A man emailed me last week, and his email cut me to the core. He said he was really angry about the Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd deaths, but not for the reason the rest of us are. He, a black, middle-class man, lives with his wife and children on the edge of a crumbling neighborhood. They are saving to move.
He is angry because white people are suddenly realizing what he has always known, but white people are still refusing to look at the rest of the problem. White liberals who are suddenly railing about the police unions protecting police are unconcerned about teachers unions protecting teachers. His children are academically successful in a public school. He acknowledges teachers can only do so much when kids are coming in from broken families and were up all night listening to gunshots. But he also knows from his community how many of the kids could do better with better teachers.
He is angry about the failure of public schools and the unwillingness of rich white people across the political spectrum to let him use his tax dollars to send his kids to better schools. He is angry about white people talking about the violence in Chicago but taking no action and deciding that is a conversation best left "to the black community." He is angry at the health care system for failing black communities, and he is angry at the black communities for failing themselves.
I have not lived his frustrations, but I understand them. Last week, in Chicago, violence took more deaths in the black community. Progressives want to talk about gun control. Conservatives want to talk about the collapse of families. White people generally have decided they should not talk about it, and I am unaware of prominent black voices talking about it.
Some white people look at the black community crime rates and conclude the police are doing what they are doing because of the crime rate. My black friends tell me to understand the issue -- that many young black men have simply given up in a society that has not given them a chance. Families have crumbled; opportunities never came; the public schools have failed.
Teachers tell me they are frustrated because kids come into schools from broken homes. The oldest siblings are taking care of the youngest siblings because the mom has to go to work to provide for a family without a father. The teachers are angry because they are held accountable based on the results of tests taken by hungry kids whose souls are hurting.
Saying "systemic racism" is at play actually gives government too much of a pass. The failure has a lot to do with deciding a government in Washington can fix the problems of Atlanta or Chicago or Lake Charles. Then there is the failure of thinking a bunch of politicians are going to truly fix a problem when they could instead let it fester and use that to maintain power.
The organization Black Lives Matter has taken the statement of fact that black lives do matter and turned it into a progressive cause that, among other things, seeks to "disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure." It is not a Western-prescribed structure. It is a structure that works globally. It is a structure government itself decided was not necessary. It is a structure that, with its systematic collapse, has seen society crumbling around it.
My correspondent is a black father working in the middle class. His children are more academically successful than their peers from broken homes. That is not a coincidence. If we want to rebuild a more just world, we need to strengthen the two-parent nuclear household, not disrupt it. It is already disrupted and needs repair.
We need to remember the poor kids who cannot escape the teachers unions, which they'll encounter more regularly than representatives of police unions. We need to remember the victims of violence not seen on camera. We have a lot to do, but that work is best done in our communities, not abstractly in Washington.