Will We Ever Learn?

The nation's capitol provides one of the best examples of the destructiveness of liberal ideas. Washington used to be a thriving city where free persons of color and freed slaves established flourishing family businesses that covered the gamut from taxicabs and small stores to hotels and restaurants. Plus, there were well educated descendants of freed slaves. As early as 1899, Washington's Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School's black students scored higher than any of the white schools in the District of Columbia. From 1870 to 1955, most Dunbar graduates went to college, including schools like Oberlin, Harvard, Amherst, Williams and Wesleyan. Washington was home to a broad upwardly mobile black middle class.

All that has changed. According to Philip Murphy in an article in Policy Review, Washington has, "the highest per capita murder and violent crime rates, the highest percentage of residents on public assistance, the highest paid school board, the lowest SAT scores, the most single-parent families, and the most lawyers per capita." Neighborhoods, once bustling and serene, are now economic wastelands where law-abiding residents live in daily terror. People are fleeing Washington in droves. It's not white flight but black flight to the suburbs. During the second half of the 1980s alone, over 157,000, or one fifth of Washington's population moved. This exodus consisted of disproportionately black households earning between $30,000 and $50,000 a year. Today, Washington's population is 578,000 down from a peak of 800,000.

Can we blame racism for Washington's emergence into a bankrupted Third World type of city? To do so requires a lot of imagination. Washington is a city where the mayor is black, the chief of police is black, the superintendent of schools is black and most of the city council is black. Can we blame poor revenue sources? According to Murphy the city takes in an astonishing $8,950 in revenue for every man, woman and child in its jurisdiction. That's to be compared to $4,000 and $3,700 in nearby Maryland and Virginia, respectively. Nonetheless, the city is in receivership; its bonds have achieved junk status because it manages to spend $1,000 more per person than it receives in revenue. The city's deficit is approaching $1 billion.

Washington's story can be told in varying degrees in other predominantly black cities. That story is a monument to the failure of the liberal ideas of Democrats, black politicians and civil rights organizations. Liberals have convinced blacks that we deal with crime not by arresting and locking up criminals, but searching for crime's original causes. That gives criminals carte blanche to prey on law-abiding citizens. Liberals have convinced blacks that we deal with educational fraud by spending more money to create programs that fall just short of lunacy. Liberals don't expose their children to this nonsense. They enroll their children in private schools as does Franklin Smith Washington's Superintendent of Public Schools.

Victims of the liberals are mostly poor black people who have few options such as Sheila Stamps, a widowed mother of five living in a housing project who complains, "You can't let the children out by themselves, and the playground is littered with intravenous needles." Like most black parents, Stamps wants school choice saying, "Any child in this city should be able to go to the best schools; if they meet the criteria, let them go." But her liberal "benefactors" say no.

When black Americans finally come to the full realization of what liberals have done to us, it's going to make last November's political revolution look like a girl scout outing.

Walter E. Williams
April 13, 1995
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