Explaining America’s “Underclass”

7 Jul

Walter Williams, a professor of economics at George Mason University, recently wrote an excellent essay titled “The Underclass”, which shoots another hole in the theory that “white racism and the legacy of slavery” are likely explanations for the “black underclass”. 

 His full essay is found at http://www.creators.com/conservative/walter-williams.html

 Excerpts from that column:   [Bolding is mine]

Anthony Daniels, who writes under the pen name Theodore Dalrymple, is a retired prison doctor and psychiatrist who tells of his experiences with his patients in “Life at the Bottom.” It’s an insightful book of essays about the self-destructive behavior and attitudes of the underclass.

In one essay, “We Don’t Want No Education,” reprinted by City Journal (http://www.city-journal.org/html/5_1_oh_to_be.html), Dalrymple says that he cannot recall meeting a 16-year-old from the public housing project near his hospital who could perform simple multiplication operations, such as nine times seven. One 17-year-old told him, “We didn’t get that far.” This was after 12 years of attending school. One of Dalrymple’s patients took a drug overdose because of constant bullying from classmates. “She was stupid because she was clever.” What her peers meant by that was anyone who worked hard and performed well at school was wasting his time when truancy and wandering downtown were deemed preferable. The underlying threat was: If you don’t mend your ways and join us, we’ll beat you up.

.  .  .  . 

The reader may have been misled, with my help, into thinking that “We Don’t Want No Education” is about the black underclass, but it’s about the white underclass in Britain. We can’t use white racism and the legacy of slavery so frequently used to explain the black underclass to explain Britain’s underclass. The welfare state and the harebrained ideas of the public education establishment are a far better explanation for the counterproductive and self-destructive attitudes and lifestyles of both underclasses.

A “legacy of slavery” surely cannot explain problems among blacks, unless we assume it skips whole generations. In my book “Race and Economics” (Hoover Press, 2011), I cite studies showing that in New York City in 1925, 85 percent of black households were two-parent households. In 1880 in Philadelphia, three-quarters of black families were composed of two parents and children. Nationally, in the late 1800s, percentages of two-parent families were 75.2 percent for blacks, 82.2 percent for Irish-Americans, 84.5 percent for German-Americans and 73.1 percent for native whites. Today just over 30 percent of black children enjoy two-parent families. Both during slavery and as late as 1920, a black teenage girl’s raising a child without a man present was rare.

Dalrymple’s evidence from Britain shows that the welfare state is an equal opportunity destroyer.

[End of excerpts]

Food for thought . . . .  Oh – Dr. Williams also happens to be a black American.

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