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Professor Capehart Lectures Rep. Paul Ryan

Jonathan Capehart, the “certified boy wonder” black opinionator at the Washington Post and MSNBC, a New Jersey native who graduated from Saint Benedict’s Preparatory School and Carleton College, has in effect joined the chorus calling Rep. Paul Ryan a racist in a scolding open “letter to Paul Ryan about inner-city issues, and what’s to blame.”


On Bill Bennett’s Morning in America radio show last week Ryan invited Capehart’s ire by saying:

You know your buddy Charles Murray or Bob Putnam over at Harvard – those guys have written books on this. Which is, we have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities in particular of men not working. And just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work and so there’s a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.

Convinced that Rep. Ryan has “much to learn,” Capehart presumes to instruct him. The condition of the inner cities, according to Professor Capehart, has nothing to do with culture. “Rather, it was the end result of discriminatory housing policies enacted decades ago by federal, state and local governments that created a cycle of residential segregation for black people that persists to this day.” Among those policies Capehart blamed:

• red-lining and restrictive covenants

• the departure of manufacturing and commerce

• under-funded schools

• racial profiling

• discriminatory drug enforcement laws

• debilitating effects of a “cycle of incarceration”

“So, no,” Professor Capehart concludes, “the problems plaguing the inner city aren’t created by culture. They are the indirect result of government policies. And it’s going to take progressive government policies to solve them.”


Let us assume that this typical liberal list of discriminatory government policies (even though it sneaks in “the departure of manufacturing and commerce”) is  valid. Still, it’s odd that “culture” in any manifestation is totally absent, especially since in other contexts the vibrant “difference” of black culture is at the very core of the justification for engineering increased “diversity” in all areas of American life (perhaps even playing a role in Professor Capehart’s own meteoric rise).

You would think, for example, that an adequate rejoinder to Rep. Ryan’s cultural comment would at least have to acknowledge and somehow respond to the well-documented facts that children born to single mothers face much higher life obstacles than those born to two parent families. “The poverty rate for single mothers and their children in the United States is a heart-breaking 37 percent,” the Arizona Republic reported. “For married couples with children, it is just 6.8 percent.” It is equally well-documented that out-of-wedlock births in the black community have reached epidemic proportions. Recent data from the federal government, Roger Clegg has pointed out, reveal that 72.2% of non-Hispanic blacks are born out of wedlock, compared to 29.4 percent for non-Hispanic whites and 17.1 percent for Asians/Pacific Islanders.


Capehart also apparently has not done his homework on homework, or at least forgot to turn it in. Using data from the American Time Use Survey, UC San Diego Economics Professor Valerie Ramey has determined that, averaged over the entire year, black teenagers spend an average of only 3.4 hours per week studying and doing homework compared to 5.6 hours for whites and 13 hours per week for Asians. Racial preferences are a woefully inappropriate and inadequate compensation for this deficit.

Can Professor Capehart and his fellow “progressives” really believe that this sort of cultural data is literally not worth mentioning, or that it is racist to mention it? Is the reality this data reflects either the direct or indirect “result of government policies”? If so, what “progressive government policies” will cause black men to marry the mothers of their children and those children to start doing more homework?

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