Since the 1960s, black leaders have placed a heavy emphasis on gaining political power, and Barack Obama’s presidency represented the apex of those efforts. The assumption — rarely challenged — is that black political clout must come before black social and economic advancement. But as Jason L. Riley argues in this excerpt from his new book, “False Black Power” (Templeton Press), political success has not been a major factor in the rise of racial and ethnic groups from poverty to prosperity.
..... 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.
In a 1991 book, social scientist Gary Orfield and his co-author, journalist Carole Ashkinaze, assessed the progress of blacks in the 1970s and ’80s following the sharp increase in black officeholders. The thinking, then and now, was that the problems of the cities “were basically the result of the racism of white officials and that many could be solved by black mayors, school superintendents, policemen and teachers who were displacing white ones.” The expectation, they added, “was that black political and education leaders would be able to make large moves toward racial equity simply by devising policies and practices reflecting their understanding of the background and needs of black people.”
But the integration of these institutions proved to be insufficient. “Many blacks have reached positions of local power, such as mayor, county commission chairman or superintendent of schools, positions undreamed of 30 years ago,” they wrote. Their findings, however, showed that “these achievements do not necessarily produce success for blacks as a whole.”.......