Wednesday, March 20, 2019

What Kamala Harris misses in her argument for reparations

From a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Jason L. Riley:

In an interview with National Public Radio last week, [Kamala Harris] said that the “trauma” experienced among blacks today stems from their slave past. “It is environmental. It is centuries of slavery, which was a form of violence where women were raped, where children were taken from their parents—violence associated with slavery,” said the senator. “There was never any real intervention to break up what had been generations of people experiencing the highest forms of trauma.”

Ms. Harris wants to hold slavery responsible for black America’s contemporary problems. But that requires ignoring the progress made by blacks—both in absolute terms and relative to whites—who lived much closer to the era of slavery.

For example, the soaring violent-crime rates that produce so much “trauma” in poor black communities today did not exist in those communities in the first 100 years after emancipation, even though poverty rates at the time were much higher and racism was still legal and widespread.

Barry Latzer, a criminologist at John Jay College, reports that black male homicides fell by nearly 18% in the 1940s and by another 21% in the 1950s, while rates remained relatively flat among their white counterparts over the same period.

Similarly, Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson has written that “in ghetto neighborhoods throughout the first half of the twentieth century, rates of inner-city joblessness, teenage pregnancy, out-of-wedlock births, female-headed families, welfare dependency and serious crime were significantly lower than in later years and did not reach catastrophic proportions until the mid-1970s.”

Did the “legacy of slavery” and Jim Crow skip over a couple of generations and then reassert itself in the mid-1970s? Or is it possible that something else is primarily responsible for the outcomes we see today?