Jason L. Riley spoke to Troy University students and faculty about powerful people using racism as a tool to ignore the true problem behind black issues. This problem, according to Riley, is black culture and attitudes.
Riley, a 20-year veteran opinion and news writer, Fox News contributor and member of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, spoke to Troy University students on Tuesday about perceptions within the black community and the cause of continued issues in black culture.
Riley began with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which he said may be “one of Martin Luther King’s greatest achievements.”
As a result of this, from 1964 to 1966, the black voter turnout grew from 7 percent to 60 percent in Mississippi alone, according to Riley. He said that today, black voter registration is greater in the South than in other parts of the U.S.
Though these great achievements have helped black people, Riley said that there are still problems that can be found within black culture, education being an example.
“New York City has the largest school system in America, more than 1 million kids,” Riley said. “Eighty percent of the black kids in New York City schools are performing below standards. The problem is a black subculture that rejects attitudes and behaviors that are conducive to academic success.”
Riley said that this subculture helps support the negative connotation that young black people associate with “acting and sounding white.” He used comments from his niece about his white way of speaking as an example such an attitude.
Quinta Goines, a junior multimedia journalism major from Needham, said that this part of Riley’s speech really stood out to her.
“That is something I can identify with, because that’s a phrase that has been directed toward me my whole life,” Goines said.
Another part of the problem found in black culture today, according to Riley, is that those in power are not saying something about issues in black culture.
“Many black leaders have a vested interest in blaming black problems primarily on white racism,” Riley said. “Racism has become an all-purpose explanation for all bad black outcomes, either social or economic. If you disagree and are white, then you’re a bigot. If you disagree and are black, you are a sell-out.”
Riley said that though achievements have been made within the black community and with black culture, differences remain between races that are perpetuated by black politicians and leaders.
“(President Barack) Obama has been doing exactly what liberalism has been conditioning blacks to do since the 1960s, which is to blame black mythology on the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow,” Riley said. “This sentimental support has turned underprivileged blacks into playthings for intellectuals and politicians who care much more about clearing their conscience or winning votes than they do in advocating behaviors and attitudes that have allowed other groups to get ahead.”
Riley said that it is important for university students to hear these ideas because it brings a different perspective to the campus and the discussion of race.
“I admire Troy for inviting someone who brings a different perspective to the campus because it’s not something you typically get,” Riley said. “You typically get, in regards to race and race issues, people who want to blame bad outcomes on the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow. It’s a good thing to expose the kids to different perspectives. There’s certainly more than one way to look at those histories.”
James Day, an English professor, said that he agreed with Riley that different ideas should be represented to college students.
“Whether you are a liberal or a conservative, you need to know the arguments,” Day said. “He is a very good proponent of a very different way of looking at social justice. I thought it was well worth hearing him so that you would know what to either refute or to accept.”
Goines said that Riley’s speech was not a good attempt to inspire the change in the black community that Riley suggested throughout the speech.
“The speech was given on a college campus with only a handful of black people present,” Goines said. “If Riley wants to shed light on the black communities that he called the hood and the ghettos, he should speak there. Instead of talking about us, Riley needs to talk to us in an effort to progress and change, not to demean and degrade. “