One issue that Dr. Austin has addressed on numerous occasions is the mistaken beliefs held by some black intellectuals concerning black progress, or the lack thereof.
For example, consider these comments from Austin’s blog, regarding a review by Stanford University law professor Richard Thompson Ford of the book More Than Just Race by William Julius Wilson.
The second sentence of your New York Times book review of William Julius Wilson’s More Than Just Race states: “The poverty, violence and hopelessness in America’s inner cities have become increasingly dire in the four decades since the height of the civil rights movement.” This statement is not correct.
The Census Bureau reports that in 1966 the black poverty rate was 41.8 percent. In 2007, it was 24.5 percent, 17.3 percentage points lower than in 1966. The Center for Disease Control’s Health, United States, 2008 reports that in 1970 the age-adjusted homicide rate for black men was 78.2 for every 100,000 men. In 2005, it was 37.3 per 100,000. For black females, the 1970 homicide rate was 14.7 and 6.1 in 2005.
Many of the leading black public intellectuals are nostalgic for the past, but this is only because they do not accurately remember how rough the 1960s and 1970s were.
Just about every leading black public intellectual who discusses the black poor recently gets these and other basic facts wrong. The consensus among these black elites is that there is an epidemic of bad behavior among lower-income blacks that has led to a big increase in black poverty. Juan Williams states, “too many poor and low-income black people are not taking advantage of opportunities to get themselves out of poverty.” Cynthia Tucker claims, “drug use, poor classroom performance and the embrace of outlaw culture have done nothing but cement the black underclass at the bottom of American society.” Henry Louis Gates argues that America now has “the largest [black] underclass in our history” and “it’s time to concede that, yes, there is a culture of poverty.” You see that your second sentence fits with this theme.
Apparently, none of these commentators took much time to examine the black poverty trends. Over the 1990s, when lower-income blacks were supposedly mired in a culture of poverty, they experienced the largest reduction in black poverty since the 1960s. In 1992, the black poverty rate was 33.4 percent. By 2000, it had reached its lowest level on record, 22.5 percent. The culture-of-poverty idea or the “tangle of pathology” as William Julius Wilson has called it does not help us understand this historic decline in black poverty.
Just to be clear: Austin would be the first to say that the African American community faces a number of challenges, including internal ones, in dealing with problems such as poverty, crime and violence.
But even so, the idea that black people are stuck in a hopeless and helpless pathological spiral is unwarranted by the facts. The fact is, the black community has made significant social progress over the past 50 years.
It seems that we place an inordinate of effort in articulating what’s wrong with the black community, as opposed to detailing our successes, and pinpointing what works.
We need to talk more about how black people can win.
Based on true events in the midst of the 2000 election, AMERICAN VIOLET tells the astonishing story of Dee Roberts (critically hailed newcomer Nicole Beharie), a 24 year-old African American single mother of four young girls living in a small Texas town who is barely making ends meet on a waitress salary and government subsidies.
On an early November morning while Dee works a shift at the local diner, the powerful local district attorney (Academy Award® nominee Michael OKeefe) leads an extensive drug bust, sweeping her Arlington Springs housing project with military precision. Police drag Dee from work in handcuffs, dumping her in the squalor of the womens county prison. Indicted based on the uncorroborated word of a single and dubious police informant facing his own drug charges, Dee soon discovers she has been charged as a drug dealer.
Even though Dee has no prior drug record and no drugs were found on her in the raid or any subsequent searches, she is offered a hellish choice: plead guilty and go home as a convicted felon or remain in prison and fight the charges thus, jeopardizing her custody and risking a long prison sentence.
Despite the urgings of her mother (Academy Award® nominee Alfre Woodard), and with her freedom and the custody of her children at stake, she chooses to fight the district attorney and the unyielding criminal justice system he represents. Joined in an unlikely alliance with an ACLU attorney (Tim Blake Nelson) and former local narcotics officer (Will Patton), Dee risks everything in a battle that forever changes her life and the Texas justice system. AMERICAN VIOLET also stars Emmy Award® winner Charles S. Dutton and Xzibit.
Here’s the movie trailer:
This is an independent movie, and is not in wide release. But if it is in your town, it might be worth a look.
The movie is based on a true story, which is detailed here. Another site has an engaging interview with Regina Kelly, upon whom the Dee Roberts character is based. Kindly enough, the video was placed on Youtube:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. – Second Amendment to the US Constitution
“The great object is, that every man be armed. [...] Every one who is able may have a gun.” – Patrick Henry
“Gun control has not worked in D.C. The only people who have guns are criminals. We have the strictest gun laws in the nation and one of the highest murder rates. It’s quicker to pull your Smith & Wesson than to dial 911 if you’re being robbed.” – Lowell Duckett
“Our neighbors in Virginia are just as responsible for these killings as the criminals are because they won’t pass strong gun [control] legislation.” – former Washington, DC mayor Marion Barry.
“To make inexpensive guns impossible to get is to say that you’re putting a money test on getting a gun. It’s racism in its worst form.” – Roy Innis
“So Huey (Newton) says, “We’re going to the (California state) Capitol… they’re trying to pass a law against our guns, and we’re going to the Capitol steps. We’re going to take the best Panthers we got and we’re going to the Capitol steps with our guns and forces, loaded down to the gills. And we’re going to read a message to the world, because the press is always up there. They’ll listen to the message, and they’ll probably blast it all across this country. I know, I know they’ll blast it all the way across California. We’ve got to get a message over to the people.” ” – Bobby Seale on the Black Panthers armed protest in Sacramento in May, 1967.
“The end move in politics is always to pick up a gun.” – Richard Buckminster Fuller
History and time have a way of telling cruel jokes. So it is with the recent Supreme Court decision overturning the restictive gun ban in Washington, DC.
When black folks were outmanned and outgunned during the slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras, various Supreme Court decisions left blacks defenseless against a tide of white terrorism. But now that black communities are awash in a wave of black on black crime, the Supreme Court accepts and rules on a case concerning the right to bear arms.
It is the cruelest of ironies. Before I go further, consider this admittedly self-serving timeline of the history of blacks and guns: