Why Black Poverty Is As Bad As Ever

While I think that Jason Riley’s observations, quoted from his book at the New York Post, are correct as far as they go:

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was followed by large increases in black elected officials. In the Deep South, black officeholders grew from 100 in 1964 to 4,300 in 1978. By the early 1980s, major US cities with large black populations, such as Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Washington and Philadelphia, had elected black mayors. Between 1970 and 2010, the number of black elected officials nationwide increased from fewer than 1,500 to more than 10,000.

Yet the socioeconomic progress that was supposed to follow in the wake of these political gains never materialized. During an era of growing black political influence, blacks as a group progressed at a slower rate than whites, and the black poor actually lost ground.

The story he tells is one of a black population that pursued political power rather than economic power, helping a few black office holders rather than most blacks. The story I’d tell is somewhat different.

I think that what happened is that the avenues that other groups like the Irish and the Jews used to better their economic circumstance have been systematically closed to native born American blacks. Employment of blacks in both the public and private sectors is lower relative to their numbers in the general population than it is for whites.

A case in point is the agricultural sector. Forty years ago the orange pickers, peach pickers, and other agricultural workers in the Southeast were overwhelmingly black. Through a combination of self-interest and anti-black racism those workers today are overwhelmingly from Mexico and Central America. What happened is that when they attempted to organize for better wages black agricultural workers were replaced practically overnight by Mexican and Central American workers, mostly illegal. I don’t believe it’s due to black laziness. I think that’s a canard. I think it was a combination of the wages, the organization, and racism.

Even within the black community native born American blacks haven’t prospered as they should have. It’s completely anecdotal but 40 years ago my mom had the thankless job of being responsible for what was euphemistically called “staff balancing” for the St. Louis public school system. She noticed at the time that black teachers and administrators were disproportionately African and Caribbean. She attributed it to their accents. In other words the bigotry is not just due to the color of their skins but against Standard Black English and the affect that accompanies it. Rationalize that how you will but it’s bigotry nonetheless.

1 comment… add one
  • Guarneri

    Just because the issue isn’t black laziness doesn’t mean it’s racism. Many people suffer predjudice.

    I like the chances of a black Harvard MBA student better than a University of Florida Irishman or Vanderbilt Baptist when it comes to an associates position at Citibank. And I bet the same ethnic and religious backgrounds studying biomedical engineering at Purdue, Georgia Tech or Cornell all have similar chances.

    I fear that as long as victimhood is offered up so casually and is therefore perpetuated that blacks will continue to lag. It sure hasn’t been a productive strategy so far.

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