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September 12, 2005

What White Do-Gooders Did for Black America--They Gutted It

In this excellent analysis by John McWhorter of the Manhattan Institute, he takes American white liberals to task on the current state of black Americans, using the aftermath of Katrina as a reference point.

...[W}hite America does remain morally culpable Ñ but because white leftists in the late 1960s, in the name of enlightenment and benevolence, encouraged the worst in human nature among blacks and even fostered it in legislation. The hordes of poor blacks stuck in the Superdome last week wound up there not because the White Man barred them from doing better, but because certain tragically influential White Men destroyed the fragile but lasting survival skills poor black communities had maintained since the end of slavery.

Indeed. This is an argument I made to several people over the weekend. The media showed us pictures of hundreds of people--mainly black--standing around, waiting for help that was slow as molasses in arriving. But why did they wait around? Why didn't they take more initiative, like the young man who stole a school bus and picked up survivors on his way to Houston? Because they were used to their basic needs being met by the government. The welfare system taught them that "someone else" would take care of them. When the caretakers dropped the ball, people suffered because their survival skills were either inadequate or nonexistent.

McWhorter explains the welfare phenomenon in depth:

There was a new sense that the disadvantages of being black gave one a pass on civility Ñ or even achievement: this was when black teens started teasing black nerds for Òacting whiteÓ.

Behaviour that most of a black community would have condemned as counterproductive started to seem normal. Through the late 1960s blacks burnt down their own neighbourhoods as gestures of being Òfed upÓ. But blacks had been Òfed upÓ for centuries: why were these the first riots initiated by blacks rather than white thugs Ñ when the economy was flush and employment opportunities were opening up as never before? Because the culture had changed, in ways that hindered too many blacks from taking advantage of the civil rights revolution. Meanwhile, the most grievous result of the new consensus was black American historyÕs most under-reported event, the expansion of welfare. Until now, welfare had been a pittance intended for widows, unavailable as long as the father of oneÕs children was able-bodied and accounted for, and granted for as little time as possible.

So no longer were blacks expected to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, as the old saying goes, but were handed a living. We all like to point to people like Paris Hilton, who cashes in on her family name while spending the family cash, and criticize them for getting what they have from the fruits of someone else's labor. Why should chronic welfare recipients be any different?

The poor black America that welfare expansion created in 1966 is still with us. Poor young blacks have never known anything else. People as old as 50 have only vague memories of life before it. For 30 years this was a world within a world, as is made clear from how often the Katrina refugees mention it is the first time they have ever left New Orleans.

When Barbara Bush said of the Katrina refugees who poured into Houston,"...so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them," she was raked over the coals in the press. However, she was right. These people were disadvantaged--disadvantaged as a result of, not in spite of, the very programs that were supposed to "help" them.

...[W]hat we should all remember from Katrina is a tragic close-up of a group of people staggering after, first, a hideous natural disaster but, ultimately, an equally hideous sociological disaster of 40 years ago.

These are wise words from McWhorton. Will those who need to hear them listen?

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