The Civil Slavery of Black Americans

There is no doubt that race relations in America are strained between black and white people (especially in the South). There are many racial prejudices and stereotypes that, at least in a general way, seem to correlate to experience. For instance, many white Americans (even ones who claim to be the stoutest supporters of racial equality) view black people as generally inferior in culture, language, heritage, wealth, family life, education, etc. There are reasons why these generalities exist. Getting at their root both dismantles the racial origin of these prejudices, and points to ways that black America can fix some of its social dysfunctions. Elsewhere, I have written about what racial slavery has done to black Americans. Slavery actually created and then reinforced many of the racial stereotypes upon which it was supposedly based. And today, civil slavery does the same.

Half a century ago, it seemed like the patience and perseverance of many black American leaders was beginning to overcome the adverse generational effects of slavery. Think about George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, and Jackie Robinson. They had a lot to overcome, but they quietly and meekly excelled in environments where they had nothing but disadvantages to success. They have been criticized for “compromising with the enemy,” but their Christian emphasis on “turning the other cheek” was proving effective. They beat racism by being undeniably good. It was demeaning that they had to “prove themselves” to an even greater degree than their white peers. And I am ashamed of the ugliness of Jim Crow laws and lynchings. That is why I admire the fortitude of these men all the more. I think they did much in their time to heal racial rifts.

But something changed around 1963, just around the time that the Civil Rights movement got underway in earnest. It was the beginning of LBJ’s Great Society. This was the beginning of the “War on Poverty” and a dramatic turnaround of America’s slow racial healing. What was intended to bring “racial justice” to black Americans ended up turning them into civil slaves. They had been free for nearly one hundred years. Integration and “racial justice” was in many ways a Trojan Horse. Malcolm X railed against it:

The white man is too intelligent to let someone else come and gain control of the economy of his community. But you will let anybody come in and take control of the economy of your community, control the housing, control the education, control the jobs, control the businesses, under the pretext that you want to integrate. No, you’re ought of your mind.

Welfare destroyed black families by discouraging responsible family leadership. Mothers were rewarded financially for having more children without getting married. Fathers were financially rewarded for not working and not looking for work. You always get more of what you subsidize. The Great Society subsidized single motherhood and unemployment. And it got more of it.

According to 2012 welfare statistics, 39.8% of U.S. welfare assistance went to black Americans. The number comes out to 22.5 million black welfare recipients. Since the population of black Americans is at about 37.6 million, this means that about sixty percent of black Americans are dependent on civil government assistance in some form. By comparison, about seven percent of the white population is dependent on the government. In 1963, black marriages were stronger than white marriages, and 70% of black households were headed by a married couple. That number never rose higher. It has dropped ever since. Now, 67% of black children are in single-parent homes. In 1963, 24.2 percent of black children were born out of wedlock. By 2008, the number had risen to 72.3 percent.

When black Americans generally began to depend on the civil government, rather than on their own labor and capacities, they entered into a state of civil slavery. And the same characteristics that had been attributed to them generally as slaves—a lack of education, a lack of real wealth, and a lack of responsibility—began to plague them again. In an insightful article in The Atlantic about Bill Cosby, author Ta-Nehisi Coates explains how many black Americans are waking up to the connection between civil slavery and black America’s social distress:

This is the audience that flocks to Cosby: culturally conservative black Americans who are convinced that integration, and to some extent the entire liberal dream, robbed them of their natural defenses.

“There are things that we did not see coming,” Cosby told me over lunch in Manhattan last year. “Like, you could see the Klan, but because these things were not on a horse, because there was no white sheet, and the people doing the deed were not white, we saw things in the light of family and forgiveness … We didn’t pay attention to the dropout rate. We didn’t pay attention to the fathers, to the self-esteem of our boys.”

Given the state of black America, it is hard to quarrel with that analysis. Blacks are 13 percent of the population, yet black men account for 49 percent of America’s murder victims and 41 percent of the prison population. The teen birth rate for blacks is 63 per 1,000, more than double the rate for whites. In 2005, black families had the lowest median income of any ethnic group measured by the Census, making only 61 percent of the median income of white families.

What is important to keep in mind is that black America’s social problems do not originate in biology, though black Americans never would have been targeted so heavily for government “assistance” if it hadn’t been for the narrative of “reparations.” So again, slavery has dictated race relations, even one hundred and fifty years after its abolition. But tell me: How can a new and even more undignified form of slavery be reparations for slavery? That makes no sense.

There is one obvious solution to this problem. Black Americans need to divorce the civil government. They need to exit the civil government’s schools, their welfare programs, their abortion clinics, and their houses. And they need to live, think, and work independently again. The largest obstacle to this? Black fathers. Bill Cosby said it, and everyone booed him for it. But the facts speak for themselves. If black Americans are going to divorce the civil government and work to end the stereotypes that have made their American experience so heartbreakingly unjust, black fathers need to stick with the mothers of their children, educate their children in the truth, and work hard to provide a living for their households. This might seem like a slow road, but I think it is the only sure one.

But the civil government (on both sides of the aisle) does not want black Americans to be free. You may have wondered why LBJ started the War on Poverty in the first place. Perhaps this quote from LBJ will clear it up: “I’ll have them n*ggers voting Democratic for two hundred years.”1 Many people wonder how such a racist could have passed so much “Civil Rights” legislation. If you look at the consequences of that legislation though, there really isn’t any disconnect at all.

It’s well beyond the time for black Americans to take back their independence. And when that happens, the already tenuous basis for any remaining white racism will fall apart.

  1. Ronald Kessler, Inside the White House (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 33. []