Center of the American Experiment offers conservative take on Black issues
According to the conservative think tank Center of the American Experiment (CAE), liberal polices hurt the middle class, the poor, and minorities. To get their message out, CAE is hosting a series of four quarterly luncheons with that theme; the first one was on February 18 at the downtown Minneapolis Hilton Hotel featuring a talk by Black conservative Jason Riley.
Riley, whose latest book is titled Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed, is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a member of their editorial board, and a frequent commentator on Fox News.
The event had an estimated turnout of about 300; fewer than 15 appeared to be African American.
Riley’s premise was that after 50 years of liberal, left-leaning policies, “the Black underclass is in pretty bad shape” and Blacks have been “brainwashed” by the Democratic Party into voting for them and supporting their policies.
Riley called the Voting Rights Act a “tremendous success.” He cited a statistic that in 2012, the percentage of Blacks voting was higher than that of Whites, which he called “the highest ever.” He also stated that Mississippi has the highest number of Black elected public officials but noted that “Blacks are still on the bottom” there.
President Lyndon Johnson “moved the goalpost from equal opportunity to equal outcomes,” Riley maintained. Noting that “government programs focus on redistributing wealth” and that they “do more harm than good,” Riley moved on to talk about the minimum wage.
Riley said that we need to “stop raising the minimum wage” as doing so “makes hiring more expensive,” and that that hurts employment prospects for Blacks. Citing statistics that he said show that “[LBJ’s] Great Society programs have never equaled” the progress Blacks had made before those programs, Riley appeared to be implying that the programs were a hindrance rather than a help for Blacks.
“Affirmative action,” Riley said, “gets more credit than it deserves,” as it has “never equaled what Blacks were already doing on their own. Holding Blacks to lower standards” and “setting kids up to fail” is what Riley described as effects of affirmative action.
“Racism,” Riley declared, is the “all-purpose excuse for Black failure.”
About crime among Black people, Riley at various times said, “Soft-on-crime laws make ghettos more dangerous,” “Coddling criminals became fashionable,” and that higher incarceration rates for Blacks and police shooting unarmed Black men are “nonsense.”
Moving on to “Black-on-Black” murders, the real problem, Riley says, is that “Blacks don’t value Black lives.” The Black Lives Matter movement, he said, is “not going anywhere although it has a lot of support”; he called it “a slogan instead of a solution.” Problems in the Black community are “less about politics than about culture,” so Black culture has to change.
One aspect of that culture, he continued, is the stigma some Black people seem to attach to educated Black people — that they are “talking White” — which in his view contributes to the education achievement gap between Blacks and Whites, and that that stigma also “makes it harder to lower crime.”
Riley sees school choice as a remedy for the education achievement gap and praised charter schools while lamenting that it is “unfortunate that the left is not on board” with the idea. Another part of the education gap is that “Failing schools stay open because they provide jobs” for teachers.
Before a brief question and answer session with the audience, Riley closed with a quote from Frederick Douglass: “I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us!
“If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! … And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! Your interference is doing him positive injury.”
We were unable to interview Riley after his talk, but CAE made its founder and current Senior Fellow Mitch Pearlstein available for a brief time to answer questions we had intended for Riley.
Next week: Mitch Pearlstein responds to our questions.
Isaac Peterson welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.