People who believe that black lives don’t matters deserve all the condemnation they get from their fellow Americans. Thankfully, however, racist Americans (people who believe black lives don’t matter, that blacks are inferior, or that blacks should not have all the rights afforded to every other American[i]) are few, almost universally scorned, and are mostly powerless. Those people betray America’s founding principles and are a nuisance at best and horrible at worst.
As bad as racists are, the harm that white racists have done over the last 55 years is insignificant compared to the harm progressive white people (“‘Do-Gooders’’”) have done over that period and propose to do to black people. The motivations of politicians who “Do-Gooders” support are mixed (ignorant, self-serving, evil, or all three).[ii] Generally, “Do-Gooders” appear to be well-intended, mal-informed, and unaware of the harm their policies have and will inflict on blacks, especially poor blacks. Sadly, however, the pavement on the road to hell constructed by the “Do-Gooders’” good intentions is long and thick.[iii]
Sorting out the many ways in which “Do-Gooders” have harmed blacks will be the subject of future posts. First, realize that the “Do-Gooders’” havoc was mostly unleashed by “War on Poverty,”[iv] which was declared in 1964.[v] To see that havoc clearly, understanding the situation and trajectory of blacks in 1964 is very helpful. Let’s sort that out:
According to the Brookings Institution,[vi]
“…in 1944, most blacks lived in the South and on the land as laborers and sharecroppers. (Only one in eight owned the land on which he worked.) A trivial 5 percent of black men nationally were engaged in nonmanual, white-collar work of any kind; the vast majority held ill-paid, insecure, manual jobs—jobs that few whites would take. As already noted, six out of ten African-American women were household servants who, driven by economic desperation, often worked 12-hour days for pathetically low wages.
… with the shortage of workers in northern manufacturing plants following the outbreak of World War II, southern blacks in search of jobs boarded trains and buses in a Great Migration that lasted through the mid-1960s. [Blacks] found what they were looking for: wages so strikingly high that in 1953 the average income for a black family in the North was almost twice that of those who remained in the South. And through much of the 1950s wages rose steadily and unemployment was low.
Thus by 1960 only one out of seven black men still labored on the land, and almost a quarter were in white-collar or skilled manual occupations. Another 24 percent had semiskilled factory jobs that meant membership in the stable working class, while the proportion of black women working as servants had been cut in half. Even those who did not move up into higher-ranking jobs were doing much better.”
In “Discrimination and Disparities,” Thomas Sowell observed:
“[President Johnson’s] claim that only government programs could effectively deal with deep poverty was contradicted by the plain fact that the black poverty rate declined from 87 percent in 1940 to 47 percent in 1960…” (p. 183) Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
“In “America in Black and White,” authors Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom agree that the black middle class expanded well before “affirmative action.” The Thernstrom’s said, ” . . . The growth of the black middle class long predates the adoption of race-conscious social policies. In some ways, indeed, the black middle class was expanding more rapidly before 1970 than after… Many of the advances black Americans have made since the Great Depression occurred before anything that can be termed ‘affirmative action’ existed. . . . In the years since affirmative action, (the black middle class) has continued to grow, but not at a more rapid pace than in the preceding three decades, despite a common impression to the contrary.”[vii]
Dean Kalahar, reported:[viii]
• In 1950, 72 percent of all black men and 81 percent of black women had been married.
• Every census from 1890 to 1950 showed that black labor force participation rates were higher than those of whites.
• Prior to the 1960’s the unemployment rate for black 16 and 17-year olds was under 10 percent.
• Before 1960, the number of teenage pregnancies had been decreasing; both poverty and dependency were declining, and black income was rising in both absolute and relative terms to white income.
• In 1965, 76.4 percent of black children were born to married women…
• Between 1960 and 1964, blacks were rising into professional and other high-level positions at a rate greater than the [following] five years…
Blacks were making tremendous social progress on many fronts, including an explosion in the popularity of black musicians, was achieved by blacks before 1965[ix] and, as Ebony Magazine put it:
“…events of [the 1950s] included U.S. diplomat Ralph Bunche winning the Nobel Peace Prize for successful mediation of Middle East Peace Talks between Arab and Israeli leaders. JET magazine, the weekly sister publication of EBONY, was born. The NBA color barrier was broken [having broken the MLB barrier in 1947 and NFL barrier in 1953]. Fourteen-year-old Emmett Till of Chicago (whose story is chronicled in JET magazine) was kidnapped and murdered by White thugs while visiting Mississippi. Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a White man on a city bus, kicking off the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Nat King Cole became the first colored man to host a national TV show in prime time, and Lorraine Hansberry became the first Negro woman to have a stage play, A Raisin in the Sun, produced on Broadway.”[x]
“In addition to addressing social and political issues in the ’60s, EBONY afforded its readers a bird’s-eye view of how “the other half” lived. It offered proof that the Black middle and upper classes not only existed but in some instances were thriving, providing hope of upward mobility to its readers. The magazine continued to shine a spotlight on Black stars from film, television, stage, politics and sports. EBONY alone boasted covers featuring exclusively Black glitterati. Eartha Kitt, Harry Belafonte, Nat King Cole, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Bill Cosby and Muhammad Ali not only graced the covers of EBONY but also shared their lives and their hearts with readers, particularly as both related to the struggle of Black America.”[xi]
Perhaps their greatest accomplishment was that their message that they were not being treated fairly was resonating with a growing number of whites, was gaining traction with politicians and judges, and was producing positive results.[xii]
Those positive things are not to say that, in general, blacks were doing just fine. They weren’t. They were subjected to significantly more racism and discourtesy than today,[xiii] unfair obstacles, unequal justice, difficult living conditions, inadequate schools, insufficient education and job opportunities, exceptionally dangerous neighborhoods, and other disadvantages. Of course, neither a 47% poverty rate is fine nor a growing number of blacks thriving and being recognized for their accomplishments was good enough. Moreover, many of these gains were the result of many other hardships they had to endure, e.g., moving from the South to the North and starting over and little capital.
Improving the living conditions, education, and opportunities for blacks was necessary, important, and required by justice. So, encouraged by well-intended voters, intellectuals and politicians leaped into action. Sadly, they did not anticipate the multiple and compounding negative consequences of their policies. What they wrought made matters worse for blacks. For example, the chart below depicts how effective the “Do-Gooders’” War on Poverty was at reducing poverty.
First, note that the opening act of the War on Poverty, the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, was signed into law on August 20th. It took years to get it organized and fully up and running. So, the continuation of the decline in poverty that was well underway when the act was passed was a continuation of the progress that was underway when the war began. Second, note that the War on Poverty put a halt to progress against poverty for 25 years. Giving people false hope and then dashing those hopes leaves people more hopeless and demoralized than had nothing been tried.
As bad as the flattening of progress looks, it hides the fact that blacks fared worse than the composite number reflects (and non-blacks fared better than the composite number.):
Over the twenty-five years following 1968, on average, the percentage of whites in poverty fell while the rate of decline of blacks in poverty flat-lined. We’ll sort out why that was in future posts.
[i] “Racist,” as used herein, refers to Merriam Webster’s definition. The more currently popular “definition” (read: erroneous application) of the word is something like “anything to which people of color object.” Such watering down of the word renders it largely meaningless. Worse, it unhelpfully takes the sting out of being called a racists.
[iv] “The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964,” “Food Stamp Act of 1964,” “Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” and the following programs: VISTA, Job Corps, Head Start, Legal Services and the Community Action Program
[xii] “Brown v. Board of Education,” “Gayle v. Browder,” “Civil Rights Act of 1957,” “Federal troops are sent to Little Rock, Ark by Dwight Eisenhower to enforce the desegregation of Central High School,” “Civil Rights Act of 1960,” “The Civil Rights Act of 1964,” and “Voting Rights Act of 1965”