Prior to the "Millions More" event in Washington last weekend - led by the former calypso singer and current Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan - a group of participants gathered at Howard University. It looked like a meeting of the kook fringe as speaker after speaker engaged in the wildest of conspiracy theories about why blacks who are poor continue to be mired in misery.
According to some, Hurricane Katrina was a plot by the Bush Administration to eliminate their "black problem." Maybe Bush didn't create the hurricane, but he was responsible for blowing up the levees so that blacks in New Orleans would drown, thus easing welfare payments and reducing the number of black Democrat voters.
While the neo-Nazis planned to march in Toledo - sparking a "riot" among black gangs who, in the words of some locals were simply looking for an excuse to loot and destroy - their polar opposites were in Washington looting black dignity and destroying what remains of their "leaders' " credibility.
This latest exercise in "brotherhood" again shifted the focus from the real problems in black America, which have less to do with what white people think of blacks than how they regard themselves. It again overlooked those spokespeople who actually have something worth considering.
Where among the Jesse Jackson-Al Sharpton-Louis Farrakhan speakers at the Millions More march on the Mall were members of the growing black middle and upper classes? Where were the married black men with children they had fathered within wedlock and to whom they are responsible, loving father figures?
Is there anyone in doubt as to why poor blacks continue to suffer? Is it really the fault of racism and the stain of slavery? If so, how to explain those who have stopped singing about overcoming and have simply overcome? They have done so by staying in school and studying, getting and staying married, working hard and making right decisions.
Why do the "Millions More" people think another march on Washington will even begin to solve their problems? Neither the problems of black Americans, nor the solutions to them, are in Washington.
Washington doesn't teach people to commit crime; Washington doesn't encourage the indolent (except through too many programs that have subsidized indolence); Washington cannot begin to do for anyone what they can and should do for themselves.
It is a cliche, but worth repeating, that there are more black men in prison than in college. This is in spite of affirmative action programs at many universities. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, at midyear 2004 there were 4,919 black male prison and jail inmates per 100,000 black males in the United States. That compares to 1,717 Hispanic male inmates per 100,000 Hispanic males and 717 white male inmates per 100,000 white males.
Yes, there is racial bias in the criminal justice system and while not all fatherless blacks are in prison, a large percentage of prison inmates come from homes that had no father when they were growing up. Indeed, the Heritage Foundation notes that the absence of a father is the single most important cause of poverty and crime. This is the source of the problem as well as the starting place for the solution to many of the problems confronting poor blacks.
The Jackson-Sharpton-Farrakhan "trinity" may give lip-service to the importance of an intact black family, but their preaching revolves around personal grievances, Bush-bashing, government programs and sometimes anti-Semitism.
What would help would be more positive, father-centric cultural models, starting with the "dissing" of Black Entertainment Television and its predominately rap-ho culture. It is as stereotypical and injurious as the stereotypes promoted by the "Amos 'n Andy" TV series of the 1950s.
One black leader who wasn't invited to speak at the Mall, but should have been, was Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, author of "Scam: How the Black Leadership Exploits Black America." Writing for WorldNetDaily.com, Rev. Peterson, who is black, says, "All Americans must tell blacks the truth. It was blacks' moral poverty - not their material poverty - that cost them dearly in New Orleans. Farrakhan, Jackson and other race hustlers are to be repudiated - they will only perpetuate the problem by stirring up hatred and applauding moral corruption."
Don't look for Peterson to be among the speakers at the next event of this type, but what he says deserves consideration.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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