Police are far from the only important institution under primarily local control. Public K-12 schools are still largely managed by locally elected school boards. Local governments employ hundreds of thousands of people nationwide, and they contract with private firms to provide services that employ millions more. The power of the local purse to impact employment decisions within a city or county’s boundaries is immense.
This power is largely held by Democrats in most of the city and county governments where black people disproportionately live. For every Rudolph W. Giuliani who rises to power in a big city as a Republican, there are tenfold Democrats running local governments.
This gives Democratic progressives massive power to change the treatment of black Americans. They can make changes to the practices by which local governments recruit, hire, fire and promote people of color. They can change police departments and county prosecutor’s offices to enhance fair treatment of black communities. They can use their power to contract for city services to push reform into the private sector. The list goes on.
Progressives also hold immense power to change black Americans’ lives outside of their control of local government. They dominate Hollywood, yet racial disparities in hiring actors and directors remain so strong that this year’s Oscars were again criticized as “so white.” Progressives head many, if not most, of the nation’s leading universities and state-financed systems of higher education. When possible, they do push for strong levels of recruitment of black students, but diversity remains sorely lacking among tenure-track professors and college administrators. Only 8 percent of college presidents were black in 2016, and none of the presidents of the country’s top 20 universities in the U.S. News & World Report rankings are black. Indeed, there are currently more people of color leading major conservative think tanks (the Hoover Institution, the Manhattan Institute and the Heritage Foundation) than there are leading major research universities. (L. Rafael Reif, the Hispanic president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the only nonwhite president.)
Many other powerful institutions are also dominated by the left. An analysis of partisan leanings by profession has found that Democrats dominate in law, engineering, technology, media and the arts. Progressives also control philanthropy, psychiatry, libraries and public relations. Even religion tilts Democratic, and presumably is massively blue once one excludes conservative evangelical Christian denominations from the mix. Progressives have a lot of private power to quickly implement nondiscriminatory employment practices without any oversight from Republicans.
It’s peculiar, to say the least, that race tensions and inequality remain so high given that this vast power rests with people who claim racial harmony and equality are top priorities for them. The Pew Research Center recently found that 65 percent of white Democrats believe the country has not done enough to give blacks equal rights to whites. That figure rises to 76 percent among college-educated Democrats. Pollster David Winston examined data from 2017 and found that racial equality was the fifth-most-important issue priority for the Democratic/independent left.
None of this means that improving race relations and equality isn’t a matter for all Americans, including conservatives. It is, and we should all work to treat everyone as a person equal in their humanity and dignity. Anything less than that is a violation of our moral obligations and our national political creed.
It does, however, mean that changes that don’t require national or state legislation can happen right now. Hollywood doesn’t need a federal edict to hire more black directors and actors. Colleges and universities don’t need a new Civil Rights Act to ensure that black candidates are preferred for leadership positions. Cities and counties don’t need to wait for the repeal of the qualified-immunity doctrine to change the way their police forces operate. They just need to align their deeds with their words.
Progressives and Democrats frequently proclaim their intense fidelity to the cause of racial equality. Perhaps they should take the beam out of their own eyes first.