Walter E. Williams

 By any assessment, black Americans have made the greatest progress, over some of the highest hurdles and in the shortest span of time than any other racial group in the history of mankind. If one added the earnings of black Americans and thought of us as a nation, we'd be the 14th richest nation. Black Americans have held some of the nation's highest positions, such as secretaries of State, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services and Education; chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and mayors of some of our largest cities. Blacks are some of the world's most famous personalities, and a few blacks rank among the world's richest people. In 1865, neither a slave nor a slave owner would have believed these gains possible in a little over a century, if ever. As such, it not only speaks well of the determination and intestinal fortitude of a people, but also of a nation in which such gains were possible.

 For a large segment of the black community, these gains remain elusive. The gains will remain elusive so long as black civil rights and political leadership blame and focus their energies on discrimination. While discrimination exists, the relevant question is how much of what we see can be explained by it. A 70 percent illegitimacy rate, 60 percent of black children raised in female-headed households, high crime and poor school performance have devastating consequences. This level of pathology cannot be attributed to discrimination, considering that much of it was absent in earlier times when there was far more discrimination, greater poverty and fewer opportunities.

 It's time that black people hold fellow blacks accountable for squandering opportunities won at a high cost by our ancestors. Failing to do so makes all blacks complicit in the betrayal.

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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