In the ongoing discourse on race in America, there is no shortage of academic theorists sharing their proposed explanations or solutions that all too often clearly stem from their ideological positions. To be fair, even the most well-meaning thinkers usually offer their insights using terms aimed primarily for their own “side,” often at the cost of being misunderstood by critics. Consequently, the chasm broadens and the readers may reject good ideas and historical honesty based on terms (i.e., lefties, right-wing, etc.) often allotted in contempt.
Black Liberation Through the Marketplace
But Rachel Ferguson and Marcus Witcher’s work in Black Liberation Through The Marketplace: Hope, Heartbreak, and The Promise of America shrewdly transmits an encyclopedic thesis that seeks to evade the radical positions of far-right and far-left and credit the notions where most appropriate to ensure informed social action.
The book delves into the successful enterprises established by Black Americans, even in the face of forced segregation and partial government protection. The trustworthy accounts confirm that any people group can break from the experience of involuntary servitude or state-sanctioned sidelining. But as Ferguson and Witcher reiterate, Black Americans’ accomplishments came in the face of—and were often disrupted by—racial animus.
However, unlike some modern-day social analysts, Ferguson and Witcher “argue that various details of Black American life and history make racial justice a particularly bad fit for politics as usual in America,” showing how many proposed remedies to address the impacts of racial animus fall short. Thus, Ferguson and Witcher champion the philosophical view of classical liberalism, a resurrected notion to be distinguished from the liberalism we are accustomed to hearing.
The Role of Government
A limited government that safeguards individual freedom and encourages free market activity is a structure that can bolster Black Americans’ social and economic standing. Throughout the book, Ferguson and Witcher advocate a consistent ideal on the importance of the role of government (protecting basic freedoms) and human flourishing (market outcomes without unwarranted interference).
The book honors historical integrity by not excluding Black participation in the Republican party or the financial success some Black Americans obtained because of their own pursuit of thought models reflecting classical liberalism. At the same time, Ferguson and Witcher do not minimize the Republican surrender to special interests. The Davis-Bacon Act, for example, was written by two Republican senators who sponsored a federal minimum wage that favored unions resistant to Black labor. This legislation constrained competition, since Black construction workers were known to acquire and complete construction projects with entry-level labor with the ability to drive down prices.
Historical Violations of Black Americans’ Rights
Chapter 4 outlines some of the most egregious—often unknown—historical instances of how Black Americans’ basic rights were violated and the government’s inaction; it reads as if it were the most shocking horror script ever written. One needs to prepare to absorb the read without misdirecting rage toward those who are now divorced from the historical atrocities. Perhaps this is why the authors highlight the importance of the Black church in Chapter 5. The practice of forgiveness and love are qualities of the Christian experience. Black Americans found solace in Christendom—and some white Christians defied the prevailing racial consensus because they recognized that the fullness of God’s image is displayed when we are in the right relationship with God, self, neighbor, and creation itself.
Economic Protection and Equal Rights
The book also uncovers a trend in the white persecution of Blacks, often under Democrat-led governments. The destruction of Black families and institutions often stemmed from opposition to the economic success of Black Americans. A further coherent theme is Black Americans’ constant appeal to the government for protection, not bread—in other words, equal rights as opposed to extra civil liberties (such as those developed through imposed diversity programs).
Ferguson and Witcher also dive into government actions and political experiments that triggered adverse events. Convict leasing (often due to false or inflated charges), lynchings (unfair trials), and psychological and economic suppression were a part of the mainstream Black experience. Thus, the hope and relief provided by the Black church, as well as the development of fraternal societies, provided Black Americans a type of social security with better outcomes than any government programs attempting to redress grievances. Higher education for Black Americans, for example, was primarily developed and enhanced by church programs that eventually became what are now known as Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Ferguson and Witcher also explore the notion that allocating fiscal resources (collected through taxation) and assuming intellectual capabilities according to ethnicity reinforces bias and distorts our anthropological posterity. They do so by highlighting how some Blacks rejected the outcome of the 1954 Brown vs Board of Education decision because they wanted to avoid the idea that Black students could not learn in the absence of white pupils and argued that “Justice Warren implied that poor Black children couldn’t excel because they were only surrounded by others too much like them.”
Present-day Discriminatory Policies
The volume is chock full of worthwhile insights and a record of discriminatory policies that have evolved into or influenced present-day strategies. Perpetual government philanthropy targeted for specific groups or corporations (which discourages any group from seeking alternatives); minimum wage hikes (which stagnates the labor force and produces inflation); eugenics (now labeled as a women’s right to choose); and a lack of accountability in scholastic outcomes in depressed communities (which favors collective bargaining agreements over educational results) are some of the issues illustrated so well.
Classic Intellectuals and Scholars
Finally, while Ferguson and Witcher appeal to classic intellectuals like Friedrich Hayeck, John Stuart Mill, and Adam Smith, three brilliant economic thinkers, it must be acknowledged that some contemporary minds may be logically remote regarding the classics. Black Americans who are fortunate enough to advance in conservative economic thought are introduced to the classical liberals through the Thomas Sowells, the Walter Williamses, and the Shelby Steels, regardless of their delivery methods. It’s a delight to see them mentioned in the book.
Black American conservative scholars regularly confront contemporary racism cloaked in compassion and the bigotry of low expectations. Their description of history, the known data, and their direct experience will inevitably produce variations in their scholarly conclusions compared with the grievance-based theories of contemporary black nationalists.
This conflict highlights a larger truth about America: While our governing documents often promote a healthy and positive approach for all, the actual reality is often not so equal for everyone. But as Ferguson and Witcher highlight, our American system, for all its flaws, is one that allows for everyone—including those who have suffered like Black Americans—to flourish and succeed when it works.
Support Human Blossoming
Overall, this book is recommended for the serious reader who is interested in the proper commitment to a just cause to support human blossoming. I admire the scholarship of Ferguson and Witcher. The facts and supplementary suggestions, especially criminal justice, that await herein are rewarding and will help one avoid the schemes of partisan alchemy.