In Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal John McWhorter, an African-American professor at Columbia University, describes “A Better Way to Honor Dr. King’s Dream”. Mr. McWhorter writes that a new conversation about race, “one in which whites submit to a lesson from blacks about so-called institutional racism” is not what America needs. “Today’s struggle should focus on three priorities. First, the war on drugs, a policy that unnecessarily tears apart black families and neighborhoods. Second, community colleges and vocational education, which are invaluable in helping black Americans get ahead. And third, the AIDS and obesity epidemics, which are ravaging black communities.”
Such sentiments represent a huge dose of common sense. The African-American community needs help and cooperation from the wider society to address fundamental issues like juvenile delinquency, poor educational outcomes and unhealthy environments. But these things, as much as they’re needed, are not enough by themselves for further progress towards racial equality.
The route out of poverty for all low income people, including blacks, is to raise themselves up by their bootstraps through educational attainment and hard work. Society can and should make sure that the appropriate institutions, such as community colleges, are readily available to provide training for jobs which are out there in the private sector.
But most of all we need a vibrant economy to give lower income Americans more opportunities to work their way up the economic ladder. We have not yet recovered in a satisfactory manner from the Great Recession which ended in June 2009. This makes it all the more important for our national leaders to focus on the pro-growth policies which will get our economy humming again.