tv False Black Power CSPAN July 23, 2017 12:00am-12:36am EDT
>> if i could have your attention please, we will get started. thank you everyone. i am only please were all here. i am the president of the manhattan institute. thank you. [applause] it's a pleasure for me to introduce jason riley today. as most of you jason is a senior fellow at the manhattan institute and a regular columnist for "the wall street journal" and a commentator for "fox news." in his new book "false black power" jason offers a critique of civil rights leaders and their prioritization of pure political power in which he argues its failed to produce significant results revkin americans. the book includes thoughtful responses to jason's arguments from two leading black intellectuals john mcwhorter in glen lowry. it's a slender book but it packs a powerful punch.
one blogger note of what makes this book shine is the clarity of its logic and accessibility of its writing style. just as fred astaire made it look easy to dance with israelis mastery or elegance so natural that it seems effortless. how did you get him to write this? there you go. it's available for just $10, $6 on kindle. hopefully he will open a few minds. these join me in welcoming the fearless jason riley. [applause] >> thank you for that very kind introduction larry and i'm glad you told a few jokes. i was going to start with a joke about c-span and then i found out zeus can be covering the
event and my wife advised me to back off. this will be a joke free presentation because that's really all i had. thank you larry. false black power, what am i talking about? in a nutshell what i'm saying is that barack obama needed black voters far more than black voters dated barack obama and that's not a personal attack. you can substitute the name of any black politician in the statement would still hold true. that's what i'm trying to get at in this book. started out as a column and it grew into a longer essay and eventually a short book that was recently published. my intention was to make a
fairly simple point which is that political activity is not the most effective way of advancing a group economically. the racial ethnic screw political successes not automatically economic success. one does not flow naturally from the other. hardly an original observation but i think it's an important one that is regularly ignored by civil rights leaders who practice identity politics favoring candidates of their own racial or ethnic background. i thought the end of the obama presidency was an especially good time to reiterate the limits which has been in place for more than 50 years now. since the 1960s black leaders have prioritized the integration
of political constitutions and they have had a great deal of success in doing this on their own terms. by the early 1980s major u.s. cities with large black populations detroit chicago washington philadelphia have elected black mayor's. between 1970 and 2010 the number of black elected officials grew from 250 to more than 10,000 including of course a black president. in addition we saw the proliferation of black police chiefs, school superintendents councilmembers state legislators racially gerrymandered voting districts were created to ensure the election of blacks to congress and so forth. the problem with the political clout has never paid off economic weight in the black corner which is what we were
told would happen. if you look at how the black underclass faired from coleman young's detroiter marion barry's washington d.c. or sharpe james newark the manhattan institute colleague fred segal has noted these black mayors created the unbeatable political machine in the name of helping the poor and the poor became even more impoverished. mississippi has long boasted more black elected officials than any other state in the country you continue to have one of the highest black poverty rates in the country. they are up and case studies in places like atlanta in the 1970s and 80s for example were under black mayors the city implements racial preference policies for hiring black city workers and black contractors. well off blacks became better off that average income blacks were left behind and more
actually lost ground. that's been the story nationwide in an era of increasing black political clout not to mention mention -- black underclassmen lost in absolute terms and relative -- in the 1970s and 80s and into the 90s 20% of blacks other income decline at more than double the rate of whites. this history i think should tempered expectations for the first black president. without taking away anything from barack obama's historic accomplishments the country's widespread sense of pride that the election symbolizes the reality is there is little reason to believe that a black president was the answer to racial inequality for the
problem of the black poor. think the expectations were set way too high on the racial front of other friends. i read an article over the weekend in "the news york times" which counted as a failure the obama administration's inability to and income inequality. said wow he was supposed to do that? the expectations i think were off the charts on many fronts but particularly on the racial front in what his presidency would be able to do. sure enough black-and-white gaps and also incomes, poverty homeownership and other measures all white and under obama's term in office. the job situation for blacks did improve towards the end of his second term of blacks did not see their average unemployment rate fall below double digits
until the third month of obama's seventh year in office. now we have more evidence that the proliferation of black politician in recent decades which now includes the election of a black presence with the sioux no racial gaps and academic achievement in other areas. this is not to say of course that blacks should stay out of politics or run for office or not engage politically. what i am questioning is whether gaining political influence should continue to play such an essential role in the strategy of black leaders when it comes to blacks economically or whether their focus should be on the other areas. that's is most groups in america and elsewhere have done so with
little or no political input. groups that have enjoyed political success have tended to rise much more slowly so it's not that you can't take political roots. you can but chances are you are going to rise more slowly. chairman, a tie and asians are among those who saw economic gains precede political gains in america and internationally ethnic chinese in southeast asia and jewish in britain and among many examples all profited economic weight while mostly shunning politics. even if a group had the ability to wield political influence they did not choose to do so. german immigrants to the u.s. in colonial times were not lacking
in numbers. there were so many of them that benjamin frank and was complaining about how many they are were as far back as the 17 50's. why did so many funded by the english become a colony of aliens which would german eyes us a set of us them. chairman focused initially on paying off other priorities and were well-known for avoiding politics. it's a trick they brought with them to this country because they were german and immigrants everywhere from australia to brazil followed the same pattern basically establishing and of themselves economically. it was only after they had risen economically. a counterexample in the example
that blacks have followed the most closely have been the irish who rows from -- who would rise from poverty were specially low given you have political organizations in places like boston philadelphia and new york who are dominating local governments. the irish had more political success in the u.s. than any other ethnic group historically after they arrived. yet the irish were the slowest rising group of all european immigrants. the political power of a small number of officials had little impact on the economic progress of most irishmen. it wasn't until those local machine start to decline in influence that we saw the average middle-class where the point to today irish income educational attainment and so forth -- viewed against this
history many blacks are expecting obama's presidency in more prosperity. the black experience in america i should add is of course different from the irish experience which in turn is different from the chinese or the german. indeed we can't generalize about the black experience. blacks have patterns that different from black immigrants from the west indies. that doesn't mean it is we can't make perfect apples-to-apples comparison that we have nothing to learn from one of the groups experienced or no comparison can be made. minority groups have experienced
various degrees of hardships and in countries all over the world. i think how those groups have dealt with those circumstances is something to study closely going forward even if the only lesson is how to manage expectations. one of the clear lessons from history is also human capital, skills and knowledge that create economic values have proven to be far more important than political capital in getting ahead. racial ethnic group's culture attitudes habits and values matter much more than electing people who look like them. reality helps to explain why blacks are the way they did not only in the obama era but also in the preceding decade. prior to the 1950s the first half of the 20th century when
blacks were more focused on developing their human capital we saw the racial gaps narrowing incomes educational attainment representation of professions and elsewhere. blacks were not only making gains in absolute terms but also gaining on flights to the progress was slow but it was steady. it was happening. yet in the wake of the great society welfare state expansion of black leadership shift to pursuing a political power we saw those previous gains slow and stall in some cases, reverse course even in other cases. obama's election was the end product of the civil rights strategy that is prioritize political power, false power in my view to advance blacks and eight years later we have learned the limits of that
strategy. i will stop there and take your questions. [applause] >> it's very important that you wait for the microphone. [inaudible] >> how would you compare the debate 100 years ago between booker t. washington and dubose about how blacks can rise from poverty? >> i think the difference is the strategy between dubose in
washington a little bit exaggerated. the remorseful and made it -- similarities than differences. booker t. washington did not reject civil rights or the importance of advancing using the political system here and dubose didn't reject industrial learning that booker t. washington wanted to focus on but you do see something that blossomed in the post-civil rights period when it came to the choices that someone like martin luther king jr. wanted to make in choices of the black power movement in particular. but the real difference i think
between the old-school leadership in today's leadership is it's also a mindset that is brought to task. i think everyone from king to dubose to washington and the naacp in its early years were focused on the constants here. the shift in attitude came the second half i think of the 20th century where the attitude became a must see racism bank wish to america. that mindset is what is one of the day in addition to the focus on political power. it's also good to mindset that political leaders play off of.
i think that is also hampered promise. >> two questions. your criticisms of political clout to what extent if any would you specifically state that greater political clout is counterproductive to advance blacks and i was intrigued to learn that john mcwhorter is is -- has a critical essay in your book. to what extent is mcwhorter for example different from your view and place them which you might differ? >> on the first question i think what tends to happen when you get a black leader in politics as they become a politician and take precedence. you can say education is an example. school choice is hugely popular
in the black community particular among the black poor. barack obama gets into office and tries to shut down the per gram and d.c. and tries to shut down the school program in louisiana. why? not because these programs are popular not in the van. the charter school wait list is hundreds of thousands of kids along. tries to shut down because he has the political need to satisfy people that helped him get elected. he decides to do their bidding in the ethnic voting blocs that played a large role in electing him. he became a politician and that i think is how you get political clout on the neediest members of the group that is sent that
person not to represent them politically. in terms of john's criticism john's criticism part of it really surrounded, he thinks the racial debate is in this country has shifted more to the deindustrialization of the country and how, he says that black intellectuals to his mind are really focused on blaming sosa's -- social pathology in the ghetto on the absence of -- and that is what led to the current state of affairs. he thought i should have done more to talk about that as well. i think it's a fair point and people like william julius bolton thinking this for decades.
i don't buy the argument. the social break down in the 1960s in the inner cities preceded the flight of jobs. detroit didn't riot after the factory jobs left. the right came first, and so that is my problem with that industrialization argument. that was some of what john was criticizing by and large. [laughter] if you are in the back make sure you raise your hand so that i can see you. >> now want to thank you for your enlightening coverage.
i enjoy reading your op-ed and your prior book. my question to you is a personal one. i'd be interested in their reactions that you receive in the black community to your work. >> realizing of course that's not monolithic. >> that is the point. it really depends on who you are talking about in the black community. if you are talking to a clergyman or a churchgoer sitting in the pews oregon hbcu talking to students or whether you are at wellesley or amherst talking to members of the black dude there you were going to get three very different reactions. it really does just depend on the audience.
again it depends. if you are speaking to people sympathetic to the naacp's point of view and their method of trying to help then you are going to get a negative response because a lot of what i write about makes a lot of what they naacp is talking about arrival and in perhaps its existence irrelevant. it's a problem facing blacks that are not primarily racism per se. there's not much use for that to continue saying things they want to say. they are going to be out there advocating against charter schools, they are doing more harm than good. they are actually doing harm so it's going to vary.
michael goodwin. >> thank you jason. the question about president obama, your comment about bloc voting and for example with the teachers union a think as well said. the feeling i suspect he had in his campaign was where are they going to go, the black voters that elected mayor going to stay with me and the teachers union might stray. number nonwhite people have made the point that after the obama years there will then be this awakening the black power is not all it's cracked up to be them politically there must be other ways. what do you think the republicans and independents mckechnie to do to attract black voters so that they can have better integrated parties in the country as a whole can be less divided racially?
>> they need to show up. they have largely just written it off for many years. you can pull over why that is whether it's racism or some other factor but political expediency. they didn't need this vote to win and some of the party may look at trump success and say we still don't need his vote to win and a lot of people in my camp are saying the g.o.p. has got to attract more transparency, they won't be over by national elections. trump proved everyone wrong. there is an argument that he has proven everyone wrong. i think if republican candidates want to do better among black voters they need to spend more time in black communities than they need to go to the barber shops in the grocery stores.
they need to watch the web sites they visit. i haven't seen that kind of the concerted effort. among individual candidates chris christie did it in new jersey in 2013, went into camden and did quite well with the black vote. in the past you have seen people like richard reardon in l.a. do pretty well on that front. paul ryan is someone who has traveled the country with people like a community leader who's been around for a long time. rand paul has gone to black colleges. i think those are good but i think you need a much larger outcome. i think the party if you remember that autopsy report after lost, the party said this
is what we need to do going forward and then you have this political earthquake with trump coming on. >> a question back there. >> to what degree do you think there's a role for the black elite and the private sector to try to mobilize the black community to get a recognition of your view and to disseminate that message? >> there are is a role. i mean it depends. many members of these elite, that elite group i think have become convinced that it is the government that put them in the position they are in today. in other words i have spoken to groups of black professionals,
black one percenters who are convinced that their class of blacks would not exist so you are still fighting a mindset there that the democratic party has done a brilliant job of pushing on to black america, not just encouraging low income blacks but even a poll -- upper middle class blacks have this dependence and we wouldn't be where we are today but for big government. so it is a challenge. >> there is one question over here. >> charles murray wrote in the 80s about the impact of welfare on the progress of the
poor and later in the 90s about the impact of family disintegration. if you look at the situation as it is right now, if you thought about what could we do policywise so that the flax was in progress that they made in the 50s and early 60s? >> well i think from a policy perspective it's a question of what i would like to see the government stop doing. it's not that a program needs to come along. stop doing the things that we know don't work. we have welfare programs for government assistance programs that used to be safety nets and now they have become traps for governmental dependency. we need to think about the incentives put in place.
>> and. >> in terms of the incentive , yes that there is so rigorous to babette -- that they benefit by keeping them angry and racially paranoid that is part of the reason you see obama indulge in a group with black lives matter it was politically useful for him to do that. that the cops are the police shootings are not driving that it was still politically useful or expedient and you have some points here and he was not
going to shut them down. so there is some truth in that but i don't want to do psychoanalyzes but many of these groups in the way that they think works so they push the government policies . so until they believe racism has been eliminated the and they may believe that is black america. item of that is true but i will not put them on the couch.