Larry Elder

Now we know what caused New Orleans to flood. And it was not Hurricane Katrina.

 Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan said, "I heard from a reliable source who saw a 25-foot-deep crater under the levee breach. It may have been blown up to destroy the black part of town and keep the white part dry."

 Only wing-nuts would buy into such a conspiracy theory, right?

 Washington Post reporter Eugene Robinson said on NBC's "Meet the Press," "I was stunned in New Orleans at how many black New Orleanians would tell me with real conviction that somehow the levee breaks had been engineered in order to save the French Quarter and the Garden District at the expense of the Lower Ninth Ward, which is almost all black. . . . These are not wild-eyed people. These are reasonable, sober people who really believe that."

 For many people, past discrimination means present and future discrimination. End of discussion. Never mind the growing black economy, an all-time high percentage of black homeownership, and a "black GDP" that would make black America the 16th wealthiest country in the world. A suggestion. Instead of spending energy buying into Farrakhan's latest lunatic theory, why not re-examine present policies that -- either through intent or effect -- hurt blacks?

 -- The War on Drugs. By making drugs illegal, lawmakers intended to target minorities -- specifically blacks, Mexicans and Chinese. Former President Theodore Roosevelt's drug adviser warned, "Cocaine is often a direct incentive to the crime of rape by the Negroes." In "The American Disease," David Musto notes that prohibitions early in the 20th century, at least in part, targeted foreigners or minorities, including the allegedly opium-using Chinese. In 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act targeted Mexican immigrants. In 1936, a Colorado newspaper editor wrote to federal officials, "I wish I could show you what a small marijuana cigarette can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking residents."

 -- Race-Based Preferences. Lowering admission standards to achieve "diversity" hurts black graduation rates. The Detroit News looked at the graduation rates at seven Michigan colleges and universities. Blacks graduated within six years at a rate of 40 percent, compared to 61 percent for whites and 74 percent for Asians. Many mismatched students simply drop out when they would have been successful at a less competitive university. One study says that the failure of minority students to graduate at the same rate as white students causes a loss in the "black economy" of $5.3 billion a year in income.

 -- Gun Control. Gun control laws, in the beginning, sought to disarm blacks. Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, in the infamous Dred Scott case which defined blacks as property, said that if blacks were "entitled to the privileges and communities of citizens, . . . [i]t would give persons of the negro race . . . the right . . . to keep and carry arms wherever they went . . . inevitably producing discontent and insubordination among them, and endangering the peace and safety of the state. . . ." In "Condi: The Condoleezza Rice Story," author Antonia Felix describes the secretary of state's early years in the Jim Crow South. Rice watched her father and neighbors guard black neighborhoods with shotguns against armed, white vigilantes. Felix writes, "The memory of her father out on patrol lies behind Rice's opposition to gun control today. Had those guns been registered, she argues, Bull Connor would have had a legal right to take them away, thereby removing one of the black community's only means of defense."

 -- The Davis-Bacon Act. Introduced in 1927, this Act sought to shut out black workers from competing for construction jobs when whites complained that Southern blacks were hired to build a Long Island Veteran's Bureau hospital. In a labor market dominated by exclusionary unions demanding above-market wages, blacks at one time competed by working for less money than the unionists. Davis-Bacon stopped this by requiring federal contractors to pay prevailing union wages, causing massive black unemployment.

 -- Social Security. Although Congress did not intend for Social Security to disproportionately hurt blacks, it does. Blacks have a shorter life expectancy, and therefore get less out of the system. According to the CATO Institute, "A 1996 study by . . . the RAND Corporation found . . . a net lifetime transfer of wealth from blacks to whites averaging nearly $10,000 per person. . . . A 1998 study by the Heritage Foundation . . . found that an average single black man will pay $13,377 more in payroll taxes over his lifetime than he will receive in benefits, a return of just 88 cents on every dollar paid in taxes."

 -- Minimum Wage. In "Free to Choose," Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman writes that before the imposition of minimum wage laws, black teens were more likely to be employed than white teens. After the imposition of minimum wage laws, an employment gap emerged between white and black teens, with black teens becoming increasingly less employed. Friedman finds " . . . the minimum wage law to be one of the most, if not the most anti-black law on the statute books."

 So who knows, when the someone-blew-up-the-levee-to-get-us theory dies down, they might turn their attention to some real problems.

Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit