Since the 2018 midterm elections, America’s political left has been celebrating “the most diverse Congress in U.S. history.” And, as the races for the 2020 congressional and presidential elections heat up, political diversity is a key focus.
Lately, a common critique of the Republican Party is that its members don’t “look like America,” because the demographic makeup of the party doesn’t match the demographic makeup of the country. The underlying argument is that a less diverse political body couldn’t possibly yield favorable results for a broader segment of the population. Consequently, it presupposes that more diversity leads to better policy outcomes.
Rashad Robinson, executive director of the civil rights-focused nonprofit Color of Change, told The Associated Press that diversity is “a great thing and we should celebrate it,” but added “diversity alone does not mean structures and policies and practices that have held so many back will change” overnight.
What he should have said is that diversity alone may not change those things at all, especially in the black community.
History shows that increased black political capital has not always translated into increased socioeconomic capital.
According to Fact Tank by Pew Research: “Data from the past 50 years reveal the upward yet uneven trajectory of black political leadership in America. In 1965, there were no blacks in the U.S. Senate, nor were there any black governors. And only six members of the House of Representatives were black. As of 2019, there is greater representation in some areas—52 House members are black, putting the share of black House members [12 percent] on par with the share of blacks in the U.S. population overall for the first time in history.”
In not only Congress, but also counties, cities, and states across the nation, we have seen more blacks elected to positions of power—an increase in diversity.
So what did we get in exchange?
According to 2016 data from Pew Social Trends, more than a third (36 percent) of whites hold a bachelor’s degree, compared with 23 percent of blacks. This is a disparity between blacks and whites that has widened since 1964.
The gap in median household income between blacks and whites has widened. Pew reported that in 1967, median black household income was $24,700, compared with $44,700 among white households (a difference of $20,000). Yet, after eight years of a black president and his exceptionally diverse administration, median black household income in 2017 was $40,258 compared to $68,145 among white households (a difference of $27,887).
The Urban Institute published a study showing that in 1963, the average wealth of white families was $121,000 higher than the average wealth of nonwhite families. By 2016, the average wealth of white families ($919,000) was more than $700,000 higher than the average wealth of black families ($140,000).
And blacks are still twice as likely as whites to be unemployed.
The area of criminal justice has long been a thorn in the side of the black community. And there are two issues we have wanted to reverse for years: 1) disparities in sentencing resulting from the 1980s-era War on Drugs that (among other things) mandated harsher sentencing for crack cocaine than powder cocaine, and 2) disparities created by the 1994 Clinton (yes, as in Hillary’s husband, Bill Clinton) crime bill, which was said to fuel “racist mass incarceration.”
Both sets of policies had disastrous consequences for the black community, and both sets of policies were actively supported by black Democrats.
Pew also reported that “the highest level of black representation in a presidential Cabinet occurred during Clinton’s first term, when four out of 15 Cabinet appointees were black,” which coincides with the exact same time the “racist” crime bill became law.
Recently enacted legislation called the First Step Act was the first in a series of bills aimed at reversing decades-old disparities in criminal sentencing. Interestingly enough, this bill was neither passed under the administration of America’s first black, President Barack Obama, nor put forward by the so-called diversity-championing left.
Although it had bipartisan support, this legislation was drafted and passed under the Trump administration—an administration chided for its lack of diversity.
The data show unequivocally that in exchange for putting more blacks in powerful government positions, the black community gained little and actually regressed in some areas.
Simply put, the recently orchestrated chorus of calls for political diversity is hardly based on altruism. It amounts to one segment of the political spectrum (the left) weaponizing the idea of political diversity against their primary opponent (the right) to falsely smear them as racists, to try to score cheap political points on this issue—one that doesn’t even produce positive results.
The data show that simply adding more black faces to leadership positions doesn’t make life better for the black population, giving credence to the unpopular notion that ideological diversity may actually be far more important than racial diversity.
Having an extremely diverse political party may look great on campaign posters and may be seen as a selling point during election season, but only because many voters still don’t seem to understand that racial and ethnic diversity—sans intellectual diversity—doesn’t automatically guarantee better outcomes for those groups represented.
Ultimately, ideas should win elections, not skin color.