Sowell: The Cliche of America's 'Legacy of Slavery'

"A good catch phrase could stop thinking for fifty years."

In his latest column hosted at Townhall, author Thomas Sowell railed against the oft-used cliche of "a legacy of slavery" meant to show how America has treated its black citizens throughout history by reminding that it is in fact the liberal policies of the 1960s that have created such social problems in those communities.

Sowell summarized Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who once said, "a good catch phrase could stop thinking for fifty years." He adds, "Catch phrases about slavery have stopped people from thinking, even longer than that." Case in point, calling slavery "America's original sin."

But as Sowell points out, societies throughout history accepted slavery as "a fact of life." Slavery was not a uniquely American idea, but its moral condemnation in this country was. Around the world, mass slavery eventually and quietly ended, but that was not the case in America. During the Civil War, Sowell states, the toll for freeing six slaves was one American life.

Because Sowell finds it difficult to deduce that America's "legacy of slavery" has created all sorts of social problems for blacks, he instead points to the real culprit -- the liberal policies of the 1960s:

Were children raised with only one parent as common at any time during the first 100 years after slavery as in the first 30 years after the great expansion of the welfare state in the 1960s?

What about ghetto riots, crimes in general and murder in particular? What about low levels of labor force participation and high levels of welfare dependency? 

To answer the first, Sowell reminds that 22 percent of black children were raised in single-parent households in the 1960s. That number since has rocketed to two out of three black children raised without a father.

As for ghetto riots, murder, and crime, Sowell argues that those things fared much worse after the '60s than they ever did in the 100 years after slavery.

Because the left views the '60s as their "glory days," Sowell says, they have too much emotional investment to face the reality of their policy failures. He writes:

It certainly would not be pleasant to admit, even to yourself, that after promising progress toward "social justice," what you actually delivered was a retrogression toward barbarism.

This brings Sowell to quote Frederick Douglas who "saw the dangers of well-meaning whites" when he said: "Everybody has asked the question, 'What shall we do with the Negro?' I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us."

"Amen," Sowell said.

Read more here.