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Jewish World Review Dec. 16, 1999/7 Teves, 5760

Larry Elder

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Sen. Bradley and the black vote -- "I was spellbound."

A black minister, attending a speech by Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley, made this gushing assessment. Bradley addressed 150 black ministers in Los Angeles, at an annual meeting of the Congress of National Black Churches.

What caused this over-the-moon reception to a speech given by a man whose speaking style few call "spellbinding"? Well, Bradley told the ministers what they wanted to hear -- that "race remains an unresolved dilemma." A "most powerful and refreshing message," said another minister. And, still another attendee said the speech caused her to feel "a connection to him as a human being."

"Race remains an unresolved dilemma." Pardon me, but what exactly does this mean?

Does it mean that the Ku Klux Klan remains segregated? That Mark Fuhrman has yet to perform the moonwalk on "Soul Train"? That Jesse Jackson has never been offered "Citizen of the Year" by the Aryan brothers?

If the statement means that bigots and racists remain in America, then expect this "dilemma" to remain unresolved. Remember the "Elvis Factor": 10 percent of Americans believe Elvis remains alive, and 8 percent believe if you send him a letter he will get it. A recent poll shows that 30 percent of Americans believe in witches, and nearly 20 percent believe in ghosts.

Bradley's condescension continues the myth that racism remains black America's biggest obstacle. Seventy percent of today's black children are born to unwed mothers. Tell us, Senator Bradley, to what extent does the problem of children having children have to do with race's "unresolved dilemma"?

In urban schools, a majority of children cannot read, write, and compute at grade level. Polls show most urban parents want the right to choose the schools for their children. Does Senator Bradley support vouchers? No.

Nearly a third of young black men find themselves under the criminal justice system, either in jail, on parole, or on probation. Many are behind bars for drug-related offenses, never having committed a violent crime. Does Senator Bradley propose repealing the war on drugs? No.

In 1996, Congress passed the Welfare Reform Bill over the objection of critics, who called it mean-spirited. At the time, opponents predicted blood in the streets and frozen bodies in the snow. It didn't happen. Indeed, in Senator Bradley's own state of New Jersey, teen pregnancy fell dramatically without a corresponding increase in abortion. Did Senator Bradley support the 1996 Welfare Reform Bill? No.

Black people enter the labor force sooner than whites, and die earlier. Allowing citizens to conservatively invest their own Social Security funds could net as much as a quarter of a million to half a million dollars more than one realizes form the current system. Black workers would, therefore, disproportionately benefit. Does Bradley propose allowing workers to invest their own Social Security funds? No.

"Race remains an unresolved dilemma." A recent Time-CNN poll found that the majority of black teens agreed that racism remains a significant problem in America. But, when asked about the role of racism in their own lives, 89 percent of black teens said that it played little or no role! And, a recent survey published in the Wall Street Journal discussed the rapid rate at which Asians, blacks, and Hispanics purchase homes, start businesses, and enroll in colleges. The report, prepared by several minority marketing firms, predicted that if the trends continue, expect minority homeownership, business creation, and college attendance to approximate their percentages in the population, placing them on parity with whites.

President Clinton set up a Race Advisory Board, which traveled around the country and held town meetings. You know, so that we can all understand each other. Let's all hold hands together, look each other in the eyes, and say, "I'm O.K., you're O.K." Pap.

Writing in "Playboy," defense attorney Johnnie Cochran said that, were Martin Luther King Jr. alive today, America's current racism would leave him "disheartened." Cochran's solution: "What we must do is have men and women, black and white, Asian and Hispanic, young and old, rich and poor, reason together. It is time for us as a nation, and for all of us as individuals, to engage. Let there be a frank exchange of views ... A simple call for community may seem mundane in the face of the next century's technological onslaught. But, without an exchange of ideas, there is only fear and ignorance."

"Engage"? "Reason together"? All the better to solve America's "unresolved dilemma" on race.

Meanwhile, while we "engage" and "reason" to attack the "unresolved dilemma" dilemma on race, the qualities of schools decline. Children continue to have children. And the drug war increases crime and incarcerates hundreds of thousands.


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©1999, Creators Syndicate