Progressives miss the point of Baltimore

Three key dynamics since the Civil Rights era 50 years ago created the inner city misery we are now seeing urgently rise to the foreground today.

First, the Black Power ideology that proliferated in the 1960s and 70s discouraged black communities from maintaining the old-time mantra that adversity meant that blacks have to try twice as hard. The wise insight was that after centuries in the United States, the persistent double standard was demeaning, and while that made basic sense, it changed black America’s orientation towards individual initiative. That helps explain, for example, why only in the sixties did it become common for poor blacks to burn their own neighborhoods in protest. Even amidst Jim Crow, black people did not do this.

Second, in the late sixties, partly in response to the riots of the Long Hot Summers, welfare was transformed from a time-limited program intended for widows to an open-ended program that didn’t care whether recipients ever got jobs. This had the unintended consequence of discouraging marriage, and made it easier for women to raise kids without the father around. This, a story too little told (read it here), decisively impacted the black experience nationwide.

Finally, the War on Drugs created a black market alternative to legal work for poor black men underserved by bad schools. Frankly, The Wire explained this dynamic better than any academic analysis.