Bill Steigerwald Bill Steigerwald, 9/23/2005 [Archive]

Star Parker: New Orleans And The Welfare State

New Orleans and the Failure of the Great Society

Interview with conservative black columnist and social activist Star Parker

by Bill Steigerwald

No one needs to tell Star Parker about the moral and economic downsides of welfare dependency -- or how to escape from it.

Before she became a conservative columnist and social activist, and before she became a college grad, a businesswoman and a good Christian, Parker was a single welfare mother living in Los Angeles.

Today Parker, who calls herself a conservative Christian, is a regular guest on TV talk shows. She can be counted on to rip into the failings of government social policy, black leadership and liberal media bias while praising the values she says offer the cure for black poverty -- freedom, free markets, faith and personal responsibility.

Parker is president of CURE, the Coalition on Urban Renewal & Education (urbancure.org), which she formed specifically to interject her views on race and poverty into the mainstream media and public policy. I talked to her Tuesday by phone from her home in Southern California.

Q: When you first saw those TV images of poor black people stuck in the Superdome, did you expect there'd be a debate about race and class?

A: I knew it would be a problem because of the race hustlers who have developed an industry over the last 40 years out of the perception of racism. Any time they see anyone black in any type of despair, they play racism. I was not surprised by what we saw developing out of New Orleans. I worked the housing projects. I lived seven years in and out of welfare, three and a half years consistently, so I knew immediately what we were dealing with -- the mind-set, the type of person who would not pre-prepare himself for any type of tragedy.

Q: What did you think of the media's immediate concerns about racism and class-ism?

A: The immediate reaction of the mainstream media was one of shock, because they bought the idea of the Great Society and they are elite. They were shocked to see this picture in New Orleans....I think there was a shock in media that their Great Society was unfolding right before their eyes.

Q: Does racism still exist in America still?

A: I'm sure it does. My goodness, how are you ever going to get rid of this? This is not a question of something government can engineer away. All the government can do is exactly what it did do -- change the rules, remove the barriers. And we did that in the Civil Rights Movement.

Q: Why were you disappointed by President Bush's comments about race the other week -- where he said black poverty in New Orleans was a reflection of racial discrimination?

A: It was troubling to me to hear the president say this because today's poverty has nothing to do with race. Today's poverty has everything to do with the Great Society and how one manages his personal life. Anyone from any background, any ethnicity, can in one generation break out from poverty in this society because of the way America works. But there are certain steps they have to take, and the first step is self-government. They have to understand that they have an obligation to be responsible with the choices that they make and that they have to be self-sufficient financially.

Q: What are some encouraging statistics about black families and households in the United States?

A: Where we see marriage and raising children in black America, we see health. We see financial health, we see moral health. We do not see the social pathologies. Where you see a marital household -- husband, wife, children -- the poverty rate is 8 percent.In single-headed households raising children in black America, the poverty rate is at 65 percent.

The problem for black America today is that more households are single-headed than ever in the history of black America. Today we are looking at out-of-wedlock birthrates of 69 percent in black America -- as opposed to in the 1960s, when out-of-wedlock birthrates were 22 percent. So we are diminishing our opportunities to be successful in this society.

But where blacks make sure that they are responsible with their choices, make sure that they aspire educationally, make sure that they marry before they have children, make sure that they take any job and work harder than the person above them, and make sure that they save and invest, we are seeing tremendous strides in black America. We are seeing tremendous growth.

Q: Where are the black leaders in solving this problem of black poverty?

A: They are left-wing socialists, so they believe that all answers to life's problems lie in government. So they are perpetuating the problem. Government can't be everywhere. It's not God. Any time you have an addiction to government, you are going to have problems.... The traditional black leadership that came up out of the Civil Rights Movement -- every single one -- are on the wrong side of history for black Americans. They want socialism. This is a capitalistic society. In order to be successful here, you better get into the capitalistic end of things.

Q: Is the problem with black churches that they have been ignored or that they've been misleading their flocks?

A: The problem with black churches, in general, is their financial infrastructure. They make their money off of the tithes and offerings of the people. Therefore, when you have 65 percent of your working class working for government giving you your tithes and offerings, you are not going to say much about limiting the role of government.

Q: What gives you hope that things will get better?

A: One of the things is that there is a lot of discussion about vouchers. If we can have even the kids of New Orleans get vouchers, to go to any school they want to -- public, private or religious -- then we can break this stronghold that this entitlement mentality has over young people. Number two, it will open up the door for vouchers for all poor communities so the children of that community can go to any school that they want to -- not just the broken government school they have been assigned to.

The second thing that gives me hope is that there are discussions now about limiting the taxation and regulation over business, in particular for the redevelopment of New Orleans. If this idea takes hold across the nation, there is some hope that we could rescue ourselves from a dependence on government.

Bill Steigerwald is a columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. E-mail Bill at bsteigerwald@tribweb.com. © Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, All Rights Reserved.

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