The Civil Rights Movement's Wrong Turn
This February, let's acknowledge several forgotten heroes from black history. We ought to laud those who actually strove for what the laundered historical ledger pronounces as the all-encompassing intent of the civil rights movement: laws affording equal protection regardless of race.
Sadly, these stalwarts in the struggle against segregation have been consigned to historical obscurity by the politically correct acclaim for their resentment-fomenting rivals. Popular culture extols Marxists like W.E.B. Du Bois, despite his repeated praise for Stalin and Mao, even while he despised everything America represents.
Dubois's heritage is best perpetuated by Jeremiah Wright, Jessie Jackson, and Al Sharpton -- socialist agitators amassing personal riches by railing against American capitalism. Unfortunately, the policies such "leaders" tout thrust the burden of perpetual impoverishment upon many of their supposed beneficiaries.
Meanwhile, liberal historians lambast Booker T. Washington as an "accommodationist," revile minorities of every hue who dare escape the Democrats' plantation, and have purposely purged Joseph H. Jackson from memory. During his ill-fated presidential bid, leftists even denounced Herman Cain as a "racist" for not supporting every proposed federal program, and they have similarly trashed Rep. Allen West.
Nearly everyone across the intellectual spectrum -- from Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin to Barack Obama, from Republicans to Democrats, from Marxists to civil libertarians -- claims Martin Luther King. Dr. King's complex record contains as much apocryphal heroism as any American since George Washington; his past has been whitewashed to appeal to all. MLK had admirable qualities in abundance (courage, conviction, perseverance, etc.), but he had failings, too (serial philandering and plagiarism). Yet his lasting impact remains immense.
Today, Martin Luther King's is the only view fondly remembered. This is insufficient. During King's prominence, Joseph H. Jackson was one of his primary rivals for the helm of the civil rights crusade. Jackson, sometimes deemed the "Negro Pope," led the National Baptist Convention, a fundamentalist denomination.
After questioning the validity of core Christian doctrines, Dr. King envisioned transforming the church into a trumpet promoting secular causes, particularly civil rights. King's radicalized supporters splintered the NBC after several riotous conventions which left at least one pastor, A.G. Wright, dead.
Prior to his assassination, King championed the overtly socialist Poor People's Campaign. Some say he was disillusioned despite civil rights triumphs because black economic progress had stagnated.
MLK embarked to Memphis for his fateful final journey to support an AFSCME strike. While the Cultural Marxists who absorbed the black cause didn't focus exclusively on minorities, their initiatives left blacks more than any other demographic dependent on government largesse.
Legal equality quickly transitioned into government favoritism of a socialist bent: affirmative action, quotas, set-asides, social programs favoring minorities, and heavy allotments of government jobs.
The Congressional Black Caucus reinforces this conclusion by spouting such bromides as socialism is a euphemism for black. Charlie Rangel once suggested that "they don't say 's--c' or 'n----r' anymore; they just say 'let's cut taxes.'" Nor are many Communist Party platforms meaningfully different from those of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Clearly, the bleak state of many black communities testifies that the wrong side claimed the civil rights mantle. Covetousness and resentment tickle ears and deceive hearts, but both belie an incoherent social foundation.
That Marxists and grievance-mongers enjoy near-universal esteem is curious given the heartbreak unleashed by progressive policies: illegitimacy, crime, substance abuse, dysfunctional inner-city schools, and welfare dependency. A viable family structure serves as the crucial check against societal degeneration.
The break-away Progressive National Baptist Convention's message of social justice and liberal advocacy today inundates the black church. As preachers orient toward left-wing political agendas instead of the preservation of moral standards, communities are left reeling from man's base instincts left unchecked.
This too is the legacy of the civil rights movement.
Would blacks and other minorities have achieved legal equality as quickly if more had followed Booker T. Washington? Who knows? Today, pure speculation presumes not, but it's likely that the path of production, personal responsibility, and instilling character would not have instigated the collateral damage wrought by protest and pandering.
Reverend Joseph H. Jackson challenged, "We must move from protest to production." Siphoning the earnings of others is an ignoble means to gain, and it is obviously self-defeating over time. Creating something which others value yields both material rewards and a sense of earned accomplishment.
American history reveals immigrants of every race -- including Africans -- thriving on our shores. Black immigrants have in many cases surpassed the economic gains of African-Americans despite in many cases fleeing slavery or government oppression experienced far more recently than that suffered here.
Immigrants prosper by embracing achievement. Instead of affixing themselves to the state's redistributive apparatus, they serve society by becoming economically useful -- precisely as Booker T. Washington and Joseph H. Jackson prescribed. Many blacks also thrived in this way long before the passage of civil rights legislation. Their achievements subtly but sternly rebuked white racism and prove the continuing folly behind affirmative action and reverse discrimination.
The practical advice offered by Booker T. Washington and exemplified by flourishing immigrants today spurred steady progress amongst blacks without inflicting shackles of government dependency. Plutarch warned, "The real destroyer of the Liberties of any people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and largesses."
In various skilled trades, the incomes of blacks relative to whites more than doubled between 1936 and 1959, that is before the magic 1960s decade when supposedly all progress began. The rise of blacks in professional and other high-level occupations was greater in the five years preceding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than in the five years afterwards.
It's puzzling that popular culture attributes black gains to civil rights legislation. This is demeaning. Worse, it encourages a residual reliance on state artifices. The movement may have secured a fairer legal standing more quickly, but its descent into wealth redistribution unleashed dire unintended consequences.
Esteeming W.E.B. Du Bois over Booker T. Washington essentially chooses socialism over capitalism, condemning many unfortunate souls to government bondage and rendering whole communities moral cesspools. Dr. Sowell continues:
The poverty rate among black families fell from 87 percent in 1940 to 47 percent in 1960, during an era of virtually no major civil rights legislation or anti-poverty programs. It dropped another seventeen percentage points during the decade of the 1960s and one percentage point during the 1970s.
Since declaring war on poverty, we've expended trillions on social programs disproportionately serving blacks -- but poverty persists, disproportionately afflicting blacks.
Even as popular culture and numerous laws now tilt towards blacks, severely debilitating social factors lean still more steeply against the African-American community. A cult of victimization and its progeny - broken families plagued by a dependency mindset geared toward government -- undermine more widespread black affluence.
Black illegitimacy funded and encouraged by welfare exceeds 70%, consigning millions of children to poverty in dysfunctional communities rife with crime and squalor. Public policy takes direct aim at the traditional family, and this extension of the civil rights movement's wrong turn in particular has decimated black communities.
Most of these programs were authored by white guilt to appease black rage. Perhaps white liberals should stop congratulating themselves for "caring," and black "leaders" could begin encouraging personal responsibility.
If the left truly cared, they would consider the horrors unleashed by these initiatives meant to assuage their emotions and desist. Maybe America could even start actually treating blacks as equals and cease such condescending programs as affirmative action.
If segregation was wrong, as it was, how can forced integration be right? If discriminating against blacks was unfair, how can skewing the scales in their favor be just? We replaced one evil with its equivalent iniquity facing the opposite perspective. And it's backfired.
It's time we honor the civil rights movement honestly through equal protection under the law.