False Black Power?
Black civil rights leaders have long supported ethnic identity politics and prioritized the integration of political institutions, and seldom has that strategy been questioned. In False Black Power, Jason L. Riley takes an honest, factual look at why increased black political power has not paid off in the ways that civil rights leadership has promised.
Recent decades have witnessed a proliferation of black elected officials, culminating in the historic presidency of Barack Obama. However, racial gaps in employment, income, homeownership, academic achievement, and other measures not only continue but in some cases have even widened. While other racial and ethnic groups in America have made economic advancement a priority, the focus on political capital for blacks has been a disadvantage, blocking them from the fiscal capital that helped power upward mobility among other groups.
Riley explains why the political strategy of civil rights leaders has left so many blacks behind. The key to black economic advancement today is overcoming cultural handicaps, not attaining more political power.
“Since the 1960s, black leaders have placed a heavy emphasis on gaining political power, and Barack Obama’s presidency represented the apex of those efforts. The assumption—rarely challenged—is that black political clout must come before black social and economic advancement. But as Jason L. Riley argues… political success has not been a major factor in the rise of racial and ethnic groups from poverty to prosperity.”
“Jason Riley of the Manhattan Institute, whom you may recognize as a frequent panelist on Fox News’s Special Report, has written an elegant short book that makes a powerful case on the solution to race relations in the United States. As the title indicates, Riley believes that America’s African-American community has been badly served by the emphasis on achieving political power as a means to advance.”
“Barack Obama’s ascension to the White House was the culmination of the black struggle to attain the pinnacle of political power. But decades of that obsessive focus on black political advancement has not yielded the results that civil rights leaders like Jesse Jackson promised. Even after eight years of Obama, racial gaps in income, employment, home ownership, academic achievement, and other measures still exist, and many civil rights leaders both new and old– including Jackson – explain that by pushing the self-serving narrative that blacks in America are still the victims of systemic racism, and that continuing to pursue political power is the answer.”
“’When you go talk to everyday blacks about the problems facing everyday blacks, you realize the critical race theories, and the Ta-Nehisi Coates and the Al Sharptons, don’t really reflect the viewpoints of everyday blacks, that there is disconnect between them and the people they claim to speak for.’
Yet the narrative taught to students nationwide, riling them up over white privilege, institutional racism and police shootings, has sometimes created such angst that they aggressively disrupt and even shut down campus talks designed to present facts and data to support the notion that ‘Blue Lives Matter’ and that cops are not the main problem facing the black community.”
“The major barrier to black progress today is not racial discrimination and hasn’t been for decades. The challenge for blacks is to better position themselves to take advantage of existing opportunities, and that involves addressing the antisocial, self-defeating behaviors and habits and attitudes endemic to the black underclass.”
About the Authors
Jason Riley is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, and a commentator for Fox News. After joining the Journal in 1994, he was named a senior editorial writer in 2000 and a member of the editorial board in 2005. Riley writes opinion pieces on politics, economics, education, immigration, and race. A frequent public speaker, he is a longtime commentator for Fox News.
Riley is the author of Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders (2008), which argues for a more free-market-oriented U.S. immigration policy; and Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed (2014), which discusses the track record of government efforts to help the black underclass. He has also worked for USA Today and the Buffalo News. Riley holds a B.A. in English from SUNY-Buffalo.
Glenn C. Loury is the Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences and Professor of Economics at Brown University. He has taught previously at Boston, Harvard and Northwestern Universities, and the University of Michigan. He holds a B.A. in Mathematics (Northwestern University, 1972) and a Ph.D. in Economics (MIT, 1976).
As an academic economist, Professor Loury has published mainly in the areas of applied microeconomic theory, game theory, industrial organization, natural resource economics, and the economics of race and inequality. He has been elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Econometric Society, Member of the American Philosophical Society, Vice President of the American Economics Association, and President of the Eastern Economics Association. In 2005 he won the John von Neumann Award (given annually by the Rajk László College of the Budapest University of Economic Science and Public Administration to “an outstanding economist whose research has exerted a major influence on students of the College over an extended period of time.”) He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Carnegie Scholarship to support his work. He has given the prestigious Tanner Lectures on Human Values at Stanford (2007), the James A. Moffett ’29 Lectures in Ethics at Princeton (2003), and the DuBois Lectures in African American Studies at Harvard (2000).
As a prominent social critic and public intellectual, writing mainly on the themes of racial inequality and social policy, Professor Loury has published over 200 essays and reviews in journals of public affairs in the U.S. and abroad. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, is a contributing editor at The Boston Review, and was for many years a contributing editor at The New Republic. Professor Loury’s books include One by One, From the Inside Out: Essays and Reviews on Race and Responsibility in America (The Free Press, 1995–winner of the American Book Award and the Christianity Today Book Award); The Anatomy of Racial Inequality (Harvard University Press, 2002); Ethnicity, Social Mobility and Public Policy: Comparing the US and the UK (ed., Cambridge University Press, 2005); and, Race, Incarceration and American Values (M.I.T. Press, 2008).
The father of five and proud grandfather of six, Glenn C. Loury, a native of the Southside of Chicago, currently resides in Brookline, Massachusetts.
John McWhorter is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He previously was Associate Professor of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. He earned his B.A. from Rutgers University, his M.A. from New York University, and his Ph.D. in Linguistics from Stanford University. Professor McWhorter specializes in language change and language contact. He is the author of The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language; The Word on the Street, a book on dialects and Black English; and Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music in America and Why We Should, Like, Care. A Contributing Editor at The New Republic, he has also been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Time, and The New Yorker. Frequently sought after by the media, Professor McWhorter has appeared on Dateline NBC, Politically Incorrect, Talk of the Nation, Today, Good Morning America, The Jim Lehrer NewsHour, Up with Chris Hayes, and Fresh Air.