The importance of acknowledging improvements

Published 8:58 pm Monday, March 5, 2018

By Joe Bass

Two 50-year-plus government programs have been under way with the intent of improving American society. These two efforts were supposed to overcome poverty and fulfill the promise of equality of opportunity for all. A great deal of these efforts focused on improving the lot of black Americans and overcoming the social damage done by slavery and Jim Crow.

The “War on Poverty” and “Equal Rights” efforts have seen mixed results. After the country has spent more than $22 trillion on poverty programs, many black Americans continue to be at the bottom of our economic and achievement ladder, where they were when the effort began in 1964.


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Much more progress has been made in achieving equal rights. A person having lived in a cave from 1964 to today would hardly recognize today’s American society. In many ways, our society has been transformed much to the better.

But there is little acknowledgement of improvements made. One reason for this can be found in the fact that there is little complete, candid history provided in schools and the media regarding the conditions of black Americans in the 1940s, ‘50s, and early ‘60s. Educational materials and media news information do not equate how it was with how it is today. This lack of knowledge leaves people with nothing to compare the past with today. This harms efforts to overcome the negatives that exist.

Before continuing to discuss efforts to overcome serious negatives in future columns, this column is designed to provide some balance and perspective regarding social improvements that have been made.

The following are a few examples of improved social conditions that did not exist in 1960.

There is no problem with any eligible American to register to vote, serve on a jury, enroll in and attend local schools (as opposed to white- and black-only schools), run for and hold government offices and marry individuals of a different race. Black Americans hold and have held high-level elected and appointed federal, state and local positions, including one black president, two black U.S. Supreme Court justices, and many members of Congress.

Not only can all qualified students attend and graduate from public colleges and universities, it is now fashionable for private schools to admit students from different racial and ethnic groups. Many of the private schools were originally formed to continue segregation.

There is a much higher percentage of minorities having high-paying and responsible commercial and nonprofit jobs. And there are many laws and enforcement mechanisms designed to legally attempt to enforce legal equality.

It is important for Americans that strive to overcome social negatives to acknowledge and appreciate the improvements that have been made. Not viewing the improvements in perspective with the negatives harms the credibility of activists that continue to act as if it is still 1964.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at