How Liberals Make it Harder for Blacks to Succeed
Report by Betty Sakai
Jason Riley, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, 20 year veteran writer for the Wall Street Journal covering politics, the economy, and race, reviewed his research and book published in 2014 entitled Please Stop Helping Us, How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed. Every chapter in Riley’s book is dense with statistical facts “annihilating nonsense” said Forum Vice President of Programs Erika Ammirati quoting economist Thomas Sowell.
Jason Riley revealed the truth about how government policies, allegedly created to help minorities like the blacks, actually injure them by creating dependencies that prevent them from learning how to be self-reliant. Statistics notwithstanding, the essence of Jason Riley’s work is about dogma, about alleged good intentions gone wrong. He presents the case that government interference is a big problem for those least able to manage the interference.
Interesting were the reactions of those who attended the Forum without any prior knowledge of Jason Riley’s work. Most had not heard of Jason Riley nor read about the statistical facts he presented. Some commented afterward about the failure of local newspapers and TV news to inform without political bias. Present was a man named Jason Riley who had invested 20 years of his life writing for a major newspaper. Other newspapers and media networks (except FOX) failed to pick up on the information he had researched. Forum attendees felt gifted by Jason Riley’s presence -- an educated man well versed in the black culture and experience in America. Speaking softly, Riley shattered presumptions. He showed government programs intending to help blacks actually make lives worse, not better.
For over 50 years, Americans have been led to believe that government funded programs work to lessen discrimination and provide opportunity for minorities. Jason Riley’s research shows the opposite to be true. Government cannot do more than provide rights and privileges of the law to all the people uniformly. Doing more than this removes from individuals the need to develop themselves. The fact is, government programs have caused minorities to abandon self-reliance, to stop working, to not prepare themselves to take advantage of opportunities. All the good intentions have injured blacks. If you really care, Riley said, you should help by getting government out of the way.
In 1963, Lyndon Johnson promoted the idea that blacks need help from government. His answer was to create The Great Society. This was popular with Americans who shared Lyndon Johnson’s dream of ending poverty and racial injustice. Agencies and programs were formed and funded federally including the Office of Economic Opportunity aimed at the roots of American poverty, the Jobs Corps to provide vocational training, Head Start, and Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA) to attack literacy and unemployment. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act banning discrimination based upon race and gender in employment and in public facilities. The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 securing for blacks their 15th Amendment Rights and voting by blacks increased.
In the 1960s, most believed that government had the power to fulfill the dream. But welfare slowed self-development. Minimum wage laws priced blacks out of the labor force. Affirmative action resulted in fewer blacks graduating in math and science. Soft-on-crime laws made black neighborhoods more dangerous. Policies limiting school choice errored on the mistaken belief that charter schools and voucher programs harm the traditional public schools that most low-income students attended.
Jason Riley continued and provided a mountain of statistical evidence to show that government’s good intentions actually injure blacks. Referring to his book throughout his presentation, he mentioned his great respect for former slave Booker T. Washington who was a national figure in 1895 urging blacks to focus on self-advancement. Booker T. Washington advised Presidents. Carnegie called Washington the second father of this country. Harvard and Dartmouth bestowed upon him honorary degrees. Rockefeller and J. P. Morgan were benefactors. President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 honored Washington’s 100th birthday with a national monument.
Booker T. Washington, Jason Riley said, was a pragmatist who stressed self-improvement, not government assistance or rights through agitation. His legacy has since been maligned by the NAACP and complainers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Essentially, Booker T. Washington wanted blacks to earn respect by their personal hard work, intelligence, and patriotism. Economist Thomas Sowell, who had spent decades researching ethnic and racial groups, backed Booker T. Washington and found that political activity generally is not a factor in creating upward mobility and prosperity. Government programs that provide preference in hiring help a few but leave behind the average and the underclass.
The Voting Rights Act secured for blacks voting rights but was soon extended by the political left to seek guarantees of outcomes far in excess of the ideals of the Civil Rights Movement. Lyndon Johnson gave his famous speech at Howard University saying that equal rights is not enough; equal outcome is the next step. Thereafter, the number of black mayors, politicians, and community organizers increased but the black underclass living in poverty did not improve substantially. Statistically, during the Jim Crow years in the 1940s and 1950s, black poverty rates fell by 40 percentage points. In The Great Society, the number of blacks getting out of poverty slowed and did not substantially improve. Jason Riley concluded there is no substitute for self-help.
For more than 50 years, the political left has been pushing for forced integration in schools and housing, more government funded programs, racial preferences, standard welfare entitlements, single-payer federally administered health care, and increasing power for all minorities including blacks. The fact is, all government programs hold individuals back from finding ways to become self-reliant. Affirmative Action causes blacks to regress. Racial preferences – sold as a means of increasing the number of black professionals – actually work in reverse to reduce the number of blacks in the professions. Individuals vary in their abilities and need to study and develop in areas where they can individually excel. And race has nothing to do with this.
Riley conceded that the problem blacks have today is one of culture impeding progress. In the New York school system, for example, 70% of the students are black or Hispanic, and 80% of these are operating below grade level. Cultural problems exist and need to be addressed but talking about them has become taboo in the black family. It’s impossible to talk logically about these problems in the black family. For example, black families do not talk about black crime rates but talk instead about black incarceration rates. In today’s black culture, white sounding speech is avoided and mocked.
The fact is, blacks are only 13% of the population in this country but commit more than 50% of the murders. Roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered every year. 90% of these are killed by other blacks. Homicide is an epidemic -- a true tragedy. The question is whether the black men who are doing all this killing value black lives? The fact is, homicide is the leading cause of death by young black men in the United States – only 2% of the shooting deaths involve cops and 98% don’t involve cops.
Violence in black neighborhoods has enormous economic consequences. Jason Riley said poverty does not cause violence. Violence causes businesses to leave along with the jobs. The reason black neighborhoods experienced less violence during the Jim Crow years is because the people were busy, involved in learning how to be self-reliant. They were working. Jason Riley concluded that it is vastly more important that blacks be ready to take advantage of equal rights when opportunities occur. He emphasized, black socio-economic problems must be solved in the home, not in politics.
In the Q & A session, Jason Riley noted that school choice is hugely popular in the black community. The problem with the teachers’ union he said is that they don’t want students to go to schools the union cannot organize. Asked about President Trump’s plan to work with church leaders in Chicago, Riley said many blacks like the forthrightness of President Trump. He added, we should be careful not to confuse the agenda of groups like the NAACP with the needs and perceptions of everyday rank-and-file blacks. Asked about why he grew up so differently than others in his family, he confessed he could not answer that question. About the political practice of gerrymandering, he said it’s outdated and not necessary. Asked about upholding free speech on campuses, Riley said that it’s up to the adults to set the standards because kids will be kids. Asked why President Obama focused on police brutality, Jason Riley replied “identity politics” and “political expediency”. Asked about the Housing Act of 1968, he said the Housing Authority pendulum has swung too far and social engineering is not effective. The fact is, most blacks want to live in mostly black neighborhoods. Asked about why the facts he has presented are being ignored, he answered that those on the left in their identity politics have no interest in solving issues. He added humorously, “Do you think ‘Black Lives Matter’ has any interest in resolving black issues?”
Asked about how people can help, Jason Riley answered that those who wish to get involved should focus on public policy. Stop trapping kids in failing schools. Stop pricing young people out of the labor force with minimum wages. Stop regulating. Let businesses develop and operate with less restraints. Work on restraining the policy makers. Allow success to happen. The Forum audience thanked Jason Riley with long applause. He had provided a volume of excellent information.
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