A symbolic and pleasant “racial calculation” has replaced helping black children


Two years ago, in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, I saw nearly 1,000 white Americans in a park in Bethesda, MD breathlessly chanting, “I will love my black neighbors like my white neighbors. Many were on their knees with both arms stretched skyward. While I think it’s important to acknowledge our common humanity, I recoiled at every refrain, knowing that these wailings of allegiance do nothing for black and Hispanic children struggling with poverty, crime, incarceration and family dysfunction.

This kind of well-meaning but ultimately empty signal of virtue always seems to eventually substitute for genuine action to uncover and solve real problems, and I warned at the time that these expressions of white “ally” could drive the next generation of Americans to grow up to believe that the entire destiny of one race – black Americans – depends on the voluntary largesse of another – white Americans. But if that were the case, it would trap blacks and whites in the roles of underdog and oppressor, robbing them both of a sense of personal agency.

In the two years since the death of George Floyd, my fear seems to have been predictive. Symbology enshrining white oppression and black victimology proliferated. “Hate Has No Home Here” and “Black Lives Matter” lawn signs have multiplied exponentially. Corporate CEOs, pressured by millennial staff to “do something,” issued self-glorifying, banal statements vowing to “do better.” News agencies routinely use the “B” in black, while leaving the “w” in lowercase white. Hundreds of millions of dollars of what Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors called “white guilt money” has been given to organizations with little demonstrable community improvement. And places like Oregon have lowered education standards – suspending reading, writing and math proficiency requirements for high school graduation to help its “black, Latino, Latino students , Native, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal and Colored”. Meanwhile, so-called “anti-racism” training has exploded into a billion-dollar industry.

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Yet none of these measures have done anything to help black children gain access to the basics necessary for a successful life.

While eliminating bias in the human heart is a laudable and admirable goal, a better path for leaders of all kinds is to focus more clearly on the essential foundation of a thriving society.

First, the fundamental institution – the family – remains in a state of profound disarray for all races. The share of births outside marriage to women of all races aged 24 and under exceeded 72% in 2020. And to demonstrate the impact on all races, for the 11th consecutive year, more than 90% of children born to women black women under 25 and over 60 percent to white women of the same age, entered the world without the highest form of privilege: a married two-parent household.

Second, in 2019, even before the pandemic shutdowns triggered academic learning loss, only 15% of black 8th graders were proficient readers. Often these families are denied the opportunity to choose the best school for their child.

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As our nation has just celebrated our new federal holiday, June 16, to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, it is important that we ask the question: would have to help more blacks and students of all races capitalize on the benefits of freedom?

The answer is simply: Recognize that symbolic acts are just that: symbolic.

But ensuring freedom for all also requires recognizing that children cannot and will not raise themselves alone. Total autonomy is a myth. There is an urgent need to strengthen local institutions that promote upward mobility and shape the moral trajectory of a new generation of children.

Children of all races should learn patterns of family formation that lead to intergenerational success, encouraged to develop a personal commitment to faith; provided more educational opportunities through a wide choice of K-12 schools, and offered incentives for work and entrepreneurship.

Together, these steps would uplift all struggling Americans and strengthen their belief in their own ability to lead self-determined lives.

Instead of another period of well-meaning but counterproductive promises, what if we were to guide young black Americans – and all children for that matter – down paths that strengthen agency?

A new study finds that young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds who earn at least a high school diploma, get a full-time job and get married before having children are significantly more likely to succeed. The overwhelming majority of black and Hispanic millennials — more than 96% — who follow this series of life decisions avoid poverty as adults, and the vast majority move into the middle class and beyond. This is also true for 94% of Millennials who grew up in low-income families and 95% of those who grew up in non-intact families.

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What if parents, schools, faith communities, and mentors made a concerted effort to help as many young people as possible follow these steps?

As Thomas Sowell said over 40 years ago, “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.

If we want to help troubled children of all races, we must tell the truth. Our time is best spent empowering young people to embrace the true pillars on which a fulfilling life is built.

Ian Rowe is Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Agency: The Four Point Plan (FREE) For ALL Children to Overcome the Narrative of Victimization and Discover Their Path to Power (Templeton Press, 2022). He is also a co-founder of Vertex Partnership Academies, a public International Baccalaureate charter high school, which will open this summer in the Bronx.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

The post A Symbolic, Feel-Good ‘Racial Reckoning’ Has Replaces Actually Helping Black Kids appeared first on Newsweek.


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