Thomas Sowell

Blacks have already begun suffering losses from con men who have asked them to sign up for their individual shares of the reparations -- and have then stolen their identity and used it to defraud them. But this is just a down payment on the losses from this futile crusade.

In a democracy, a minority that is no longer even the largest minority cannot afford to alienate, much less embitter, the majority which ultimately holds the political power in the country. Too often, unending demands and grievances from black leaders and spokesmen create the impression that most blacks want something for nothing. In reality, most blacks lifted themselves out of poverty before the civil rights laws or the welfare state programs took effect.

Not only do most whites not know this, neither do most blacks today, for their leaders have taken credit for this progress by depicting it as the fruits of their civil rights movements and political efforts. But the poverty rate among blacks fell by half between 1940 and 1960, before any of the major federal civil rights legislation or the vast expansion of the welfare state under President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs.

Between 1940 and 1960, black males' number of years of schooling doubled. How surprising is it that doubling your education raises your income? In short, most blacks raised themselves out of poverty, but their leaders robbed them of this achievement and the respect it deserved -- in the eyes of blacks and whites alike -- by making it seem like a concession from the government and a product of agitation.

Pointing blacks in a direction from which little can be expected, and away from the enormous opportunities open today in the economy, is a formula for personal frustration, even if it benefits "leaders." But then, that frustration is itself a benefit to "leaders," who need a constituency with a sense of grievance.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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