Walter E. Williams

Both chambers of the Commonwealth of Virginia's General Assembly passed a resolution saying government-sanctioned slavery "ranks as the most horrendous of all depredations of human rights and violations of our founding ideals in our nation's history; and . . . the abolition of slavery was followed by . . . systematic discrimination, enforced segregation, and other insidious institutions and practices toward Americans of African descent that were rooted in racism, racial bias, and racial misunderstanding." The General Assembly also expressed regret for the "exploitation of Native Americans."

Isn't that nice? I agree that slavery was an abomination, but I'm going to be even more generous than Virginia's General Assembly. I regret the murder of an estimated 61 million people whom the former USSR executed, slaughtered, starved, beat or tortured to death. I also regret the Chinese government's slaughter of 45 million Chinese; Hitler's slaughter of 6 million Jews; the Khmer Rouge's murder of 2 million Cambodians; the half a million Ugandans murdered by Idi Amin's death squads; the million Hutus and Tutsis murdered in Rwanda's genocidal bloodbath; and slavery that still exists in the Sudan and Mauritania.

All of these, and many more, are horrible injustices at least as horrible as the slavery that existed in the U.S. But after all the regrets and apologies for injustices, what comes next? Let's examine Virginia's statement of regret with an eye toward what it might mean.

I can personally relate to the Virginia General Assembly's declaration. My great-grandparents were slaves in the Virginia cities of Chase City and Newport News. The General Assembly's statement of regret for slavery means absolutely nothing to me. If anything, it's nothing less than a cheap insult and capitulation of white delegates to black hustlers. Possibly, the whites who voted in support of the declaration were mau-maued into it or they felt guilt over our history of slavery. In any case, they should know that their actions mean little in dealing with the day-to-day plight of many black Virginians -- which has nothing to do with slavery.

The U.S. murder rate is 5.6 people per 100,000 of the population. In the Commonwealth of Virginia's capital, Richmond, where the General Assembly meets, the murder rate is 43 people per 100,000 of the population, making Richmond the city with the third-highest murder rate in the nation, according to a 2005 FBI report.

What about black education in Virginia? According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), black education is a disgrace. In 2003, 51 percent of black eighth-graders scored below basic; 49 percent at or above basic; of these, only 11 percent scored proficient. For black fourth-graders, the scores were 34, 66 and 13 percent, respectively.

In 2002 in reading, 38 percent of black eighth-graders scored below basic, with 62 percent at or above basic and 15 percent scoring proficient. For fourth-graders, the scores were 53, 47 and 15 percent, respectively.

Below basic is the category the NAEP uses for students unable to display even partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at their grade level. Given this extreme academic incompetence, one shouldn't be surprised by the 2002 Virginia State Education Profile showing that the median combined SAT score for black students is a disgraceful 848 out of 1600, 210 points below the white median, and the white median is nothing to write home about.

The next time the Virginia General Assembly gets into an apologetic mood and wants to pass another resolution aimed at its black citizens, here are my suggestions: The Commonwealth of Virginia apologizes to its black citizens for not protecting them from criminals who prey upon them and make their lives a daily nightmare. The Commonwealth also apologizes for our government-sanctioned school system that delivers fraudulent education, thereby consigning many of its black citizens to the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.


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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