tv False Black Power CSPAN July 29, 2017 8:01am-8:37am EDT
>> thank you, everyone, at least you are all here. i am lawrence mone, president of the manhattan institute and it is a pleasure for me to introduce loebsack -- jason riley, 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 your political power which failed to produce significant results for african-americans. two leading black intellectuals, glenn lowry and john mcclure. it is a slender book but packs a powerful punch. what makes this book shine is
its clarity to logic and accessibility of its writing style. just as fred astaire made it look easy to dance, jason riley demonstrates elegant so natural it seems effortless. how did you get him to write this? there you go. it is available for just $10. $6 on kindle. jason may not get rich with this book but hopefully he will open a few minds. please join me in welcoming the fearless and peerless jason riley. [applause] >> thank you for that very kind introduction. i am glad he told a few jokes but i want to start with a joke about c-span where i appeared recently. that i found out c-span would be covering this event and my wife advised me to back off.
this will be a joke free presentation. that is really all i had so thank you, larry. "false black power?". what am i talking about? in a nutshell, what i am saying is that barack obama needed black voters far more than black voters needed barack obama. that is not a personal attack on the former president. you could substitute the name of any black politician and the statement would still hold true. that is what i'm trying to get at in this book. it started as a column that grew into a longer essay and eventually a short book that was recently published. but my intention was to make a
fairly simple point which was political activity is not the most effective way of advancing a group economically. a racial ethnic group, political success does not automatically lead to economic success with one does not flow naturally from another. it is not an original observation but an important one that is regularly ignored by civilized leaders and black political leaders to practice identity politics urging blacks to vote as a block, favoring candidates of their own racial or ethnic background and so forth. i thought the end of the obama presidency was an especially good time to reiterate the limits of this strategy which has been in place more than 50 years now. since the 1960s black leaders really prioritized the integration of political
institutions and they have had a great deal of success in doing this on their own terms. by the early 1980s major us cities with large black populations, cleveland, detroit, chicago, washington, philadelphia, elected black mayors. between 1970, and 2010, the number of black elected officials grew from fewer than 1500 to more than 10,000 in this country including of course the black president. in addition we saw proliferation of black police chiefs, school superintendents, councilmembers, state legislatures, racially gerrymandered voting districts were created to ensure the election of blacks to congress and so forth. the problem with all of this political clout has never paid off economically. for the black for which is what
we were told would happen. look at how the black underclass in detroit or washington dc or sharp james's newark, is the manhattan institute collie brent steagall noted these black mayors created these unbeatable political machines in the name of helping the poor, yet the poor became even more impoverished on their watch. mississippi has long boasted more black elected officials than any other state in the country yet it continues to have one of the highest black poverty rates in the country. there have been case studies of places like atlanta in the 1970s and 80s, black mayors, the city and cemented policies for hiring black city workers and black contractors. what happened? well-off blacks became better off but average income blacks were left behind and the black poor has been the story
nationwide. in any or of increasing black political clout not to mention affirmative-action, the black underclass has lost ground both in absolute terms and relative to the white underclass. in the 1970s and 80s 90s the poorest 20% of blacks saw their income decline at more than double the rate of comparable whites. this history should have served to temper expectations for the first black president. without taking anything from barack obama's historical compliments or the country's wide sent that is widespread sense of pride in the racial progress the election symbolized, the reality is there was little reason to believe that a black president was the answer to racial inequalities or problems of the black poor.
the expectations were set way too high on the racial front and other fronts. article of the week for the new york times which counted as a failure the obama administration's inability to end -- end income any quality. i 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 of what his presidency would be able to do. and sure enough black/white gaps in household incomes, poverty, homeownership and other measures all widened during obama's term in office. the job situation for blacks did improved would the end of his second term but blacks did not see the average unemployment rate fall below double digits
until the third month of obama's seventh year in office so we have more evidence that the proliferation of black politicians in recent decades which includes the twice elected black president has done little to narrow racial gaps, and academic achievement in other areas. this is not to say that blacks should stay out of politics or not run for office or not engage politically. that is not what i am saying. what i am questioning is whether gaining political influence should continue to play such a central role in the strategy of black leaders when it comes to advancing blacks economically. or whether the focus should be on other areas. that is because most groups in america and elsewhere who have risen economically have done so
with little or no political influence. groups that have enjoyed early political success have tended to rise more slowly. it is not that you can't take the political roots, you can't but chances are you are going to rise more slowly than you would taking other routes. germans, jews, italians, asians are among those who saw economic gains precede political gains in america. that is a pattern you see internationally, ethnic chinese in southeast asia. english in argentina choosing britain among many other examples, all prospered economically while mostly shunning politics. even if a group had the ability to wield political influence they didn't always choose to do so. german immigrants to the us in colonial times were not lacking in numbers and.
there were so many of them that benjamin franklin was complaining about how many there were in pennsylvania as far back as the 1750s, why should pennsylvania founded by the was become a colony of aliens who will surely become so numerous to german eyes us instead of a sanctifying them. nevertheless germans, many of whom arrived as indentured servants and focused initially on paying off the cost of their voyage had other priorities and were well known for avoiding politics. that is a trait with a broad with them to this country because german immigrants everywhere from australia to brazil followed the same pattern basically shunning politics and establishing themselves economically first. germans entering politics only after they had risen economically. a counterexample and the example
blacks of followed most closely would be the irish who rose from poverty, whose rise from poverty was especially slow given that you had these irish run political organizations in places like boston and philadelphia and new york who were dominating local government. the irish had more political success in the us than any other ethnic group historically after they arrived yet the irish were the slowest rising group of all european immigrants to america. the political power of a relatively small number of irish elected officials had little impact on the economic progress of most irish americans. it wasn't until those political machines started to decline and influence that we saw the swelling of the irish middle-class to the point where today average irish incomes and educational attainment and so forth all exceed the national average.
viewed against this history many blacks respecting obama's presidency to deliver more prosperity than political clout tends to deliver for a group in the us or anywhere else, the black experience in america, i should add is different from the irish experience, which in turn is different than the chinese or german or jewish experience. we can't generalize about the black experience because native blacks have patterns that differ from black immigrants from the west indies for example or africa. that doesn't mean because we can't make a perfect apples to apples comparisons that we have nothing to learn from what other groups experience or that no comparisons can be made. many racial and different minority groups have experienced various degrees of hardship and the us and other countries all
over the world and how those groups have dealt with those circumstances is something to study closely and draw lessons from going forward even if the only lesson is to manage expectations. one of the clear lessons from this history is the human capital, the collective skills, knowledge to create economic value proven to be far more important than political capital in getting ahead. a racial or ethnic group's culture, attitudes, habits, values matter much more than electing people who look like them. that is helps to explain why blacks fair the way they did not only in the obama era but also in the preceding decades. prior to the 1950s in the first half of the 20th century when blacks were more focused on
developing their human capital we saw racial gaps narrowing incomes, educational attainment, representation of professions and elsewhere, blacks are making gains in absolute terms and gaining on whites, progress was slow but steady. yet in the wake of great society, welfare state the black leadership shifted to pursuing political power more fervently. we saw those previous gains slow, stalin some cases, reverse course even in other cases. obama's election was the end product of a civil rights strategy that has prioritized political power, false power in my view to advance blacks. eight years later we learn the limits of that strategy.
i will stop there and take questions. [applause] >> i will field questions, wait for the microphone. wait for the microphone. >> how would you compare -- >> the debate years ago between booker t. washington and 2 boys about how blacks can arise from poverty? >> i think the differences in the strategies between 2 boys
and washington are exaggerated over the decades. there are more similarities than differences. booker t. washington did not reject civil rights or the importance of advancing using the political system to advance the race. and 2 boys didn't reject -- dubois didn't in fact what booker t. washington wanted to focus on but you see the seeds of something that blossomed in the post-civil rights period when it came to the choices someone like martin luther king jr. wanted to make an choices more militant blacks wanted to make. but the real difference i think between old-school leadership
and today's leadership is a mindset brought to the task, everyone from kanga to dubois to washington and the naacp in its early years, were focused, their idea was race was the constant. we have to succeed notwithstanding. the shift in attitude came in the second half of the 20th century when the attitude became we must see racism vanquished from america or blacks will be held responsible and that mindset won the day. in addition to political power, what blacks have been encouraged to adopt, political leaders play off of endlessly, hampered the
process. >> two questions. using mild in your criticism of political clout. to what extent would you specifically state greater political clout is counterproductive, i was intrigued to learn that john mccord has a critical essay accompanying your book, to what extent is that different from your view and how much you respond? >> on the first question, what tends to happen when you get a black leader who wants to play at politics is they become a politician and political terms take precedent. you can take education as an example. school choice is hugely popular in the black community
particularly among the black war. pulls off the charts has for decades. barack obama gets in office and tries to shut down the school voucher program. tries to shut down a school voucher program in louisiana. not because these programs aren't popular or in demand, the charter school waitlist has hundreds of thousands of kids many of whom are minorities, he tries to shut it down because he has a political need to satisfy some people who helped him get elected, namely teachers unions who don't like school choice and he decides to do their bidding instead of this voting block that played a large role in electing him. his priorities shifted by necessity. he became a politician. that is how you can get political clout can backfire on the group, the neediest members of the group who said that person off to represent him.
in terms of john's criticism, john's criticism, part of it surrounded -- he the racial debate in this country has shifted more to the deindustrialization of the country. and how he says bold -- the black intellectuals to his mind i really focused on blaming social pathology in the ghetto on the absence of factory jobs and that is what led to the current state of affairs he thought i should have done more to talk about that in the book and it is a fair point. people like william julius wilson have made this point for decades. i don't buy the argument.
i think they get the sequence wrong. in other words, the social breakdown in the 1960s inner cities preceded the glut of jobs. detroit didn't riot after the factory jobs left. the riots came first. and so i think that is my problem with the deindustrialization argument. that is what john was criticizing but by and large he liked it. >> if you are in the back raise your hand so i can see you. >> thank you for your enlightening conference.
i enjoyed reading your op-ed pieces and your prior book. my question to you is a little personal one. i would be interested in the reactions you receive in the black community to your work? realizing that that is 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 churchgoer, at hbcus talking to students, whether you are at amherst talking to members of the black student union there you will get three very different reactions. it really does just depend on the audience.
it depends. if you are speaking to people sympathetic to the naacp's point of view and their methods of trying to help blacks, then you are going to get a negative response. a lot of what i write about makes what the naacp is talking about irrelevant, perhaps even its existence made irrelevant of the problem is not primarily racial barriers or racism per se there is not much use for them. to the extent they will be out there advocating against charter schools which they recently did, they are doing more harm not just something different but harm. >> michael?
>> thank you. the question about president obama. your comments about black block voting and the teachers union is well said because the feeling he had in his campaign is where are they going to go? the teachers union might stray, the number of nonwhite people made the point, and it is not all it is cracked out to be, there must be other ways. what do you think they need to do to attract black voters to use integrated parties to be divided racially. >> they need to show up.
you can quibble over why that is, if you defeated racism or some other factor. political expediency, they didn't need this vote to win. some of the party may look at trump's success and go we still don't need this vote to win. a lot of people in my camp over the years, the country is diverse a firing, won't be able to win national elections, proved everyone wrong. there is an argument that he proved everyone wrong. i think if republican candidates want to do better's they need to spend more time in black communities. they need to go to barbershops and grocery stores.
and during shows on television, and a concerted effort. and chris christie did it in new jersey, and went into camden. and and people like bob, community -- in a jack kemp mode. rand paul going to black colleges. i think those are good you need a much larger part of the party and the party if you remember that autopsy.
the parties said -- we had this political earthquake. >> to what degree do you think there's a role for the black elitist private sector to mobilize black community to get a recognition of your view to disseminate that message. >> many members of these elites. >> the government -- i've spoken to groups of black
>> charles murray, and the impact of family disintegration. and what could we do policy wise. and to resume the kind of progress they made in the 50s and 60s. >> what would the government stop doing? the program needs to come along. and stop doing things that don't work. it used to be safety nets, who spent generation after generation on government dependency.
a few kids trapped in failing schools, and they proliferate, stop capping the growth. if we know we have a lot of budding entrepreneurs in brooklyn or harlem. and the growth of black. businesses. and a lot of policies that have been tried and taking a more humble approach going forward. >> >> ronald reagan got in trouble
for what you said. they want the situation to remain that, without the anger and resentment they are out of a job. did reagan go too far in suggesting leaders have a vested interest, and secondly or set-aside programs good or bad. the theory behind the ms. people get minorities and get their foot in the door for the first time and they can take it from there. would you keep or do away with set-aside programs? >> i don't think that is what history says. history says well off blacks become better off if you look at case studies in places like atlanta, set-aside programs for black businesses or city contractors and so forth, that is what happened, the idea these programs are in the middle.
in terms of the incentives of black leaders, there is some truth to that, black leaders gain or benefit politically keeping blacks riled up, racially paranoid and so forth. that is part of the reason you saw obama indulge a group it was politically useful even if he knows cops are not driving the black, side rate. it was still politically useful or expedient for him to win get this group, you have some points here and he wasn't going to shut
down and call it is nonsense. i think there is some truth to that. i wouldn't take the argument too far. i don't want to psychoanalyze these books. many of these groups, people on the black left are trying to help in the ways they think work. many of them are sincere in thinking more government will help blacks so they push the government policies and they believe that, or they believe that until racism has been eliminated it can serve as an all-purpose explanation, they may believe that. i don't think it is true but i am not going to put them on the couch and say they don't really believe this. >> we will do a conference with
jason which will elaborate on many of the themes that were discussed today. i wish him good luck with this book. [applause] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> booktv recently visited capitol hill to ask members of congress what they are reading this summer. >> congressman gary palmer, what are you reading this summer?