A quick scan through social media can quite quickly tell you that
we have a problem.
It’s figuring out what that problem is that’s the hard part.
Is the problem police violence?
Is the problem poverty?
Is the problem the media?
Is the problem government policies?
Is the problem racial stereotypes that exist from prior to Martin
Luther King Jr.’s time?
Is the problem the significant rise in single parent black homes?
What is the problem that has caused things like Baltimore and
Ferguson and others to happen?
Pick all of the above?
What do you think?
I’m going to go on record and say that I believe that the problems that we’re facing today are stemming from government policies that were put in place in many cases decades if not centuries ago.
The rest – they are all symptoms of the problem – not causes.
For over 400 years, the “white man” on this continent and
elsewhere mistreated black people. Mistreated is actually
significantly too nice of a word to describe slavery.
Even after the Civil War, there were still systems and policies
that discriminated against blacks. The right to vote, the right
to own property, the right to get an FHA mortgage all were just a
few of the examples of what was limited for black people after the
An FHA mortgage? How is an FHA mortgage a discriminatory tool
against the black people? Did you know that early in the 1900’s
the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) would not do loans to
blacks. Subsequently, the black population was “pushed” into
smaller and cheaper areas in places like Baltimore, Chicago,
Detroit and other big cities. What that did was essentially
create the ghettos that plague cities to this day.
And those “ghettoes” had significantly lower property values, so
the money to pay for schools in those areas was less. Less money
for schools means that Johnny who grew up in the ghetto was going
to be less likely to learn to read, less likely to go to college,
less likely to get a good job.
So, then our government decides to do a “war on poverty.” “We
have all of these citizens of our country who are living in
poverty, we must do something about it.”
So, what does the government do?
They create a new program. Actually, they create a lot of
programs. These programs are designed, supposedly, to create ways
for the poor to be taken care of and ways for the “not poor” to feel
like they are doing something good for the less fortunate.
What was the end result of these programs? The creation of the
welfare society. A society where people didn’t feel like they had
to work because “Uncle Sam” would take care of them. A society
where the “nuclear family” became irrelevant – because the male,
particularly the black male was in many ways replaced by Uncle
Sam. A society where the politicians used that support to
encourage people to think and vote in ways that would keep them
A couple of more detailed results of that were extremely negative for many of the black population in America:
1. As we mentioned before, the caliber of education in the schools
in the government “created” ghettoes made it very hard for black
males to feel important, to have hope, to see and have the
possibility of a future where they can be a contributing part of
2. The “ripple effect” of that education is the higher unemployment
rate for under educated black males. That’s a proven phenomenon
not only here in America but around the world. If there isn’t
quality education, there will be significantly higher
3. So, we have low educational standards, high unemployment and
“Uncle Sam” who will support single moms. That’s a classic mix
for giving black males not only nothing to work for but nothing
to hope for either. They don’t feel important, no one wants them,
no one needs them and no one wants to listen to them. So what
happens? Crime goes up. Single parent rates go up, the number and percentage of black American males who are incarcerated goes up.
So, crime levels go up. What happens then? In order to keep the
peace, police officers have to be more aggressive. If you don’t
believe that, ask yourself whether a police officer in an upper
middle class suburb has to deal with the same type of challenges
as a police officer in Cabrini Greens in Chicago.
So, is police violence the cause of these problems we’ve been
having? While there very well might be police who are being more
violent than they are supposed to, the crime levels in areas where
there is less hope and more struggle are a large part of the reason, so yes, I do believe that there are situations where police are not following their rules but in the entirety, I don’t believe that police brutality is the cause of the problems we have. It’s a symptom.
Are government policies the cause of the problems we have today? While they have made it significantly worse, I do not believe they are the cause, at least not the policies that have been around for the last 50 years.
It’s the policies that made slavery legal that are a large/huge part of the problem. It’s the policies that, after the Civil War, continued to cause problems in the way that blacks were treated. Those policies created inherent and built in problems for the black people that are still significant problems today.
Is the media the cause of the problems today? No, they wish they were that powerful. In my mind, the media is like throwing a dry piece of wood on a fire. It makes the fire bigger, it makes the problem bigger, but it doesn’t start the problem. Did the media make Ferguson and Baltimore bigger than it would have been? Absolutely. Did it cause them? Nope.
Government policies – redlining practices in the housing market, the “war on poverty” that misguidedly made many black men feel unneeded cause the problems we have today. Many of the details of the current issues stem from those problematic policies.
A quote from Dr, Martin Luther King Jr.:
“…I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”
So, after that long rambling look at the mess that we have right now, what do we do from here? A couple of suggestions that I think would help……
- Improve the inner city schools – yeah, I know, much easier said than done – but if the students aren’t given a good education, then they won’t be able to experience a good possibility of a job, the ability to be a contributing member of society and have a hope and a future.
- Create economic incentives for companies and businesses to employ people who live in “designated” urban zones.
- Churches and schools must create mentoring programs that will team both whites and blacks, both adults and kids, in programs and activities that will instill hope, that will encourage those who are struggling and will give voice to those who don’t feel like they have a voice.
- Writers, bloggers, speakers, counselors, pastors – all must continue to talk about the realities of today’s environment, the inequities that are present and the realities of how we have to jointly work at creating a new environment.
It all comes down to hope. We, white and black, need to work together to understand each other and to put in places, ways and encouragements that will help build an atmosphere where people feel that they have an opportunity, they have a future.
That’s when we can move towards being a nation that truly is a land of opportunity for everyone.
I’m a white dad. I have Caucasian kids and I have Haitian American kids.
“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.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
We’ve got work to do.