It is my experience that when a problem appears to have no solution it means that we are asking the wrong questions. A corollary that I'd add to this is boilerplate conventional wisdom from the self-help world: Don't expect tomorrow to be different from today if you are doing the same thing today that you did yesterday.
African-Americans have been chasing their own tail for years in the arena of politics and public policy because most African-American politicians and thinkers regularly commit these errors. Problems in our communities persist, often getting worse rather than better, yet the general way that black leaders define and think about our problems has not changed an iota in the last half-century.
This is why Bill Cosby has been so provocative. He questioned and challenged the validity of the premises that have propped up and perpetuated the gospel of black politics over all these years.
I've gotten a sense of just how bad the problem is in reading a recent weekly series of op-ed columns by a renowned Harvard professor of African-American studies, Henry Louis Gates Jr. Gates has been discussing black politics and social problems in these columns. I've been struck by how little interest this great scholar, in this new venture in writing about politics and public policy, has shown in giving any credence to challenges to prevailing conventional wisdom about black political and social reality.
I have often accused the lack of interest on the part of black politicians to challenge the status quo as result of their actually being quite happy with it. Too much government may be bad for citizens, but it's great for politicians. But I certainly can't explain Gates' views this way. My guess is that when attitudes and opinions go unchallenged for 50 years, everyone assumes they must be true.
A recent column by the professor is a case in point. He discusses a number of different points of view about what it would take to get black economic statistics up to the national average. However, the column goes on to conclude on a dour and quite depressing note that it's not going to happen because neither party has the political will to implement the ideas. To address the supposed lack of interest or will of the current administration, the column states, "The White House has relegated its costly experiments in social engineering to Iraq."
I have two points to make.