I recently read Black students at New York University (NYU) are demanding separate living quarters. This brought back memories of the civil rights cause during my college years. It was in a land long ago and faraway called Northwestern University. In my years there 1955-59, Civil rights were at the forefront. Brown v. Board of Education had just been decided in May 1954, opening the floodgates against “Separate but Equal.” Northwestern had only recently dropped quotas in admissions. This was especially important to Jews and probably allowed me to be admitted. At the time, reformers felt allocations unfair, even unAmerican. People should be judged not on religion, Race, or sex, but on their own merit.
The next year, a picture was no longer required to accompany admittance applications. We felt this would make it harder to discriminate, especially against people of color. More students might go to a school that formally banned or limited them.
During my years on campus, we did away with the divided Greek rush. At the time, many national Fraternities and Sororities banned pledging people of specific racial and religious backgrounds. Greek houses were forced to remove these restrictions, or they would have to leave the campus. Jewish fraternities, heretofore rushed separately, were included in one combined rush week. Our house over the following years and most others became integrated. We felt this was a great accomplishment. This was college as it should be. Bringing people of different backgrounds and ideas together to broaden our outlook and improve our critical thinking. Bull sessions got a broader perspective.
One might ask why Jews and their organizations were at the forefront of these reforms? The simple answer is Jews were no strangers to discrimination. We thought the wider freedoms were spread, the better and safer it would be for us. Where it was legal to discriminate anywhere, it always adversely affected Jews. Best to get rid of the restrictions and let people be free to live and grow wherever. The more we mingled together, the more we would see each other as individuals. We might find we have more in common than what divides us.
It was in this vein, Jews were strong supporters of the Civil Rights Movement. They provided significant financial backing to the NAACP. My Aunt and Uncle were always holding fundraising meetings at their apartment. On-campus we did the same.
Even though my Uncle was a Democrat and my father a Republican and disagreed on many things, they wholeheartedly were together on civil rights. My father’s favorite politician was our Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen. He took great pride in the 1964 Civil rights Bill in the Senate bore Dirksen’s name. People in Illinois widely supported civil rights, no matter the party. There were far more Republican votes for this landmark law than Democrat.
In those days, we believed in the melting pot. As barriers fell, we as Americans would continue to integrate into a diverse but combined society. Some thought this could be forced by things like busing school children, but that produced horrible results. Whites fled to the suburbs, and many inner cities declined. Still, encouraging diverse communities voluntarily by removing obstacles remained the goal.
Today Black leaders and their allies are on an entirely different wavelength. Instead of quotas being something to be avoided as patently unfair, they are celebrated. My local paper and its owner Gannett had editorials on successive days from their top people extolling their papers employees mirrored the local Race and sex makeup. In other words, hiring by quota. Obviously, the papers are promoting similar employment action across America. Diversity of opinion wasn’t mentioned in either editorial.
The proposition that living in proximity with each other creates better understanding and cooperation has been turned upside down. While Greeks continued to integrate, blacks on many campuses demanded their own fraternities and sororities. This was the forerunner of the NYU blanket demand for their exclusive quarters. Today’s black leaders are all about getting massive aid for “Black Communities.” Rather than living in diverse communities, the present goal seems to be different. You go to your quota induced work diversity and then go home to your black community. With more and more people working from home, even that interaction is diminished.
The idea once was those having experienced diminished liberty and bigotry supported others under challenging circumstances. It didn’t matter whoever or wherever. Now it seems to be a one-way street. Nothing illustrates this better today than the Black dominated NBA. While wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts across the league, there is a demand for “social justice.” Yet when a team executive made critical a remark supporting beleaguered Hong Kong against the Chinese Government, he was forced to recant. The league does over $500 million of business in China. The league’s face, superstar Lebron James, said the executive was “misinformed” and “not educated about the situation.” Hong Kong’s and the horrors being visited on the Muslim Uighur minority in China are all too well known. Just don’t expect Lebron and the NBA to take notice.
On a strange note, if one of James’s children applied to Yale or Harvard, they would have a leg up getting in. The child of Uighur refugees being Asians would be at a disadvantage. No wonder those institutions are being sued over their quotas. “Social Justice” means different things to different people.
One of the most curious things to me is the prevalence ofi antisemitism among so many Black leaders. From Jesse Jackson’s “Hymie Town’ remarks to Reverend Al Sharpton leading anti-Jewish riots in Crown Heights, the best known Black leaders have little favorable to say about Jews or Israel. This would be very dismaying to my Aunt and Uncle.
Readers of this blog are well aware of my championing greater social mobility. The foundational piece to an upward course in life is education. To that end, I have backed what was originally Milton and Rose Friedman’s Foundation supporting school choice. Now it’s known as EdChoice. Having a decent education makes it so much easier for the disadvantaged to rise. To my mind, competition leads to improvement. In so many areas of the country, children are forced to attend awful schools. If people marched, one would think it would for better schools. Yet, 98% of New York City Black voters went for Bill DiBlasio. The NYC mayor is a known foe of charter school expansion. This in the face of lotteries determining the few getting open slots in successful charters. Sadly, this is repeated across the nation. However, there might be light at the end of the tunnel. In Florida, Black women may have provided the votes to elect Republican Ron DeSantis governor. Their determining issue was support for school choice. They knew what was best for their kids.
Americans, more than most other people are aware you may have to move to improve our lot in life. We all trace back to somewhere else. My “Dave’s Plan” was designed to support mobility. Your health insurance, savings account, and government support payments go with you wherever you go. A move from a dead-end area to a more vibrant place can make all the difference.
We hear is we must pour money into minority communities. The fact is unless an area gentrifies and becomes widely diverse, nothing will lift local property values or business prospects. Gentrification is opposed in many places because it feared it will displace the present residents. In any case, few, if any, will move to or start a business in a high crime area. Lowering crime with less police will undoubtedly be a challenge.
What people forget is we’ve been down the roads of throwing money at the problem and forcing quotas In the past century. Lyndon Johnson’s “great society” attempts to cure society’s ills by throwing massive amounts of money at them. It was an expensive failure. Don’t believe me; read Amity Shlaes’s bestseller, “The Great Society.” It details even with the best of intentions it solved nothing. The fact we’re still battling the same woes is a testament to this conclusion.
The following Nixon administration added racial preferences or quotas to the mix. The ballot propositions and continuing lawsuits show they did little other than divide the races even further. As St Bernard said, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Martin Luther inspired me when he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by their skin color but by the content of their character.” Traveling a good part of the world, I found Race tells nothing about a person’s character. Most people are basically good, but every group has its bad apples. In some ways, we have turned King’s dream on its head. Some of the actions of the police are genuinely abhorrent and need substantial legal attention. However, many of the notorious clashes involve people of questionable character. Criminals and drug addicts resisting arrest are given elaborate funerals and parades. George Floyd, a drug addict with a long rap sheet, had three funerals, one with a horse-drawn hearse. The murdered retired police officer David Dorn, a man of impeccable character, not so much. Too often, character plays second fiddle to Race.
Given my views, those in line with Black Lives Matter may well label me a Racist. I leave it to the reader to conclude if they’re right. I do have to ask one question, if you see things only through a racial prism, who is the racist in the room?