How Black Leaders Are Leading Black Americans Astray

Saturday, January 30, 1999

The New York Times headline said it all: “Eyes Shut, Black America Is Being Ravaged by AIDS.”

Where are all the vocal black “leaders” who are supposedly looking out for their people? “Leaders” who are ready to go ballistic on nationwide TV if Marge Schott or Fuzzy Zoeller makes a stupid remark with racial overtones are quiet as mice when AIDS is the leading killer of blacks in the prime years of ages twenty-five to thirty-four. And neither the NAACP nor the Urban League had AIDS on its agenda for its national convention last summer. All this makes sense only if black “leadership” is not about leading black people but extracting what they can from white people and—above all—maintaining themselves in office or in positions of visibility.

One of the truly grotesque acts of black “leadership” occurred this past year when District of Columbia representative Eleanor Holmes Norton led a protest demonstration against school vouchers in Washington. This was in response to a bill sponsored by House majority leader Dick Armey and passed by Congress. This bill would have provided two thousand scholarships for low-income D.C. children to attend private schools.

The sharpest income and occupational rise of blacks occurred in the 1940s and 1950s—before there were even “equal opportunity” laws, much less “affirmative action.”

We can understand why the National Education Association (NEA) would be bitterly opposed to this and any other voucher legislation that would allow parents to take their children out of the public schools. We can understand why Bill Clinton opposed and ultimately vetoed this bill, since the NEA contributes millions to the Democrats. But it takes a stronger stomach to deal with the fact that a black “leader” organizes a protest against something whose chief beneficiaries would be black children. What was there to protest? Nobody was going to drag black kids out of the public schools, kicking and screaming, and throw them into private schools. It was all up to their parents—and far more parents wanted this opportunity than there were scholarships available.

Poll after poll shows blacks more in favor of school vouchers than any other segment of the population. Yet, time and again, the Congressional Black Caucus opposes vouchers. Are these “leaders” leading blacks or looking out for their own political hides by lining up with the NEA?

Maybe this is just part of coalition politics, where the unions throw their support behind things that the black “leaders” want in exchange for these “leaders” lining up with the unions on the things that the unions want. Perhaps this all works out for the politicians and spokesmen involved. But what can the black population as a whole possibly gain that will compensate for condemning another whole generation of their children to rotten schools?

What also serves the interests of black “leaders,” but not of the black community, is their paranoid vision of the world, in which all economic or other disparities are grievances—grievances that can be dealt with only by relying on “leaders” to get goodies for blacks from the government. This would be a devastating message, even if it were true. It is a catastrophic lie in light of the facts. The sharpest income and occupational rise of blacks occurred in the 1940s and 1950s—before there were even “equal opportunity” laws, much less “affirmative action.”

Far worse than the self-serving actions of black politicians is the vision of the world that they present—especially to the rising generation of young blacks. It is a vision of a world in which everything they don’t have is the fault of whites. It is a vision of a future in which their only hope is in changing whites or getting preferences or handouts from the government. With such a vision, why is it surprising that so many students in ghetto schools across the country are afflicted with the suicidal notion that trying to get an education is “acting white”? Many of the very people who promote the liberal vision are themselves appalled at such self-destructive attitudes among young blacks.

But what other attitude makes sense, if the vision presented is true? By refusing to go along, young blacks can at least avoid being played for suckers by a system where the deck is supposedly stacked against them anyway. If a mind is a terrible thing to waste, such a vision is a terrible thing to inflict.