Uncle Sam’s Racism

“You know what encourages this?” said Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin in his explanation of the cause of riots in Milwaukee and other cities, “The growth of the welfare state. These are underclass behaviors. Seventy percent of the kids born in Milwaukee…are born without an engaged father in their life.”

“So I look at the progressive policies that have marginalized black dads. They push them to the side and say ‘you’re not needed.’ Uncle Sam is going to be his dad, he’s going to provide for these kids, he’s going to feed the kids. Uncle Sam has been a terrible father.  Uncle Sam does not love these kids. He might keep a little food in their mouths and that is about it. But we all know the importance of an intact family, what it can do to shape the behavior of kids.”

Sheriff Clarke is African American.

That very fact caused me to look even more closely at his interview and I found much to agree with. Surely, the decline of intact families in the African American community has done much to foster poverty, hopelessness and crime. It would indeed be a good thing for the black community to do more self-examination, and even self-criticism, about some of the life style choices many have made which have been destructive.

But I refuse to believe that the welfare system, as flawed as it is and as much in need of reform as it may be, is the cause of the problems which beset the African American community in this country and which leads to frustration, anger, and sometimes even violence.

The cause of these problems in white racism. Pure and simple.

Poor educational opportunities, segregated housing (in fact, if not in law), the incarceration of thousands and thousands of young black men (and women) for trivial drug offenses white suburbanites walk away from every day, a skewed justice system from the cop on the beat to the judges on the bench — all these have led to the problems which erupt all too often in black communities.

Uncle Sam was never intended to replace “dad” in the African American household. I find it very difficult to believe that those fathers who have shirked their responsibilities as parents did so because they were so sure “Uncle Sam” would put food in their kids’ little mouths. Or that they would come rushing home to coach Little League if this country decides to take back that little scrap of food we have shared through our admittedly less-than-effective welfare system.

So, let’s continue to work on reforming the welfare system so that it provides assistance to those who really need it and weed out some who may indeed take advantage of it and provide support and training for those who may have, intentionally or not, become dependent upon it over time.

But our primary work needs to be the hard one of healing our land of the individual and systemic racism which pervades America and which, alone, is the root cause of all that Sheriff Clarke so rightly laments. I am amazed that a responsible African American citizen like him does not see this more clearly.

Even more amazed that he would allow himself to be used by agreeing to an interview by Fox News. Which was in turn cited by that bastion of equality and justice in our land, Cal Thomas, in this morning’s Chicago Tribune.

No, Sheriff Clarke, Uncle Sam’s welfare system is not the cause of black rage. Uncle Sam’s racism is.


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