Selma plus 50

  • Monday, March 9, 2015 11:34pm
  • Opinion

I liked the movie “Selma,” though it could have done without the rap song during credits that referenced “hands up, don’t shoot,” a slogan that emerged from the shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer whose actions the Justice Department recently determined did not “constitute prosecutable violations” of federal civil rights law.

As President Obama marched last weekend in Selma, Alabama, along with others commemorating that seminal civil rights demonstration, it became clear that the time has come to stop focusing on marches and take a sober look at what really troubles the African-American community today and how to un-trouble it. We might ask: Are African Americans better off than they were 50 years ago when it comes to jobs, economic independence and especially intact families?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last Friday that black unemployment stood at 10.4 percent in February, a slight increase from the 10.3 percent figure a month earlier. White unemployment is just 4.7 percent. The national average is 5.5 percent, misleading because of the millions who are no longer looking for work.

There are too many single mothers, too many black men in jail or dead and too many black babies aborted. That’s the negative and as long as politicians focus on negatives they are unlikely to generate positives. Here are some of the positives.

Black Christian News Network 1 has compiled figures culled from the Pew Research Center, Census Bureau, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Kaiser Foundation and Nielsen. It calculates more than 10,500 elected black officials in America, 1.9 million black business owners, a record low 8 percent high school dropout rate. In 2013, it found, black buying power had reached $1 trillion.

BCNN1 also cites troubling trends that in some cases outweigh the gains: Median net wealth of black households fell from $16,600 in 2010 to $11,000 in 2013 (a huge disparity when compared to the $141,900 median net wealth figure for white households); only 14 percent of young black people between the ages of 18 to 24 were enrolled in college in 2012 and just 9 percent ages 25 to 29 held bachelor’s degrees.

The disparity between reality and impression is most shocking and inhibits those African Americans locked in a prison of underachievement from breaking free. Figures compiled by the FBI in 2012 show that 69.3 percent of all crimes are committed by whites with just 28.1 percent committed by blacks, and yet in 2010, cites BCNN1, black men were six times as likely as white men to be incarcerated in federal, state and local prisons and jails.

Case in point: Ferguson, Missouri. AP writes, “The Justice Department … made numerous allegations against the city’s police department that included racial disparities in arrests, bigotry and profit-driven law enforcement — essentially using the black community as a piggy bank to support the city’s budget through fines.” And Ferguson is not alone.

How to overcome these conditions? Start by retiring the song “We Shall Overcome Someday.” Then begin teaching and modeling what is necessary for African-American success and then make those standards a top priority of government, church and most importantly culture.

The message at all levels should be: Stay in school, don’t have babies out of wedlock, get married and stay married, be a father to your children, adopt a religious life and don’t take drugs. These are on-ramps to the road to achievement.

The cultural stereotypes that portray black men as oversexed thugs who can’t speak proper English and who dress as if they are on their way to a street fight must be curtailed. Embracing low-class behavior ensures that one is likely to remain in the lower class. Following examples of successful black men and women and ignoring peer pressure to follow a road that leads nowhere will improve one’s chances of success.

Solutions to the problems of black America are not a secret, but they must be taught at every level. They begin by allowing parents to choose where their children go to school.

More than anything else, a good education will help black children cross a bridge that leads to an even better destination than the one marchers reached last weekend.

Readers may email Cal Thomas at

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