Attorney General Eric Holder gave America reason to believe in him today through a speech he gave to Justice Department employees and comments he made afterward:
“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” Holder said.
Race, Holder said, “is an issue we have never been at ease with and, given our nation’s history, this is in some ways understandable… If we are to make progress in this area, we must feel comfortable enough with one another and tolerant enough of each other to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us.”
“If we’re going to ever make progress, we’re going to have to have the guts, we have to have the determination, to be honest with each other. It also means we have to be able to accept criticism where that is justified,” Holder told reporters after the speech.
It’s undeniable that racism still exists in the United States and that it still holds black Americans back in some respects. But is that really a problem? If so, is it one the government should continue to attempt to solve? And if so, should it continue use the funneling of massive amounts of money to black communities in the form of welfare, housing, education, and affirmative action subsidies as its primary tool?
It’s a sad fact that blacks have not assimilated into mainstream American culture the way that other immigrants have. Even the Chinese, who were widely despised, ostracized, and discriminated against when they began to emigrate to California in numbers during the 1800s, have done significantly better than Americans of African descent.
Holder put things in the proper order in his speech. Before a complex problem can be addressed it must be understood and before we can understand the problem we must discuss it, completely and truthfully.
One truth is one that Holder identified: Blacks and whites do not commonly co-mingle on a voluntary basis. That’s unfortunate because it underscores the racial disharmony that exists here.
Is it the function of government to force progress in that area, as was attempted with urban school desegregation in the 1970s?
Another truth is that it is completely natural for people to prefer the company of others with similar interests and backgrounds, even when that voluntary segregation is disadvantageous socially and economically. People like to do what they are comfortable doing. It will always be this way in a free society.
The rejection of this elementary fact is what led to school busing and, ultimately, the emptying of our inner cities as a racial mixing ground – hardly a recommendation for further large-scale actions on the part of the federal government.
Still another truth is that at a macro level the business market can – and would, if left alone – do more than government to facilitate racial integration. This is true even if employers practice racial discrimination in the hiring process. Companies that regularly fail to hire the best available employees will fail and be replaced by those that do. Non-discrimination is a winning idea in the marketplace.
This is less true when government-enforced hiring protocols taint minority employees with the stigma of affirmative action, creating the suspicion, whether justified or not, that minority workers are less qualified and less capable than their peers. Removing that stigma would help clear the air in American workplaces by allowing minority workers to demonstrate their worth to employers and co-workers based solely on their merits.
Blacks and other minorities also suffer from the same stigma in the education system because of the racial preferences that are used by many major universities during the admissions process. Such policies do have the advantage of mixing up student populations somewhat as compared to where students would end up if admissions were based exclusively on merit.
Unfortunately racial preferences inherently create a sense of distrust on campus in proportion to the amount of gerrymandering that students perceived to have taken place during the admissions process. It would be far better to let the chips fall where they may, so to speak, and spend our resources improving the academic performance of black high school students so they can increase their numbers at top-flight schools through their own honest efforts.
In 1994, Michael Tanner wrote:
Since the start of the War on Poverty in 1965, the United States has spent more than $3.5 trillion trying to ease the plight of the poor. What we have received for that massive investment is, primarily, more poverty.
Our welfare system is unfair to everyone: to taxpayers, who must pick up the bill for failed programs; to society, whose mediating institutions of community, church, and family are increasingly pushed aside; and most of all to the poor themselves, who are trapped in a system that destroys opporunity for them and hope for their children.
It is time to recognize that welfare cannot be reformed. It should be ended. There may be relatively little that can be done for people already on welfare. The key issue is to avoid bringing more people into the cycle of welfare, illegitimacy, fatherlessness, crime, more illegitimacy, and more welfare. The only way to prevent new people from entering the failed system is to abolish programs that insulate individuals from the consequences of their actions.
Does anyone believe that things have gotten better since then?
If we’re going to have an honest discussion about race, the entire wealth redistribution/welfare/affirmative action/entitlement ball of wax simply must be acknowledged as a major cause of racial division in this country. Only when the welfare state is put under the microscope and dissected in the full light of day will Americans be able to determine what works and what hurts. Then we can move forward.
As things stand now, Holder is quite correct: Americans have become cowardly on the subject of race. The primary cause of this gap between what we believe and what we feel we can say on the subject is a government whose policies and standards actively reward those who perpetuate a divisive welfare state and punish those who would replace it with a competitive playing field upon which all Americans are rewarded according to their abilities.