Black Americans are right to be angry about their economic conditions, but the leader of a prominent black conservative group contends the blame belongs with misguided government policies and agitators who distract people from the real problems.
Protesters have taken to the streets in Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of white Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson shooting and killing black teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 9. The protests focus not only on the specific case and the larger debate over relations between law enforcement and the black community but also over the perceived economic inequality between races.
Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a piece for Time Magazine suggesting that any sort of major racial conflict in America would have less to do with race and more about economic disparity and class resentment.
Black conservatives agree that economic conditions are definitely a factor in the frustration Americans are seeing.
“There is some resentment that exists, but I think we’re seeing resentment that is being stoked and encouraged. It’s mostly based on the economic standing that people find themselves in,” said Horace Cooper, co-chairman of the Project 21 National Advisory Board. Project 21 describes itself as the “National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives.”
Cooper believes black Americans have suffered great economic hardship in recent years, and the people they turn to for leadership do not provide anything but excuses.
“There is no doubt that under the present administration’s stewardship, it has been harmful for Americans, and black Americans have felt it particularly painfully,” Cooper said.
“Unfortunately, rather than have a conversation about the good intentions behind the policies that have hurt so many, there’s been an ongoing effort on the part of agitators like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to engage in a distraction effort and to say to people who are genuinely unhappy about their situation that it is somehow a broader indictment on America that’s important,” he said.
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Horace Cooper:
Is there concrete data showing black Americans are being dealt a worse economic hand during the Obama years?
Cooper said it’s really not even debatable.
“Black home ownership is sharply down. Black unemployment is sharply elevated. Black Americans’ savings accounts are dramatically lower. There’s almost been a 40 percent loss in total equity value among the typical black family compared to what they had during the eight years of the Bush administration,” said Cooper, who argued Obama has been promoting the wrong solutions to the economic challenges of black Americans and everyone else.
“Black Americans need jobs, opportunity, investment, education far more than they need free health care, unemployment extensions or the other network of social services that this administration is putting forward,” he said.
Cooper said the best way to create jobs is to create inviting conditions to start a business. He said the administration is not doing that and is instead content to misdirect the frustrations of black Americans.
“When people are setting up their shops in places like Ferguson, they are trying to offer services to black, white and brown,” he said. “They find themselves doing that on an uphill push because of the policies of this administration.
“Rather than acknowledge that, we’re hearing talk that the real problem in America today is that black Americans, black men in particular, face the threat of being gunned down by the law-enforcement community. That’s untrue. The data doesn’t show that.”
In addition, Cooper ripped Obama for removing the most significant work requirements from the landmark welfare reform laws. Cooper said that simply rewards “indolence” and punishes work by telling people you can get what you need without working for it.
He also said the Obama administration is aiming its civil-rights agenda in the wrong direction. Rather than put its energy into advancing same-sex marriage, Cooper said a far greater need is raising well-educated young people of all races.
“If you were to say, ‘Where are the real problems facing America today?’ there are far more people who recognize that the educational attainment issue is a greater need than any of the other so-called civil rights that progressives want to talk about,” Cooper said.
In addition to making substantial policy changes, Cooper urged black Americans to make some changes on their own. He recommends embracing core principles that led to thriving black communities prior to the late 1960s, starting with respect for the law.
“In 1950, 1955 and 1960, when you look at the data points, here’s what you see: Black Americans are far less likely to be convicted and incarcerated as felons than the broader community. Today, that number is exactly the opposite,” said Cooper, adding that another priority needs to be intact families.
“We also see that in 1950, 1955 and 1960, that the out-of-wedlock birthrate was lower in the black community than it was in the rest of the community,” he said. “Today, that number is entirely going in the wrong direction. Some two-thirds to 70 percent of all black children are born out of wedlock. You can’t continue down that pathway.”
He said instead of championing government services as the answer to problems in the black community, the president should be holding up his marriage and family for other black Americans to emulate and proclaim as the ideal way to steer their kids toward a promising future.
“That’s not the message that we hear,” he said. “What we hear is that America itself is unfair to people of color. That’s harmful and that’s destructive.”
The performance of the media in the Ferguson story is also a major irritant for Cooper, who said Americans are missing out on key aspects of the story because of a political agenda.
“We’re not actually seeing the real story, the shop owners, black, white and brown, who are being terrorized and who are having their property looted,” he said.
“The media have not been helpful in all of this. The media have had a rush to judgment to create the impression that the whole story is all about how America is unfair, how police officers will go out of their way to harm innocent people. Whatever the story ends up being, this is a far more ambiguous case, a far more mixed case then what the media would have us believe,” Cooper said.
He suggested an additional casualty of the approach to this story by the media and other players is to obscure just how much racial progress we’ve seen in the U.S.
“Lots of progress has been made in my lifetime and most Americans, black and white, would agree with that,” he said. “Yet, that is being pushed aside to stoke the resentment where people see that they’re unhappy and it’s not clear why they’re unhappy, but these agitators help give them a reason to do that.”