Thomas Sowell has an interview with the Wall Street Journal's Kyle Peterson in connection with the release of Mr. Sowell's latest book, Wealth, Poverty and Politics: An International Perspective:
"One of the things I try to do in the book is to distinguish between what might be the legacy of slavery, and what's the legacy of the welfare state. If you look at the first 100 years after slavery, black communities were a lot safer. People were a lot more decent. But then you look 30 years after the 1960s revolution, and you see this palpable retrogression—of which I think the key one is the growth of the single-parent family."
Mr. Sowell says he cannot remember ever hearing a gunshot when he was growing up in Harlem, and he used to sleep on the fire escape to beat the summer heat. He cites changes in black enrollment at New York City's highly competitive Stuyvesant High School, which he attended. "In 2012, blacks were 1.2% of the students at Stuyvesant," he says. "Thirty-three years earlier, they were 12%."
Here's the point: Does anyone believe that racism and the legacy of slavery are stronger today than in the 1970s—or for that matter in 1945, when Mr. Sowell enrolled at Stuyvesant?
This is a point also made by Jason L. Riley in his fine book Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder For Blacks To Succeed. Mr. Riley writes:
In Philadelphia circa 1880, 75 percent of black families and 73 percent of while families were comprised of two parents and children. In Philadelphia circa 2007, 'married-couple families account for only 34 percent of African American family households, while white married-couple families account for 68 percent of white family households,' according to the Urban League of Philadelphia. Was there less racism in America, structural and otherwise, fifteen years after the end of the Civil War there there was a year before Barack Obama was elected president? In 1847 Philadelphia — that is, prior to the end of slavery — historians report, two-parent families were more common among ex-slaves than freeborn blacks. And Philadelphia was no outlier. Nationwide, data from every census taken between 1890 and 1940 show the black marriage rate exceeding the white rate....Social welfare programs that were initiated or greatly expanded during the 1960s resulted in the government effectively displacing black fathers as breadwinners, and made work less attractive.
...In 1930, when racial discrimination was infinitely more open and rampant, the black unemployment rate was lower than that of whites. And until around 1950 the unemployment rate for young black men was much lower than today, and similar to whites in the same age group.