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How can we show that Black lives do matter? Devoting our time, energy and resources is a start

A man holds a Black Lives Matter sign as a group of drivers begin their ride in Ogden as they celebrate Juneteenth by caravaning on the streets on Saturday, June 20, 2020.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Q: Who thinks Black lives don’t matter?

A: Apparently, those hoping to “defund the police” or “disrupt the nuclear family.”

One can imagine few remedies less likely than either of these to actually elevate Black lives. Indeed, the $22 trillion “War on Poverty,” while it institutionalized many of the ills from which society is presently suffering, it did shine a light on four practical ways to demonstrate that Black lives do, indeed, matter.

  1. Providing for school choice: Those who care about Black lives must allow for the removal of ineffective teachers, raise salaries for great teachers, get rid of tenure and encourage charter schools to give inner-city families more and better options for their kids.
  2. Setting up opportunity zones: Those committed to actually advancing Black lives must promote access to capital for creating and expanding businesses. To succeed in economically disadvantaged areas, not only will businesses need tax-advantaged capital; they’ll also need police protection.
  3. Providing housing: As economist Thomas Sowell has shown (“The Housing Boom and Bust,” Basic Books, 2010), the lack of “affordable housing” is largely due to governmental meddling that Sowell argues can be addressed by relaxing or eliminating rent controls, regulations and restrictions.
  4. Attracting Jobs: Good-paying jobs prove better than anything else that Black Lives Matter to communities and to families. When added to school choice and opportunity zones, the “re-shoring” of lost businesses has the best potential for proving how broadly and seriously society takes the proposition that all Black lives matter.

By joining virtue-signalers at this moment of attention, some find it easy to offer conspicuous slogan support. What is far more important, however, is to quietly and consistently devote time, energy and resources to providing better school options, opportunity zones and affordable housing — all to set up the dignity of meaningful work.

Not to embrace these four outcomes again risks the tragedy of Pruitt-Igoe (a government-subsidized housing failure in which mothers could only qualify for subsidized housing if fathers lived out-of-state) — a tragic version of social engineering that contributed, for one thing, to driving fathers from the home.

Studies show that when their fathers are present, kids are far less likely to repeat a grade, to be suspended from school, to spend time in jail or to skip college. It’s time to embrace policies that strengthen familial ties so the lives of children — and of their fathers — will matter more to each other.

Deeds matter more than slogans. Actions trump words. Policies have implications. And embracing the lives and dreams of our African-American brothers and sisters is vital to all Americans.

Joel Peterson is the former chairman of jetBlue Airways, a consulting professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and the former chairman of the board of overseers at the Hoover Institution. He is the author of “The 10 Laws of Trust” and the just-released “Entrepreneurial Leadership.”