The Failures of Federal Race-Based Paternalism
In an address to the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in 1865, Frederick Douglass noted that he had often been asked “What should we do with the Negro?” Douglass remarked:
I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall….And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!
Having been born into slavery, Douglass was a man who understood the failures of government policy quite well. Moreover, the paternalism of the plantation was perhaps something he had no desire to recreate in the halls of government in postbellum America.
And Douglass has often been proven correct. For example, we can note the strides African Americans made in creating self-sufficient communities before the Great Society. Residing in an environment of rampant racism and actual structural barriers, the African American community attained phenomenal success in improving its social welfare. From the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century, African Americans were pioneers in charting self-help societies. “The popularity of the fraternal society among African Americans rivaled, and often exceeded, that among immigrants,” writes leading historian David T. Beito in his essay “Mutual Aid for Social Welfare: The Case of American Fraternal Societies.” “Unlike their white counterparts, African
Article from Mises Wire