This is a quote from Juan Williams’ Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America–and What We Can Do About It (New York: Crown Publishers, 2006). This book has a lot of jewels, let me tell you! It documents how self-appointed African-American leaders make money off of the problems they claim to fight. And it quotes Dr. King making comments similar to the ones Bill Cosby made years later: emphasizing personal responsibility and solid values.
I like the following quote, which attacks the charge that poor African-Americans’ problems today are due to slavery:
“Where [reparations advocate Randall] Robinson skates off the edge of an interesting argument and into a dangerous, self-abasing fantasy is in attaching the impact of slavery to the years beyond 1954 and the Brown decision. In the half-century since Brown, the levels of black education, income, and political power have all grown, evidence that most black people are taking advantage of newly opened doors. Today, half of all black families are middle class, earning at least twice as much of the poverty line. Only one percent of African American families made that claim in 1940. Rates of college graduation have skyrocketed. To make the argument that slavery is responsible for today’s social and economic problems facing poor black people is to take away all of their personal will, diminish their independence, and dismiss their intellect. And how can he explain the fact that at the start of the twentieth century black people had higher marriage rates than whites? In 1940 the out-of-wedlock birth rate for blacks was 19 percent. Today it is close to 70 percent. If slavery is the cause of today’s social problems in the black community, why did black people in closer historical proximity to it do better than today’s black community with regard to keeping families together?” (73)
Excellent question. And, for the record, Juan Williams does not deny that racism and discrimination are genuine problems. Of course they are. But his argument is that poor African-Americans don’t help themselves through their irresponsible activity.