In today’s Washington Times, IWF President and CEO Michelle Bernard reflects on the civil rights movement:

Black Americans are making important economic gains. A vibrant professional and entrepreneurial class helps lead all of the cities that once suffered urban unrest. Middle- and upper-income African-Americans have moved out of the inner-city into suburbs across the nation. Blacks have taken an even greater leadership role in politics. Forty years ago African-Americans had to fight to exercise the right to vote. Today, the Democratic frontrunner for president is a black man. America’s 65th secretary of state was an African American man, and the 66th secretary of state is an African American woman. Blacks now routinely serve in Congress and the cabinet, on the U.S. Supreme Court and Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as governors and mayors across the country. While we once would have been surprised to see a black face at an important political gathering, we now are surprised if there isn’t one.

However, problems still exist and many are quick to call for government assistance.  Michelle argues against that mentality (emphasis mine):

The Kerner Commission recommended new welfare programs, and the federal government has spent more to fight poverty than it spent to win World War II. Unfortunately, bigger social programs backfired, encouraging family and community break-up, discouraging education and employment, and creating pervasive dependency. We know more government social engineering will not work.

The 1996 welfare reform, agreed to by a Republican Congress and Democratic president, freed many of the nation’s poor from the fetters of dependency and encourages self-sufficiency. Today, we must improve education and generate economic opportunity for those still stuck in poverty. To do so we must empower people rather than bureaucracies. For instance, pouring more money into failing public schools won’t improve student achievement. Giving parents improved options and forcing public institutions to compete will help kids learn. Poor people are poor, not stupid, which is why so many black Baptists work so hard to place their children in parochial schools.

Similarly, policies like the minimum wage may sound “progressive,” but actually destroy jobs. We need to clear away regulations that make it hard to start a small business and enter a profession. Entrepreneurs, not politicians, create real jobs with the potential for advancement.

Read more here.