The First Step Toward Self-Reliance


October 18, 1991|By KEN HAMBLIN

DENVER — Denver. -- Clarence Thomas is confirmed as the second black associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. I believe the nod to a black conservative may signal the first move in the long political process of weaning the black underclass off the public dole.

Despite what politicians and the special-interest groups want us to think about poverty and racism, Judge Thomas' victory proves that progress is being made by African Americans who are willing to strive to survive. Yet some activists seem determined to keep it a secret.

I couldn't help noticing, as I'm sure others did, how concise, authoritative and articulate the black men and women were who spoke in defense of both Professor Hill and Judge Thomas during the Senate hearings. Their degrees from prestigious law schools offer proof positive that the decades of spending to beat poverty has benefited at least some minorities in America. It has helped to create a concrete and well educated African American middle class. Even Ben Hooks, the president of the NAACP, admits that 70 percent of all black Americans are living above the poverty line.

Despite the seemingly endless cries of wolf over racism from a cadre of black politicians who seem more interested in riding herd over their votes from impoverished constituents in the ghettos, the fact is that most blacks are prospering.

Nonetheless, a recent study by the Population and Policy Research at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, found that the economic breach between poor and affluent blacks is widening. Instead of shouting for joy because the billions of dollars the government has spent to fight its ''War On Poverty'' are having an effect, the experts are trying to tell us that the emergence of a healthy black middle class is likely to deepen the division within the black community.

I am befuddled by such thinking. That's like saying no black American has the right to escape the ghetto in good conscience unless he can take the entire tribe with him.

I personally find the emergence of a philosophy of guilt in association with black upward mobility a bitter pill. It's a classic case of being between a rock and a hard place. And too many blacks have been willing to buy into it.

On one hand, we have black Americans who sincerely believe there is a world-wide white conspiracy to stunt their socio-economic growth and achievement. Others, who work to achieve, must confront the spooky probability of being charged with race desertion by an Afro-centric corps of unstable black xenophobes burying themselves in urban ghettos. It's another classic case of damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Past immigrants who came to America and subsisted in the urban jungle now found education and the eager pursuit of it to be the best voucher for a better life. Unfortunately, some blacks seem determined to debate and deny that.

The biggest problem facing the black underclass right now may be a rigid core of daydreamers who stubbornly cling to a dead-end path of dreams and a philosophy that unwisely argues against education and an emotional transition into the 20th century. Instead, they quarrel about the ''right'' education and insist that blacks who pursue mainstream education are trying to be white.

The fact is that the era of indulgence and the liberal ride is over. Americans are exhausted with footing the bill for free-loaders, no matter what their color. And I suspect that the confirmation of Justice Thomas to the high court is yet another signpost along the road toward inevitable black responsibility.


Kan Hamblin is a Denver columnist and radio personality.

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