We must change strategy to fight the War on Poverty

Afghanistan is not, as the media calls it, “America’s longest war.” In reality, that is the government’s “War on Poverty.”

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan bluntly said, “poverty won.”

After 50 years, we’re still losing the War on Poverty.

The percentage of people living in poverty isn’t much different from when President Lyndon Johnson committed us to this war. Right now, over 50 million people— 15 percent of Americans— are living in poverty or dependent on some form of government handouts.

It’s not that government never helped anyone rise out of poverty, but chronic mismanagement and depressing results are nothing to celebrate.

Leave it to the Obama Administration and its supporters to ignore the faults and embrace the War on Poverty. As the war enters its fifth decade, liberals want to double-down and grow the government to even greater proportions.

Rather than eradicating poverty, the government has subsidized and desensitized America to it. The government has robbed people of dignity and pride. It has created, encouraged and nurtured dependency and a sense of entitlement among aid recipients.

Reagan noted, “Poverty won in part because instead of helping the poor, government programs ruptured the bonds holding poor families together.” It created an underclass comfortable with its poverty. This is immoral.

The disastrous effects of government’s subsidization of poverty is recognizable across racial lines. It deserves much of the blame for the dissolution of the black family and rendering the black male irrelevant as both a husband and father in the eyes of many.

Generations have been born into broken families. Communities are ruled by social, moral and economic chaos. Many are solely dependent on government aid for their very livelihoods.

Out-of-wedlock births in the decades leading up to Johnson’s declaration of war on poverty affected around 25 percent of all non-white women in 1964. Only approximately 17 percent of black households were headed by a single parent in 1950.

Now government aid programs created by the War on Poverty can be blamed for helping single-parent families rise to around 72 percent of all black families in 2012. Why does a woman need a husband when the government can be her baby’s daddy?

Why has this been allowed to happen?

In many ways, poverty became a tool to justify wealth redistribution. This is a passive admission by its proponents that the poor aren’t particularly useful outside of their political value.

Transforming the poor into political pawns as part of a larger game to remake society is simply immoral. While the War on Poverty might have been originally sold and continues to be maintained on good intentions, it nonetheless must be judged on its results. And it’s clear that the effort has failed.

Materially, the impoverished are better off than they were 50 years ago. The poor now don’t necessarily lack shelter and transportation— or even cable television and smartphones. But the poverty rate still remains high after half a century. And I dare say that the mindset created by the resulting generational dependence of some on welfare assistance has had a devastating psychological effect on America.

Our nation will continue to lose this war on poverty until courageous leaders are willing to take the necessary steps to institute real reforms to the welfare state such as a welfare-to-work requirement. Bloat, redundancy and abuse must be eliminated as well. States and localities more aware of problems should take point.

There should be more partnerships with social institutions such as churches and community organizations to help inculcate upright character, a strong work ethic and sacrifice and to provide quality education and values to foster more awareness of economic opportunities and to turn people into producers instead of continuous drains on resources.

Those living in poverty must be equipped and empowered to be responsible participants in their own ascendance rather than continuing to cultivate a culture mired in mental and physical dependency.

Jesus said the poor will always be among us. They surely will— but in much larger and unnecessary numbers— if we continue to do what we’ve been doing over the past 50 years.

Derryck Green, a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network, received a M.A. in Theological Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing his doctorate in ministry at Azusa Pacific University. Comments may be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org.

Blacks must speak outside the language of race, Part II

Contrary to popular liberal belief, black Americans don’t speak with one voice.

It was the same California blacks who in 2008, voted for both traditional marriage and Barack Obama— the man who helped craft a U.S. Supreme Court that overturned the popular vote for California’s Proposition 8.

Past polling from Gallup, Pew and the General Social Survey show large numbers of blacks in America self-identified as conservative while also supporting lawmakers who walk rigid liberal political lines, and who often campaign with language steeped in race.

This obsession with race must stop. Black America must become “multilingual,” setting aside a reliance on the outdated language of race.

By speaking in a diverse tongue and about issues rather than skin color, the black community can save itself from becoming a cultural and political afterthought.

For example, blacks can eschew the language of race to speak the language of education: particularly education reform.

It’s not enough to repeat platitudes about needing quality education. Blacks too often support lawmakers who side with unions and the status quo.

Government schools have offered substandard educations to generations of black children, and they will continue to do so until we loudly and defiantly demand reforms such as school choice and teacher accountability.

It was once illegal for blacks to be educated, and people risked life and limb to learn. Risk is no longer necessary, but sacrifice still is!

Black folk must also speak economics. Over the past five years, 29 months saw black unemployment above 15 percent. Last January, black teen unemployment was at 38 percent.

However, no amount of government handouts will truly fix our bleak economic reality. Despite having a president who believes government is our savior, black Americans must be exposed to the virtue, dignity and incentive that come with work and entrepreneurship. From these come wealth and self-sufficiency.

Blacks must re-learn the language of love: of self and others.

The black community accounted for 36 percent of all abortions between 2007 and 2010— well above our 12.8 percent share of the population. And those babies lucky enough to be born are often raised in communities where they are more likely to die than non-black babies raised in other communities. In turn, disproportionate incarceration and criminal records rise.

Dysfunction is pervasive. Blacks must resuscitate the stigma and shame of illegitimacy, encourage marriage and family and motivate men to demonstrate responsibility and masculinity to succeeding generations.

To waste what our ancestors struggled, fought and died for is inexcusable.

Similarly, blacks must re-learn the language of morality and faith. Today’s self-destructive and immoral behavior would make our ancestors weep and others wonder if they persevered in vain.

In theory, blacks are the most religious of demographics. Many blacks go to services, yet too many otherwise conduct themselves as if allergic to dignity, unable to control their impulses and immune to morality. Civility, etiquette and the rule of law appear to be applicable to everyone but them.

We proudly and loudly engage in our imprudence, with indifference shown toward the values that guarantee success. There is a crutch-like dependence on guilt-ridden racial shakedowns that leverage white guilt to create a perverted notion of power that is rendered without shame.

A casual observer would be hard-pressed to believe blacks come from a rich cultural heritage that was once saturated with a spirit-filled religiosity grounded in biblical Christianity. This faith nourished a strength and resiliency that buttressed souls against the evils, pain and anguish associated with slavery and segregation and later fueled the vigor and tenacity of the Civil Rights movement.

For cultural respectability, moral legitimacy and political relevance, blacks must now become “multilingual,” casting aside the language of race for our own self-preservation.

While once rightly considered obligatory, racial rhetoric of a specific articulation, sincerity and urgency is virtually obsolete.

Failing to adapt to new circumstances would be our downfall. It also would be our own fault.

Derryck Green, a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network, received a M.A. in Theological Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing his doctorate in ministry at Azusa Pacific University. Comments may be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org.

Blacks must speak outside the language of race, Part I

Blacks must become multilingual. I’m not saying that black folk should learn a second language such as Spanish or Chinese— although the fact that Hispanics are the dominant minority and China is ascending economically might make knowledge of these languages a handy skill.

No, it’s not as much about how things are being said but about what is actually being said: what message the words convey. The new language, for some, will be both a novel way of speaking and a new way of thinking.

I believe blacks need to learn to speak above and beyond the language of race.

It’s old. It’s tired. And, these days, the language of race is counterproductive.

Too many blacks, and especially those who claim to be our leaders, are unfortunately still masters of speaking in racial terms. Considering our history of slavery, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement, the fluency is understandable.

In the 21st century, however, the language of race is getting harder and harder for the rest of society to understand.

The old black/white paradigm isn’t the same as it was. The racial playing field is much more equal than it was even just a few years ago. New generations don’t obsess about, nor do they live by, racial stereotypes. The presence of Asians, Hispanics and — yes — other Africans, along with the many other races that constitute America, living together, now require a change in the vocabulary.

Furthermore, mainstream America is increasingly closing its ears to racial rhetoric— particularly the narrative of victimization.

Failing to recognize and adapt to this new reality could render many blacks culturally and politically irrelevant if something isn’t done soon.

Consider how one political party already seems to take blacks for granted while the other virtually ignores black America. Yet, both parties are scrambling for the Hispanic vote even though blacks remain a larger percentage of the voting public.

Why? It’s because both parties understand racial linguistics and realize such rhetoric is only worth a finite amount these days. And, quite frankly, it’s patronizing.

For instance, during a speech at the 2011 Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual conference, President Obama told the crowd to “put on your marching shoes.” He concluded: “Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying… We’ve got work to do.”

In that speech, he cited the high black unemployment rate when he took office. This past January, black male unemployment was 12.1 percent. Black teenage unemployment was 38 percent! The percentage of Americans of all races participating in the workforce is near a modern low.

The jobs situation has not gotten any better for black Americans under President Obama’s stewardship.

Feeling used yet? It’s examples such as this, where we are pressed into service without guarantee of relief that proves why blacks must drop their racial obsessions— the language of race— and become “multilingual.”

On issues as diverse as education, economics, morality and family it is obvious that there is no monolithic black political ideology. Polling actually shows that blacks fall all across the board politically— if not more conservative than liberal— despite steadfast loyalty to the liberal political party.

Willingness to accept this diversity of views, as opposed to the currently self-imposed and very strident political litmus tests, is a virtue. It is an asset that will increase the black community’s political value and make it relevant again.

Unwavering liberal black politicians may have power in Washington through seniority, but they don’t garner much respect. Has the Congressional Black Caucus’ alternative federal budget ever gone anywhere? And those of us not in elected office get to put on our marching shoes, but we are rarely allowed in and given a seat at the real table to power.

Expanding from the language of race to include our true political diversity— becoming multilingual— is an imperative for black America.

Derryck Green, a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network, received a M.A. in Theological Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing his doctorate in ministry at Azusa Pacific University. Comments may be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org.

Race fatigue

Help me, I’m suffering from acute race fatigue!

After gavel-to-gavel coverage of the George Zimmerman trial, I need a break. After all the post-verdict anger, lamentations and inane discussions about what it is to be a black man in America, I’m exhausted.


Courtesy photo

Derryck Green

After watching President Obama liken himself to Trayvon Martin, I’ve had enough.

All this talk about race seems intentionally shortsighted and disingenuous. It simply implicates whites and infantilizes the black man. And those needing to hear straight talk the most are shortchanged by the soulless profiteers of the racial grievance industry.

I’m tired of Trayvon Martin being compared to Emmett Till— which, by extension, projects a racial ethos similar to that of 1955 upon contemporary America. Martin was no Till, period.

Martin was not some kind of martyr. Please, already.

I’m tired of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. being photo shopped into a hoodie. This is nothing short of repulsive, and it denigrates the memory of Dr. King’s contribution to racial justice.

Our nation shall forever be in debt to Dr. King. The same cannot and should not be said nor insinuated about Trayvon Martin. There is no comparison.

I’m especially exhausted of hearing condescending white progressives encouraging blacks to maintain a false narrative of victimization.

The embarrassing demonstrations increased racial fatigue because those engaging in them did so at the expense of their dignity and credibility. These people— willfully or through neglect— ignored the facts and evidence of the case in a grandstanding attempt to make whites feel responsible and guilty for perpetuating racial discrimination. At the same time, whites feel obligated to perform penance of indeterminate length— defined by the racial grievance industry— without assurance of absolution.

Meanwhile, black-on-black crime is much more destructive and prevalent than a “white Hispanic” killing a black male. The charade is disgusting, and I’m tired of it.

The Zimmerman trial wasn’t about race. The FBI’s investigation found absolutely no evidence of racial bias.

Martin was criminally profiled. In the 14 months prior to the fatal Martin-Zimmerman confrontation, the Retreat at Twin Lakes apartment complex was burglarized eight times— with all suspects being roughly the same height, build and color as Martin.

Thus, Martin wasn’t stalked or “hunted down like a rabid dog” because he was black. As noted during the trial, suspicion was raised because of Martin’s behavior and because he fit a very specific criminal profile.

Blacks aren’t helpless victims abused by “the system.” The facts prove it. The reason that blacks— specifically black males— are disproportionally represented in the criminal justice system is because we commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime. Period.

According to FBI statistics, of the 2,938 murder offenders counted in 2011, 1,803 offenders were black. The total number of black murders in 2011, regardless of age, was 2,695. Of that number, 2,447 had black offenders.

Blacks are complicit in their own demise. The system that blacks fear, which they claim is out to get them, is— in reality— blacks themselves.

In other words, there are too many black and progressive fingers pointed outward and not enough pointed inward. This is because there’s no political capital to be gained by doing this— no emotions to be exploited and no one to morally indict as racist.

Does racism exist? Yes, of course. However, no one race is responsible for all— or even most— of it.

Does racial discrimination exist? Yes, again. And there always will be on this side of heaven.

For blacks and their enablers to continue to foment this notion that racism is America’s number one problem, however, is self-defeating, immoral and perpetuates a lie.

Too many blacks have no idea how irresponsible and embarrassing they look in all of this. And I fear, very soon, they will be called on their Dream-killing commodification and idolization of race.

By then, I hope I’ve recovered from my race fatigue.

Derryck Green is a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network. Comments may be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org.