Myth: Since Ronald Reagan popularized the expression in 1976, the “welfare queen” has remained one of our most durable racist myths.
Fact: Most welfare recipients are white, and poor African-Americans are no more likely to draw welfare benefits than poor whites.
Despite America’s humiliating legacy of slavery and racial inequality, we are justifiably proud of our uncommonly diverse population. Nevertheless, lingering racism combined with popular falsehoods continue to aggravate tensions. Many Americans would like to think that the Civil War and the Civil Rights Act effectively ended racism. Many think that minority populations consume the great bulk of welfare, which has destroyed their work ethic and created a culture of dependency and violence. For these Americans, the genuine racism that remains is not a matter for the government, which many think makes matters worse through “reverse” discrimination.
At Civics Nation, we believe that—despite great progress—racism remains a real problem in our country and a dispiriting force against the equality of opportunity we cherish. Our government has appealed to our better angels in the past, desegregating and leveling the playing field, and there is still work to be done, especially in the criminal justice system.