Walter E. Williams

Last month, when Rosa Parks was laid to rest in Detroit, her eulogy contained well-deserved praise for her brave defiance of segregation laws that led to the 1955 Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott and later the 1956 Supreme Court ruling that banned public transportation segregation. The passing and remembrance of her generation of blacks, who made sacrifices to deliver today's opportunities, might also be an occasion for condemnation of what's no less than a gross betrayal of that generation's struggle.

 Having lived just about one-third of our nation's existence, I know, as well as experienced, the uglier parts of our history. During the '30s, '40s and '50s, civil rights progress meant yearly black lynchings were down to single digits, as opposed to 50 or more in previous decades. In 1954, when I graduated from Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin High School, rare was the opportunity for a black student to go off to college. While segregation was mostly in the South, it nonetheless existed in northern cities. There were entire Philadelphia neighborhoods where, regardless of socioeconomic status, blacks could not rent or buy. There were business establishments, including movie theaters and restaurants, where black patronage was not welcomed.

 While not every vestige of racial discrimination has been eliminated, it is nowhere near the barrier it was yesteryear, but you'd think discrimination is everywhere listening to some of today's black politicians and civil rights leaders. One wonders what those blacks, who lived during the era of gross discrimination and are now deceased, would think about so much of today's behavior, rhetoric and excuses.

 What would they think about black neighborhoods, once thriving economic centers that have been turned into economic wastelands by a level of criminal activity previously unknown? During my youth, walking through some of Philadelphia's predominantly white neighborhoods, one felt a sense of relief as we approached a black neighborhood. Today, it might be the other way around. What would they think about predominantly black schools where violence and intimidation are the order of the day, with police cars outside and metal detectors inside? What would they think about black students who seek academic excellence being mocked, intimidated and assaulted by their peers for "acting white"?


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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