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Black History Month’s invisible man

"Black History Month’s invisible man" Continued...

If blacks from 1960 on had continued making social progress at the same rate as they had over the earlier decades of the century, black poverty by now would be unusual, and the economic despair that now dominates many urban communities would be rare. Sadly, as blacks jumped over legal and political barricades during the 1960s, some thought they could ignore Booker T. Washington’s wisdom.

By 1980, fewer than half of all black males age 15 and up were married, and the gap between white and black marriage rates had risen to 17 percent; by 1992 the gap was 21 percent. A new Pew study notes, “In 2011, 55% of white adults ages 18 and older were married, compared with 31% of black adults ages 18 and older. In 2011, 72% of births to black women were to unmarried mothers, compared with 29% of births to white women.” This is crucial because race makes less difference in income than family composition: Black, two-parent families are less likely to live in poverty than white, female-headed families.

Other statistics also show the importance of Booker T. Washington’s emphasis on marriage, family development, and education. As Sowell notes, as early as 1969 black males who came from homes where there were newspapers, magazines, and library cards had the same incomes as whites from similar homes and with the same number of years of schooling. By the 1980s, black husband-and-wife families where both were college educated and working earned slightly more than similar white families.

Many blacks, of course, have taken Washington’s advice, and they are doing well. But others who grew up in the God-is-dead 1960s (and their children) fell prey to a revolution in values. With less affluence to start with, blacks generally had less of a margin of error: Middle-class white kids could do drugs as a lark and then return to sobriety, but many poor black kids who fell behind never caught up.

Since the 1960s, of course, single parenting has increased throughout our society, but most dramatically among blacks. Public schools have gotten worse; that’s exactly what we would expect when God is ignored, discipline erodes, and a lack of competition protects old-line monopolies. Many black children grow up under horrendous circumstances, their bitterness fanned by those who, as in Washington’s time, politically and economically profit from tearing down rather than building up.

The positive lessons of Black History Month will take years to put into practice, but they are conceptually easy. Churches that teach the whole counsel of God concerning life both in this world and in the next are crucial. Access to better schooling, which for millions of children will require development of either private scholarship or public voucher programs, is essential. It is vital for good students to go to college and major there not in African-American Studies but in accounting or engineering or other fields of knowledge that help them to build businesses.

Today, as it was a century ago, Booker T. Washington’s recipe for progress can be encapsulated in 12 words: Build strong churches. Build strong families. Build strong schools. Build strong businesses.


Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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