A primer on race ‘Please Stop Help­ing Us’ ex­plodes myths about af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Thomas Sow­ell

Back in the hey­day of the Bri­tish Em­pire, a man from one of the colonies ad­dressed a Lon­don au­di­ence. “Please do not do any more good in my coun­try,” he said. “We have suf­fered too much al­ready from all the good that you have done.”

That is es­sen­tially the mes­sage of an out­stand­ing new book by Ja­son Ri­ley about blacks in Amer­ica. Its ti­tle is “Please Stop Help­ing Us.” Its theme is that many poli­cies de­signed to help blacks are in fact harm­ful, some­times dev­as­tat­ingly so. These coun­ter­pro­duc­tive poli­cies range from min­i­mum-wage laws to “af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion” quo­tas.

This book un­tan­gles the con­tro­ver­sies, the con­fu­sions and the ir­re­spon­si­ble rhetoric in which is­sues in­volv­ing min­i­mum-wage laws are usu­ally dis­cussed. As some­one who has fol­lowed min­i­mum-wage con­tro­ver­sies for decades, I must say that I have never seen the sub­ject ex­plained more clearly or more con­vinc­ingly.

Black teenage un­em­ploy­ment rates rang­ing from 20 per­cent to 50 per­cent have been so com­mon over the past 60 years that many people are un­aware that this was not true be­fore there were min­i­mum-wage laws, or even dur­ing years when in­fla­tion ren­dered min­i­mum-wage laws in­ef­fec­tive, as in the late 1940s.

Pric­ing young people out of work de­prives them not only of in­come, but also of work ex­pe­ri­ence, which can be even more valu­able. Pric­ing young people out of le­gal work, when il­le­gal work is al­ways avail­able, is just ask­ing for trou­ble. So is hav­ing large num­bers of idle young males hang­ing out to­gether on the streets.

When it comes to af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion, Mr. Ri­ley asks the key ques­tion: “Do racial pref­er­ences work? What is the track record?” Like many other wellmean­ing and nice-sound­ing poli­cies, af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion can­not sur­vive fac­tual scru­tiny.

Some in­di­vid­u­als may get jobs they would not get other­wise, but many black stu­dents who are quite ca­pa­ble of get­ting a good col­lege ed­u­ca­tion are ad­mit­ted, un­der racial quo­tas, to in­sti­tu­tions whose pace alone is enough to make it un­likely that they will grad­u­ate.

Stud­ies that show how many ar­ti­fi­cial fail­ures are cre­ated by af­fir­ma­tive-ac­tion ad­mis­sions poli­cies are sum­ma­rized in “Please Stop Help­ing Us,” in lan­guage much eas­ier to un­der­stand than in the orig­i­nal stud­ies.

There are many pon­der­ous aca­demic stud­ies of blacks, if you have a few months in which to read them, but there is noth­ing to match Mr. Ri­ley’s book as a primer that will quickly bring you up to speed on the com­pli­cated sub­ject of race in a week, or per­haps over a weekend.

As an ex­pe­ri­enced jour­nal­ist, rather than an aca­demic, Mr. Ri­ley knows how to use plain English to get to the point. He also has the in­tegrity to give it to you straight, in­stead of in the jar­gon and eu­phemisms too of­ten found in dis­cus­sions of race. The re­sult is a book that pro­vides more knowl­edge and in­sight in a cou­ple of hun­dred pages than are usu­ally found in books twice that length.

Un­like aca­demics who just tell facts, Mr. Ri­ley knows which facts are telling.

For ex­am­ple, in re­sponse to claims that blacks don’t do well aca­dem­i­cally be­cause the schools use an ap­proach geared to white stu­dents, he points out that blacks from for­eign coun­tries where English is not spo­ken do bet­ter in Amer­i­can schools than black, English-speak­ing Amer­i­can stu­dents.

Asian stu­dents do bet­ter than whites in schools sup­pos­edly geared to whites. In New York City’s three aca­dem­i­cally elite pub­lic high schools — Stuyvesant, Bronx Sci­ence and Brook­lyn Tech — there are more than twice as many Asian stu­dents as white stu­dents in all three in­sti­tu­tions.

So much for the the­ory that non-whites can’t do well in schools sup­pos­edly geared to whites.

On is­sue af­ter is­sue, “Please Stop Help­ing Us” cites facts to de­stroy pro­pa­ganda and punc­ture in­flated rhetoric. It is im­pos­si­ble to do jus­tice to the wide range of racial is­sues — from crime to fam­ily dis­in­te­gra­tion — ex­plored in this book. Pick up a copy and open pages at ran­dom to see how the au­thor an­ni­hi­lates non­sense.

His brief com­ments pack a lot of punch. For ex­am­ple, “hav­ing a black man in the Oval Of­fice is less im­por­tant than hav­ing one in the home.” Thomas Sow­ell is a se­nior fel­low with the Hoover In­sti­tu­tion at Stan­ford Univer­sity.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY ALEXAN­DER HUNTER/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

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