A Frank Conversation about Race

Shortly after taking office in 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder declared that Americans are "a nation of cowards" about race.  We "simply do not talk enough with each other about things racial."

Well, I've been told that you can't write about race without making somebody angry, but I think self-censorship can be the greater mistake.  So here goes, Mr. Holder:

First, Mr. Holder himself has not helped race relations by the way he has conducted himself as attorney general.  It was a travesty when Holder dropped charges of voter intimidation against a couple of black men who, by brandishing clubs and directing vile racial epithets, unmistakably intimidated white voters in what multiple legal experts called "an open-and-shut case."  I don't believe that Martin Luther King, Jr. marched so that blacks could violate the rights of whites with impunity.  Unless I am wrong about Dr. King, Holder dishonored his legacy.  Yes, earlier generations of white Americans disenfranchised blacks, but retaliating in kind today can do nothing to right the wrongs suffered decades and generations ago.

Mr. Holder could have redeemed his earlier dereliction of duty as the nation's top law-enforcement officer by using his stature as a black man to speak out against the flurry of racially tinged death threats that were tweeted after the second presidential debate.  Instead, his silence in rebuking terrorist threats has been deafening.  Apparently, Holder has been busy playing the race card by waging jihad against states that have passed voter ID laws.

Now let me make a concession: I admit that Republicans and white conservatives like myself intend for voter ID laws to prevent certain traditional Democratic constituencies from voting.  It's true: we very much want to keep dead people, illegal aliens, serial voters, fictitious people, dogs, cats, etc. from casting ballots.  The only black person I (or anyone I know) would want to keep from casting a ballot would be one who already has cast a ballot, but that condition applies equally to white voters, too.

Another scurrilous use of the race card that various Democrats and progressives are making is the charge that conservative Americans will vote against President Obama because of his color.  Don't be absurd!  The only color we object to is the tint of the president's ideology.  We don't want a "red" or "pink" president.  As far as the color of his skin is concerned, aside from the obvious fact that we already elected him once, it is insulting for anyone to think that white Americans are so stupid as to vote against the re-election of a good president because of his pigmentation.  We don't care if a president is black, green, or purple; we care if he or she does a good job in office.  The number of white Americans who will vote against Obama because he is black can't be much larger than the occasional bigoted oddball who would refuse the services of a black physician.  In fact, I would venture to say that -- given a recent Quinnipiac poll in Pennsylvania that showed blacks favoring Obama by 97 to 1 -- there are probably more blacks voting against Romney because he is white than there are whites opposing Obama because he is black.

Speaking of the nearly unanimous black preference for Obama, what do you suppose explains that?  Surely race is a factor, but it's not the only one.  Even when Democrats have had a white nominee for president, he generally has won close to 90 percent of votes cast by blacks.

Clearly, Democrats have been able to lock up the black vote.  This is a remarkable political phenomenon that political scientists will be studying for a long time.  What makes it so remarkable is that Democratic policies have done so much to harm black Americans and hold them back.  It was Democrats who held out longest against civil rights.  It was Democrats, progressives, liberals, and their urban renewal projects that obliterated so many thriving black business districts and demolished thriving black neighborhoods.

It was the same Democratic alliance that, under the guise of fighting a "War on Poverty," created what policy analyst Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation aptly dubbed "the incentive system from hell" -- ironically named government "welfare" programs that incentivized the breakup of black families, thereby depriving millions of black children of the opportunity to grow up in stable homes with supportive, intact families.

In alliance with teachers' unions, Democrats have ignored the educational needs of young black children and colluded to deprive them of opportunities to escape from dysfunctional, ineffectual schools.  What more cruel way could there be to thwart the progress of black people than by depriving them of a sound education?  How can anyone look at little black children sobbing and their mothers looking hurt and betrayed when they lose a lottery for the far-too-scarce slots in charter schools that give these children the best chance to receive the good education that gives them their best hope for success in adulthood?

In city after city, liberal politicians have adopted the Curley strategy (named after former Boston Mayor Michael Curley).  By keeping black Americans dependent on welfare handouts in exchange for their votes on election days, Democratic politicians have weakened, undercut, and destroyed the economic vitality of some of our major cities.  The losers, of course, are the residents of those decaying cities -- predominantly black Americans.

One of the great tragedies of American society is that liberal white Democrats, in connivance with black pied pipers and Judases, have peddled snake oil to the black community.  They have cunningly created the false narrative that the problems of black Americans are due to malicious or uncaring non-liberal white people, when the truth is that it is the insidious and pernicious policies concocted by liberal Democrats and their black henchmen that have been holding back the economic progress of black Americans.

We conservatives are not the problem.  We do not hate black Americans.  On the contrary, we welcome them into the fabric of American society.  Our hope is that all Americans will prosper and attain the American Dream.  There is evidence of this reality all around.  Many black Americans are finding economic success.  Far more would have done so by now if they had not been held back by the misguided liberal policies and the addictive crack cocaine of free money with which Democrats have seduced them.

If there is justice in the universe, someday black Americans will realize how cruelly and cynically they have been exploited by the Democratic establishment -- both black and white.  We white conservatives aren't the problem.  Unfortunately, race relations in our country are being set back by those on the left who make political hay from fabricating a false bogeyman out of us.  Like a magician practicing sleight-of-hand, the left has tricked blacks into looking in the wrong place to perceive who is really holding them back.

Postscript: Less than 24 hours after completing the paragraphs above, I read an article by economist Antony Davies and researcher James Harrigan.  They report that since Barack Obama became president, Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the official unemployment rate for black Americans has risen from 10 percent in 2008 to 14.5 percent today; median black income has fallen from $28,000 (in constant dollars) to $23,600 (even as median white income increased slightly); and the black poverty rate (Census Bureau data) has climbed by about 4 percent to 39 percent.  It will be interesting to see how many black Americans value party loyalty and bragging rights about having a black person in the White House above their own economic welfare.

Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson is an adjunct faculty member, economist, and fellow for economic and social policy with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.

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