Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Nixon's Civil Rights 14

On page 134 of Dean Kotlowski's Nixon's Civil Rights, we read that "The president knew that high crime rates made ghetto businesses risky ventures" (Kotlowski's words), and President Richard Nixon referred to "how the first black supermarket complex in Delaware shut down because of dozens of robberies" (Nixon's words). And discrimination was what confined many African-Americans to the ghettos. According to Nixon, small businesses in general had a 75 per cent chance of failing, but minority small businesses had a 90 per cent chance of failing. Another problem was the lack of managerial experience that many African-American heads of businesses had at the time.

When the Small Business Administration sought corporate loans for minority businesses, it appealed strictly to profit and loss, which "sometimes frightened sponsors away from these high-risk ventures" (page 139). The fledgling Office of Minority Business Enterprise, by contrast, "appealed to corporate leaders' sense of 'social involvement' and won some commitments" (page 138).

But, notwithstanding the challenges, Nixon was committed to minority small businesses, even if his Administration was not consistently the most organized in going about it (as you can see in the above paragraph----that there were different agencies handling the issue, and they had contrasting strategies). Nixon glorified the underdog and disdained big businesses. He once asked: "I know we can't go back to mom-and-pop grocery stores, but does everything have to be sold in a supermarket?"

Another noteworthy item in my reading was on page 132. Floyd McKissick was the African-American separatist president of the Congress of Racial Equality, and he was favorable to Nixon's policy of supporting black capitalism, saying: "Handouts are demeaning. They do violence to a man, strip him of dignity, and breed in him a hatred of the system." Similarly, Nixon sought to encourage African-Americans to "get into business, go to school, become homeowners", and he said that "People who own their own homes don't burn down their neighborhoods" (page 131). Nixon sought to go beyond handouts and to help African-Americans in the ghetto to arrive at a sense of personal dignity and accomplishment by opening up to them opportunities. But, as with many endeavors, there were challenges.

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