New vision for black America

Tony Brown

February 02, 1993|By Tony Brown

I WAS assaulted on a television show once when I introduced data from a RAND Corporation study showing that 75 percent of black males earn a middle-class income. In fact, all of the panelists on that show -- 13 very prominent black professionals -- were so convinced that blacks are universally victimized that any good news, any statistical fact showing black men are not being exterminated, completely upset the agenda.

But the real threat to black men is not extermination. It is the XTC psychological crippling caused by middle-class blacks, who incessantly drum into young black males the lie that they are becoming extinct.

The effect of this lie is to make white people look all-powerful, as though it doesn't matter what you do as a black person because the whites are not going to let you succeed.

But white people are not in control of black people. No one can control anyone who is in control of his own destiny and his own mind. What blacks need is a consciousness that will prepare them to be competitive in America. We don't need to depend on the largess of another ethnic group to give us affirmative action programs, quotas or set-asides.

If a Korean or Vietnamese can come here not speaking one word of English and get seven degrees from MIT in seven years, an African-American can do the same thing. The reason we dominate in football and basketball is that blacks in sports believe in themselves. There's no reason we can't do just as well on Wall Street and in the country's physics departments and law schools.

African-Americans already earn approximately $300 billion a year, a sum equal to the Gross National Product of the 13th richest nation in the world and equal to the GNP of Canada or Australia. If you took blacks out of America, Wall Street would collapse. We are not poor -- we are a cultural-economic market that has been trained to behave as a poor minority.

If you are not proud of what you are, you are not going to be able to produce. Forty years ago we used to laugh at products with the label "Made in Japan." We don't laugh anymore. We don't laugh because of people like Akio Morita, chairman of the board of Sony, who said, "As a Japanese I was so offended that the world laughed at the products made by my people, and I was so proud of what I was that I decided to set up a company that would produce the best goods in the world." And he did. Not because the Japanese are superior -- but because he was proud of being Japanese.

The other ingredient necessary for black achievement, in addition to self-respect, is education. The black community rightfully laments the fact that more black men are in prison than in college. Why not insist that any person released from prison or put on parole attain a literacy reading level? Why not turn the jails into schools?

Then there is the larger problem of the low level of education available to blacks nationwide. The black panelists I debated on television insisted the only obstacle to quality education is a lack of money, and a lack of money is the result of racism. But New York City, with its huge black population, spends more money per student on education than any state in the union except New Jersey.

What does all this money get New York? Some 80 percent of the high school seniors there cannot answer the following question: If one inch on a map equals 250 miles, how many miles does 10 inches equal? New York City hires more school supervisors than the entire nation of France -- and the state of New York hires more school supervisors than the continent of Europe.

Why can't they deliver quality education? Because the community at large expects them to do the whole job. But education is a cooperative effort. When black parents enable their children to see the opportunities before them; when black children understand the chance education gives them for the achievement of something exciting and meaningful, both can cooperate with educators to create a prosperous future for black America.

Tony Brown is a nationally syndicated columnist and host of the public television series "Tony Brown's Journal." He wrote this for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

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