Letter to the Editor: Columnist takes superficial view of racism


Saturday, August 24, 2019

Professor Walter Williams’s recent column, “Look beyond racial discrimination” has superficial validity. But his analysis is flawed by a trick conservatives often use to blame victims for the conditions they face.

Williams admits the existence of slavery and racism in America but downplays them, arguing that “the root of most of the problems black people face is the breakdown of the family structure.” He adds statistics supporting his point.

The statistics are accurate. His argument presents other data showing that many black families heroically stayed together until the advent of the “liberal welfare state” of the 1960s. This, Williams states, is when the rot began.

But Williams’s trick is to presume that slavery and resulting racism existed in isolation, and that most of its influences are limited to the past.

This is not true. Slavery is the source of a deep cultural bias toward black people that continues to this day, in the North and the South.

The black family was devastated by slavery. In slavery’s aftermath, blacks faced the horrors of Reconstruction, with an average of one lynching per week for more than 50 years.

Reconstruction was an attempt by whites to preserve the slave racial order, and they succeeded for a hundred more years. To escape this subjugation, thousands of blacks moved north, where they again faced attitudes and biases that were heavily influenced by slavery. Most were confined to ghettos and preyed on by slumlords.

The “liberal welfare state,” which includes laws to desegregate schools and secure voting rights, was an honest effort to confront these problems. But it has flaws, some of which made matters worse.

We all, blacks and whites, Democrats and Republicans (even former southern Democrats who abandoned the party when it supported civil rights), must tackle these problems together.

I may be among, as Williams puts it, the “intellectuals and political hustlers who blame the plight of so many blacks on poverty, racial discrimination and the legacy of slavery….” But an honest analysis of our country’s plight, which cannot be done in a short column such as Williams’s, must weigh the many ways that the burdens of slavery have pervaded American culture for 400 years.

R.L. Watson

Rocky Mount