The New York Times today explores the mixed results of our so-called war on poverty, a battle that has been ongoing for 50 years now. Their conclusion? Some progress in some areas, not so much in others.
Why should we expect anything else? Our collective action to eradicate racial poverty has been in place for only 50 years, a mere blip in the history of our nation, a history in which outright deep discrimination ruled the day for more four centuries. Slavery itself was an accepted practice until 1865, having persisted since 1581 when the first slaves put to work in North America. In other words, slavery was legal in the new world for 284 years.
In the absence of a better rationale for compensatory actions, shouldn't we at least spend that same amount of time working to right our collective wrongs?
Many conservatives believe it's well past time for black people to stop getting special attention. They want to eliminate affirmative action and the voting rights act. They want to shred the safety nets that support poor people, a disproportionate number of whom are black. They want to resurrect the death penalty, which is also prejudiced against black people. The white separatist movement is alive and sick.
At some point in the future, our society may be in a moral position to overcome centuries of racial abuse and discrimination. That point has not yet arrived. Not even close.
We won't reach 284 years as a post-slavery society until 2149. Until then, it's on us to make things right.