Roger L. Simon

Why Baltimore: An American Tragedy

Who wasn’t hugely depressed watching the non-stop coverage of the Baltimore riots Monday night?  So sad. How has it come to this?  We’re back in Watts, only it’s five decades later !

Well, it’s not exactly the same.  It was white businesses that were trashed in Watts — this time they were black ones.  And there was another, even more important, difference…

Commentators were repeatedly asking, where are the parents?   Ben Carson — the neurosurgeon, potential Republican presidential candidate and onetime Baltimore resident — urged the city’s parents “Please, take care of your children.”

Great idea, but here’s the problem.  They don’t have ’em.  According to liberal CNN’s Don Lemon, 72 percent of African-American children are born out of wedlock. His stats were born out by the Centers for Disease Control.  One can only imagine what the stats would be broken down for those Baltimore neighborhoods that were rioting.  The presence of a father in the home would be a rarity indeed.  And a lot of the moms are probably holding their fatherless homes together for dear life, desperately trying to make a living when their kids are pouring out of school.  No one was home.

Of course, it wasn’t always that way.  The black family was the bulwark of that community.  So what happened?  I’ll be blunt, since I was once part of the problem and equally culpable — liberal racism.  Ever since the days of Lyndon Johnson, social welfare programs aimed at making the lives of “colored people” better actually made them worse.  The assumption behind these programs is that African-Americans — always, constantly, forever unequal and not up to the task — needed a leg up. They got the message.  Wouldn’t you?

And wouldn’t it make you pretty angry, too?  Not that that’s an excuse for violence, not even faintly.  The whole system is corrupt, top to bottom.

No wonder the mayor of Baltimore made the inane comment (and then pretended she didn’t) about giving the rioters space to wreak their havoc.  That’s the logical extension of the Great Society, this time given forth by a black woman graduate of Oberlin.  She didn’t even comprehend at the time the insult to her own people inherent in her comment.  When I heard her welcoming Al Sharpton in the press conference, I cringed.

So what do we do?  As a onetime white-privileged civil rights worker, I’m probably the last one to say, but we should do some serious rethinking.  Some of the ideas that go back to Jack Kemp — turning these communities into tax-free empowerment zones encouraging local people to pull themselves up by the bootstraps — have never really been tried to any significant extent. And they are the only thing that makes any kind of sense to me.   (I admit to being heavily influence by Dambisa Moyo’s fascinating Dead Aid that showed that African countries who fared best were the ones who received little or no foreign aid.)

But whatever we do, it shouldn’t be the same old same old.  We know that doesn’t work.

Also read: 

The One Key Lesson Baltimore Cops Didn’t Learn from the L.A. Riots