Why do racial tensions seem worse than ever in 2017?
Journalist and author Jason Riley joined the radio show Wednesday to talk about the motivation behind discouraging race relations and his new book, “False Black Power.”
Riley pointed both to former President Barack Obama and to President Donald Trump as figures who have been unhelpful. Obama encouraged racial tensions in a time when social media could add more fuel to the fire, and now Trump isn’t helping matters.
“I think we currently have a president who isn’t that concerned with trying to bridge these divides,” Riley said.
Glenn wondered if we have someone today who can bring people together the way civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King did.
“To me, there’s nothing more offensive to the memory of real civil rights leaders than these so-called civil rights leaders today,” Glenn said.
Unfortunately, we don’t really have a King-esque leader; instead, the civil rights movement has been exploited and turned into something else altogether, Riley asserted.
“I’m someone who’s argued that the civil rights movement that we associate with King has become a civil rights industry,” he said.
This is a rush transcript and may contain errors.
GLENN: I want to introduce you to Jason Riley. He’s the author of the book Please Stop Helping Us. I think you have to say it that way. And now a new book called False Black Power. He — we could sit here and talk about all the bad things. But why don’t we figure out ways to fix it? That’s why Jason is on today. Jason, welcome to the program. How are you, sir?
JASON RILEY: I’m good. Thanks for having me.
GLENN: So, Jason, first of all, you know, I’d like to tie this into the umbrella of what is happening in our communities and what I think is coming our way, unfortunately. But I don’t want to just concentrate on that.
I want to find, what is the — what is the squeeze or the pressure point on people, you know, in the white community and in the — in the black community, that is allowing us to feel comfortable to play the game of whataboutism. Yeah, yeah. That’s wrong. But what about when they?
We’re losing sight of everything. What is the pressure point in the black community that is giving people the feeling that it’s okay to excuse people who are calling for, you know, hate and destruction and, you know, death to cops, et cetera, et cetera. Do you have any idea?
JASON RILEY: Well, I don’t know that it’s really anything new. I think that in recent years, there’s been more polarization. We can all look at — also, the polling at the end of the Obama administration. The race relations were at their lowest point since the 1992 riots in Los Angeles.
So I think it has partly to do with the social media phenomenon. You know, the anecdotal evidence of police shootings being captured on phones and passed around —
GLENN: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.
JASON RILEY: — the internet very quickly. And then run on loops on cable news every night. You know, statistically, it doesn’t hold up. The data tells us that — that shootings — police shootings are way down in recent decades. But you know how powerful and emotional an anecdote can be. So I think that has fueled it as well. And then I think we currently have a president who isn’t that concerned with trying to bridge these divides.
JASON RILEY: I think he has made some political hay out of it. He probably believes it’s helped him. And perhaps it has in some ways. I don’t think it’s why he got elected. I think he got elected because a lot of people that voted for Obama decided to vote for Donald Trump. But maybe he thinks these groups helped him.
GLENN: Yeah. Yeah.
JASON RILEY: And he’s a little hesitant to go after them too hard.
GLENN: So here’s — here’s — and I think this is really the thrust of the conversation we should have about your book. And that is, there’s a lot of people — and I think the press is partly at fault with this. And I include myself.
You know, hate, anger, outrage, it sells. It gets the clicks. And everybody is driven by clicks and views and ratings. Because that’s —
JASON RILEY: Oh, it’s more than that. It’s more than that. It also wins you votes.
JASON RILEY: And I think that is what Obama was doing by — and then I think that’s part of the problem. That’s part of the reason that race relations worsened to the extent they did on his watch. It wasn’t just the shootings caught on video. It was how he exploited them. How he played to fears of — of blacks in particular.
JASON RILEY: You know, the Democrats get a lot of mileage out of keeping blacks racially paranoid and angry and upset. And Obama really played that up.
GLENN: So I watched this weekend, and, you know, there’s nothing — to me, there’s nothing more offensive to the memory of real civil rights leaders than these so-called civil rights leaders today.
Where is the Martin Luther King of today, that — on either side, anywhere, from any walk of life, that is standing up and saying, “Love. Reconciliation. This is wrong on both sides, and we’ve got to stop it. We’ve got to call evil by its name. Nazis are evil. And it’s got to stop. But we have to stop feeding into the hate.” Where is that person? Is there that person?
JASON RILEY: No. I don’t believe there’s a King figure out there. I’m someone who’s argued that the civil rights movement that we associate with King has become a civil rights industry.
JASON RILEY: And that’s what you have out there, are civil rights industrialists, so to speak. People that make a living — you know, that deal in racial spoils, that deal in using race as an all-purpose explanation or racism as an all-purpose explanation for all that’s negative in black America. And essentially blaming whites. You know, Dr. King was about colorblindness. He was about personal responsibility.
Today, you have groups like Black Lives Matter. You know, Black Lives Matter is not interested in colorblindness, obviously, right? I mean, they’re interested in color consciousness, keeping race front and center. You know, King said, “Judge me by the content of my character, not the color of my skin.”
These guys are saying, “Black lives matter, and don’t you say otherwise.”
So we’ve done a 180. We’ve done a 180 here. We have color consciousness as the modus operandi today, where it used to be about, you know, race blindness.
GLENN: Jason Riley who just released the book False Black Power, also wrote Please Stop Helping Us, on the situation in black America today and these false civil rights activists.
When you have something like Black Lives Matter, did that grow out of, you know, people supporting — and I use that loosely because I don’t know very many African-Americans or blacks that support Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. Everybody I know thinks they’re frauds. That may just be because I hang around, you know, more conservatives than anybody else.
But is it — did that come from a place to where, “All right. I’ve trusted the Democratic Party. I’ve trusted the civil rights leaders. You know, and nobody really cares. Nobody is doing anything. Nothing in my life is changing. They whip me up for my vote or for my money, and I get nothing and they get rich and powerful?”
JASON RILEY: There’s some of that going on. I think maybe a younger generation who has grown impatient with the civil rights old guard, that people like Jackson and Sharpton and the NAACP represent, I think that is partly it.
According — I mean, the official history there is that it grew out of the Trayvon Martin shooting and then what happened in Ferguson. Something resembling Black Lives Matter was in its infancy at that point and then really took off to become what it has today.
GLENN: What are we headed towards?
JASON RILEY: I think things could get worse before they get better. And I think what you’re seeing with the — with the white nationalists and the alt-right folks is something of a backlash against the Black Lives Matter types. And we’ve seen this before. If you go back and look at what came after the black power movement in the 1960s, we got in the 1970s and ’80s, a rise in skinheads and other white identity groups pushing back.
Two can play this game. I mean, you want to play identity politics. You can play white identity politics, you can play black identity politics. I think it leads us in a very bad way. I think it’s bad for our national discourse obviously. I think it’s bad for our politics.
GLENN: Jason, is there — is there such a thing as a national discourse anymore?
JASON RILEY: That’s a good question. I’d like to think — I’d like to think there is. Or something that passes for one. But it’s tough. It’s tough partly because, as you know, being in the media, it’s a very segmented audience there.
People tend to tune into what they want to hear. They don’t spend a lot of time flipping around the channels, listening to different points of view, or reading a variety of different news outlets. You basically listen to what you want to hear, and that makes it tough to have a so-called national conversation.
GLENN: But doesn’t that also make it impossible to survive?
JASON RILEY: I hope not. I’m an optimist. I hope not.
But I do hope that things could get worse before they get better, unfortunately.
GLENN: Do you see a growing segment anywhere? Because I do. But maybe it’s just my anecdotal, you know, experiences.
Do you see a growing want of people wanting to spit themselves out of the system and are concerned about their own side? They’re just not yet really willing to stand up and say it out loud. But privately, they’re like, you know, “My side is starting to scare the hell out of me too.”
JASON RILEY: Perhaps. On the one hand, you see a lot of the sort of hyper politicized environment. And you go, “Are people getting sick of this stuff, being in their living rooms every night? At the same time, the ratings are off the charts. People have never been more engaged than they are today.” So I wonder if we’ve reached a tipping point yet. I do. I’m not sure we have.
GLENN: Do you believe that the — the perception in the black community, is it — is it an easy thing to say, or do people actually believe that their station in life is really kept in place because of racism?
JASON RILEY: I — I don’t think your average black person believes that. I believe that your typical black leader, be it a political leader or someone at an activist organization pushes that narrative. But, no, I don’t think everyday blacks think that, believe that, and haven’t for a long time. People speaking in their name, however, continue to push that. I talk about that a little bit in the book. Where I talk about what blacks say among themselves when whites aren’t around. Versus what black leaders say in front of the cameras and to reporters.
GLENN: I will tell you that I just executive produced a program with a bunch of black people, and they came and they did a show. And I watched it. And I’m like, “Okay. Why would anyone want to watch it? I mean, it’s the same stuff I see everywhere else.” And I said, “I know you guys. That’s not how you talk. How you dress. I don’t care.” We had a conversation. I said, “Don’t do a show for me. Do a show for you. Do a show for who you hang out with.” The show came back wildly different and unbelievable. And I felt like I was not uncomfortable at all. Where sometimes you feel like, “Oh, this is a show that’s not meant for me. And I’m not comfortable.” I heard discussions in a black community that I’ve never heard before. And not in a — not in a pandering way of any way — it was like I was just a fly on the wall.
And it’s amazing how much we have in common, when we just are not — we don’t have a filter between us. Does that make sense?
JASON RILEY: It does. It makes a lot of sense. But as I said, the civil rights movement is now an industry — it’s a very lucrative industry. Dealing in racial spoils is a very lucrative way to go.
And that is why playing the victim card continues to be popular, on the left, on the black left in particular. And this narrative continues to be pushed.
My argument is, that is not doing, you know, everyday blacks any favors.
JASON RILEY: It’s — you know, to send young people out there to school with a chip on their shoulder, that the world is out to get them, the cops are out to shoot them down, and that all of their problems are a result of white America, you’re just not doing these young people any favors at all when you send them out there with that mentality. With that victim mindset.
But pushing that narrative, again, in the media, you’re not going to go poor, you’re not going to go hungry. There seems to be a great appetite for that.
GLENN: From the Wall Street Journal, Jason Riley, author of the book False Black Power. Thank you for being on, and God bless. We’ll talk to you again. Thanks, Jason.
JASON RILEY: Thank you.