The State Against Blacks, Jason Riley

The State Against Blacks, Jason Riley


– Good evening and welcome to the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum. My name is Michael Grouskay and I’m one of the Ath Fellows this year. In any government, one of the major challenges that policy makers face is translating their intentions into outcomes. The political process is influenced by so many different factors that outcomes rarely match expectations precisely, and in come cases, policies may actually worsen the initial problem that they have been implemented to address. For the last several decades, well-intentioned policy makers have sought to use legislation to address the overt and institutionalized racism that continues to exist within the United States. The position of tonight’s speaker, Jason Riley, is that in many cases, these policies have actually done more harm than good, widening racial disparities in income education and employment. Jason Riley is the Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He joined The Wall Street Journal in 1994 and he was named a senior editorial writer in 2000 and a member of the Editorial Board in 2005. Mr. Riley writes pieces on a wide range of issues including politics, economics, education, immigration, and race. He is a frequent public speaker and a long time commentator for Fox News. He is also the author of Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders which are used for a more free market oriented US immigration policy, and Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed, which discusses the track record of government efforts to help the black community. Mr. Riley holds a BA in English from the State University of New York Buffalo. Mr. Riley’s athenaeum talk is cosponsored by the Rose Institute for State and Local Government. As always, audio and visual recording is prohibited. Please join me in welcoming Jason Riley to the athenaeum. (audience applauds) – Thank you for that introduction. I wanna thank all of you for being here this evening. I don’t take these speaking invitations for granted anymore, I don’t think you can in the environment we have today, unfortunately. People are torching the Berkeley Campus to shut people up. They don’t wanna debate you, they wanna muzzle you. The University of Wisconsin demands for a free tuition for black students. So now I know where my kids will be attending. (audience laughing) At the University of Michigan, they want no whites allowed in safe spaces. Talk about an idea coming full circle. I guess the southern segregations weren’t wrong, they were just ahead of their time. Last year, students, faculty, and administrators signed a petition at the University of Virginia objecting to the president of the school quoting Thomas Jefferson. The University of Virginia. They said that since Jefferson was a slave owner, it was inappropriate for the president of the school to be quoting him in a letter to campus. Thomas Jefferson of course founded the University of Virginia. That’s just the beginning of the ridiculousness. Apparently the students who signed the petition have no problem attending a school founded by a slave owner. The faculty and administrators who signed the petition have no problem collecting a paycheck from an institution founded by a slave owner, so long as no one ever mentions his name. These are the same people who regularly complain that we are not post-racial yet. Gee, I wonder why, what could be holding things up? As I said, I’m very grateful that schools like Claremont McKenna, The Rose Institute invite people on campus to offer a different perspective on the issues of the day. I think it’s needed more than ever. My goal of course is not to convince students to see things the way I do, it’s to offer them a different perspective, one that they may not encounter or encounter very often on campuses today. They can of course make up their own minds on their own once they hear these different views. As some of you may know, the University of Chicago sent out a letter to incoming freshmen that reads in part, “Our commitment to academic freedom “means we do not support so-called trigger warnings, “we do not cancel invited speakers “because their topics might prove controversial. “We do not condone the creation of intellectual safe spaces “where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives “at odds with their own.” I know this is not the University of Chicago, but for the next few minutes I’m going to pretend that it is, don’t mind. The Obama presidency of course recently ended, so I thought I’d spend a few minutes this evening talking about the legacy of the first black president with respect to race relations in the plate of black American, the black underclass in particular. A New York Times poll taken over the summer found that about 70% of the country says race relations are bad and 60% said they’re getting worse. That was before the great uniter, Donald Trump was elected so perhaps those numbers are no longer valid. But kidding aside, we can show empirically that blacks have not fared very well in the Obama era. Whether the measure’s poverty rate, labor participation rate, incomes, home ownership, or other traditional metrics. Things have by enlarge going south for blacks over the past eight years. In some cases, they’ve worsened relative to whites. In other cases, they’ve worsened in absolute terms. This wasn’t suppose to happen. Black political success was supposed to be down to the black masses. That’s what the civil rights leadership has been saying for more than 50 years now. Elect more black officials and socioeconomic progress will follow for blacks. Each year this country marks the birthday of Martin Luther King. Many consider King’s most significant achievement the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The ’64 Civil Rights Act had outlaw discrimination based on race or gender, religion, and giving blacks access to schools and public facilities but access to the ballot, access to the voting booth was still of course a challenge for blacks particularly in the south. After the Civil Rights Acts was passed, King pressed for a Voting Rights Act too. In 1965, President Johnson signed it into law. It’s been a remarkable success in many, many respects. In 1964, the year before the Voting Rights Act was passed, just 7% of blacks in the state of Mississippi we’re registered to vote, which is the lowest percentage of anywhere in the south. But by 1966, just one year after the Voting Rights Act passed, black voter registration rate in Mississippi had climbed to 60%, the highest in the south. Mississippi wasn’t alone. In Georgia, it went from 19% to 51% over the same period. In fact, in every southern state, the gains were striking. Today in the south, where most blacks still live, the voting rate for blacks is higher than it is in other parts of the country. In fact in 2012, the percentage of blacks who voted was higher than the percentage of whites who voted in this country for the first time in our history. That’s how significant the Voting Rights Act has been. Along with the Civil Rights Act that represents the culmination of the Civil Rights Movement, civil rights strategy. But the issue for this discussion is what has happened in the wake of these civil rights victories and political victories that was supposed to lead to greater economic prosperity for the black poor, what’s risen from the ruins of Jim Crow, so to speak in terms of policies aimed at blacks in general in the black underclass in particular. Whereas there’d been progress, whereas there’d been retrogression, what’s working, what’s not working, how much of what’s not working can we attribute to racism today? It’s a good time to ask those questions because in addition to the Obama presidency, it’s now been more than 50 years since Lyndon Johnson’s launch of the Great Society which of course was also supposed to tackle poverty and reduce racial inequality in America. Just before signing that Voting Rights Act, Johnson gave his famous speech to the historically black college in Washington DC, Howard University where he talked about what the government should do next on behalf of blacks. He said that freedom to vote and hold a job, attend a school, enter a public space and so forth was not enough. He said the next and more profound stage in the battle for civil rights was to ensure equal results. He sort of moved the goal post from equal opportunity, now he wanted equal outcomes as the measure of success. But what if there are limits to what politicians and the government can do beyond removing barriers to freedom? What if the best we can hope for from our elected officials are policies that promote a level playing field? What if policy makers risk creating more problems, more barriers to progress when the focus is on equal outcomes? I think there are limits even when the policies are well intentioned. I think the past half century provides lots of evidence for that. For more than 50 years, the political often particular has pushed for more government assistance for blacks. The racial preferences, enforced integration, and expanded welfare entitlements, and so forth. Black leaders have championed racial solidarity and of course prioritized the pursuit of political power for blacks. By the early 1980s, major US cities with large black populations, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia had all elected black mayors. In fact, between 1970 and 2010, the number of black elected officials grew from fewer than 1,500 to more than 10,000 in this country, including of course a black president. But how has this helped the black underclass? Mississippi has long boasted more black elected officials than any other state, yet it also continues to have one of the highest black poverty rates in the nation. Over the past half century, the US has spent some $20 trillion, $20 trillion after inflation on anti-poverty programs alone. But what do we have to show for it? The official poverty rate in recent years has been right around where it was in the mid 1960s when the war on poverty began. The black-white poverty gap has actually widened over the past decade. The racial disparity and incarceration rates is also larger today than it was in 1960. Black unemployment, on average, has been twice as high as white unemployment for more than five decades now. Now yes, gains have been made. Of course, large gains have been made over the decades. Unbalanced blacks are certainly, certainly better off than they were a half century ago in this country. But the track record regarding the black poor is appalling. It’s clear that these government programs aren’t the solution for many of the problems that they face. It’s clear that the great society programs may have been well-intentioned but aren’t getting the job done, and the question of course is why? The short answer, judging from history, is that blacks ultimately must help themselves. Must develop the same attitudes and habits and behaviors that other groups have developed in order to rise in America. Develop what economist refer to as human capital. To the extent that a government policy, however well-intentioned, interferes with this necessary self development, it does more harm than good. Open-ended welfare benefits do not help people develop a work ethic, which is ultimately what they’ll have to develop in order to rise out of poverty and stay out of poverty. Increasing the minimum wage will increase the cost of hiring younger less experienced workers. Many of whom are black. And so fewer blacks will wind up getting that first job in the experience that comes along with it. Soft on crime laws will make ghettos more dangerous for the mostly law abiding residents who live there and will make life easier for the criminals who primarily prey on the black poor, and so on. Yet all of these policies continue to be pushed in the name of helping blacks. The promoters of such policies don’t seem particularly interested in reevaluating some basic assumptions that they’ve made. I think it’s also important to note the progress that was occurring among blacks prior to the implementation of many of these policies that were designed to help, programs that often receive all of the credit for any progress that we have seen. For example, between 1940 and 1960, black poverty in the US fell by 40 percentage points. This is before the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were passed. This is during Jim Crow. A period of open, rampant, and legal discrimination in this country. Poverty continued to fall after the Great Society programs were implemented in the 1960s but at a much slower rate. At best, the Great Society continued a trend already in place. The reality is that no Great Society has ever, no Great Society program, I should say, has ever come close to matching the reduction in poverty that we saw prior to the Great Society. The notion that black self help is more effective than government help is not based on some right wing extremist ideology, it’s based on the historical record. History shows repeatedly that there simply is no substitute for a group’s self development. History also shows the government programs cannot save blacks and that an overdependence on them can do a tremendous amount of harm in the long run. Racial preference policies also receive lots of credit for benefiting blacks by increasing the size of the black middle class. But is that credit warranted? History shows that between 1930 and 1970, the percentage of black white collar workers quadrupled in the US. Between 1950 and 1960 in New York City alone, the number of black accountants increased by 220%, the number of black engineers grew by 134%, black teachers grew by 125%, physicians and lawyers grew by more than 50%. In 1950, blacks were 10% of the nursing profession. But they were 57% of the people who joined that profession over the next decade. In other words, during a period when you could still put a whites-only sign in your window, blacks were entering the skilled professions at unprecedented rates that have never since replicated. Yes, blacks continued to enter the white collar professions in the wake of racial preferences, but again, this simply continued an existing trend. There was a substantial black middle class already in existence by the end of the 1960s in this country. It’s continued to grow since then but at a much slower rate. As with black poverty reduction, no affirmative action program has ever come close to matching what blacks were doing on their own prior to the implementation of the program. More importantly, racial preferences have not helped the poor as proponents said they would. Instead, they worked mostly to help already well-off blacks become better off. There had been case studies in places like Atlanta in 1970s and ’80s, for example, where under black mayors the city implemented racial preference policies from hiring black city workers and contractors. What happened? The number of successful black businesses increased, but averaged income blacks were left behind. The black poor actually lost ground. That’s been the story of the black poor not only in Atlanta but nationwide. In the era of affirmative action, the black underclass has lost ground both in absolute terms and relative to the white underclass. In the 1970s and ’80s and ’90s, so we’re talking about the first full three decades of affirmative action policies, the poorest 20% of blacks saw their incomes decline at more than double the rate of comparable whites. Again, the empirical data show that in an era of increasing black political representation, increasing racial preferences and quotas and set asides put in place to help the black poor, that subset has regressed. Affirmative action in higher education was also supposed to increase the ranks of black professionals. Yet after California banned racial preferences in college admissions, black graduation rates rose, and not by a little bit. Instead of being funneled into schools where they were overmatched but admitted anyway for diversity reasons, black students started doing what white students and Asian students do, they attended schools that better matched their skill level. As a result, more graduated, a lot more. Black graduation rates at the University of California system increased by more than 50% after racial preferences ended. Including in the more difficult disciplines; Math, Science, and Engineering. Turns out that racial preferences which were sold as a way to increase the size of the black middle class had in practice resulted in fewer black doctors and black lawyers and black engineers and black chemists than we would have had in the absence of the policy. But I would also argue that there’s a large cultural component to the racial disparities we see today. Whether we’re talking about employment or education, incarceration, income, or other measures. Unfortunately, it’s become almost taboo to talk about black cultural problems. Antisocial behavior, negative attitudes towards work, school, law enforcement, or parenting. Shortly after I joined The Wall Street Journal back in the mid-1990s, I took a trip back home to Buffalo, New York where I was born and raised. My oldest sister had invited me mover for dinner. I was chatting with her daughter, my niece, who was maybe six or seven years old at that time. Just asking her about school and favorite subjects and that sort of thing, and she stopped me in the middle of a sentence, and said, “Uncle Jason, “why you talk white?” She turned to her little friend who’s sitting next to her and said, “Don’t my uncle sound white? “Why are you trying to sound so smart?” She was just teasing of course and two of them enjoyed a little chuckle at my expense but what she said stayed with me. I couldn’t help thinking, here were two little young black girls, seven or eight years old, already linking speech patterns to intelligence and race. They already had a rather sophisticated awareness that as blacks, white-sounding speech was not only to be avoided in their own speech, but mocked the speech of others. I shouldn’t have been too surprised by this, and I wasn’t. My siblings, along with countless other black friends and relatives tease me the same way when I was growing up. Other black professionals have told similar stories from Barack and Michelle Obama and down, it’s just not that uncommon. What I’d forgotten is just how early these attitudes take hold. How soon this counterproductive thinking and behavior begins. New York City where I’m based has the largest school system in the country. 1.1, 1.2 million kids. Around 70% of the kids in New York City public schools are black or Hispanic and 80% of black kids in New York City public schools, 80%, are performing below grade level. A big part of the problem is a black subculture that rejects attitudes and behaviors that are conducive to academic achievement. Black kids read half as many books and watch twice as much television as their white counterparts. In other words, a big part of the problem is a culture that produces little black girls and boys who are already worried about acting and sounding white by the time they are in the second grade. Another big part of the problem is a reluctance to speak honestly about these cultural shortcomings. Many whites fear being called racist and many black leaders have a vested interest in blaming black problems primarily on white racism, so that is the narrative they push regardless of the reality. Racism has become an all purpose explanation for bad black outcomes. Be they social or economic. If you disagree and are white, you’re a bigot. If you disagree and are black, you’re a sell-out. Too often, this is the level of discourse, school yard name calling. Ad hominem attacks aimed at shutting down any serious debate or discussion. Even Obama was subjected to this treatment when be broached the topic of black cultural shortcomings as president. On several occasions, he spoke to black audiences about absent fathers, for example. When he spoke at Morehouse, a black college in Atlanta, a few years ago, he said, “I was raised by a heroic single mother “and wonderful grandparents “who made incredible sacrifices for me, “but I still wish I had a father “who is not only present but involved. “And so my whole life, I’ve tried to be, “for Michelle and my girls, “what my father wasn’t for my mother and me. “I’ve tried to be a better father, a better husband, “a better man.” Obama told the black men in that audience to be good role models for other less fortunate men. He said, “We need to be in the barbershops with them, “at church with them, helping to pull them up, “exposing them to new opportunities. “We have to teach them what it means to be a man.” That might sound like common sense to a lot of people here, but Obama got slammed when he said that in public by liberals, and by black liberals in particular. He got his head handed to him. He was accused of being overly critical of blacks, of condescending to them, of being an elitist. Most significantly, he was accused of letting whites off the hook. But the facts are on Obama’s side. For decades, studies have shown that the likelihood of teen pregnancy, drug abuse, dropping out of school, and many other bad social outcomes increased dramatically when fathers aren’t around. One of the most comprehensive studies ever done about this concluded that black boys without a father were almost 70% more likely to be incarcerated than those with the father around. One social scientist put it this way. He said, “If crime is to a significant degree “caused by weak character, “if weak character is more likely “among children of unmarried mothers, “if there are no fathers who will help raise their children, “acquire jobs, protect their neighborhoods, “if boys become young men with no preparation for work, “if school achievement is regarded as a sign “of having sold out, “if all these things are true, “then the chances of reducing the crime rate “among low income blacks anytime soon is slim.” This is what we see playing out today in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Brooklyn, Saint Louis. We are not supposed to say that. It’s politically incorrect. Try to bring up black culture in a debate over antisocial behavior today. Try bringing up the breakdown of the black family in a discussion about crime. In fact, we don’t really even talk about crime anymore. We talk about black incarceration rates. As if the two are completely unrelated. We talk about police shootings of black men as a measure of whether America values black lives or whether cops value black lives. We’ve had people all over the country insisting there’s an epidemic of cops shooting blacks, and the media has played right along. There’s no complete national database on police shootings. Some police departments report more extensive data than others. And perhaps some uniform system should be put in place as soon as possible. But the data that we do have show that in a typical year, the police are involved in approximately 2% to 3% of black shooting deaths in this country. One economist has calculated that a cop is about six time as likely to be shot by someone black as the opposite scenario. In the first six months of 2016, there are about 2,100 shootings in Chicago. Of those 2,100, just nine people were shot by cops. Over the course of the entire year, there were more than 4,300 shootings in Chicago. Almost all of the shooting victims are black, and more than 99% of the shootings were carried out by civilians, not cops. Obviously, young black men in Chicago don’t roam the streets in fear of getting shot by the police. In New York, which has the nation’s largest population and largest police force, the city has kept records on police shootings since 1971, more than four decades. That year, 1971, police shot 314 people, 93 of them fatally. Two decades later in 1991, the number of police shootings had fallen to 108 with 27 fatalities. By 2015, which is the most recent data we have, the number of people shot by New York city cops had fallen to 23 with eight fatalities. So we’re talking about a reduction in police shootings of more than 90% over the past 4 1/2 decades in the nation’s largest city, the largest police force. And the story is similar in other major cities. Police shootings have fallen dramatically in the recent decades. Police are less likely today to use their weapons. The idea that trigger-happy cops are gunning down black men is a myth. People make mistakes, police make mistakes. Tamir Rice is a perfect example of this, a 12-year old kid playing with a toy gun shot dead by cops who mistook it for the real thing. But he’s the exception, not the rule. The attempts to exploit true tragedies like this are unfortunate. The media want us to believe that the main problem in our inner cities is policing. This is nonsense. The sad reality is that blacks are about 13% of the population of this country but commit more than half of all murders. Roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered each year, and 90% of them are killed by their peers. There’s the tragedy. There’s the epidemic. That’s the outrage. The question isn’t whether cops value black lives or America values black lives. Isn’t the more relevant question whether the young black men doing all these killing value black lives? In New York, which is one of the safer big cities, blacks are about 23% of the population but commit 75% of all shootings and 70% of all robberies. Whites are 34% of New York city’s population, but commit less than 2% of the shootings and 4% of the robberies. This isn’t a New York phenomena. You’ll find similar numbers in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and other large cities. Black men are six times more likely to die as a result of being murdered and seven times more likely to commit murder than their white counterparts. In fact homicide, homicide, is the leading cause of death for young black men in America. And it’s not because cops are shooting them. Bad cops should be punished. And I think groups like Black Lives Matter are performing a public service when they call attention to police misconduct. The problem is their overemphasis on cops. If you believe that black lives matter, if you want to reduce that black body count, should your focus be on the 2% of black shooting deaths that involve cops or the 98% that don’t? You can’t talk about police behavior in these communities without talking about the behavior of the residents of these communities. The activist wanna talk about cops to avoid talking about crime rates. However on some level, the policing on these neighborhoods in an effect, it’s not a cause. We can’t pretend that there aren’t legitimate reasons why black ghettos attract police attention. Cops are there because that’s where the 911 calls originate. Intentions between police in these communities can be expected to continue so long as these high crime rates continue. The violence that is so prevalent in these neighborhoods has enormous economic consequences. The common assumption is the poverty causes crime. But the truth is closer to the reverse of that. Businesses flee crime-ridden neighborhoods, jobs follow, property values fall. One reason the blacks are progressing in a much faster rate in the first half of the 20th Century when black political power was minimal and racism was legal and widespread is that black communities were much less violent back then. The violence so prevalent today dates to the policies, interventions of the 1960s when we started going easier on criminals. Thanks in part to a former governor of the state. And a rapidly growing welfare state began subsidizing irresponsible behavior. Before 1960, two out of three black children were raised on a two-parent family. Today, more than 70% are not. In some of our inner cities, it’s as high as 80% or 90%. Before 1960, homicide rates in the US, including among blacks have been falling significantly in this country. In fact, the murder rate in 1960 was less than half of what it had been 25 years earlier. Blacks obviously face more racism back then but black communities are also much safer and less more conducive to social and economic progress, and that’s what we saw. This concept of self help and self development that I think is so essential to black achievement is something that black leaders once understood very well in this country and at a time when blacks faced infinitely more obstacles than they faced with a twice elected black male on the Oval Office. Frederick Douglas, a former slave, said in 1865 that everyone had asked him and the other abolitionist what to do with the negro. He said, “Do nothing with us.” He said, “If the apples would not remain on the tree “of their own strength, let them fall. “And if the negro cannot stand on his own legs, “let him fall also.” He said, “All I ask is give them a chance “to stand on its own two legs.” Douglas was essentially saying give blacks equal opportunity and then leave us alone. Booker T. Washington, another former slave, echoed that sentiment. He said it is important that all privileges of the law be accorded to blacks. But that it was vastly more important that blacks be prepared to exercise these privileges once they had them. Douglas and Washington didn’t play down the need for the government to secure equal rights for blacks and both were optimistic. The blacks would get equal rights even if neither man lived to see that day. But both men also understood the limits of government benevolence. Blacks would have to ready themselves for the far bigger challenge of being in a position to take advantage of opportunities once equal rights have been secured. The Obama presidency was more evidence the blacks have indeed progressed politically but if the rise of other racial ethnic groups is any indication, black social and economic progress or black social and economic problems, I should say, are less about politics than they are about culture. A black man in the White House is all well and good but he is no substitute for one in the home. I’ll stop there and take any questions if you have any. Thank you. (audience applauds) Can I get water? – We’ll now have time for questions and answers. If you’d like to ask your question, please raise your hand, and Sarah or I will come to you. – [Audience Member] Hi, thank you for coming. Let me preface this by saying that I haven’t had the time to read your book but when I read the title, Stop Trying to Help Us, I thought you were trying to provide an alternative solution to a problem. When I asked you about extraordinarily steep incarceration rates in our country, you asked, why do you care about criminals? Shouldn’t we be thinking about their victims? It is unclear to me-
– No, I didn’t say that. – [Audience Member] You said that here. – I didn’t say that. I can respond to things that I’ve said. I can’t respond to things I haven’t said. – [Audience Member] I’ll ask my question. Along with this point, do you think that anything should be done to address the possible reasons for why we have a disproportionate number of racial minorities in our prison systems? – Should anything be done? – [Audience Member] Should we do anything to address the reasons for why we have this problem?
– Yes. I think that this will, this gets back to a group’s self development. I think it’s about examining for example what was going on in the first half of the 20th Century when you did not have these violent crime rates, you did not have the high incarceration rates that you have today. This isn’t reinventing a wheel, it’s about getting back to what was working before. And specifically removing the barriers that have been put in place since that time that I think are mostly responsible for the outcomes we see today. I think there are things that could be done policy-wise but it’s not about a new government program that’s come on and save the day. It’s about removing some of the barriers that have been put in place. I think a good example is just education. Our jails and prisons are not teeming with college graduates or even high school graduates. You have a K-12 public system in this country that keeps kids, black kids in particular, trapped in the worst schools. Stop doing that. Stop assigning kids to schools based on their zip code. Give them access to better education. I think that would go a long way towards addressing incarceration rates. – [Audience Member] Hi. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. My first question to you just because it was something that evoked in your talk, do I sound white to you? Like if you were to answer the phone and I were to pick up the phone, do I sound like a white person to you because you seem to give like this personal anecdote about your niece and about how she was questioning whether or not you sounded white. – I don’t make any assumptions about the color of the person I’m speaking to on the phone. – [Audience Member] Well, I’m wondering if maybe you could put-
– People make assumptions about me but I don’t do do that.
– Maybe if you’re gonna put yourself in her shoes and if I were to be on the other side of the phone with her, do you think that she would assume that I sound white to her? – I don’t know. – [Audience Member] My second question is, it seems like you succumb to a logical fallacy that is frequently brought up in statistical analysis where causation does not necessarily lead to correlation so you present a lot of statistics about crime rates in Chicago, incarceration rates among blacks, and you seem to present these statistics as a way of invoking a correlation between the state in which black people in this country are treated and/or acting with a causation that they have these higher rates of incarceration, higher rates of homicidal behavior. And so, I’m wondering if you can address that logical fallacy that seems to be presented. In the most basic statistical analysis, it seems like you have to step back and sort of talk about whether or not there is a direct relation between causation and correlation specifically when you’re talking about the historical narrative of this specific people in this country. Sorry, this is a very, this is like a five-pronged question. (laughs) The third part would be there’s a psycho- – Just hold on, hold on. I think other people wanna ask questions. I wanna make sure I understand your question correctly. You’re saying that black incarceration rates are not related to black crime rates and that assuming they are
– No, incorrect. – is a logical fallacy? – [Audience Member] No, I’m saying just because there are statistics out there that would present a narrative that is applicable or convenient. So for example, I’m writing a thesis right now about immigrants coming to this country and whether or not humans have a human right to immigrate to certain countries depending on different dependent factors. It would be very convenient for me to site statistics that would say that people coming into this country are more likely to perform, from Muslim countries are more likely to perform acts of terrorism. That would be something that would be very convenient to my research and would be very convenient to my argument whether or not I decide to argue for letting certain types of people from certain religions in or not to this country. But it seems like there would be some disconnect in terms of the causation versus correlation argument and something missing in that correlation between the statistical data and actually what is happening. It seems like you are equating whiteness and white people to being human human. – No, you’re doing that. – [Audience Member] Well, actually … – I wouldn’t do that. – [Audience Member] I have a quote from your talk that you just said that you seem to equate human-
– You start sentences with you seem, quote me. – [Audience Member] All right. I would actually, I’d just rather directly ask your opinion because it seems as though you are saying that by prescribing to some liberal ideology in which blacks are victims in certain situations or blacks succumb to some self victimization that they are not prescribing to something that will allow them to rise up out of the current position that they find themselves in. Is that correct? – No, that’s not correct. I think you’ve misunderstood a lot of what I said, but I think we should give someone else a chance to ask a question, okay? – [Audience Member] Okay. – [Audience Member] Thank you so much for coming. Is it on? Okay, there we go. Thank you for coming. You stated that blacks make up 13% of the American population. – I’m sorry, could you start again? – [Audience Member] You said that the African-American population in America is 13%, 13% of the American population is African-American, and with that statistic in mind, 28% of the people shot by police in America are black and 40% of the incarcerated population in American is black. Is this obvious discrepancy in these numbers not putting the show that mass incarceration and institutionalized racism that propagate the issues of poverty and subjugation in black community are not alive and well in America? – Well, you’re starting with the assumption that but for something nefarious going on, we would have racial parity and outcomes. I would challenge that premise. Prisons are also disproportionately full of men. Does that mean the system is sexist? Or does it mean different groups of people behave in different ways and therefore experience different outcomes? We don’t get racial parity in outcomes, anywhere we look in society, not in America, not outside of America, not today, not in the past. When we start with the premise that we should have racial parity in outcomes, particularly in a country as pluralistic as ours, we’re really setting ourselves up, we’re really kidding ourselves. That’s not to say we shouldn’t shoot for the best outcomes possible, but the idea that where we don’t see racially proportionate or ethnically proportionate or gender proportionate outcomes, something is necessarily wrong. I think that’s something I would take issue with, which seems to be the basis of your question. – [Audience Member] Hello. I was just wondering how do you, so you sort of speak about the Civil Rights Movement and sort of the political gains that were made during that time and how they didn’t exactly lead to what a lot of people said they were going to lead to. One of your big things in this speech is that black individuals should take the opportunities they do have and use them to further themselves that exist. I was wondering, how do think sort of, there was a Federal Housing Act which allowed many American individuals to get houses after World War II, but how do you think things like redlining where black individuals were denied buying certain houses that they wanted to in certain neighborhoods and sort of things like initial reaction even after Brown v Board of Education where even ones the federal government said you have to integrate there were still communities that refused to. How do you think all of these things played into complicating the idea that like black individuals should just take the opportunities that were given to them? Essentially, how do you think those opportunities were affected by these initial racist things that happened.
– Let’s take those two example, housing and education. A lot of people aren’t aware of this today but if you go back to the first half of the 20th Century, the early part of the 20th Century, the 1910s, the 1920s, and you look at residential housing patterns in America, you will find a tremendous amount of integration. Much more than you found say 30 years in by the 1950s and ’60s. In other words, after slavery, after reconstruction, attitudes were changing in this country going in to the 1900s. Particularly when it came to race relations. If you look at the residential housing patterns back then, you could see that where the trendlines were moving. It wasn’t government intervention that led to the redlining you’re talking about. The government then tried to correct its mistake through Great Society programs like their Housing Act of 1968. That was a problem it created. I have no problem for Housing Act of 1968. The issue is again a well meaning policy that has done more harm than good in terms of what the government has tried to do to help blacks. Whether it was what it was trying to do in the middle part of the 20th Century or what it tried to do to subsequently help blacks to correct its own mistake. And so what you have going on to this day are housing officials in Washington DC still trying to deal with this residential housing pattern and then get the right mix, the mix that they want. They see a white suburb and they go, “Oh, we need to sprinkle some blacks over here “and we need to sprinkle some people over here “and some poor people over here “and some rich people over here.” Essentially for aesthetic reasons. If you ask blacks, if polls going back decades, if you ask blacks, a majority will tell you they wanna live in a majority of black neighborhood. That’s not what the housing officials in Washington want but that’s what black people want. In terms of … Just to finish the housing point, where we’ve seen the most contention in terms of housing patterns is when the government tries to shoehorn people into neighborhoods where they otherwise can’t afford to live. In other words, the housing officials today are calling for changes not because they have some stack of folders, of complaints of people trying to move into a neighborhood and no one selling them a house. That’s not what they’re facing. They simply want a color coded neighborhood in this suburban neighborhood or this suburban community or even in this inner city community. That’s what they’re going for. They want a racial mix and it is largely for aesthetic reasons. Where they don’t see that, they assume something is wrong and then they go about trying to fix it. My issue is how with they go about trying to fix it and whether they’re creating more problems than they had before. Whether they’re making the situation worse. As I said, the problem seem to occur, particularly with regard to racial conflict is when you try and enforce people into communities through government subsidies in the communities they otherwise can’t afford to live in. That’s when you get the conflict. A lot of housing policy today and housing policy in the past eight years was moving in that direction, and that’s worrisome. In terms of education, I don’t have a problem with the Brown v Board decision. I do have a problem with the notion that we should be focused on segregated classrooms, that that should be a chief focus versus say quality schools or quality teacher. The idea that black kids needed to sit next to white kids in order to learn, I find objectionable and I don’t think it’s necessary. I’m much more interested in the school being high quality than whether my child’s classmate is white. There are then high quality all-black schools going back to the Civil War era. Black kids don’t need to be sitting next to white kids in order to learn. All black quality schools preceded Brown and they continue to exist post Brown. Some of the best schools in New York State where I am are highly segregated. They’re high performing charter schools. In the South Bronx and Harlem, tough parts of Brooklyn, where they are needed and the idea that you would shut down those schools or do anything to stop those schools from scaling up because you’re too worried about the racial mix, I find very troublesome. Those schools are producing excellent results for kids. The racial makeup of the classroom is not holding anyone back. – [Audience Member] Hi. I enjoyed your talk but I just have a question about you talking about black progression after the ’60s. I’m just wondering where does the war on drugs fit into this conversation? – Yes. That’s a question I get a lot and I’m glad you asked it. I’m fairly agnostic about the war on drugs. I think there are good arguments we made for ending it. Economic arguments to be made, libertarian arguments to be made. I don’t think the people who wanna end it however are going to get the result they’re looking for in terms of addressing racial imbalances in prison. In other words, I think they’re barking up the wrong tree because what is driving incarceration rates, the black incarceration rates in particular are not drug offenses, they’re violent offenses. I was told earlier that one of my colleagues, Heather McDonald at Manhattan Institute is gonna be speaking here, I would highly recommend you come hear her and ask her about the war on drugs as well because she’s done a ton of research on this. But in a nutshell, blacks are about 13% of the population. They’re about 37% of the incarcerated population of the US. I’m talking about state and local prisons which incarcerate about 90% of inmates in the US. There’s a federal system as well and that’s a separate discussion. But 90% of people in jail in this country are in state local prisons. In that prison system, black’s about 37% of the population. If you could snap your fingers and send home everyone in that system, black, white, whatever, who’s there for drug offense, blacks would still be right about 37% of the prison population. It’s because drug offenses are not driving the black incarceration rate but violent offenses are driving the black incarceration. If you want to do something about all the black and brown men in prison, you need to do something about violent crime. That is what is driving that incarceration rate. – [Audience Member] I was actually talking about the past war on drugs, like the historical implications in the ’70s that carry on ’til now. Do you think there are some systemic racial injustices and patterns that were established through that? – The problem I have with the racist war on drugs angle is you need to go back and look at who is pushing for this war on drugs at that time, and whether you’re talking about the racial disparity in crack and powder sentencing that we saw in the ’80s during the crack epidemic. The people who led that fight was the Congressional Black Caucus. Black leaders in Congress. Charles Rangel, Major Owens, people from Harlem and Brooklyn and the Bronx, neighborhoods that were being devastated by this new drug. They led the fight to change sentencing guidelines to what we have today or to what we had until Obama adjusted them a few years ago. It was black officials who led this fight from Congress on down. So the idea that you can turn around all these decades later and go racist put this in places is not consistent with the historical record. The same is true of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. In the ’70s, you had black leaders, community leaders, state leaders in New York going to the governor and saying, at that time then it was heroine, devastating our community, do something about it. Get these dealers out. Tougher sentencing. More treatment, whatever. But again, it was black officials leading the fight. This idea that this was driven by racism or racists is not consistent with the historical record frankly. – [Audience Member] Thank you for coming to speak. I recently listened to one of your interviews where you spoke about the liberal approach to black issues, and I think that conversations like these are more importantly held between black people rather than liberals and conservatives, so I think your viewpoint is important. I hope you feel welcome here but I also hope you feel challenged by my peers and I hope that you don’t think we’re gonna write you out of here but rather defeat you by our reasoning. I thought one point you made was that the difference of representation of men in prison was an example of why we should expect differences in groups to perform differently in society but I think the biological differences between men and women are not found among racial groups so I thought that analogy was weak. A question that I have for you is do you think that there is a cultural inferiority or do you think that black Americans have weak character as you seem to allude to but you never fully stated in your speech. – No, I didn’t say black Americans have weak character. – [Audience Member] No, no, no, I know. You didn’t say that but you alluded to families that don’t have traditional parent structures as sort of developing weak characters, did you not? – I quoted a social science study
– Sure, sure. – that I read from the quote. But those are not my words. I was quoting by the way James Q. Wilson. A pretty well-regarded social scientist. Go ahead. – [Audience Member] Do you believe that or you don’t believe that, correct? – Believe that? – [Audience Member] Black Americans have weak character or are culturally inferior. – No. – [Audience Member] So how would you explain otherwise the disparities and inequalities that have affected black Americans whether it comes to the war on drugs that have singularly and effectively disenfranchised black communities or education systems that have disenfranchised black Americans. How would you explain that otherwise besides a failure of government systems and societies that are meant to propel these communities equally. – I think groups have different starting points. I think that given where blacks started from coming out of slavery, the progress they were making, it was steady progress that was going on. I think that the interventions of the 1960s interfered with that progress and-
– Government interventions. – What’s that? – [Audience Member] They were government interventions. – Yes, the government policies. I think they were well-intentioned but they interfered with the self development that was going on. I don’t think that those policies can really substitute for the self development that has to take place. Changes in attitudes and habits and behaviors, the human capital I was talking about, all groups develop this. All groups develop it over time and I don’t think blacks are any different. What blacks have been subjected to however is a welfare state intervention that I think has done the more harm than good in the long run in terms of becoming, in terms of developing more of that human capital. – [Audience Member] Thank you. – In terms of the … You can sit. I was gonna say the point about different groups behaving different ways is something you see just not only throughout society but throughout history. You don’t see racial parity or ethnic parity in outcomes. It’s not what you see. You could go back to Czarist Russia where 90% of the population was illiterate but most Jews had books in their homes. Something was going on in Jewish culture there. It didn’t matter what was going on in the surrounding society because their culture was going to drive them to be literate even if they were surrounded by illiterates. When they left Czarist Russia and moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and you put them down in a classroom next to say Italian kids and Irish kids and put one teacher up in front of them. And you said, okay, well they’re on the same classroom, we should be seeing equal outcomes here. These Italian kids came from a country where when compulsory schooling rules were put in place, schools were burned down because the parents, the families wanted the kids home working in the farm, not going to school. Those kids in Lower East Side of Manhattan might have been sitting in the same classroom, they’re in the same age, even been in America for the same time, but the idea that we were gonna expect different outcomes or the same outcomes, I should say, was preposterous, and of course that’s not what we got. Now over time, the Irish kids and the Italian kids would catch up at different rates. But it took time, they developed the human capital that was necessary rise in our society. Recently, I just got an email from the Census Bureau talking about St. Patrick’s Day coming up and how, stats, demographic statistics on Irish Americans. Irish Americans came here in middle of the 1800s. Many fleeing the potato famine. Poor. Rural. Illiterate. Settled in cities in America. Boston, New York, Philadelphia. Did very well politically. Within a few decades had political machines running in these towns. But had not done the cultural development. Had not done … And so, it wasn’t really until the decline of these political machines that you saw the rise of the Irish middle class. It was slower than most. It was slower than most every other group that came from Europe. Today however, Irish Americans have higher incomes, higher levels of educational attainment, higher representation in the skilled professions than the average American. Different groups rise at different levels. They don’t all rise the same. The idea that we would expect them to again is just bellied by decades and centuries of human history both here in the US and in other countries. Again, you start with the premise that if we don’t see parity in outcomes, something must be wrong. You give a firefighter test and the passage rates are different for blacks or whites or Asians, oh, must be something wrong with the test. Must be racist test. Must be a bias test. That’s an assumption we’re making that maybe we shouldn’t be making. – [Audience Member] Thank you for your talk. You were just talking about human capital and it seems like you’re making the argument that government programs specifically those you mentioned associated with the Great Society interfere with this development of human capital. – They can. – [Audience Member] But at the same time specifically mentioning programs like education or the one you mentioned divisively at the start at University of Wisconsin that specifically invest in human capital. So I’m wondering what the point- – Wait, I didn’t catch that. – [Audience Member] At the start, you mentioned the program or the movement at the University of Wisconsin to grant free tuition to African-American students and it seemed like you’re talking about that in negative terms while that specifically
– Yes, I was. – [Audience Member] is an investment human capital. So I was just wondering- – What’s an investment human capital? – [Audience Member] Investing in education since education is a form of human capital. – So you think that black students should have free tuition and not other students? – [Audience Member] I was just mentioning that based upon- – On what basis should that happen? – [Audience Member] I’m not making that argument, I was just mentioning that those two arguments about human capital seemed to be contradictory. My question was, given the legacy of historical discrimination that’s been brought up by many other questioners, do you have any other specific government policies that you believe are better equipped to deal with this government sanction, this disparity in human capital or are you just universally-
– It’s not about a new government policy. The government policies have devastated black people in this country from slavery on down. Why would I want another government policy? I mean, it’s not about another government policy. It’s about reevaluating what has been tried and how we have been trying. I don’t think another government policy is gonna be the magic bullet here. I think the government policies have been the problem. I think the government has interfered with what was occurring on its own and that’s been the problem. I want policy makers to take a more humble approach to their efforts to help. Take a closer look, more self evaluation of what’s been tried, what’s worked, and what hasn’t worked. That’s what I’m asking for, not yet another government policy. (audience member speaks off microphone) What seems to have worked is what was going on prior to these Great Society programs. Again, I mentioned the rate at which blacks were leaving poverty between 1940 to 1960 when the government did not give a damn what was happening to black people. Yet they were climbing out of poverty at unprecedented rates that have never been replicated. They were increasing their years of schooling both in absolute terms and relative to whites at unprecedented rates. They were entering the skilled professions at unprecedented rates before affirmative action came on to help them. Why would I call for more government policies? (audience member speaks off microphone) We can’t go back and reset the … (audience member speaks off microphone) I believe we should return to what was working. (audience member speaks off microphone) I’ll take their indifference over their help given the track record. – [Audience Member] Hi, thank you for coming. My name is Justin. I just wanted to go back real quick to a point that you made that most of the people in prison are in prison due to violent crimes. I just really quickly fact checked you on Department of Justice and I’ve actually got here that the total people in jail, 14% have committed violent crimes, 15% are property crimes, 10% are drug crimes, or sorry, 25% are drug crimes and 15% public order. I just wanted to know in- – What are you reading from? – [Audience Member] Just to challenge the- – What are you reading from? – [Audience Member] The Department of Justice. – For state or for-
– It’s just that your statistics was wrong on the- – No, my statistics are not wrong. – [Audience Member] Okay. I was just wondering, the question was that, informing your- – What is the source of what you just read? Are you talking about federal prison system? – Are you starting-
– Yeah. – Are you talking about the federal prison system? – [Audience Member] Yes. Sorry, I didn’t need to be-
– I started my explanation of this- – [Audience Member] Okay, can I just ask my question real quick?
– No. Let me answer what you just said. – [Audience Member] I haven’t even asked the question yet. – Well, you started with
– I’ve just stated a statement that you were wrong.
– let me answer the speech. You tried to … Let me answer your attempt to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. – [Audience Member] That wasn’t gonna be my, I haven’t even asked the question, I just said a statement. – You said I was wrong. You said I said something wrong. – [Audience Member] But is that a question? – So let me respond to that. – [Audience Member] Okay, go ahead. – There’s a difference between federal prison system which houses about 10% of the country’s incarcerated population and the 90% of that incarcerated population in state and local prisons. My figures applied to the 90% of people are incarcerated in this country. What I said is absolutely correct in terms of the breakdown. The violent crime drives incarceration rate and it’s not even close. Violent crime drives incarceration rates by a long shot. The 2015 data … – [Audience Member] Could I ask my question now? I get your point. – Okay. – [Audience Member] My question was that given all the statistics you’ve given us, how much care or like consideration do you take in other statistics that may say the opposite of what you say? I noticed throughout your talk you said a social worker said this, a sociologist said this, an economist said this. Given the classes we take here, they’re pretty difficult at CMC, I get grilled for not substantiating that claims that I make. – I’m giving a speech, not an academic paper. But if you want to know the source of my data- – [Audience Member] The people who went up on the stage give us sources so we can either find out more about the source or for our own self cite or fact check you, right? – Sure. – [Audience Member] I’m asking you, when you are considering data in making your arguments or speeches or whatever you’re proposing, how much attention do you pay to things that say to the contrary of what you’re trying to prove? – I pay attention to data. It’s a data-based presentation. The data is not cherry-picked. It’s all about the data. One of the reasons I pay such attention to data is because race is an emotional topic and I think that the data brings some sobriety to what you’re saying. I think these discussions can use a little more sobriety and less emotion. I hope the data helps with that. The data is the data. – [Sarah] This will be our last question. – [Audience Member] I’d like to know your response to the fact that there’s a study conducted by the ACLU that said that African Americans and Latinos are two times more likely to have subprime mortgage rates than whites and the fact that an African-American person who makes $200,000 will have the same interest rate on their mortgage as a white person who makes $30,000. It seems like a lack of regulation which a liberal policy for regulation would try and reverse those statistics. – In mortgage lending as in other areas, there’s something known as disparate impact analysis. This is when people see disparities in outcomes, racial, ethnic, gender disparities. They say that’s grounds to sue, grounds to bring suit, grounds to bring action. The government has even used the standard. They employ disparate impact analysis and they’ve done it with mortgage rates so you have a lot of banks settle rather than go to court over this and risk the bad publicity or jury verdict. But you do have to keep in mind and make sure that you’re doing apples to apples comparisons when you do that and whether it’s sentencing or applying for mortgage. It’s not just income, it’s credit history. It’s any number of factors. It’s wealth. How much equity you have. Not just your yearly income. So, all these factors have to be taken into consideration. The same studies that show blacks being denied home loans at greater rates than whites show whites being denied home loans at greater rates than Asians. Are the banks discriminating against whites? The same studies also show black-owned banks denying blacks loans at greater rates than they deny whites loans. Are these self-hating blacks? Or is something else, does something else explain these disparate outcomes? Again, this gets back to this notion that where we don’t see parity in outcomes, we can assume that something dastardly is going on here. That’s a possibility. Obviously, discrimination can lead to higher unemployment or higher rates of denial for bank loan. That is a possibility. And I’m not saying it should be dismissed out of hand. But to automatically assume that’s the reason I think is inappropriate. You have to rule out some other factors and usually you do that by making sure you are doing apples to apples comparisons. Thank you for the question. – [Michael] Unfortunately, that is all the time we have for questions. Thank you to the Salvatore Center and The Rose Institute.
(audience applauding) Mr. Riley’s book is available for sale in the lobby. Thank you.
– Thank you.

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