Liberals Choose Racial Catharsis Over Progress for Blacks

What happened in Tulsa 100 years ago matters far less than what’s happening in Chicago today.

Wonder Land: Democrats hate to talk about law and order. But in New York City’s mayoral race, that’s all they’re talking about. Image: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

President Biden traveled to Tulsa, Okla., Tuesday to mark the 100th anniversary of a race riot that destroyed a prosperous black community and is estimated to have left hundreds of people dead. The trip recalls President Obama’s 2015 trip to Selma, Ala., where police had beaten and tear-gassed peaceful civil-rights protesters 50 years earlier.

These historical milestones are certainly worthy of commemoration. Properly understood, they demonstrate how much racial progress has been made in this country in a relatively short time. Yet for progressives and their friends in the media, the events are also an opportunity to push for racial preferences and bigger government. The goal is to link today’s racial disparities to past wrongs and to play down or ignore the far more significant role that contemporary black behavior plays in social inequality.

When a National Public Radio reporter asked George Patrick Evans, Selma’s mayor, how events of 50 years ago fit into the “current conversation about race relations,” he balked at the question. “I’m not sure how it fits,” Mr. Evans, who is black, replied. “We have a lot more crime going on in 2015 all over this country than we had in 1965. Segregation existed but we didn’t have the crime.” Asked about the city’s high black unemployment rate, he still refused to racialize the issue: “Well, from the standpoint of jobs, we have lots of jobs. It’s just that a lot of people do not have the skill level to man these jobs. And that’s the biggest problem we have.”

In the run-up to Mr. Biden’s Tuesday address, the White House announced several new initiatives to “combat housing discrimination” and increase the amount of federal contracting with minority-owned small businesses. Putting aside the dubious legality of race-based government assistance, it’s worth noting that the black residents of Tulsa 100 years ago didn’t wait around for the federal government to come to their rescue. Within two decades of the riots, homes and churches had been rebuilt, and black-owned businesses again anchored the community.

香蕉视频苹果下载The political left is much more interested in black suffering than in black accomplishment, but black history is about more than victimization at the hands of whites. It’s also about what blacks have achieved notwithstanding that victimization. And in the first half of the 20th century, long before an expanded welfare state supposedly came to the rescue, blacks accomplished quite a lot. Incomes rose, poverty fell dramatically, and education gaps narrowed. Blacks entered the skilled professions—medicine, law, accounting, engineering, social work—at faster rates in the years preceding the 1960s civil-rights legislation than they did in the years afterward. Among racial and ethnic groups rising from similar circumstances, historians have described the rapidity of these gains as unprecedented.

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