Black History Month honors the achievements of African Americans throughout history and that is a good thing. Unfortunately, a reliance on family and faith, which allowed many African Americans to survive the horrors of Reconstruction, racial injustice and violent acts of discrimination, has become a casualty of the modern welfare state, which has contributed to the destruction of family cohesion, supplanted faith in God with faith in government and fashioned many African-Americans into a Democratic voting bloc that has not improved the lot of the impoverished among them.
While African-American history is important, the way it is most often presented through a liberal political lens skews the contributions and examples of African Americans who do not toe the liberal line. One especially sees this in the civil rights establishment's response to Justice Clarence Thomas and more recently to Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.)
West took to the floor of the House last week to praise what he called the Republican Party's contributions to civil rights. It is a history practically unknown among many African Americans, who have been taught that Republicans are racist and care nothing about black empowerment. When examples to the contrary are presented to them, they often call white Republicans disparaging names and vilify Black Republicans as insufficiently black.
The Republican Party, not the Democratic Party, West asserted, has consistently fought for individual freedom over the last 150 years. He said Democratic "handouts" to the poor have resulted in a "modern form of slavery." Republicans, he said, "reject the idea of the safety net becoming a hammock."
West noted that following Republican Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, Republicans supported the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, which ended slavery, provided for equal protection under the law and gave voting rights to blacks.
West added, "It was the Republican-controlled 39th Congress that established the Buffalo Soldiers," an African-American regiment of the U.S. Army, and that it was President Ulysses S. Grant who signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1875. Republican Calvin Coolidge spoke out in favor of civil rights. The late Republican Congressman Jack Kemp promoted "enterprise zones" in depressed urban neighborhoods.
Republican George W. Bush, West said, "signed an omnibus bill that included a voucher program for school children...," establishing school choice in Washington, D.C. President Obama announced there would be no new funding for the program in his current budget, even though it's enormously popular with poor African-American parents, who see school choice as fundamental to their child's success. Apparently, the president favors teachers' unions over poor schoolchildren.
More history: The Ku Klux Klan was founded by a group of Southern Democrats; white Democratic politicians in the South tried to derail civil rights legislation; white Alabama Governor George C. Wallace stood in a schoolhouse door to keep African-American students out; the late West Virginia Democratic Senator Robert Byrd was a former member of the KKK. Byrd eventually recanted his racist beliefs, but late in life still used the phrase "white n----r" in an interview.
West's point is that those Democrats who claim to care so much for African Americans have done them a disservice by perpetuating the myth of Republican racism and addicting too many of them to a government check instead of liberating them through education and strong families.
According to a study by The Heritage Foundation, published in Investor's Business Daily, "The American public's dependence on the federal government shot up 23 percent in just two years under President Obama, with 67 million now relying on some federal program." That involves money for housing, health, welfare, education and other programs that were "traditionally provided to needy people by local organizations and families."
Of course, African Americans are not the only group represented in this number -- there are poor Hispanics, poor whites, etc. And certainly not all vote Democratic. The fact is, more and more Americans are finding themselves relying on government. In many cases, they would work if there was work to be had; they would succeed if the road to success were a viable option.
The question for African Americans, however, particularly during Black History Month, is not about history at all. The question is: "Are better you off than you were 40 years ago?" By any objective measure, the answer for too many is "no." That was West's point. No wonder the liberal establishment wants to redistrict him out of Congress.
(Direct all MAIL for Cal Thomas to: Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, N.Y. 14207. Readers may also e-mail Cal Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.