What do you think?

Published 10:29 pm Monday, May 7, 2018

By Joe Bass

The mid-1960s were a turning point in American history. Until that time, most Americans were economically secure and safe. Black Americans were poor but lived safe and secure lives as long as they “stayed in their place,” which meant tolerating poverty and experiencing bigotry and inequality.

Following World War II, a social movement gained traction for white and black Americans and other minorities to be on equal footing. In the late 1940s and early ’50s, NAACP lawyers began winning civil rights cases against Jim Crow laws. For example, the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision declared state laws for black and white schools unconstitutional.

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The challenge to enforcing these decisions involved Southern governments refusing to abide by them. For example, “massive resistance” resulted in the closing of public schools in Virginia during 1958 and 1959. This resistance resulted in increasing public anger. As this trend continued, there were clashes between civil rights advocates and governments and violent riots began to occur.

In response, two federal programs were enacted. They included Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. These programs have resulted in many positive changes but also fostered development of many negatives that did not previously exist.

Since these programs were initiated, black Americans have become overrepresented in some negative social statistics, which was not the case previously. The typical murder victim is a young black male. The typical murderer is a young black male. Their educational and economic achievement is much less than other groups. Typical federally sponsored housing projects are predominately populated by black Americans. A large percentage of black children are born out of wedlock and are raised by their mother or grandmother. Although many black Americans have been able to improve their lot in life since these programs were initiated, the above numbers continue to support negative stereotypes held by other Americans.

To overcome these problems, it is necessary to understand why they exist. Why has the War on Poverty extended for decades when Lyndon Johnson said that it would, in a short time, raise people out of poverty? There are three lines of thought regarding this.

The first line of thought is that negative results confirm the century-old thought that black people are intellectually and morally inferior. The second line of thought is that government has not spent enough and does not yet have the right mix of programs to make the effort successful. The third line of thought is that welfare, food stamps, public housing and so on are the wrong approach to raise people out of poverty into full employment.

I go with the third option. The welfare approach supports the idea that black people need more help from government to succeed than others, which is to say, that approach is much like the first option. There was no “safety net” when white people moved across the frontier. Other than the possibility that black people are inferior, why do they need a safety net?

It seems I have more confidence in black Americans than those that promote the second option. Slowly remove the safety net, and they will do just as well as white people did without one from frontier days to today.

What do you think?

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at ABetterSociety1@aol.com.