The following is reprinted in its entirety by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.
So long as blacks are committing such an outsized amount of crime, young black men will be viewed suspiciously and tensions between police and crime-ridden communities will persist. The U.S. criminal justice system, currently headed by a black attorney general who reports to a black president, is a reflection of this reality, not its cause. If we want to change negative perceptions of young black men, we must change the behavior that is driving those perceptions. But pointing this out has become almost taboo. How can we even begin to address problems if we won’t discuss them honestly?
That beginning is freedom; and the barriers to that freedom are tumbling down. Freedom is the right to share, share fully and equally, in American society—to vote, to hold a job, to enter a public place, to go to school. . . . But freedom is not enough. . . . You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, “you are free to compete with all the others,” and still justly believe that you have been completely fair. . . . The next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights [is] . . . not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result.
Blacks were not culturally deprived but simply differently-abled—more spontaneous and expressive and so forth. Liberals tried to improve conditions for blacks without passing judgment on antisocial black culture. And this sort of thinking continues to this day. Walter Williams once wrote that he’s glad he grew up in the 1940s and ’50s, before it became fashionable for white people to like black people. He received a more honest assessment of his strengths and weaknesses, he says, than black kids today are likely to receive from white teachers and employers who are more interested in being politically correct.
Asked by whites in 1865 what to do for freed blacks, Frederick Douglass responded: “I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! . . . If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength . . . let them fall! . . . And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs!” Douglass was essentially saying, give blacks equal opportunity and then leave them alone.