Progress and setbacks in race relations

By Tom Quiner

It’s Martin Luther King Day.
I re-read his I Have a Dream Speech today. To me, it’s the greatest speech of my lifetime. This line stood out:

“But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.”

Since he delivered those important words, America changed. The Civil Rights Act was passed with bi-partisan support which outlawed major forms of discrimination on the basis of race.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was formed to protect against workplace discrimination.
Affirmative Action policies were put in place that allowed race-based quotas and reverse discrimination to redress past racial grievances, a form of national reparations, so to speak.
America takes discrimination seriously. Since Mr. King’s great speech, segregation and discrimination have been rendered illegal through a series of national and state legislative initiatives.
To amplify America’s repugnance for race-based discrimination, some states passed addendum’s to their Constitutions prohibiting any kind of discrimination. For example, here is the key wording from California’s Proposition 209 which was passed in 1996 with an overwhelming majority:

(a) The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.

Interestingly, the ACLU and other liberal organizations fought ferociously against the above language, language that was the fulfillment of Mr. King’s dream, because they did not want reverse discrimination ended.
So what happened with the passage of Proposition 209?
African-American enrollment at Berkley dropped, proof to liberals of the fallacy of ending race-based discrimination.
On the other hand, black enrollment improved at rank and file colleges in California. Even more, graduation rates went up for African-Americans. Proposition 209 has produced just and moral outcomes.
America has moved into a post-race era with the election of its first African-American President. What a tribute to this great nation.
Still, voices of victimhood emanate from the political Left suggesting that the troubles in the African-American community are the result of persistent racism. And yet the data doesn’t seem to support their premise.
Did you know that only 30 to 40 percent of black males graduate from high school? What a tragedy since education is critical to success in this nation. Our school’s are very much dominated by the teacher’s union who overwhelmingly vote Democrat.
Did you know that black males represent 70 percent of our prison population? Is discrimination at work here? I don’t think so. The Department of Justice reveals that 80 percent of crime against blacks was in fact perpetrated by blacks.
Let us look at black families. In Philadelphia in 1880, three out of four black families were intact, nuclear families with two parents and children.
In his book, “The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom: 1750-1925,” Herbert Gutman wrote:

“Five in six children under the age of 6 lived with both parents.”

In 1960 the illegitimacy rate in the black community was 22 percent. Today, it’s nearly 70 percent. The family clearly hasn’t broken down because of discrimination. Black families were much stronger when discrimination was rampant. More likely, the African American community has been a victim of welfare and Great Society programs that rewarded illegitimacy and penalized marriage.
Mr. King said:

“In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

America has done much right in ending discrimination. And it has damaged a group through the promotion of victimhood. This has got to end in the name of compassion, in the name of decency.
Let us honor Martin Luther King’s dream:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

America has made progress. Our work isn’t done.