Recommended for: Every conservative in America especially those that are interested in education.
Up until this year, I had never heard of Jason Riley. I listen to Benjamin Weingarten’s TheBlaze Books podcast (If you are a political and book nerd like me, then you need to be listening to this podcast!), and he had him on as a guest back in July. Weingarten had him on again in mid-August, on that episode they discussed Ferguson, Missouri.
I was incredibly impressed with Riley, and somehow or another, I ended up with an email and an offer to review the book. Time has gotten away from me, and I should have had this review done sooner.
I have always been fascinated at how the left has been able to capitalize and utilize black voters to their advantage. While they get their vote, they continue to promote policies that do nothing but harm black people. Put that in context of the fact that they were the party of slavery and Jim Crow, it is probably the most successful hoodwink in the history of our Republic.
Please Stop Helping Us is short in length, but long in implication and importance. In 175 pages and six short chapters, Riley tears apart the lunacy that is liberal special interest politics. Well-cited, and filled with personal stories to contextualize his topic, Riley presents an engaging read that challenges so many stereotypes and fictions that Americans wrongfully believe.
Riley states in the introduction:
This book examines the track record of the political left’s serial altruism over the past half century. Have popular government policies and programs that are aimed at helping blacks worked as intended? And where the black advancement has occurred, do these government efforts deserve the credit that they so often receive?…In theory these efforts [welfare, minimum wage, affirmative action, soft on crime laws, and a mistaken belief school choice is harmful] are meant to help. In practice they become barriers to moving forward. Please Stop Helping Us lays bare these counterproductive results.
Chapter one, Black Man in the White House, takes a look at the implication of Barack Obama’s election as President in the historical context of black political history.
Chapter two, Culture Matters, is a brave chapter. Riley uses his own personal narrative to approach the issue of black culture. Riley first discusses absentee fathers within the black community. While his mother and father did not remain together, Riley had a father that was present and involved in his life.
“And though they couldn’t save their marriage, my parents were resolved to save their kids. What this meant in practice was that they tried, with mixed results, to minimize the impact of America’s black subculture on their children.”
Riley was the only one of four siblings to escape this culture. Sadly, Riley lost two of his siblings to drugs and his older sister became a single mom.
Riley enjoyed school, and the byproduct of this was that Riley was picked on by other blacks and members of his own family. He tells a story of his nine-year-old niece attacking his proper speech, “Why you talk white, Uncle Jason?” Turning to her friend, she continued, “Don’t my uncle sound white? Why he trying to sound so smart?” Somehow black culture has equated white with being intelligent and learned.
Riley moves on from his personal narrative to a discussion of the impact of black culture on the educational performance of black people. Pulling heavily from educational studies, Riley paints a picture of black culture that is ignorant to the importance of education and destroying itself from the inside out.
“Black cultural attitudes toward work, authority, dress, sex, and violence have also proven counterproductive, inhibiting the development of the kind of human capital that has lead to socioeconomic advancement for other groups…A culture that takes pride in ignorance and mocks learnedness has a dim future.
Black culture today not only condones delinquency and thuggery but celebrates it to the point where black youths have adopted jail fashion in the form of baggy, low-slung pants and oversize T-shirts. Hip-hop music immortalizes drug dealers and murderers.”
Chapter three, The Enemy Within, takes a look at the issues of crime inside of the black community. Riley once again starts out with personal anecdotes about encounters with law enforcement. While frustrating, Riley once again courageously puts the blame on the reality of the situation. In this case, we are referring to high black crime rates. Riley states, “The black inmate population reflects black criminality, not a racist criminal justice system.” The chapter is full of statistical evidence that bolsters Riley’s position. As Riley says in his conclusion of the chapter, “The stark racial differences in crime rates undoubtedly impact black-white relations in America. So long as they persist, young black men will make people nervous. Discussions about the problem can be useful if they are honest, which is rare.”
Chapter four, Mandating Unemployment, is a brilliant look at the issue of minimum wage in the context of racial history in America. I never knew the link between unions, racism, and minimum wage laws. This chapter is damning to one of the most successful myths the left has managed to perpetrate in this country. Survey research continues to show Americans support additional increases in the minimum wage. Minimum wage laws are incredibly harmful to the poor, and as Riley demonstrates, they are significantly harmful to black Americans. This is probably my favorite chapter in the whole book.
Chapter five, Educational Freedom, takes a look at the education system and its effects on black Americans. Riley looks at how successful choice programs (vouchers and charters) despite union opposition, are making a difference in some of the poorest communities in New York City. Riley closes this chapter with a brief look at historically black colleges and universities.
The final chapter of the book examines the left’s sacred cow, affirmative action. Not only must liberals help, they must social engineer to right all wrongs. Consistent in form, Riley equipped with research destroys the myth of affirmative action. I’ve always suspected this practice has done little to better minorities in our society, and this chapter reinforced that belief. Since 1960 the black middle class has failed to grow any more rapid than prior to 1960. In 1970, 33.5% of blacks were below the poverty line and in 1990 that number was still at 31.9%. Riley also discusses the effect of affirmative action on colleges in this chapter.
This review has gone on a bit long than I like to make them, but I loved this book and wanted you to get a feel of what was inside it. This is one of those books that make liberals incredibly angry because it presents the truth of their ugly manipulation of a special interest group. Go get a copy of his book and read it for yourself!