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The Legacy-of-Slavery Excuse Debunked

Written on Friday, September 21, 2012 by

students

 

A local school district in Florida is being sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) because more of its black students as a percentage of the student population are disciplined than white students.  The SPLC claims this is because black students are unfairly singled out for punishment.  Apparently no one at the SPLC thought to ask the obvious question: Could it be that more black students break the rules than white students?  After all, even a cursory examination of the data state or nationwide will show that absenteeism, tardiness, poor grades, high dropout rates, drug use, and violent crime are higher among black students than white, Asian, or Hispanic students.

However, liberals and their leftwing organizations tend to ignore data that does not support their preconceived notions or fit their political agendas.  Liberals simply ignore the data on absenteeism, tardiness, bad grades, dropout rates, drug use, and crime for black students, and when they cannot ignore it they have a ready-made excuse to explain it away: the legacy of slavery.  According to liberal apologists, black students who perform poorly in school do so because they still carry the burden of slavery in their genes.

But the “legacy” excuse quickly breaks down because there are plenty of young black students who not only perform well in school, but out perform their white, Asian, and Hispanic counterparts, and these high achievers carry the same so-called legacy burden as other black students.  A widely-recognized example of such a high achiever is Dr. Ben Carson, the world-renowned brain surgeon.   As a young black student from the inner city, Dr. Carson had all of the disadvantages that liberals use to excuse black students who perform poorly. But Carson refused to make excuses.  Instead he studied hard, persevered, and transformed his life.  Now he spends his time saving lives.

The hard truth that liberals refuse to accept is that black students who do poorly in school do so for the same reasons as other students who do poorly: because they do not take school seriously.  If they go to school at all, they misbehave, skip classes, and refuse to cooperate with teachers, complete assignments, do homework, or study.  And if this kind of behavior is not bad enough, these marginal students use peer pressure, intimidation, and beatings to hold back other black students who are serious about school. One of the most dangerous things a young black student can do in some schools is work hard to succeed.

Conservative economist Walter Williams had this to say about the legacy-of-slavery excuse: “A ‘legacy of slavery’ surely cannot explain problems among blacks, unless we assume it skips whole generations.  In my book ‘Race and Economics’ (Hoover Press, 2011), I cite studies showing that in New York in 1925, 85 percent of black households were two-parent households.  In 1880 in Philadelphia, three-quarters of black families were composed of two parents and children…Both during slavery and as late as 1920, a black teenage girl raising a child without a man present was rare.”

There is a strong correlation between the school performance of black students—as well as other students—and their home situation.  The point Professor Williams makes in his book is that the modern welfare state has crippled the black family and rendered it fatherless.  Consequently, too many young blacks are growing up with no father to provide expectations, hold them accountable, and to guide them in achieving meeting expectations.  I agree with Dr. Williams, about the effect of the welfare state on the black family and its corresponding effect on the school performance of black students. But even a less-than-desirable home situation should not be used as an excuse for thumbing one’s nose at education.  In fact, it should just make black students—as well as white, Asian, and Hispanic students—even more determined to use school as the means of breaking the cycle of welfare and throwing off the shackles of dependency and despair.

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