Jewish World Review August 13, 2001 /24 Menachem-Av, 5761

Thomas Sowell

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"Racism" in word and deed -- IT has become all too common for some innocuous remark by a public figure to be seized upon and twisted to make it seem "racist," setting off loud denunciations by those who are in the business of loud denunciations. Meanwhile, actions and policies that do very real and very lasting harm to racial and ethnic minorities not only pass unchallenged, but are often engaged in by politicians who enjoy overwhelming support from minority voters.

There was virtually no comment from black leaders or the media when recently published census data showed that the black population of San Francisco had declined 15 percent between the 1990 census and the 2000 census. In San Mateo County, on the adjoining peninsula, the decline was 20 percent. In once predominantly black East Palo Alto, blacks are now a minority.

All of these are places firmly under the control of liberal Democrats, so no politically incorrect words are ever likely to be said about blacks in the communities from which they are being forced out. Yet any businessman whose hiring policies had such a "disparate impact" on minority employment would be liable to find himself hauled into court and charged with discrimination.

The point here is not to claim that the substantial reduction of the black population in the San Francisco Bay area is a result of racism. The point is that there is something happening whose net effect is to make it harder for blacks to live in places dominated by Democrats, who receive nine-tenths of their votes.

It is very doubtful that the policies that force blacks out of much of the San Francisco peninsula are racially motivated. The affluent liberal-left types who dominate the region would very likely accept a black family that wanted to buy a house costing half a million dollars and up, or rent an apartment at a couple of grand a month.

Even in the more precious high-end communities on the peninsula, a place could probably be found for those blacks who can afford to buy lots zoned for a minimum size of two acres and requiring room for four parking spaces on their property, in addition to whatever space is taken up by their swimming pools and stables for their horses. It is just that not many blacks are in the market for such housing.

While it is not necessary to charge racism, it is also not simply a happenstance that liberal Democrats are in control in California communities where sky-high housing prices have forced ordinary people -- black or white -- to move out. The political agenda of California's liberal Democrats has made housing unaffordable at the very time when their words constantly proclaim their desire for "affordable housing."

There was a time, about 30 years ago, when California's housing prices were not very different from housing prices in the rest of the country. Then a combination of environmental extremists and other liberal-left types became dominant in the state's Democratic Party, leading to innumerable and ingenious restrictions on the building of housing.

That was the point at which coastal California's housing prices left planet Earth and soared into outer space. Now people of average incomes, of whatever race, have to move to communities farther inland to find homes or apartments they can pay for. Some have to move so far inland that you can even find a Republican in office now and then.

Housing is just one of the areas where the black vote goes overwhelmingly to politicians whose policies are harmful to blacks. Even more harmful in the long run are failing public schools in the ghettos, where much of the next generation has its hopes of advancement destroyed before they can even get off the ground.

No group is more in favor of vouchers than blacks -- and no one is more opposed to vouchers than the Democrats, including the Congressional Black Caucus. This doesn't mean that Democrats are racist. It is just that they need the support of the teachers' unions, and they are not going to get it if they vote for vouchers, whereas they can count on the votes of blacks regardless.

Under these conditions, who should be surprised that Democrats are ready to sacrifice another generation of black youngsters for the greater good of the teachers' unions?

Urban Renewal, policies artificially forcing up the price of food and many job-destroying policies promoted by Democrats all work against blacks. But these are only deeds, while words seem to be supreme in politics.

JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy.


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© 2001, Creators Syndicate