Thursday, February 16, 2012

Nixon's Civil Rights 16

For my write-up today on Dean Kotlowski's Nixon's Civil Rights, I'll start with something that Kotlowski says on page 150:

"Undeniably, the advance in minority enterprise also can be traced to nongovernmental factors. The talent and initiative of individual entrepreneurs helped spur minority business growth. As African Americans and other minorities gained access to higher education, partly as a result of affirmative action, they obtained technical and managerial expertise and were able to form 'capital intensive' firms specializing in computer and business services, manufacturing, and large-scale retailing. As blacks and Hispanics entered college in larger numbers and secured higher-paying jobs, their earning power grew, and they were able to patronize minority-owned firms in their communities. The development of a 'black consumer market' and the growth of black banks expanded the volume of capital available to minority enterprises. Even so, given the risk of small business ventures, one wonders where minority entrepreneurs would have been without the policies, especially set-asides, that Nixon and Stans set in motion."

I talked in "Nixon's Civil Rights 14" about how many African-American heads of businesses (not all, but many) lacked managerial expertise in the late 1960's-early 1970's. Nixon sought to redress that problem. He supported training. He backed affirmative action programs that helped to provide minorities with a chance to be educated in universities. And he was a strong supporter of African-American colleges. Kotlowski in the passage above refers to signs of progress as a result of Nixon's policies. On pages 150-151, he mentions other signs: the appearance of African-American periodicals (Black Enterprise, Ebony, and Jet), which "published business news and ran articles on the emerging black middle class", and the TV series The Jeffersons, which was about a dry-cleaning tycoon from Harlem moving on up to the east-side (or I guess George Jefferson moved to there from Queens, since he lived near the Bunkers for a while). But there were still critics of Nixon's policies, such as Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, who said that the policies were effective to a limited extent yet also had numerous failures and were encumbered by red tape and politics.

Throughout this series, I may be giving the impression that I think Nixon was a savior of the African-American people. I hope that I am not coming across as that condescending. In my opinion, government policies could only go so far, and African-Americans succeeded also by their talent, intelligence, and resourcefulness. But Nixon (and other Presidents) deserve some applause (or at least a degree of recognition) for at least giving people a chance to prove themselves, even though, of course, these leaders were simply doing what they were supposed to do (i.e., ensuring justice and the well-being of the nation). I do not know what it is like to be a racial minority, but I do understand that my successes are not entirely due to me, for people have given me a chance.

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