In my reading of Nixon’s Civil Rights, Dean Kotlowski talks about how President Richard Nixon helped minority businesses and colleges. In this endeavor, Nixon actually overlapped with the Black Power movement, which was skeptical about integration and urged African-Americans to develop their own institutions and businesses and to achieve economic independence. Although Nixon was a critic of the Black Power movement, he recognized this overlap. He said that he wanted to achieve “the progress revolutionaries talk about but seldom deliver upon” and he noted that “much of the black militant talk these days is actually in terms far closer to the doctrines of free enterprise than to those of the welfarist 30’s” (Nixon’s words).
Certain thinkers encouraged Nixon to provide poor African-Americans in the ghetto a hand-up rather than a hand-out. Economist Alan Greenspan decried the idea that “federal anti-poverty projects would raise minority incomes and lower the crime rate”, and he “proposed shifting federal policy from ‘reparations for past exploitation’ to measures that ‘help Negroes help themselves'” (Kotlowski’s narration on page 128). Speechwriter Raymond Price attacked liberals “who, faced with a riot, beat their breasts in a chorus of collective mea culpas” and white conservatives “who don’t recognize the cultural gulf between the ghetto and suburbia” (Price’s words). Kotlowski states that Greenspan and Price did not take into consideration white racism but tended to blame African-Americans for their problems. I, however, appreciate what Price said about the gulf between the ghetto and suburbia, for it’s easy to wax eloquent about what poor people should do, but it’s important to take into consideration where they are and what their options are.
While Patrick Buchanan was not exactly a voice for civil rights within the Nixon Administration, he did express hope that African-Americans could be won to Richard Nixon. I find that interesting. Pat was a Barry Goldwater conservative, who did not believe that the government should have much of a role in civil rights, in such areas as integration and private businesses. But there were times when he did appear to have a certain sensitivity towards African-American issues and concerns, as when he praised Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Right from the Beginning, noted African-American criticisms of busing and how it undermined African-American communities, praised Nixon’s civil rights record, and selected Ezola Foster as his running mate on the Reform Party ticket in 2000.