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Jewish World Review April 12, 2001/ 19 Nissan, 5761

Larry Elder

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The bankrupt reparations movement -- THE reparations for slavery movement got an airing on a recent "60 Minutes." America, argue several "black leaders," owes reparations to blacks for the enslavement and forced labor of black ancestors. America's "black plight," they insist, stems from slavery -- that whites benefited and continue to benefit from a slavery-induced unlevel playing field, and that slavery caused a black/white wealth gap which only reparations can close.

How sad. The reparations movement unmasks today's "black leadership" as negative, pessimistic, and operating on an assumption of the powerlessness of blacks to improve their own lives.

Contrast the astonishing negativism of today's "black leadership" with the hope and promise of Booker T. Washington, who, only 35 years after the end of the civil war, argued the simple case of hard work. He said, when a black learns a skill or an occupation " ... as well or better than some one else, they will be rewarded regardless of race or colour (sic). In the long run, the world is going to have the best, and any difference in race, religion, or previous history will not long keep the world from what it wants."

Let's discuss the "black plight." From the mid-60s until the present, the "black leadership" supported and continues to support laws, programs and regulations counterproductive to the best interests of black America. Minimum wage laws destroy jobs for those least capable of finding them. Yet, the "black leadership" reflexively supports minimum wage hikes. "Black leaders" supported "set-aside programs," designed to give black businesses a "leg up" on their way to private sector competition. But, upon examination, the transition record of successful black public set-asides to the private sector is poor.

Resisting any and all school reforms, the "black leadership" stands by and watches the deterioration of inner-city public school education. The "black leadership" refuses to reconsider costly and ineffective "education programs" like busing, Title I, Head Start and the D.A.R.E. program, while opposing vouchers and merit pay. Teachers' unions resist commonsense reforms like refusing to promote Johnny from, say, fourth grade to fifth grade, until Johnny shows a mastery of fourth-grade work. In California, teachers' unions seek to overturn, on grounds of "cultural racism," tests to establish minimum teacher qualifications. So many minority teachers flunked this test -- considered no more challenging than a 10th-grade proficiency exam -- that some sued, equating their failure to pass with discrimination!

When "black leaders" signed on to affirmative action, they entered into a devilish pact. Many "affirmative action beneficiaries" -- people who would have made it with or without affirmative action -- now navigate through the business world, feeling but for affirmative action, "I wouldn't be here." Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell hysterically asserts, "Everybody who is a person of color in this country has benefited from affirmative action. There's not been anybody who has gotten into college on their own, nobody who's gotten a job on their own, no one who's prospered as a businessman or businesswoman on their own without affirmative action."

But the historical record shows otherwise. As Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson wrote, in an unpublished opinion for the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education, "Negro progress under segregation has been spectacular and, tested by the pace of history, his rise is one of the swiftest and most dramatic advances in the annals of man." Justice Jackson wrote this before affirmative action, set-asides, urban renewal, enterprise zones, CETA program (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act), JTPA (Job Training Partnership Act), Women, Infants and Children program, and the Lyndon Johnson-inspired War on Poverty that increased welfare rolls 110 percent from 1965 to 1968 by adding many minorities. The government magnanimously established neighborhood centers where welfare rights workers informed minorities, "You are owed this."

Under this welfare state, black unwed pregnancies skyrocketed, so that today 70 percent of black children are born to fatherless households. Yet the focus of today's black leadership remains on the battle against racism, whether "overt," "covert," "conscious," "unconscious," "institutional," "environmental" or "systemic." But the enemy long ago began retreating. As John O'Sullivan of the National Review puts it, "White racism exists. But its social power is weak, the social power against it overwhelming."

So now the "black leadership" wastes time and energy on a morally, legally and philosophically bankrupt notion of reparations. Today's "black leadership" requires courage. It takes courage to tell the "helpless" they possess the power to help themselves. This means supporting principles of appropriate personal behavior; the avoidance of reckless, unprotected sex; that a day without two hard hours of homework is wasted.

Success requires drive, energy, focus, hard work, thrift and self-sacrifice. Screaming about "O.J.'s innocence," "voter disenfranchisement in Florida" or "mean-spirited Republicans" provides neither food on the table nor money in the bank. That's your job. You are not a slave.

JWR contributor Larry Elder is the author of the newly released, The Ten Things You Can't Say in America. (Proceeds from sales help fund JWR) Let him know what you think of his column by clicking here.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate