Are black Americans really that different from other minorities? Yes, they are.
The piece finishes with a fantastic snippet of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1967, explaining that it is not possible for a bootless man to pick himself up by his own bootstraps.
[00:00:00.000] – Fareed Zakaria
Why is it that blacks seem to have such difficulty moving ahead in America? Don’t other ethnic groups also face discrimination? Don’t they also have to deal with poverty and exclusion? This came to mind recently when I watched a short clip of Martin Luther King being asked that very question during a television interview in 1967. He explained that blacks are unique in being the only ethnic group that was brought to America in voluntarily in chains. They labeled as slaves until finally in 1865, they were freed.
[00:00:34.470] – Fareed Zakaria
But even then, while a massive number of Europeans were coming into the country and receiving land in the Midwest and West African American slaves, despite having worked for 250 years in America without ever being paid, received little to help them get on their feet. Martin Luther King also put an emphasis on the psychological damage that was done to maintain slavery and segregation. There had to be an ideology of white supremacy, one that left lasting effects on both blacks and whites.
[00:01:05.940] – Fareed Zakaria
I would add to this the willful destruction of the black family through much of American history because slaves were not treated as human beings but property. The law did not recognize their marriages, nor even their rights over their children. Families were routinely and forcibly broken up. After two hundred and fifty years of slavery came one hundred years of state sponsored discrimination and then civil rights. But soon began what Michelle Alexander has called the new Jim Crow a system of policing and mass incarceration that has made it so that a black man in America has a one in four chance of being incarcerated in his lifetime. This is according to the Sentencing Project.
[00:01:47.780] – Dr Martin Luther King
Emancipation for the Negro was really freedom to hunger was freedom to the winds and rains of heaven. It was freedom without food deed or land to cultivate. And therefore it was freedom and famine at the same time. And when white Americans tell the Negro to lift himself by his own bootstraps, they don’t oh, they don’t look over the legacy of slavery and segregation. I believe we ought to do all we can and seek to lift ourselves bound bootstraps.
[00:02:16.080] – Dr Martin Luther King
But it’s a cruel just to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps. And many Negroes by the thousands and millions have been left bootless as a result of all of these years of oppression and as a result of a society that deliberately made his color a stigma and something worthless and degrading.
[00:02:38.710] – Fareed Zakaria
And that is why the situation for blacks in America is different.