Hard truths about inner-city dysfunction

Growing up, I watched a lot of Westerns. In addition to the cowboy hero, the town sheriff was almost always a model of integrity. He stood for law and order against bank robbers, cattle rustlers and horse thieves all trying to disrupt the peace.

A contemporary and real-life version of those fictional characters is Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County, Wis.

Sheriff Clarke has been trying to restore law and order after several nights of rioting following the shooting death of 23-year-old Sylville Smith by a Milwaukee police officer. Smith had a lengthy criminal record, longer than some people’s resumes. He should have been in prison.

Sheriff Clarke has appeared numerous times on the Fox News Channel, but not so much in other media. On Monday, The Washington Post carried a story about the riots and ignored Clarke, choosing instead to quote Milwaukee’s chief of police, Edward Flynn. I suspect that’s because Clarke speaks some hard truths, which many liberals do not want to hear.

In an appearance Monday on Fox, Clarke, who is African-American, offered his explanation for the major cause of riots in Milwaukee and other cities: “You know what encourages this? The growth of the welfare state. These are underclass behaviors. Seventy percent of the kids born in Milwaukee are born without an engaged father in their life. So I look at the progressive policies that have marginalized black dads. They push them to the side and say ‘you’re not needed.’ Uncle Sam is going to be the dad, he’s going to provide for the kids, he’s going to feed the kids. Uncle Sam has been a horrible father. Uncle Sam does not love these kids. He might keep a little food in their mouths and that is about it. But we all know the importance of an intact family, what it can do to shape the behavior of kids.”

Clarke called progressive policies “a total disaster,” not only in Milwaukee, but in Chicago, Baltimore, New York and elsewhere. “These progressive policies have hit the black community like a nuclear blast and until we reverse this government dependency, that’s what creates all of this and it encourages it by the way, along with some questionable lifestyle choices.”

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His answer? “Until the black community does a self-evaluation and until they begin to self-criticize about some of the lifestyle choices they are making, this stuff is going to continue to fester.”

A young African-American man found by a TV camera during the weekend riot said: “The rich people, they got all this money, and they not trying to give us none.” Really? All of that tax money spent on anti-poverty programs for the last 50 years never trickled down to him? This poisonous attitude has been promoted by progressives and has not helped the poor rise above their circumstances.

This young man should talk to Clarke about changing his attitude. Some self-evaluation and an internal readjustment would do more for him than any anti-poverty program the Democrats could dream up.

Why do African-Americans continue to vote for liberal Democrats who have done little to help them and, in fact, often cause more harm than good?

Again, Clarke gets it right: “Until we push back against this progressive ideology, this dangerous ideology that has been very destructive to the black community and that’s what I’m trying to do — it’s Job One right now in terms of messaging — this thing is only going to get worse.”

Cal Thomas is America’s most widely syndicated op-ed columnist. He joined Fox News Channel in 1997 as a political contributor. His latest book is “What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America” is available in bookstores now. Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribune.com.



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