There is no question that segregation in the U.S. was an appalling practice. However, it is often overlooked that segregation was, in fact, a government enforced policy. In other words, there were white businesses with black customers and employees, but those same blacks had to sit in the back of the government-run bus because of public policy. In many ways, today’s economic disparity is more glaring than in the past, despite social justice crusades of the mid-20th century.
By critically analyzing the socioeconomic performance of American blacks, we can find an objective truth and root cause of this disparity. In my opinion, “racism” is a petulant excuse that undermines millions of people and ignores the bigger problem: State oppression of the poor and failed social engineering. The stereotypical “black thug” does not exist out of natural desire for such behavior, but is the long coming result of individuals acting within a system that was poorly engineered by bureaucrats thinking they know what’s best for you. (Note: the term “black” will refer to indigenous black Americans with ancestry dating back to pre-Civil War, and not black immigrants. These are two entirely different groups of people.)
In 1964, segregation was repealed and the U.S. was integrated. It is common thought, and politically correct, to say we “de-segregated”. The key difference is that integration requires the use of force. We have all seen the picture of the little black girl being shoved into a white school at the gun point of National Guard while protestors picketed. I’m not sure there is a sane parent in the world who thinks their child could receive a quality education when being dropped off in the morning requires a National Guard escort.
Race relations were certainly tense, but using government guns to force the races together does nothing to promote diversity. In practice, it only creates more animosity. Segregation was not a justifiable practice, but repealing it did not require forced social engineering. Discrimination and racism are outdated social practices that would have, and did, become obsolete. Neither are profitable in a free market. Social ostracism is a powerful weapon to combat undesirable behavior and beliefs.
The biggest failure of Civil Rights Act of 1964 was education policy. During that time, mostly because of governmental policy, there is no doubt that white schools were higher quality. Materials, content, staff, and infrastructure were all much better and more funded than black schools. While this was certainly an injustice, the remedy would be catastrophic.
On a fairly large scale, blacks were removed from their schools, many of them shut down, and forced into white schools. As expected, the black students could not keep up with the more challenging material in the more competitive white schools. All things considered of the time, the school environment was not exactly learning-friendly for blacks. I am not saying blacks are inherently less intelligent than whites. However, taking people from a community college and dropping them off at Harvard does not necessarily mean they will flourish. In fact, it would be very damaging to their self-confidence, the institution itself, and the individual’s future achievements.
But alas, the government has a remedy for everything: standardized education and the lowering of requirements. Of course, this gave the appearance of a successful policy, but the economic trends of blacks would say otherwise. Immediately after CRA-1964, there was a major gain in black wages, although they had been gaining prior to CRA. In 1964, black-white male earnings ratio was .62, rising to .72 by 1975, and falling again to .67 by 1987. This immediate gain can most likely be attributed to CRA because it afforded more economic freedom and protection to blacks, which they would have had in a truly free market. With this in mind, I think it is a fair conclusion that government enforced laws slowed the wage growth of blacks prior to CRA, hence the immediate gain.
However, to solve the existing economic disparity, we must address the sharp decline in wage ratios that shortly followed. There are three major factors here: 1) the falling behind of blacks being forced into white schools 2) LBJ’s New Society and the War on Poverty and 3) drug prohibition.
When blacks inevitably fell behind in white schools, they were not able to acquire the same skills or education level as whites. This is an unintended consequence of social engineering that could have been avoided with a laissez-faire approach to integration. Allowing blacks to voluntarily enter white schools would mean a slower short term growth, but a more stable and prosperous long term. Social justice warriors made the false conclusion, and many still do, that forcing an individual, in this case young kids, into a more challenging learning environment would ensure their success.
In response to the growing disparity, liberal democrats decided to throw gas on the fire in the name of social justice. Thus, America began a “War on Poverty”, despite the fact that poverty had been on a steady decline. As with all American social wars, the war on poverty created more generational poverty. It essentially gave a financial incentive for single mothers to have more children because they would receive more money. Any behavioral scientist will tell you cash handouts will result in a reactive behavior if said behavior can increase the handout.
As a result, the single mother birth rate for black’s sky rocketed above the national average. Today, the urban single mother birth rate for black’s hits 75% in some cities. Granted, this statistic is skewed because of another consequence of incentives. If a man and woman have a child together without being married and they do not live together (but are in a relationship), the mother is considered a single mom and receives more benefits, regardless of the father’s income. The father may even be paying child support, officially or unofficially. Today, there are over 420 different federal benefits offered by over a dozen federal agencies. This information is readily available at benefits.gov.
Drug prohibition and the war on drugs have ravaged black communities. Like the war on poverty, the war on drugs brought more drugs and violence. Street gangs in Chicago, Detroit, and other urban environments have turned communities into war zones. The economics of prohibition has led to low cost, more dangerous alternatives, such as crack cocaine, which further decimated black families and communities.
Although drug use between whites and blacks is basically equal, drug arrests for blacks are significantly higher than whites. It is not that police are racist, but that police are forced to meet quotas and “prevent crime” by playing statistical games at the direction of bureaucrats. The incentive here is to arrest low income, nonviolent drug offenders. They are less likely to put up a strong legal defense and will most likely enter into a plea agreement at the direction of a public defender. Of course, this practice destroys economic mobility because one childhood mistake turns into a lifetime of regret and minimum mandatory sentencing. Thus, we have nonviolent drug offenders serving decades in prison for nothing short of possession.
While the skeptical reader may view these points as speculation, the State oppression of blacks can be cemented by one of the most tragic acts of State-sponsored terrorism: the bombing of Tulsa, OK. In 1921, Tulsa was home to the economic metropolis of blacks, which had been dubbed Black Wall Street. As with many black communities prior to integration, Black Wall Street had thriving businesses with little or no crime.
However, as economics goes, white businesses had to compete with black businesses, particularly those on Black Wall Street. Even there, blacks had financiers with capital to invest and entrepreneur’s eager to get ahead with their new idea. This, of course, upset the white business owners because blacks were the low cost producer and were actually outbidding many of them on new business.
What followed next should never be forgotten: the sheriff’s office of Tulsa went up in a small plane and threw sticks of dynamite all over Black Wall Street. As you can expect, this started large scale riots that ended in 10,000 blacks homeless, 800 injured, and 100 dead. This is, by definition, state-sponsored terrorism.
Today, the political class offers “solutions” to these disparities. These proposed solutions will likely worsen the problem. The most popular one, often touted by State-sponsored intellectuals, is raising the minimum wage. You do not have to look far to find a pundit shouting “raising the minimum wage will lift people out of poverty”. Of course, this overlooks two major truths. For one, if raising the minimum wage is an effective means to lift people from poverty, it would have worked the last umpteen times it has been raised. That has hardly been the case.
Secondly, these pundits, either knowingly or ignorantly, fail to mention why minimum wage was created in the first place. Minimum wage is probably one of the most racist laws by means of its origin. In 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act created the first minimum wage. Like most government legislation, “Fair Labor Standards” is misleading nomenclature that unnecessarily regulated an already developing labor market. In fact, the minimum wage was put into the bill because white union workers lobbied for it.
For some time, blacks had been taking jobs, particularly in factories, from white unions because they were voluntarily willing to work for less money than whites. Union leaders lobbied for a minimum wage that was considerably more than the average pay for a black factory worker, but less than a white union wage. As you can imagine, businesses began to lay off blacks because their wage rates, at no will or agreement of blacks, had been arbitrarily raised and forced upon private business, thus pricing most black labor out of the market.
Today, minimum wage is the calling card of the economically oblivious left. It continues to out-price low skilled blacks from their first job, which creates long term poverty from lack of skills acquired. As you probably noticed, you pump your own gas, bag/scan your own groceries, and order McDonalds on a screen. Continuing to raise the minimum wage will only increase black economic disparity and create more generational poverty. Frankly, this is a dangerous economic game the left has perpetuated.
Now that I have addressed the many different causes of black economic disparity, I would like the reader to find the common thread amongst them. Were private citizens aggressing towards blacks on a large, legally justified scale? There were certainly private acts of injustice, but by no means on the grandiose scale of the State. The KKK could only dream of the large scale operations of governmental policy. The government has shown, again, that they are the aggressor on to peaceful people.
By forcing a subjective doctrine down the throats of citizens “for their own good”, the government has created long term, generational poverty and economic disparity. I possess no qualification to say whether these legislated injustices can be reversed in the long term. However, we can start by allowing people more economic freedom. We should remove protectionist licensing laws, advocate for school choice, do away with minimum wage, end drug prohibition, and end the litany of government welfare programs.