the criminals out of their neighborhoods. Let me put the issue another way. Suppose it were the Ku Klux Klan riding through black neighborhoods murdering 7,000 blacks year after year. How many black people would be willing to wait for the Klansmen to behave themselves or accept political promises and wait for a government program?
The prospects for a better future are nearly hopeless for roughly 20 percent of black people -- those who reside in big-city crime-infested and dysfunctional neighborhoods. There is virtually nothing that can be done about it without a major rebuilding of the black community from within. Let's examine some of the aspects of the problem and the dismal prognosis, given the status quo.
The most important social unit is the family. Many talk about the "breakdown" in the black family when a far more accurate description is that the family doesn't form in the first place. About 73 percent of black babies are born to unwed mothers. By the way, that percentage was 25 in 1963 and 11 in 1938. The absence of fathers is crucial. Even President Barack Obama recognized this when he said that "children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison." Female-headed households are a devastating problem, but the solution lies almost exclusively within the black community. It's a massive job for black churches and social organizations. If there is a role for government to play, it's to stop subsidizing such behavior with handouts.
Education and skills acquisition are vital to upward mobility. But what goes on in many predominantly black schools is no less than a betrayal to those blacks and whites who sacrificed their blood, sweat and tears during the civil rights struggle of the 1940s, '50s and '60s in an effort to secure better educational opportunities. Nationally, an average of 1,175 teachers and staff were physically attacked each day of the 2011-12 school year. Most of this occurred at predominantly black schools. In Baltimore, each school day in 2010, an average of four teachers and staff were assaulted. Some Chicago teachers are treated for post-traumatic stress. Given this climate of fear, intimidation and disorderliness, one should not be surprised by an outcome that shows that the average black student who manages to graduate from high school has an academic achievement level of a white seventh- or eighth-grader.
I do not believe that the disgraceful academic performance by black students is preordained. In other words, it just doesn't have to be that way. The first order of business for education to occur is the provision of an orderly, safe teaching and learning environment. The education establishment and civil authorities have ignored their responsibility -- or have been thwarted in their efforts -- to create such an environment. Rather than watch future generations of black people have their educational opportunities destroyed, black people who really care need to act. They can readily discover the miscreants and use whatever methods at their disposal to stop them from making education impossible for others. The bottom line is that if civil authorities will not act to ensure a safe and orderly learning environment, there is no reason for black people to accept such inability and its results.
Here's an experiment. Meet with black people such as Reps. John Conyers (age 87), Charles Rangel (86), Eddie Bernice Johnson (80), Alcee Hastings (79) and Maxine Waters (77). Ask them whether their parents would have tolerated their assaulting and cursing teachers or any other adult. I bet you the rent money that their parents -- or any other parents they knew when they were growing up -- would not have accepted the grossly disrespectful behavior seen today among many black youngsters, using foul language and racial epithets. Older blacks will tell you that had they behaved that way, they would have felt serious pain in their hind parts. If blacks of past generations would not accept such self-destructive behavior, why should today's blacks accept it?
The bottom line is that only black people can solve our problems.