Good News About Black Progress
In starting new businesses and in academic achievement, African Americans have stepped up their efforts without any special help from a "black agenda."
It is perhaps inevitable that the kind of news that sticks with us most is the kind that makes you go, "Now it's on!" or "Wouldn't you know?" But the good news is important, too, and not just because it's sweet to look on the bright side, but because good news teaches us crucial things about reality, just as the bad news does.
Let's start with two recent announcements. First, during the last decade, black businesses grew at three times the national average rate. That's major. More drily stated, black businesses increased by 60 percent, but the figure to keep in mind is the comparative one: three times as fast, plus.
There's nothing sad hiding behind these simple facts, as long as we understand that in a period of transition, of course black businesses will not have as large a footprint as white ones. The issue is whether something is getting much better and fast. It is.
These businesses are not just a matter of service jobs. They include socially beneficial businesses: health care and social work. They include repair and maintenance businesses, which means not "people barred from the middle class" but people working with their hands. These businesses hire almost a million paid workers. And all of this grew at more than three times the national rate.
Next: During the same decade, there was something else that more than tripled: the number of black students taking Advanced Placement exams in preparation for college admission. Ten years ago when I started commenting on race and education, it was often argued that the reason universities needed to have separate admissions standards for black students was that so few black students had the opportunity to take A.P. courses.
OK -- but look at what has happened since. Here, we are in a transition. Black students are still not doing as well on the exams as we would like. But no one would expect that they would hit the ground acing these tests. What's important is that they are taking them.
Here's what these two phenomena teach us: Both happened without the nation's modus operandi turning upside down. No trumpets blew. White America did not get down on its knees and "realize" its debt to black people. No one in power now cares any more deeply about the more profound implications of democracy than they did in the year 2000. All that happened was that black people did what people do -- as they always have.