The strategy of electing more black Americans to increase the political power of African Americans has not paid off, Jason L. Riley, author of the new book "False Black Power?" told Newsmax TV.
"Since the 1960s the civil rights leadership has put in place a strategy of emphasizing heavily the election of more black officials," Riley told host Steve Malzberg. "The thinking is, if we can put more blacks in elected office, the social economic gains would flow naturally from that.
"I thought the Obama presidency was really the culmination of this strategy . . . [But] there were a lot of black elected officials before Obama. They weren't president, but they were mayors, they were governors, they were congressmen, they were school superintendents, and police chiefs . . .
"From that experience we . . . should've tempered our expectations as to what black political leadership could do, because in many of those cases, the black poor were worse off. And so we saw this pattern again in many cases with the Obama presidency where racial gaps, and home ownership, and income, and poverty all widened."
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What is the answer?
"In the first half of the 20th century, coming out of slavery through reconstruction and Jim Crow, the emphasis was on building human capital, on developing culturally, education, evolving, and developing the right habits and attitudes, and behavior, and values that other groups in America had developed on their rise from poverty to prosperity," he said.
"That's where blacks were focused on in the 1920s and 30s and 40s. And when they were focused on that, we saw racial gaps closing in this country. Gaps in income, gaps in home ownership, gaps in employment, gaps in blacks entering the skilled white-collared professions. Slow but steady progress."
But in the second half of the 20th century, Riley told Malzberg, black leadership shifted to a political strategy during which the steady progress slowed to a crawl and "even reverse course."
"We talk a lot today of the black left does, or the left in general, about the legacy of slavery or the legacy of Jim Crow explaining these racial gaps, this racial inequality today," said Riley, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
"I think we would do better to be talking about the legacy of the great society. The legacy of the huge expansion of the welfare state. I think that much better explains what we see going on today."
"False Black Power?" published by Templeton Press, is part of its "New Threats to Freedom Series."
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