The following op-ed was originally printed in the Maryland Gazette on May 13, 2015.
Before you read, I want to make a few points
I wrote this because I care, more so than the race hustlers and faith hostelries in these communities. I’m tired of excuses. I’m tired of politicians. I’m tired of the divisive words spoken by “community leaders” and those who want to apologize for every last thing. We ALL share part of the blame as Americans, NOT as separate groups based off the pigment of our skin but as a country.
Though I may only change a few minds, it’s a start. Yes, it’s a touchy subject, one that may cause some people to label me as a racist. Those people are close-minded and afraid to face the truth. I use facts. I use data.
I sincerely believe the welfare state IS the major problem facing the downtrodden today. Yes, there may be other factors that contribute to the welfare state, but it’s not all about the government and people around you.
Note that I used the term “welfare culture.” It’s a culture we’ve fostered. People have been swept to the side in the name of a “safety net” or a vote. It needs to be changed, rolled back. That’s the way I feel.
What Maryland witnessed last week in the Baltimore was a powder keg waiting to explode.
Since President Johnson’s War on Poverty in the 1960’s, Baltimore City has been held hostage by policies heralded by politicians like Congressman Cummings, Mayor Rawlings-Blake, and Senator Pugh. They play the flute of more economic investment to combat poverty while leading their constituents off a cliff.
Those of us in Anne Arundel County should care. Baltimore City is not an island unto itself in the not-so-vast sea of Maryland. From education, to taxes, to work, we are all invested in Baltimore. Those who commute for work allow the same corporations the aforementioned politicians routinely condemn to supply a majority of Baltimore’s tax base.
The dismal education system in Baltimore, one that spends the third most per pupil in America, affects students across Maryland. Students who score well on standardized tests are judged against their peers, including those enrolled in Baltimore’s abysmal system. The weight of their scores is meaningless when compared to a system that graduates two out of three students. This provides a false sense of success and undercuts the entire education system.
I’ve heard excuses from institutionalized racism to social mobility. Those who would trumpet the “legacy of slavery” as the reason Baltimore’s inner city youth have no chance to succeed are victims of race hustlers. Poverty knows no color. I would direct the reader to Theodore Dalrymple’s Life at the Bottom, which highlights the travesty of welfare in the white slums of London, or perhaps take a visit to Appalachia.
While politicos pander to their constituents, we should look no further than the real culprit behind Baltimore’s issues: the welfare culture. Since the War on Poverty’s genesis, we have witnessed the escalation of crime, expanded access to welfare, and the deterioration of the nuclear family wreak havoc on Baltimore’s youth. With a poverty rate of 31%, an unemployment rate of 21%, an incarceration rate of 3,000 per 100,000, and teen birth rates of 108 per 1,000, the area known as “Sandtown” is a microcosm of the problems welfare causes.
Expanded welfare increases crime. In 1994, the Maryland NAACP released a report stating, “The ready access to a lifetime of welfare and free social programs is a major contributory factor to the crime problem we face today.” Since the 1960’s, the murder rate among black males has doubled. A crime problem will most certainly escalate tension between police and its citizens.
Increasing welfare benefits also encourages single parent households, increasing them by 150%. These arrangements often leave children without a male role model, as a government check now usurps a father’s role in the family, leaving him emasculated. This has a snowball effect on employment. Since the mid-90’s, married black households have maintained a single digit unemployment rate. The same cannot be said for those children raised without a father figure, who often gravitate towards gangs for influence.
The most destructive part of welfare – the mentality that individuals cannot succeed without the help of the government – is one I take the greatest issue. To receive help without implication, without personal responsibility, is a life devoid of meaning and hope. While there is no doubt inner city youth face bigger hurdles to success, they are simply hurdles meant to be overcome, and the lessons they learn during their path will help them teach future generations.
Baltimore has suffered long enough with such irresponsible policies. It does not require more investment into its schools. Compare Dunbar High in the early 20th century with Baltimore’s schools. Both operate in impoverished areas with comparable socioeconomic struggles. Dunbar produced excellent students with subpar funding while Baltimore schools struggle to produce students with more than enough funding. It requires accountability.
Until those who live in Baltimore are ready to change their culture, nothing will change. No amount of guilt or money will alter the course of Charm City.