The myth of power and wealth

Published 9:39 pm Monday, September 29, 2014

By Joseph Bass

I have been involved in promoting civil rights and improving society for longer than many people have been alive. I listened to President Lyndon Johnson talk about civil rights and his War on Poverty at the Oklahoma Fair Grounds.

At that time, many assumptions were made about how to improve society and provide equality for all. It is tragic that many of these assumptions have proved to be false, but many cling to them. One of the assumptions has to do with political power and wealth.

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It is a myth that oppressed, poor minorities have to become politically powerful to create wealth for themselves. During the 1960s, voter registration drives focused on increasing the number of black voters. The result is that the number of blacks being elected into local, state, and national offices has greatly increased. Today a number of major cities are politically controlled by black elected officials, including Washington, D.C., Detroit, Atlanta and others. There have been a number of politically powerful black elected representatives in Congress, and the president is black.

But the assumption that wealth increases along with political power has not been the case. In many ways, the economic condition of many blacks has declined as political power has increased. In fact, there is evidence that wealth can increase even in the absence of political power, and the success of Asian-Americans provides that evidence.

Asians-Americans have little political power. Asian voter participation lags behind that of whites, blacks and Hispanics. They are less likely to vote than any group. Asians tend to avoid politics, while focusing their efforts on encouraging their children to strive toward getting quality educations.

More than 49 percent of Asians receive bachelor’s degrees, but only 31 percent of whites and 18 percent of blacks have bachelor’s degrees. The median household income of Asians is $66,000; the median household income of whites is $54,000; the median household income of blacks is $33,000.

Striving toward and achieving political power has not resulted in black Americans advancing economically, and failing to do so has not hurt Asian-Americans.

Several other factors relate to Asians’ economic success. I used to live in an Asian community in Southern California. The people I knew and observed helped each other with business ventures. Little conflict exists among Asians pursuing mainstream activities. Older children help younger children with their schoolwork. Adults involve their children in their businesses.

I observed children doing their homework at the parents’ businesses and as the years passed, the children ran the businesses until it was time for them to start their university education. By the time these kids went off the college, they already had extensive real-world experience in business activities.

Fifty years ago, many of us thought political power was the right path to economic equality. But we all should know now that is not the case. To achieve greater economic equality, Americans should look to how Asians have achieved their successes and model our lives after them.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at