The political left is lying to black people
Left-wing politicians are not the saviours they’re marketed as. A reality check is due.
The political left makes a lot of promises to black people.
Left-wing politicians claim they are saviours who can solve all of the inequalities impacting black communities, if only left-wing political parties are given enough power.
In fact, such grand claims are used to justify governments expanding their reach into our lives. For example, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government supports its internet censorship agenda by arguing that government censorship is needed to protect people of colour from racism. Also, school boards in Ontario have used the objective of racial “equity” to rationalize their efforts to make public schools reflect the activist impulses of unelected bureaucrats.
But can the political left actually keep its promises to black communities? There are two elements to answering such an important question: intentions and possibilities. Let’s explore both.
If the political left is to be believed, power is the only thing stopping their politicians from solving the inequalities impacting black communities. Yet, there’s ample evidence to suggest that left-wing political parties do not use the power they possess for such aims.
Last week, while mainstream media outlets celebrated the appointment of the first black woman to the US Supreme Court as a significant victory for all black people, the Biden administration proposed regulations to undermine charter schools to the detriment of black children. Charter schools, which are publicly funded schools that operate outside of the control of school boards, would lose much of their independence and flexibility under Biden’s new rules. These rules take power away from schools that disproportionately help black students and give greater power to America’s education establishment.
As media executive David Morrow wrote in Newsweek, “Judging by these policies, their goal is to force charter schools to exist and operate under the thumb of traditional public schools while shutting down those who won't comply…These proposed regulations would disproportionately negatively impact Black and Hispanic students. And the administration is well aware of that, but it's full speed ahead anyway.”
Both the appointment of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and the proposed charter school regulations are important. But the political left’s narrative is to overemphasize the former, and largely ignore how the latter could impact millions of Americans.
Ontario politics has produced another example of a left-wing political party failing to live up to its promises. The Ontario NDP, which fundraises using a “BIPOC Victory Fund” to elect “Black, Indigenous and racialized people,” recently lost one of its black members of provincial parliament in a local election. However, MPP Kevin Yarde did not lose to a member of another party. He lost a nomination contest to a fellow NDP politician.
Yes, you read that right: the NDP account holders of the “BIPOC Victory Fund” oversaw the replacement of one of two black men in their caucus. But they’ll still take your money to “help” get black people elected.
A friend who lives in Kevin Yarde’s Brampton, Ontario riding and is from the city’s Jamaican-Canadian community, shared with me his reaction to the NDP’s actions: “It’s one thing to talk, but now that they have the chance, what are they backing it up with? If they think diversity means swapping out visible minorities, they don’t understand diversity.”
To be fair, these examples are not a complete picture of the political left. But these examples do underscore the folly of making lofty promises. Left-wing politicians are not the saviours they’re marketed as.
Even if left-wing politicians had the best and purest of intentions, it’s important to consider whether it's possible for politicians to solve all of the inequalities impacting black communities.
Decades of black political thought have been shaped by this very issue.
On one hand, well-intentioned activists and academics argue that inequalities are caused by external factors (e.g. racism, public policy, historical disadvantages) and therefore pursuing equality requires changing external factors. On the other hand, another set of well-intentioned activists and academics argue that, whether inequalities are caused by external factors, pursuing equality requires changing internal factors (e.g. culture, spirituality, education, economic behaviours). Most people probably fall somewhere between these two simplifications, but even slightly leaning in one direction or the other can make a significant difference in crafting policies.
Brown University economics professor Glenn Loury has openly wrestled with this tension in much of his writing. He questions left-wing political assumptions because he argues that equality cannot be given and is ultimately only achievable by communities themselves. Sharing his views on the University of Colorado Boulder’s Free Mind podcast, Loury says:
If we Blacks want to walk with dignity, if we want to be truly equal, then we must realize that white people can not give us equality. We actually have to earn equal status. Please don't cancel me just yet because I'm on the side of Black people here. But I am obliged to report that equality of dignity, equality of standing, equality of honor, of feeling secure in one's position within society, equality of being able to command the respect of others, it's not something that can be handed over to us. Rather it is something that we have to wrest from a cruel and indifferent world with the hard work of our bare hands, inspired by the example of our enslaved and newly freed ancestors. We have to make ourselves equal. No one can do it for us.
I do not interpret Loury’s conclusion to suggest that politicians have no role in the pursuit of equality for black communities. He is a champion of charter schools, for instance, which require a certain set of public policies in order to succeed. Loury also advocates for “an American welfare state consistent with our demographic realities, our own values, and our fiscal capacities.”
I do interpret Loury’s conclusion to be a call to humility for the political left, and a call to community empowerment for black people.
Solving inequalities is a serious and complex challenge. Left-wing politicians who claim they can fix everything if only the public gives them more power are delusional or lying. Or both.