Jason Riley: ‘Blacks Ultimately Must Help Themselves’

Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter
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The very policies designed to help black Americans are actually actively hurting them, says Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley in his new book “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make it Harder for Blacks to Succeed.”

Riley looks at some of the policies implemented in the past 50 years to help poor minorities — minimum wage laws, affirmative action and limiting school choice — and argues they did more harm than good. For example, he argues that minimum wage laws caused a disproportionate number of black Americans their jobs, so that black labor-participation rates are lower now than they were in the Jim Crow era.

What those policies have done is foster an excessive dependence on government in the black community, he says in the book, which the Democratic Party and opportunistic black leaders are using to further their own agenda.

“Democrats have a vested interest in black dependency on government,” Riley told The Daily Caller. “It’s one way that Democrats keep blacks loyal — they present themselves as the party who gives people things.”

Riley especially laments the liberal emphasis on identity politics and victimhood, because he argues there are bigger problems facing the community. “I think black culture — attitudes toward education, work, law enforcement, etc. — is a much bigger barrier to black success today than any residual white racism,” he said.

“It’s hard to argue that the legacy of slavery or Jim Crow explains black outcomes today when black outcomes were better coming out of slavery and during Jim Crow,” he added, citing higher black crime rates now than 50 years ago than now, and a dramatic decrease in the number of black children raised in two-parent homes.

“Did the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow skip a few generations and then re-assert themselves? Was there less racism back then than there is today, when we have a twice-elected black president in a country that is still more than 70 percent white?”

Riley hopes his book gives voice to alternative perspectives in the black community, which have been around for decades, but mostly untapped. “The press continues to run to the same people and organizations — Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, the NAACP — to speak on behalf of black America,” he said. “There’s still a lot of white guilt out there, and the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons and NAACPs are all too willing to not only appease it but monetize it,”

“If you’re Al Sharpton and run around blaming all of black America’s problems on white people, or the legacy of this or that, NBC will give you your own TV show and the network executives there will feel less guilty,” he continued. “And feeling less guilty is more important to NBC than whether what Sharpton is saying stands up to any scrutiny.”

The government does have a responsibility to ensure equal opportunity, Riley told TheDC, but going beyond that and trying to engineer equal outcomes is “a fool’s errand for government.”

“Blacks ultimately must help themselves by developing the same attitudes, behaviors and habits that other groups developed to rise socio-economically in the U.S.,” he said.

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