Searching for King’s Dream

Rep. Terrance Carroll, a man whom I’ve met and whom I respect, made some difficult comments on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Writing for the Rocky Mountain News, Chris Barge reports that “Carroll set aside his prepared remarks” and instead offered the following:

From… the fact that in this state more than 60 percent of our students of color do not graduate from high school within four years; from the fact that in a state where only 4 percent of the total population is African-American yet 25 percent of our prison population consists of African-American men and African-American women, it seemed to be improper and inappropriate at this time to stand before you and say that Dr. King’s dream has meant a great deal to all of us. … How can we celebrate this holiday in all honesty, and march and get up and shout and sing songs when the truth of the matter is… [t]here are far too many people in this country who don’t dream anymore. They don’t have hopes. They don’t have aspirations. They just find despair, they just find apathy, and they just find hatred.

In fact, many people, black and white alike, are living King’s dream. Carroll’s position in the state legislature is testament to that. One can find many successful black Coloradans in politics, journalism, and business. But Carroll’s sorrow comes from somewhere. A lot of African Americans (joined by portions of all ethnicities) do continue to suffer the problems that he describes. The causes are many, though they are related: a subculture that eschews education and tolerates violence, economic controls that encourage dependency and punish productivity, and residual racism.

On this last point, today perhaps the larger problem than bigotry against blacks is the racism of multiculturalism. Thomas Bowden of the Ayn Rand Institute argues:

Achievement of a truly color-blind society will require not only that private individuals reject racism but that government policies and programs cease to favor some citizens over others on the basis of skin color. The solution to racism in government does not lie in further race-conscious, affirmative action programs that generate de facto quotas, nor in multicultural education that locates personal identity in one’s ethnic group. Because such policies are themselves racist, they are part of the problem.

Yet, as I’ve argued, individuals can, by their own choices, either fall into the problems that Carroll describes or escape them. I break no new ground in describing the basic recipe for success, given a society that remains at least largely free, as a good education, hard work, perseverance, thrift, and strong values.