It is also the case that the government cannot do much more about racial discrimination than it is already doing. We can and should continue to enforce our antidiscrimination laws, but any underlying racism that remains must be addressed by all of us — black and white, Asian and Hispanic, American Indian and immigrant — in our hearts. While sometimes it can be tempting to generalize about people based on the color of their skin, it is wrong to do so. All good Americans must resist that temptation.
But how will we end this temptation? This brings me to my third point, which is a hard one to make without being accused of “blaming the victim,” at best, or even being labeled a flat-out racist, if you happen to be white. But, to the extent that there is anything brave that needs to be said in this area, it is this point: Racism today is less a cause of our problems than it is a symptom of them.
Illegitimacy, drug addiction, and crime are not just problems for minorities, but we know that these problems are worse for our urban black poor than for other groups. We must admit that it is this disproportion that accounts for most of the remaining racism that exists in our country.
The best way to get rid of the remaining racism is to get rid of the pathologies afflicting so many low-income, urban communities. To the extent there is a problem in race relations in this country, it is a problem about the assimilation of these African Americans — more so, really, than Latinos, and certainly more so than Asians — into the larger American culture.
Let me be even more blunt and specific: The biggest domestic problem America faces today, and certainly the biggest problem that the African-American community faces today, is that seven out of ten African Americans are born out of wedlock. The racial disparities — and any resulting racism — we see all stem principally from this sad fact. When you grow up in a home without a father, you are much more likely to grow up poor and remain poor, and to get into trouble with the law, and to do poorly in school.
Yet we African Americans could go from seven-out-of-ten to zero-out-of-ten in nine months without spending a dime, if we made up our minds to. Why don’t we?
I don’t want to end on a down note. The glass is at least seven-eighths full. As I said, the real problems we face are not racial, and are not limited to one racial group. We should work together to address these problems. And we should be proud of the way America now treats all its racial groups; do our part to judge our fellow citizens by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin; and do what we can to help local communities as they fight the problems that are our real enemies.
– Roger Clegg is president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity.