If black lives matter to liberals, they sure aren't showing it.

Really caring would require treating African Americans as fully capable citizens, and liberals have never been willing to do that. Feeling sorry for blacks is far more rewarding, especially at the polling place.

Paternalism has made a strong resurgence in the United States these past few years, and it needs to be called out for what it is: racism in pretty wrapping paper. Paternalism is the philosophy of the slaveholder's wife who purports to be enlightened. The African can't cut it on his own, she laments. He'll just have to stay on the plantation, for his own good.

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The plantation today is a Democratic Party that promises the barest succor in exchange for votes -- and a never-ending explanation for why African Americans as a group lag behind other Americans in so many categories. Hint: It's "them," whoever that is.

Take progressive New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. He blatantly lied to African Americans this week in criticizing Police Commissioner Bill Bratton after Bratton agreed with late Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's observation that the breakdown of the two-parent family in black communities has contributed to inner-city crime and generational poverty. Moynihan wrote his report 50 years ago, when a quarter of black children were being born out of wedlock. Almost three-quarters are today. De Blasio, who's married to a black woman, has to know there's at least some substance to what Moynihan wrote. But the liberal cannot speak the truth about African-American failings. There has to be another reason.

They say black incarceration is caused by the system, not individual criminal acts. The wide academic achievement gap between blacks and whites is caused by too little school funding, even in New York where more money is spent per pupil than anywhere in the nation. Disproportionate police presences in inner-city areas are rooted in racism, not crime statistics. Voter ID laws discriminate against blacks who have the same access to government ID cards whites do. Racism is around every corner in a country that just elected a black president twice.

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Three chief possibilities have been advanced for why African Americans as a group continue to lag behind other American ethnicities as groups in academic and economic advancement.

1. African Americans are incapable of competing on the same level with other groups.

2. African Americans are victims of a massive racial conspiracy that prevents success, despite all the civil rights laws, efforts, quotas and set-asides of the past five decades.

3. Blacks, as a group, have fallen victim to the politics of victimhood itself.

No. 1 is a ridiculous proposition when you consider the brilliant black thinkers, writers and scientists with which this country has been blessed. We've been working without success on the assumption of No. 2 since Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society, spending billions of dollars in the process. Can we at least discuss No. 3?

Republicans believe that the secret to African American success is no different from the secret to anyone else's success. It resides in the individual, not in the group. A brave presidential primary candidate might want to launch that conversation, especially about the atrophying of the traditional black family and how that is affecting educational scores and crime rates. Asking valid questions cannot remain taboo to those who truly care. The alternative is stay quiet and watch paternalism pull the nation farther apart.

Seared in my brain is the image of a black 1960s civil rights protester. He wears a sandwich board that reads: "I am a Man."

He's still not being treated like one.

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William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant.