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December 26, 2007

Comments

I think Bruce Bartlett is just arguing for racism in general.

An easy line for Republican "economists" to take these days to avoid talking about...economics.

Very good post. I have a theory that the South is about to become a whole lot less important in electoral politics than it has been. Politics is all about contested groups, groups who are up for grabs. Part of the problem with the black vote is that any group that is going to vote 90% for one party is going to lose concessions, is going to be taken for granted, it's just the way things are. The Democrats are guilty of that, but they have also been losing elections. It's irrational to forfeit good political positioning for a group that is already voting for you.

Contested groups. White working-class males who might or might not be in a union were such a group in the 1980s. "Swing voters" after that. The South was interesting because it was strongly Democratic and heading for strongly Republican, which made it volatile. I can remember talking to an older female Arkansas voter in 1993, who told me, "Honey, we're all Democrats down there." (I'm from NYC.) It struck me as wrong at the time, of course, but she had a point. But it was changing rapidly.

To some extent, the South is about to become the "blacks" of the Republican Party. And if some clever political leader can figure out a way to get 40% of black voters to consistently vote for the Republicans, it'd be bad news for the Democrats -- but possibly awesome news for African Americans.

And if some clever political leader can figure out a way to get 40% of black voters to consistently vote for the Republicans, it'd be bad news for the Democrats -- but possibly awesome news for African Americans.

Clever meaning having an IQ over room temperature....

But agreed....(And 90% Democratic because the Republicans have been making little or no effort...)

Invisible Man had very much the same effect on me. You just wonder how the world can just keep moving along after you've been hit so viscerally.

And you're right that by far the more serious problem in the modern world is those who attempt to make racism invisible, not those who are blatantly racist.

In response to Charles, I think that, unfortunately, the real problem is that if you're a white male, you really just don't realize the extent of the privileges you enjoy. To a white man, it's pretty normal to think that he can go for a walk at most times in most places and never have to worry about being raped. When he sees flashing lights in his mirror, he can probably safely assume that while he may have been exceeding the speed limit or have a taillight out, the police officer hasn't stopped him because he matches a vague description of a criminal. Those don't seem like privileges, until you don't have them any more. And so it can be very hard for even the best-intentioned white male to understand what challenges minorities still face.

The over/under on the words "Robert Byrd" is 15. The over/under on someone arguing that Democratic programs don't help blacks anyway is 27.

Let me correct my above comment by amending that the question of misunderstanding, as noted by publius, is not the 'real' problem as I said, but is, I think, a major contributor to the problem because so many people who are honestly of good faith simply cannot see the degree to which the problem still exists.

One of your, IMHO, best posts, publius. G'Kar, great comments.

As one of those white males, the argument has often been made to me, particularly in relation to affirmative action, that this is a form of discrimination against whites and two wrongs don't make a right.

If one is talking about purely economic issues, there might be some merit to that.

However, racism goes way beyond that as both publius and G'Kar have pointed out. The victims of racism have more than just material, economic consequences on display. There are strong psychological issues at play.

Granted, racism does cut both ways, and there are African American racists and Asian racists and so on and so on.

But the target of the claims I talked about at the beginning of this comment are those who, like G'Kar said, fall into the "best-intentioned" category.

Bennett makes the mistake (undoubtedly intentionally) of saying that those who focus on Reagan's speech use it to say that Republicans are racist. Based on a thread here not too long ago, there are some who do believe that. However, that speech is used most often not to say that Republicans are racist, but rather to show how the Republican Party deliberately and knowingly went after the votes of those who have a strong racist bent.

But many reading his comments will just assume that his statement is accurate.

Let me correct my above comment by amending that the question of misunderstanding, as noted by publius, is not the 'real' problem as I said, but is, I think, a major contributor to the problem because so many people who are honestly of good faith simply cannot see the degree to which the problem still exists.

I think it is the real problem in the sense that if it's not dealt with, then all other measures will only be stopgaps that don't solve the problem in any real way. I really liked the way you discussed privilege, G'Kar, because it's at the heart of what I think of as unconscious racism--those thoughtless statements or actions that I and a lot of my fellow white males say and do that have no malice in the, but are callous and sexist and racist all the same. And I'm talking about the people of good faith here--there's also a large portion of the population who see their privilege and think it is somehow deserved.

this just in: lying to your base about the evils of the opposition helps your cause and carries no penalty.

sure, it's unfortunate that The Big Lie seems to be the chief tactic of professional Republicans these days. but, at the same time at least some of the problem must lie with those who are so easily led.

What the GOP has done in the last 40 years is - I repeat - ethically worse than what the Dems did before. Notice I didn't absolve the Democratic Party for its decades of racism, cynicism and political advantage-taking vis a vis racism. Simply, what the GOP did is even more cynical; it's morally null. To put it in understandable terms, you could call the Southern Strategy an insidious social-engineering. And as a bonus, over and above racisim itself, moral nullity became normative. ("If you can't be good, be careful'. Or, as W Bush would say, 'It's just politics, John [McCain].') Anyway, a grateful nation thanks you for renewing the cesspool when it was in danger of starting to shrink away.

There is a completely normal yearning in the country to 'get past' racism - a yearning most people of whatever background (or foreground) share. It's all so shameful. One of the problems people like Ellison remind you of is that not only are the psychological problems bad in themselves, but describing them, admitting to them, is deeply humiliating - but of course you have to admit to them to get anywhere.

BTW, I notice we needs must never forget to hasten to add that black people, and asians and any other group can be racist or biggoted. It's especially important for you white folks who might feel you stripped off your ethnic indentities and jumped into the Melting Pot sometime in the 50s or 60s (or 40s); you worked your ass off your whole life and didn't end up with all that much to show for it. You didn't get any special favors. The Republicans (and George Wallace) feel your pain.

Honestly, when I hear a Republican like Bartlett suggest or imply the need for racial reconcilliation, I think of Bush's second inaugural - so unlike the First Republican's - extolling liberty and democracy around the world. Pure opportunistic bull____.


Publius,
I have been a huge fan of yours since your early L&P days, but I must say that this is one of your best posts (along with the series of Reagan race-baiting analysis). As an African-American, I was moved particularly by this sentence:

But I suspect many crave a sincere acknowledgment of reality more than a particular set of remedial policies.

That is EXACTLY right. Very well said. However, this is difficult for whites, because as you have acknowledged, they don't want to feel like bad people. Nobody does....

I appreciate your work.

I seriously doubt most 7th-graders learn ANYTHING about shifts in American political party demographics, especially post-Vietnam. IIRC, most K-12 history textbooks still don't get much past WWII, because anything after that is too controversial (i.e., apt to get the school district and/or the textbook distributor sued). I would be truly surprised if most kids even learn that the Democratic Party was the Jim Crow party, much less that the Republicans were the successors to that movement.

I do wonder who Bartlett's audience is -- I would think that anyone paying enough attention to read it would also be interested enough in politics to know the history. But hey, maybe he wants to change the history. If 5 or 6 more books along these lines follow, and another 20 or so books pick up the factoids therein and take them for granted, we'll be well on our way to rewriting history. Bartlett can't do it all by himself with just one book, but Rome wasn't built in a day and you have to start somewhere. It can happen just that easily --look how the Daughters of the Confederacy, the Klan (then a potent nationwide political force), and fellow travelers rewrote the history of the Civil War into the War of Northern Agression in the fin de siecle period, just by repeating Big Lies until they became Current Wisdom.

Beyond not wanting to feel like bad people, I think a lot of white people, after acknowledging the reality, worry that they can't do something about the problem without seeming to be patronizing.

Conservatives often say that theirs is the morally superior position, because by not acknowledging the reality, they are the ones who are truly treating African-Americans as equals. It's hard not to see this as a bad faith position, but it plays to the discomfort of seeming patronizing.

"I do wonder who Bartlett's audience is"

People who want to believe him.

This is an excellent post, especially the part that talks about the total impact of racism.

It will stun no one to learn that I am not African-American, but I did live in the Jim Crow south when I was young. I was a high school student in Birmingham in the early 60's. It doesn't get much stronger than that. (Was I a civil rights activist? No, I was not.)

So I have some sense of how things looked from the other side, and I can vouch for the fact that white attitudes, in general, were exactly those which would produce the results Publius describes. It was not only a question of water coolers and waiting rooms and miserably underfunded schools and so on. Blacks were seen as not quite fully human - not entitled to any sort of personal dignity whatsoever. The assumption of black inferiority was ingrained.

That's what makes so many discussions of Jim Crow that I see on blogs unreal. It was not just rules to be followed, not just a set of laws. It was a social and psychological structure that needed to be broken. Bruce Bartlett notwithstanding, it is to the Democrats' credit (as Yglesias has said) that the party, at the national level, was willing to take on that task, even at the cost of breaking up its governing coalition. It is to the Republicans' discredit that their leadership saw this decision as an opportunity for political gain. (There were certainly Republican supporters of civil rights. But those who ended up controlling the party at the national level were not in that category).

Bruce Bartlett notwithstanding, it is to the Democrats' credit (as Yglesias has said) that the party, at the national level, was willing to take on that task, even at the cost of breaking up its governing coalition. It is to the Republicans' discredit that their leadership saw this decision as an opportunity for political gain.

It's the same thing the Republicans did when the Dems raised taxes to a level that was both affordable and could sustain the gov't. Now they want credit for cutting taxes ... while ignoring the astronomical amount of debt they're responsible for.

Expect the GOP to try to blame the eventual failure of Iraq on Dems if the Dems get control of both the White House and Congress. (They've already tried blaming it on the Dems ... and the "MSM".)

Power is a compelling force.

Racism is one way to consolidate power for generations. Sexism and homophobia are other aspects of manipulating fear and consolidating power.

Excellent post. I just read Native Son a couple months ago. I'll read Invisible Man next. The part about this that I found so funny was the way Bartlett defended himself on Yglesias' blog. His arguments in his own defense were really piss-poor, even immature.

The part about this that I found so funny was the way Bartlett defended himself on Yglesias' blog. His arguments in his own defense were really piss-poor, even immature.

Well, they had to be, since there is no mature defense for Bartlett's book or his statements in defense of it. Trilobite is correct above when s/he (sorry, don't know) says that this is probably an attempt to rewrite history a la the Klan, the DoC (and the Southern Baptist Convention, though trilobite didn't mention them) did the Civil War. Bartlett has to know that the Republican party is anathema to the average African-American now, especially after the Katrina response, but that if the Republican party is to remain viale long term, it can't stay the party of wealthy white men and poor conservative racists. It has to be more inclusive. He can't completely alienate the base, so instead he changes the storyline. I'll bet money that over the next few years you'll see more books echoing this notion that the Republicans are the traditional home of civil rights legislation.

I think South Park made this same general point when Stan (a white kid) said to Token (a black kid), regarding what it is like to be black in America, "I get it: I don't get it!."

He arrived at this conclusion after trying in vain to "get it."

I'm less impressed with this post, with it's uncomplicated view of the present reality of racism in both major parties. Yes, the Democratic party did something great in largely breaking free of it's racist past. And the current Republican party isn't nearly as free of racism as it ought to be, as a result of taking on racists alienated from the Democratic party by that shift.

But to a large extent the current non-racism of the Democratic party is less real than definitional; The Democratic party IS, after all, the party advocating public policies which explicitly discriminate on the basis of race. No, not on the basis of being disadvantaged by a history of racism, on the basis of race itself: Under policies cheerfully defended by Democrats, the white immigrant is harmed to benefit the black immigrant, neither having even the theoretical link to American racism which the native born actually only contingently have.

That's not reparations, that's racism, pure and simple.

One of those posts I had to think about a little. I tend to side with Brett, as I usually do in these arguments.

OTOH, this hit a nerve:
The first step then isn’t so much to adopt this or that remedial policy, but to simply step back and acknowledge it.

OK, I acknowledge it. And I feel some generational guilt, my forefathers held other people as common property. It was wrong and disgraceful with no if’s, and’s or but’s…

Now what? I’m fine with the acknowledgment part. I mean it happened, its part of history. Not acknowledging it is rewriting history. But now what?

Not snark – an honest question. As a privileged white man with some amount of guilt for this I really want to know.

For my part, I try not to discriminate against anyone, gay, Asian, Hispanic, whatever. I thought that was the best way to directly address the issue. But it seems that is not enough.

I'm less impressed with this post, with it's uncomplicated view of the present reality of racism in both major parties.

I'm less impressed still with arguments that devolve to "It's racism, it's wrong" without acknowledging that WHATEVER we do is wrong---it's a matter of doing the least amount of harm.

I'd like to wait for better solutions to work, but that inflicts hard as well---the seeming failure to acknowledge that is maddening and frustrating.

OCSteve, exactly what do you perceive yourself as acknowledging? No criticism or snark intended.

You talk about guilt related to forefathers owning slaves. That is not an issue related to racism, atleast not in terms of what publius is talking about.

I think what needs to be acknowledged is not the physical, economic impact of racism, although it is important as well, but the psychological impact, which is something that as fairly well off white males you and I would have extreme difficulty relating to.

Intellectually we can find the words, but emotionally we almost necessarily have to remain distant.

I undrestand where Brett, and to some degree yourself, are coming from. But I don't think racism is the word that applies. Discrimination I can accept as a definition, but not racism.

There is a big difference. And for the person on the receiving end of racism, particularly when s/he has next to no real power, the psychological impact is even more devastating.

Can people overcome it? Sure and many have.

As to remedy, I am almost as up in the air as you are. Your personal solution is part of the answer, but it needs to be present among even more people than it currently is. The problem is that racism is not something that can logically be argued away.

A very good friend of mine from childhood served in Vietnam. Prior to that, he was about as racist a person as I knew. He came back with a totally different opinion of African Americans, mainly due to daily interaction at a level that required effective cooperation and interdependency.

Most of us don't have that opportunity. Being with people of a different race in the work place doesn't really provide that. And even if it did, many would not change.

OK, I acknowledge it. And I feel some generational guilt, my forefathers held other people as common property. It was wrong and disgraceful with no if’s, and’s or but’s…

Now what? I’m fine with the acknowledgment part. I mean it happened, its part of history. Not acknowledging it is rewriting history. But now what?

Not snark – an honest question. As a privileged white man with some amount of guilt for this I really want to know.

This is indeed a good question. Ergo, it is hard to answer.

Part of that is that institutional remedies are almost always blunt instruments---they cause almost more problems than they solve, and attempts to fine tune them create a jury-rigged monster that is impossible to administer.

But the key is that it's "almost more" and not "definitely more." And to look carefully at solutions and not reject them out of hand because they are not perfect, nor to get wedded to them because it seems that they may work best in limited sets of situations, for limited sets of time. (And that possibly these solutions are one-offs, tailored to specific situations, and they have to be repeatedly tailored anew for each situation).

Under policies cheerfully defended by Democrats, the white immigrant is harmed to benefit the black immigrant, neither having even the theoretical link to American racism which the native born actually only contingently have.

Hey, did you know that white immigrants are less likely to be discriminated against and more likely to get better jobs than even better-educated black immigrants? Don't answer, because you clearly didn't.

Nice weasel words, too -- "theoretical," "contingently." You're a real piece of work, Brett. This, folks, is actually the paradigm case of someone not getting it. When there's a whole cottage industry dedicated to proving that, by virtue of your skin color and your ancestors' DNA, you are inherently less intelligent than people of another skin color, you get back to me about theoretical contingencies, son.

For my part, I try not to discriminate against anyone, gay, Asian, Hispanic, whatever. I thought that was the best way to directly address the issue. But it seems that is not enough.

The Wal-Mart up the street from my house, where I shop often, has one of those guys checking receipts as you exit the store. Not only have I never been stopped and asked to have my receipt checked, I've never seen a white person stopped there, period. Every person I see get stopped is black.

Imagine living under that kind of mistrust and paranoia everyplace you go, just because of your skin color, more than a century and a half after this was all supposedly fixed. Or, imagine how what I alluded to above feels: Having not just crackpot Klansmen, but Nobel prize winners and writers at major publications debating whether your skin color makes you genetically dumber than people with a different skin color.

It's great that you -- or I, or anyone here -- doesn't personally discriminate on the basis of skin color or ethnic heritage. But as a country and a culture we have a long way to go on this stuff.

"That's not reparations, that's racism, pure and simple."

Brett, could you please correlate this for us with the huge support of self-identified "black" people for the Democratic Party?

Also, I gather that you find racism to be an evil. Might I ask what you'd regard as useful action people should engage in to fight it?

"You're a real piece of work, Brett."

Phil, old son. Have you ever heard of the stiletto versus the bludgeon?

"Hey, did you know that white immigrants are less likely to be discriminated against and more likely to get better jobs than even better-educated black immigrants? Don't answer, because you clearly didn't."

Hey, did you know that "diversity" policies at many universities discriminate against white immigrants to make room for black immigrants, neither of whom have any relationship at all to America's history of racism, purely on the basis of their skin color? Don't answer, because you clearly didn't.

"When there's a whole cottage industry dedicated to proving that, by virtue of your skin color and your ancestors' DNA, you are inherently less intelligent than people of another skin color, you get back to me about theoretical contingencies, son."

Since that cottage industry puts asians at the top of that particular ranking, and I'm not asian, I guess I can get back to you right now, can't I?

"But I don't think racism is the word that applies. Discrimination I can accept as a definition, but not racism."

Discrimination is the action, racism is the viewpoint that justifies the action. Without a belief in collective racial guilt, the whole edifice of racially discriminatory policy as it exists in the real world, with all it's indifference to actual individual stories, and even family history, makes no sense.

OCSteve may acknowledge some generational guilt, but MY ancestors all moved to this country after the civil war, and moved to a state that was on the union side of that fight, and never a slave state. It's stupid enough to attribute guilt to people for what their distant ancestors did, but to attribute guilt to somebody for what somebody else's freaking ancestors did, just because they had similar complexions to your's is stark insanity.

In fact, what it is is RACISM.

John: exactly what do you perceive yourself as acknowledging?

Racism is still with us after all these years. Decades of racism has undoubtedly had an effect on the basic psyche of minorities. Things are better, but by no means perfect. As a white privileged male I admit that by virtue of my position in society I have likely benefited from this. I did not come up with it; I am not directly responsible for it. But I have benefited from it, and at times I have downplayed its importance in today’s society. I bear some guilt for it. I agree with Brett that true color blindness is the best way to go.

Gwangung: And to look carefully at solutions and not reject them out of hand because they are not perfect, nor to get wedded to them because it seems that they may work best in limited sets of situations, for limited sets of time. (And that possibly these solutions are one-offs, tailored to specific situations, and they have to be repeatedly tailored anew for each situation).

I’m with you in spirit… But in actuality once anything is put into practice it has no “sell by” date. You can’t roll back something that worked decades ago without charges of… whatever.

Phil: It's great that you -- or I, or anyone here -- doesn't personally discriminate on the basis of skin color or ethnic heritage. But as a country and a culture we have a long way to go on this stuff.

OK. But again – tell me what I should be doing at a personal level to fix this. I do it in my personal life. But it seems clear that I should be doing something else…

""That's not reparations, that's racism, pure and simple."

Brett, could you please correlate this for us with the huge support of self-identified "black" people for the Democratic Party?"

Gladly: You think blacks can't be racist, or favor racist policies that benefit them? That it's only racism if it's against blacks? What a joke!

Again, what do you (anyone) want me to do? This type of post, and countless articles, politician’s speeches, etc. are all meant to elicit this very guilt. And it is there.

OK – you got me. Now what? If it is meant as a bludgeon to get me to agree with social engineering policies I would not otherwise agree with then that will not work. I do what I can at the personal level. Politicians don’t get my vote by reminding me of this guilt and using it as the basis for why I should vote for them or their policies… Not if I don't agree with the policies.

"You think blacks can't be racist, or favor racist policies that benefit them? That it's only racism if it's against blacks?"

Um, gosh. That's quite a derivation. Can you also tell me what color I'm thinking of, now, and then what fingers I am holding up?

Also, name the capital of the state I'm thinking of.

And can we put five bucks on each answer you get correct?

Because, on the basis of your lunatic non-sequiturs, I'd enjoy the results.

Gary, if you don't believe such nonsense, why would you think there's any disconnect between,

1. The Democratic party favoring racist policies.

and,

2. The Democratic party having a huge level of support from self-identified blacks?

The racist policies are intended to favor blacks, why would they drive blacks away?

Steve - it's a good question. I think the answer is less that it means X and Y -- it's more of an attempt to color one's perspective on these various issues. But I'll take a stab.

The first bucket of stuff is that it should you make you angrier to see the various offensive things that, say, state GOPs do (confederate flag pins on lapel by Haley Barbour, etc.). It also hopefully gives you less tolerance for bartlett's arguments.

Second, it should make you more sympathetic to civil rights policies - while not requiring you to agree with all of them. For instance, if you see that racism was more than what was written on law books, you can begin to see the symbolic (but substantive) importance of public measures like affirmative action. But aff action is tough. The more pressing issues, to me, are eliminating things like voter ID laws and bs voter fraud prosecutions, which are transparent attempts to limit black votes.

But perhaps the most substantive policy that I would like to see happen is a greater emphasis on - and sympathy for - urban funding and poverty more generally. Katrina was a big eye-opener -- and a reminder of how this effects linger on. More than linger actually. YOu can't look at teh Superdome without seeing the shadow of slavery and Jim Crow behind it.

There is systemic, structural poverty within the urban black community -- and a big part of that was caused by the very things Ralph Ellison was writing about.

So that's the substance. But to me, politics is often about rationalizing the subjective sympathies one has on a visceral level (e.g., gay marriage). To truly persuade someone, you often require far more than logic. You somehow have to shift emotional loyalities -- emotion-based perspectives.

"Acknowledging it", even if doesn't lead to any direct policies, should hopefully shift this "first principle" - the initial emotional disposition. Once in place, other policy preferences will inevitably shift.

let me know though if that doesn't make sense

Without a belief in collective racial guilt, the whole edifice of racially discriminatory policy as it exists in the real world, with all it's indifference to actual individual stories, and even family history, makes no sense.

FWIW, I disagree.

Affirmative action, which is what you appear to be worked up about, does not require a belief in "collective racial guilt". It's a remedial policy that's intended to address longstanding institutional prejudice. It says nothing about, and needs to say nothing about, the guilt or innocence of anyone in the here and now.

The historical prejudice is real, as are its effects. Whether affirmative action is, or is not, an effective remedy is a question worth asking. But "collective racial guilt" is really not part of the equation.

In reference to the original post, I'll also point out that the kind of "racism" Brett alludes to here has nothing whatsoever to do with what Bartlett is talking about.

Thanks -

OCSteve may acknowledge some generational guilt, but MY ancestors all moved to this country after the civil war, and moved to a state that was on the union side of that fight, and never a slave state. It's stupid enough to attribute guilt to people for what their distant ancestors did, but to attribute guilt to somebody for what somebody else's freaking ancestors did, just because they had similar complexions to your's is stark insanity.

In fact, what it is is RACISM.

Have you benefited from the system put in place by those others? Don't bother answering--if you're white, you have, no questions asked. So please get off your high horse--whether or not your ancestors personally owned slaves, you've gotten the benefits simply because of the color of your skin. Do you need to feel guilt? Not necessarily, but please don't act like you're somehow outside the system, or worse, that you're being put upon by a system that you have benefited from in ways greater than you could ever imagine.

A quick look at Bartlett's Wikipedia entry
rattles off these associations:

Percy Greaves, Republican counsel to the 1946 committee which investigated the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Bartlett wrote a book about it; Greaves advised.

Ron Paul

Jack Kemp

Jude Wanniski

Gary Bauer

Heritage

Cato

Reagan, Bush II, of course.

Bartlett's a bag man for the Right, attracted to every freak the right vomits up; he's trotted out once again as an election approaches.

Just for the record, my grandfather thought blacks (hey, Johnnie! Look at the nigger!)were getting the best of whites and were guilty of racism and were gaming the system back in the early 1960s.

I loved the man, but this fucking shit will never stop from whites who know fucking nothing about the position they achieve by mere birth.

Then they (we) call it achievement and victimhood at the same time.

It is nothing new that the Democratic Party was the home for racists in America. Anyone who continues to throw it in the face of today's Democrats merely acknowledges the universal enormity of racism in America.

Ya wanna mention Sen Byrd? May the shade of Nixon rise from the grave and take him home to the Republican Party. I don't mind if West Virginia receives my pork dollars from the other side of the aisle. Neither do West Virginians.

Happy New Year.

"The Democrats are the ones fighting for the programs and laws that disproportionately help poor and urban African-Americans."

There are deep character differences between the Central American blacks I work with and the North American blacks I’ve worked with in the past (pardon the generalization). The Central Americans I know are deeply proud of their culture, but not in a stand-offish way, and have strong families. Married, nice wives, polite well-dressed kids. Every time I try to find something wrong with their work, they make me look silly. Schoolchildren wear uniforms to school and the great majority graduate.

Please don’t confuse ‘giving money to’ with ‘helping’. Giving money away has largely destroyed the black family in the United States. It has also destroyed their pride in a lot of ways.

The power structure recognizes that there are different standards for black Harvard graduates and white Harvard graduates; for black military officers and white military officers. The dumb ones are called ‘diversity specials’ behind closed doors. The average American sees right through the unqualified Rice’s and Gonzalez’s of the world, observes poor performance, and has his prejudices reinforced.

It is terrible what the pandering left (and right) has done to qualified minorities in this Country. It is also terrible what pandering has done to otherwise good people who are thrust into positions that they are unprepared for. That point gets driven home if you’ve ever had to console a father who is crying at work. The real world is not academia; you have to perform and there are goals and milestones. You have to keep up.

Life isn’t fair. Some people are smart, some people are dumb, some people are in between. We need to lose our race-based guilt on this subject as we are making things worse. Meritocracy is the best any society will ever be able to do.

And yes, Bartlett is one of the dumb ones.

You think blacks can't be racist, or favor racist policies that benefit them? That it's only racism if it's against blacks?

Have you read this post or any of the comments? Because it sure doesn't seem like it? Reread the post, especially the parts about Invisible Man (hint, it's not a novel by HG Wells) and maybe you'll be qualified to contribute to this dialog.

Bill:

You're growing on me.

But .....

"The average American sees right through the unqualified Rice's and Gonzalez's of the world, observes poor performance, and has his prejudices reinforced."

True.

Bur deeply false. The average American is a lunkhead. When I look at Rice (not so much) and Gonzalez (very much), I see poor performing individuals, not examples from which I generalize to racial categories as a whole.

Let's put it this way. George W. Bush is a dumb, underperforming white guy, but probably a decent dancer in his younger more entertaining days. Given his performance, you, me, DaveC., Sebastian, Von, Phil, Hilzoy, and Brett ought to be getting some generalizing blowback regarding our racial dumbitude.

But we're not. We get a gimme. It's golf for cheaters, speaking only for myself.

The poor schmuck applying for a job when driving swarthy reminds the rancid white underachiever at the auto parts store of Condaleeza and Alberto.

We, the pale, remind him of him, the aggrieved competent white guy.

Incompetent, dumbass Bush is granted the privilege of achieving his incompetence all by himself, the lucky small guy.

This is all within the context of things improving racially in America over the past 50 years.


Two years ago I was talking with my Dad about a Rice Presidency at Thanksgiving. We were both excited about it.

Since then she came up with the ‘no Jews allowed through this door’ at Annapolis, culminating a run that included comparing the Palestinian Jizya-seeking pressure groups with our Founding Fathers. And I’ve become more jaded. Maybe she'll get a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts.

If I were a black man, I wouldn’t want to live in the US (unless I had a part-time DBE and was sending money back to Belize or Costa Rica or the Bahamas). My quality of life would be better somewhere else. I put a lot of the blame on the unintended consequences of well-intentioned individuals.

As always, I enjoy the debate.

I put a lot of the blame on the unintended consequences of well-intentioned individuals.

What percentage of the blame do you assign to the intended consequences of mal-intentioned individuals.

With regard to the reasons for the difference between the families down there and the ‘families’ up here, I’d put the pandering/resentment ratio at 65/35.

I’d like introduce another variable though- religion. I’m not an organized religion type of guy, but faith is a big deal in Central America. One of my black friends (maybe he likes me for the money, but I consider him a friend) sent me the third post in the link. You’ll have to wade through two of my posts from one of my heros (the wine level is dropping).

But I attribute much of the civility on the personal level in Central America to Christianity. It’s just a nicer place to live in many ways.

http://www.limes68.blogspot.com/

OCSteve,
I'm glad you are here to ask some difficult questions. Let me take a stab at answering them.

I'd draw an analogy to us being in a marriage of the old fashioned type, where neither side can really divorce, and we have to make do and stay together, cause there is no other option. Suppose the side with the financial/political/social power does something to the other side that is pretty grevious. If, in the aftermath, you (and this is just an analogy, no comment on anyone's home life here) decide to fall back on logical arguments to defend your position, you are probably missing the point. All of the logical argumentation has the powerful side start off with the broad advantage, and the logic can be used to support things remaining the same. In such a situation, the person on the better side of the power differential needs to just pause and maybe wait a bit before launching into an argument about what is logical. Sometimes, that means just backing off and giving the other side space to develop their own notions and ideas. Other times, it means giving up something that might be defensible as yours as a gesture.

When this gets into difficulty is individual cases, but any public organization that deals with the public good (and in this, I include goverment, universities, schools) providing that space and those gestures are essential if we want to get over the problems that are currently faced. This may overly compensate some who do not deserve it and it may injure some who may not deserve to be pushed back. But if the goal is to reach a society that is something equivalent to a happy marriage, it is necessary.

I wish I could find it, but a native American writer described the situation as one where someone from down the street takes your bicycle and rides it everyday, using it for their paper route, to get to school, for any number of years, until the person really no longer needs it. After all this, the person comes up to you and says well, there's always been this problem between us but isn't it just time to let bygones be bygones. You reply but what about my bike, and the other person shrugs and says well, I guess you haven't matured enough to get over it. That attitude is what Publius is addressing, what might be needed is not for you to do something, but for those who speak from a position of power (and again, this is not a request for you to stop writing, this is just a general notion) to hold their tongue and forgo complaining.

Interestingly, when I searched for the stolen bicycle story, I found this

October 8, 2004
Thomas Williams is in Soledad State Prison sentenced for buying a stolen bicycle under the Three-Strikes-Law. He says, “My prior serious felony convictions were non-violent burglary offenses from the early 1980's. I have no violence in my background. The most recent offenses were less serious property theft offenses." Thomas is a black man serving 25 years to life under three strikes.

Gary:Phil, old son. Have you ever heard of the stiletto versus the bludgeon?

Some people just need a good bludgeoning, Gary. Hell, I'm probably one of them.


Brett:"Hey, did you know that white immigrants are less likely to be discriminated against and more likely to get better jobs than even better-educated black immigrants? Don't answer, because you clearly didn't."

Hey, did you know that "diversity" policies at many universities discriminate against white immigrants to make room for black immigrants, neither of whom have any relationship at all to America's history of racism, purely on the basis of their skin color? Don't answer, because you clearly didn't.

Newflash, kid: If, as I mentioned, white immigrants are benefitting from the existing cultural and power structure at the expense of black immigrants -- which they are -- then they don't need a historical connection to American racism. They benefit from it in the here and now. Just like you and I do, despite your or my family's personal history and who moved where when. Unless you think that, in 1865, or in 1964, somebody pressed a giant RESET button on history. Is that what you think?

Same with you, OCSteve, with I agree with Brett that true color blindness is the best way to go.. Black people only got some real guarantees of their civil rights a century after a bloody war supposedly decided the issue, and that war came after two centuries of enslavement. Those guarantees came about in my parents' lifetime, and only missed coming about in my lifetime by 5 years, and we're supposed to pretend that everything's all equal now and we can all just be "color-blind?"

OK, great, let's be color-blind. But to do that we're going to have to fix a lot of things in our culture -- like not encouraging, or at least now allowing government imprimatur of, the flying of the flag of the losing side in that selfsame war, for starters -- that are going to make a lot of people uncomfortable and may drive Bellmore into sheer apoplexy. You ready for that?

By the way, those who chose the "over" for "Democrats don't really help black people anyway," Bill's 11:42 was the 40th comment in the thread. See my guy to collect. Also, someone explain to Bill the role of churches in the black communities in America, if you believe he's educatable.

Phil, you're demonstrating my point: You see a black guy, maybe the son of a wealthy businessman, or a recent immigrant from the Caribbean, and think, "Victim, needs compensation." You see a white guy, perhaps the child of a poor Appalachian coal miner, and think, "Oppressor, needs to make restitution."

What is racism, anyway, except the belief that race tells you what you really need to know about people, that you don't need to treat them as individuals, with their own life stories? That you're entitled to discriminate against this white guy, because THAT white guy did something wrong?

And, Phil? I haven't been driven to sheer apoplexy since the time I tried to explain the laws of thermodynamics to a liberal arts major back in college. ("4th law of thermodynamics", my ass!)

You see . . . and think . . . You see . . . and think

TWEEEEEEEEEEEEET! Mindreading penalty! 15 yards, still first down!

Since I see and think neither of those things, I suggest a new strategy: Let the Wookiee win Try asking me what I think instead of telling me what I think, Jesurgislac Jr. It's generally better for advancing things, since the other way is just you talking to yourself.

(If, however, you want to argue in favor of class-based affirmative action -- which will, of course, disproportionately aid blacks, who are disproportionately poor -- I'm right behind you.)

I note that you decided to punt on the question of the reset button, so I'll take that as a concession that it never happened and society was not automatically made fair, equitable and color-blind just because LBJ signed a bill some 43 years ago.

I do know that, in the case of your wealthy black immigrant and poor white Appalachian posited above, if they were to commit identical crimes, the black man would be some 6 times more likely to be sent to prison than the white man. So let's start there with our discussion of color-blindness, and work backwards.

. . since the time I tried to explain the laws of thermodynamics to a liberal arts major back in college.

Uh, yeah. "Look at the big brain on Brett!" -- Pulp Fiction. Brett got shot in the face by Sam Jackson right after that, btw, so there you have it.

Here are some more things to keep in mind as we continue with our discussion of color-blindiness:

-- There are currently 4 black CEOs in the Fortune 500, fewer than 1% of the total.

-- There have been 5 black Senators, ever. Three have served in my lifetime. One is serving now, and he's running for President.

-- There has, obviously, never been a black President or Vice-President.

-- Being black, all by itself, confers a 4% greater chance of receiving the death penalty for a capital crime.

-- Among District Attorneys in states with the death penalty, 97.5% of them are white men. Only 1% are black.

-- On average, killing a white victim is 4-5x more likely to get you sentenced to death than killing a black victim.

But by all means, let's all be color-blind and pretend this stuff isn't going on. That will solve everything!

publius: Second, it should make you more sympathetic to civil rights policies - while not requiring you to agree with all of them. For instance, if you see that racism was more than what was written on law books, you can begin to see the symbolic (but substantive) importance of public measures like affirmative action.

I can see that. But I don’t necessarily equate civil rights with AA.

"Acknowledging it", even if doesn't lead to any direct policies, should hopefully shift this "first principle" - the initial emotional disposition. Once in place, other policy preferences will inevitably shift.

That makes sense. Thanks for the response.

LJ and Phil: I’ll have to think about that a bit before I have a substantial (or not) response.

Phil can cite statistics all he wants, but WE know implicitly that it is WAY MORE important to get our panties in a bunch when some white schleb is denied entrance to the UCLA Law School because (gasp!) he's white.

Why, it's a simple matter of priorities!

I put a lot of the blame on the unintended consequences of well-intentioned individuals.

I agree that there was, and is, a strong element of pandering in some of civil rights initiatives of the last 50 years. I also agree that affirmative action, specifically, has been a mixed blessing for folks who have benefited from it. I also have known, personally, folks who achieved positions they were not prepared for through programs like affirmative action, and who ultimately failed because of that.

All of that said, you could multiply the harm caused by the "unintended consequences of well-intentioned individuals" a million fold, and not begin to approach the real harm, both historical and persistent, that is the legacy of the chattel slavery of African blacks in America.

And no, a million is not an exaggeration.

A little perspective goes a long way.

Thanks -

(If, however, you want to argue in favor of class-based affirmative action -- which will, of course, disproportionately aid blacks, who are disproportionately poor -- I'm right behind you.)

Hasn't this been said seven or eight times before?

Though, if it helps, I'll mention it a ninth or tenth time...

(On the third hand, I've mentioned this before and some folks dismissed it by saying, "That's just code for raced based aid!")

You see a black guy, maybe the son of a wealthy businessman, or a recent immigrant from the Caribbean, and think, "Victim, needs compensation." You see a white guy, perhaps the child of a poor Appalachian coal miner, and think, "Oppressor, needs to make restitution."

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | December 27, 2007 at 07:36 AM

Brett are you a Marxists? ;)

Your class critique is still lacking.

(On the third hand, I've mentioned this before and some folks dismissed it by saying, "That's just code for raced based aid!")

It has to be dismissed that way, otherwise it avoids the reverse-racism critique applied to AA. What then?

Of course, it can only be code for race-based aid if there is an actual economic disparity between the races. Maybe some people think that's okay, but they should have to admit that.

publius: There is systemic, structural poverty within the urban black community -- and a big part of that was caused by the very things Ralph Ellison was writing about.

OK I think this may be your best point. That is, there is something concrete that I as an individual can do here. “Redlining” is responsible for much of this condition and continues to this day in various forms. As an individual I can actively support companies that work to undo this damage. I can take my business to the banks, mortgage companies, insurance companies, and retail chains that go out of their way to help these neighborhoods recover from decades of discrimination. And I will look into that.


LJ: That attitude is what Publius is addressing, what might be needed is not for you to do something, but for those who speak from a position of power (and again, this is not a request for you to stop writing, this is just a general notion) to hold their tongue and forgo complaining.

I understand the point you are making here, and I can certainly forgo complaining. It would be absurd anyway. Don’t you think though that this approach is essentially indifference?


Phil: …and we're supposed to pretend that everything's all equal now and we can all just be "color-blind?"

I’m not one to hold out for the perfect. But I have to ask myself, is it right to discriminate against Asians today (in favor of Blacks)? Doesn’t that just mean that in 20 years we have to somehow make restitution to Asians? Who will we discriminate against then to give Asians more preference?

Now I’m all for ant-discrimination laws. And my version would be really really simple. No discrimination by any entity (government, private company, individual, etc.) against anyone for reasons of race, gender, or sexual identity. Fewer than 15 words covers it all.

Brett, a question.

Even if we were to uncritically accept your claim that Qualified Student X didn't get into a certain law school "just because he's white", what's the bigger picture? What happens to this hypothetical qualified white student if he doesn't make it into one school? It would seem to me if he's that qualified, he's pretty likely to get into another school that's comparable to the one that turned him down. Even (or perhaps especially) if he's white. It's not like law schools in general have systematically prevented white men from becoming lawyers or attaining positions of power.

Me: As a white privileged male I admit that by virtue of my position in society I have likely benefited from this.

Having thought about this some more I decided that I have to strike the word likely. Change it to “I have absolutely benefited from this”. In thinking about my career I can pin it down to one specific moment.

In 1990, I knew that IT was going to be big in the coming decade. I knew it with a certainty I had never felt before and I wanted in on it. I had a degree and some experience but I could not get my foot in the door. The companies that could give me the experience I needed just were not hiring.

After months of pounding the pavement I landed an interview at a (then) big IT company. It was a large enough company that you had to get through HR screening before the hiring manager ever saw your resume. The hiring manager only had the time to personally interview around 10 candidates. So the HR department screens hundreds of applications, does initial interviews, and sends on 10 candidates to the hiring manager. They sent him what they likely considered a diverse group. As I recall it was something like 4 whites, 3 blacks, and 3 others (I don’t recall the details, they were non-whites), half men and half women. I know this because we all had to take a technical aptitude test administered by the manager’s department and they gave it to all of us at the same time.

I did well on the test and wowed him in my interviews. I got the job. At the time I was pretty proud that I had beaten out 9 other people to get it.

Over the next 7 years I worked either for this man or in close proximity to him on a daily basis. As time went on I slowly came to the realization that he was one of the worst racists I had ever encountered. In both words and actions he was blatantly racist and sexist. As I looked around the company I realized that out of 2,000+ employees it was at least 90% lily-white.

I hadn’t beaten out 9 other people for the job. 6 of them never had a shot at all. I was chosen as the best candidate out of 4 white people.

That opportunity positioned me to take advantage of the dot-com bubble and made my career – so yes, I absolutely benefited from institutionalized racism. I feel more actual guilt over that than anything my forefathers may have done.

MY ancestors all moved to this country after the civil war, and moved to a state that was on the union side of that fight,

Brett

Well, good for you. I suppose you and your ancestors didn't benefit from discrimination against blacks in education, housing or employment? You and your ancestors certainly didn't benefit from the disenfranchisement of blacks? Your competition in the job market was eased by the discrimination against those you were competing with. Your competition for an education was eased by the discrimination against those you were competing with.

And I'm going to part with Publius on one point, there are a lot more racists out there than he admits. Those like you who accepted the fruits of discrimination and never spoke out against it when it was practiced against blacks, but who now bleat incessantly that affirmative action discriminates against THEM are as racist as Bull Connor ever was.

Sometimes the white student just is not as spectacular as s/he thinks s/he is.

Brett, a question.

Even if we were to uncritically accept your claim that Qualified Student X didn't get into a certain law school "just because he's white", what's the bigger picture?

Sometimes the white student just is not as spectacular as s/he thinks s/he is.

I hadn’t beaten out 9 other people for the job. 6 of them never had a shot at all. I was chosen as the best candidate out of 4 white people.

I work in the IT field myself, and judging by what you've said, unless the other three whites were also male, in the 90s the field was probably really just the white [i]men[/i].

IT's still a pretty sexist field in general (the problems one of our -- female -- technical leads wades through with other departments are legendary), but it was a lot worse 10 years ago.

Don’t you think though that this approach is essentially indifference?

No, cause look what you say to Phil:

But I have to ask myself, is it right to discriminate against Asians today (in favor of Blacks)? Doesn’t that just mean that in 20 years we have to somehow make restitution to Asians? Who will we discriminate against then to give Asians more preference?

I'm Asian, and I'm not asking you to stand up for me. To place that out there as something to debate seems to be actively trying to hinder change (this doesn't mean that I think you are the source of the problem, again, just in a general sense) Sure, I'm sure there are Asians who feel that they are getting the short end of the stick, but most, in my experience, don't think about the unfairness as flowing from some sense of malice, and so, accept it as part of a process. I'm not as plugged into Asian-American communities, not growing up on the West Coast and living here, where I'm not considered Asian, I'm considered white, so I may be wrong, but there has been no mass movement to right the wrongs against Asians in university admissions that I know of.

BTW, there were a few Race-IQ debates on Crooked Timber in the past month or two; in those, Brett was so obnoxiously on the Bell Curve side that he was finally restricted to one post/day. On any topic. It's hard to get banned or restricted on CT unless one is a blatant troll. This should be taken into account when judging the sincerity of Brett's arguments.

"This should be taken into account when judging the sincerity of Brett's arguments."

Perhaps. Or not.

With due respect to whomever at CT was reacting to Brett's comments there, Brett's comments somewhere else are, in fact, irrelevant to his comments here.

I'm not, myself, interested in someone else's opinion of Brett's (or anyone else's) comments in some discussion I haven't read.

I'm interested in my own judgments on Brett's comments that I have read, which, as it turns out, I'm perfectly capable of passing judgment upon myself, in context. Without needing to know what someone else somewhere else at some other time thought of something else Brett said.

And, after all, people can have good days and bad days, good months and bad months, be more sensible and easy-going at one time, and less sensible and more obnoxious another, and can also evolve and change opinions.

I also don't see that Brett's "sincerity" can be judged by the fact that Brett wrote "so obnoxiously." That doesn't even make any sense. At worst it would demonstrate that he was obnoxious. As it happens, people can be utterly sincere and obnoxious, or utterly pleasant and insincere. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other.

Just for the record, Charles Murray, co-author of "The Bell Curve", recently found one individual on the unfortunate end of the curve who he thinks exceptionally gifted:

Jonah Goldberg.

Murray loved Goldberg's latest exercise in low I.Q. nosepicking.

Meritocracy, my a##!

Murray's remarks on Goldberg's book (which I believe I read at Kevin Drum's blog; sorry, Gary, I'm on the unfortunate end of the citation bell curve), are an exercise in politically correct self-esteem inflation for the incorrigibly dumb.

The two of them make the liberal in me want to visit the unfortunate end of the fascism bell curve.

Incidentally, if Murray's thesis, the plural of which rhymes with "feces", is legitimate, civilization might last as long as Benazir Bhutto's latest term in office.

Gary Farber: "Brett's comments somewhere else are, in fact, irrelevant to his comments here. "

Riiiiiiight.

Did you have an argument, Barry?

Because of an absence of one tends to reveal an absence of one.

A few thoughts:

First: Any white person (like me) owes it to society in general and African Americans specifically to acknowledge that we have all received some benefit from being white in this country. Maybe it is simply going through the door and avoiding the receipt check as mentioned above. Maybe it is the job offer over a minority. The acknowledgment must be more than simply that there has been racism in the past.

In this regard, Publius' post mentioning the invisible man hits the nail on the head. I remember inviting a friend over for dinner when my two oldest daughters were quite young. Being from Alaska, I had not been exposed to overt racism against African Americans nor had my daughters. Although we knew many African Americans, this friend had truly ebony skin. My daughters were quite taken by his appearance and thought his skin was beautiful and made the sort of comments only children can make. It took him a couple of moments to realize that they were entirely sincere in their childish innocence and were being complimentary.

He shared that with us after the fact (we had been in the kitchen finishing dinner and hadn't heard). His explanation to us of his first reaction before realizing that my kids were being accepting and loving hit me hard. He was suffering the internal discrimination Publius' notes.

Second, we need to acknowledge that many of us come from areas of the country that were never anywhere near the sort of discrimination that occurred in the south. Our only tie to racism is being white and the privilege that fact still connotes in today's society. LJ's "marriage" metaphor exemplifies the attitude that is a bit offensive to those whites who have not been racist and sincerely want a world with no racism. In that metaphor, the "bad" spouse includes all whites. "Our side" did something wrong to the "other side." I did NOTHING wrong to the "other side" nor do I consider my fellow Americans the "other side." I was not riding the bike of my fellow African American citizen; it was the OTHER white kid on the block. Sure, I should be understanding of why the African American kid understandably doesn't want to let "bygones be bygones" vis a vis the other white kid. But should I be understanding of why he is mad at me?

Obviously the second acknowledgment is less important than the first. I know whatever offense I feel being lumped in with racist whites pales in comparison to what an African American feels when faced with real discrimination. But the discussion is not complete without both.

Third, the Bruce Bartlett issue is an entirely different matter. The effort to show Reagan to be a racist suffers from more than a little hypocrisy. Barlett was way over the top and lacking historical perspective but at the same time I find the strong reaction from the left funny after the Reagan bash.

bc, I was enjoying and agreeing with your comment, right up until the last paragraph. Only Republicans think of factual references to things Republican politicians unquestionably did as "bashing". Twenty years down the line, Republicans will doubtless claim that any discussion of how Bush lied the US into war with Iraq is "bashing Bush" - as, come to that, they now refer to any such discussion as an example of "BDS"....

Speaking for the left (which I get to do because we agreed on this at one of our Top-Secret meetings), I think Reagan could stand a little knocking off his pedestal. He was not such a great President, really. He had some great rhetoric, but so what? What were his great achievements? Cutting the marginal tax rate? Whoopee.

Now, if you want to talk about unfair bashing, Bartlett going after Thomas Jefferson was a little much.

Jes:

First, I wasn't moved by Publius' Barlett's comments so that was an unrelated afterthought. My point there wasn't what someone did. Let's assume the "Philadelphia" argument is completely true: the GOP overtly appealed to racist voters. Let's also assume that the Dems institutionally rejected racism as part of the civil rights movement. Given democratic associations in the recent past pre-Reagan, one would expect the Reagan attacks to be a bit tempered. They are not. On the other hand, simply pointing out racist associations on the part of the Dems in that time period seems to bring out a huge hue and cry. One would expect more introspection, given the other point in Publius' post.

OTOH, going back to Thomas Jefferson to associate the democratic party is a bit absurd.


bc,
great comment and I agree that there is a problem assigning all white people to a singular entity, which is why it gets so tricky when we talk about individual cases. But the dynamic of the two spouses seems to be precisely the situation that we have in our country. A retort to African Americans complaining about things like this is 'if you don't like it, why don't you go back to where you came from', seems to be precisely what happens is situations like this. OCSteve's question about what will happen when Asians start to complain (and I'm not picking on him here, it just serves as a good example) is a perfect example of arguing future problems prevent some sort of change in behavior/attitude in the present.

This may be one reason why the attacks on the Repbulican party are not tempered, because the benefit that the Republican party gained (and the damage it caused to the body politic of the US) doesn't seem to be acknowledged at all by some. Another may be guilt, but when we start looking at the actual state of society, we seem to have a lot to be guilty about, but a final fillup might be anger, because with Republicans moving so far to one end of the spectrum, it gives the Democratic party license to stake out a position that isn't very impressive, but permits them take the center right and pretend it is the left.

Our only tie to racism is being white and the privilege that fact still connotes in today's society.... I did NOTHING wrong to the "other side" nor do I consider my fellow Americans the "other side."

Here's a thought, just for the hell of it.

Maybe the purpose of affirmative action isn't to punish white (or other privileged) people. Maybe the point is to help black (or other, less privileged) people.

An analogy: maybe the point of social safety net programs isn't to punish rich people, but to help poor people.

I don't hear anyone promoting affirmative action as a means of poking white people in the eye to punish them for being racists. It's just an attempt to level the playing field.

Whether, and in what cases, the playing field still needs leveling, and whether AA is the best way to achieve that, are questions worth asking. But as far as I can tell, the purpose of AA is not "sticking it to whitey".

Thanks -

Russell:

The quote from my comment was not intended to say anything about AA. I was responding to the following part of Publius' post:

The first step then isn’t so much to adopt this or that remedial policy, but to simply step back and acknowledge it.

I was agreeing and adding that the response to the acknowledgment of the "internal discrimination" to which Publius was referring should be a counter acknowledgment that many white's only tie to racism is the color of their skin.


I do not view the purpose of AA as "sticking it to whitey." I think it originally was meant to level the playing field. I think it has serious problems as a way to overcome racism but that is another subject and not one I was trying to address.

However, I agree that the playing field is not level and that whether AA is the best way to achieve it is a question worth asking.

I think you are referring to Brett's comments on collective racial guilt. I think his comment reflects somewhat in my experience. I often feel I am expected to do something to somehow expiate for the sins of other racist whites. The acknowledgment referenced above is not seen as enough. While I personally feel morally compelled to do something more, I'm not sure it should be expected.

It seems that AA is sometimes justified on the "racial guilt" basis that Brett alludes to. Even your comment here has a twinge of the argument:

All of that said, you could multiply the harm caused by the "unintended consequences of well-intentioned individuals" a million fold, and not begin to approach the real harm, both historical and persistent, that is the legacy of the chattel slavery of African blacks in America.

With all due respect, if racial guilt is not a component, why even bring this up as justification for AA's harm? Any right minded person will acknowledge that nothing can make up for slavery. But brushing aside objections that AA is racist with a "well, it's not even close to what has been done in the past" implies racial guilt (that you can discriminate against a race for something done by their race because, you know, it's nowhere close to what's been done to the other race). I see Brett's point about the only basis for AA being racial guilt. I'm not sure I completely agree with it, but I am not convinced it should be brushed aside.

I don't have a perfect solution. We have tried AA for some time now. Why not try being completely color blind in law and act as if at that level and see if society follows? If not, we can always go back. I realize I have now addressed what I was not intending to address earlier. Hope I don't have to dive for cover . . .

bc: I was agreeing and adding that the response to the acknowledgment of the "internal discrimination" to which Publius was referring should be a counter acknowledgment that many white's only tie to racism is the color of their skin.

I agree: I think that's an important acknowledgement to make. White people living in a racist society do have a tie to racism by the color of their skin: the short version of that is "white privilege". White people need to acknowledge that we have this tie: that we benefit from racism because we are white, even if we ourselves would not dresm of being actively racist.

Affirmative action is one method of redressing white privilege - and, not at all incidentally, in reducing unconscious racism. If (to use OCSteve's example) you work for a big computer firm and all the software engineers you know are white, you may come to believe that this is because black people are just not smart enough to be software enginers - rather than acknowledging that the racist gatekeeper who refused to hire anyone but a white person is just the final barrier. The white people who got jobs as software engineers had a tie to racism in the color of their skin - and yes, I agree: step back and acknowledge that. (Much as OCSteve did.)

I think you are referring to Brett's comments on collective racial guilt.

Yes, and also my understanding of your point. My apologies if I misread you.

Even your comment here has a twinge of the argument

No, not really.

Bill commented on the different experiences of US and Central American blacks, and offered the opinion that the relatively worse experience of US blacks was due to unintended consequences from the actions of well-meaning do-gooders. IMO, the legacy of chattel slavery, followed by 100 years of Jim Crow, far outweighs the negative consequences of civil rights legislation, however real those may be. And by "far", I mean orders of magnitude.

That's all.

Affirmative action, in any of the forms it's taken, is not based on a doctrine of collective white guilt, nor is it intended to punish whites for their sins. It is intended to provide a pragmatic remedy for institutional prejudice against blacks (and other groups who are demonstrably the target of discrimination).

I don't know if it's a good program, a bad program, or a total wash. I have yet to see anyone on either side of the argument lay out facts and figures to demonstrate whether it's useful or not. I'd love to see the data, because we could then make a useful and reasonable decision about the value of the program. Short of that, it devolves into discussions of white guilt, unqualified blacks sneaking into positions they don't deserve, and other unedifying topics.

My guess on that question is that AA's success is, at best, mixed. Lots of attempts to change people's behavior by law are like that. Unfortunately, lots of attempts to change people's behavior *without* law are also mixed. So, you take your pick of which approach will bring you closest to what you're trying to achieve, within the limits of what you're allowed to do.

I would trade AA in a heartbeat for harsh laws against civil rights violations, coupled with aggressive enforcement. Pass someone over for a job based on race, gender, or whatever, you lose yours. Deny someone a mortgage based on race, gender, or whatever, you buy them their house or give them yours. You get the idea. That would clear things up in a hurry, and wouldn't make non-offenders feel that they were being put out in any way.

In any case, while I agree that it's good for all of us to acknowledge whatever prejudices we may hold, relying on that kind of personal epiphany to correct larger scale, institutional prejudice is kind of the long way around. It's good, but it doesn't always open the door. IMO we either have to try to take it on at a policy level, or just accept it as a legacy of our history. One or the other.

Thanks -

"I don't know if it's a good program, a bad program, or a total wash."

There's no "it," of course. It's not useful to say there is.

There are some -- very separate and distinct and different -- specific and unique programs at various institutions. Name one, if you wish to discuss it.

But there's no one "affirmative action program" in America, and it's meaningless to speak as if there is one, Russell. Worse, it's saying something exists that doesn't.

One can't discuss a generic, non-existent, "affirmative action" that doesn't exist.

That people, for some inexplicable reason, keep trying to do so, is what keeps everyone so bewildered. I wish everyone would stop.

Discuss any actual, real program, all you like. Imaginary national ones are really not helpful. Discussing someone else's fantasies is not helpful.

I don't have a perfect solution. We have tried AA for some time now. Why not try being completely color blind in law and act as if at that level and see if society follows? If not, we can always go back. I realize I have now addressed what I was not intending to address earlier. Hope I don't have to dive for cover .

Well, the legal basis for the various affirmative action programs came about BECAUSE the color-blind approach to law was taken and was found to have no difference on the specified programs.

Now, it's a good point that a few decades have passed, but I'm not sure that legally the underlying situation has changed (and it would probably have to fall to the changers of the status quo to show that it has).

And, as Gary points out, you need to consider actual, existing programs, and not try to argue about affirmative action programs in the abstract.

"Affirmative action, in any of the forms it's taken, is not based on a doctrine of collective white guilt, nor is it intended to punish whites for their sins. It is intended to provide a pragmatic remedy for institutional prejudice against blacks (and other groups who are demonstrably the target of discrimination)."

I'd say that it's based on a doctrine of collective racial guilt, in this sense: Without some conception of collective racial guilt, it's hard to explain why it's permissible to commit what IS, after all, racial discrimination against a new victim group, as a remedy for racial discrimination which was committed by a quite different set of oppressors.

Also problematic without racial collectivism is the real word practice of completely ignoring whether the beneficiary of racial preferences is actually in any sense a victim of the former racism they're supposedly a remedy for.

Racial preferences treat both blacks and non-blacks as interchangeable victims and oppressors, with skin color being considered sufficient information to assign benefits and costs. That is racism, pure and simple.

"Did you have an argument, Barry?

Because of an absence of one tends to reveal an absence of one."

Posted by: Gary Farber

The absence of an argument in that comment is irrelevant to the absence of an argument. Sorry, I'm trying your logic :)

Your argument about irrelevancy is, of course, simply incorrect. The behavior of Brett on another forum does have something to do with judging him here. Upon reading the threads, you might have decided that it didn't, but that's not a valid or true statement to make beforehand.

It would have been defensible to to say that you'll refrain from judging Brett based on the judgments of somebody you didn't know. However, I've seen his Brett's behavior on race-based threads here, and one could make a hard test, trying to distinguish between his attitude here and there.

I agree with you, Barry, I'm behaving basically the same both here and there. Which is to say, I'm calmly advancing arguments liberals don't like to hear. The real differences between this site and Crooked Timber are,

1. I'm not being met by vicious ad hominems here, but instead countering arguments.

2. The site isn't run by a censorious control freak who uses said ad hominems as an excuse to bar people who disagree with him.

All in all, Obsidian Wings is the superior site, for all Crooked Timber's scholarly pretensions.

"Former racism." The big brain on Brett quickly deflates.

Tell me, Brett, absent current racism, where do you suppose those death penalty discrepancies I outlined above come from? Fantasyland?

Well, hypothetically, and keeping in mind that I don't have the data to confirm or reject any hypothesis, it could be that,

1. Black on black murders take place mostly where juries will be majority black, and blacks don't support the death penalty, so black murderers don't get it.

2. There could be some systematic difference between the circumstances surrounding black on white and white on black murders.

But I'd be willing to accept racism as an explanation for the discrepancy, too.

I say "former" racism, not because I think racism is all in the past, but because the obvious remedy for present racism is to stop racism, it's only past racism which could require some other remedy to counter.

Brett: but because the obvious remedy for present racism is to stop racism

And one of the ways of doing that is affirmative action programs.

the obvious remedy for present racism is to stop racism

Fabulous. Don't bother addressing the symptom, go right for the cause. A brilliant insight.

I can think of two ways to do this:

1. magically transform the character of every human on earth
2. criminalize or otherwise harshly penalize discriminatory behavior and rigorously enforce the penalty

Which, in real life, resolves to (2). Are you up for that?

If not, you're signing up for turning a blind eye to institutional discrimination for the foreseeable future. Period.

Thanks -

No, because "affirmative action", in it's most common incarnation as racial preferences and quotas, isn't a way of stopping racism, it IS racism, with the victims and oppressors swapped around, and an extra helping of self-righteousness.

Gary: But there's no one "affirmative action program" in America, and it's meaningless to speak as if there is one, Russell. Worse, it's saying something exists that doesn't.

O.k., fine, no Department of Affirmative Action. And getting specific can be helpful. But we were talking about AA in the general sense, as in whether ANY preference is a proper remedy for past wrongs. I don't think anyone took Russell's comment as implying there was some sort of national program other than Supreme Court interpretation of permissible preferences in light of the Civil Rights Act. Nor did you. :)

gwangung: I'm not sure what "changers of the status quo" means. Could you explain? Are you just using that term for whites? And why should the burden be on any one group? If we're all in this together, or want to be, minorities should be just as eager to end preferential treatment as soon as possible (as soon as the situation has been remedied sufficiently).

I had this discussion a while back about what point is "enough." I don't have the answer but that to me is the problem. It is problematic to say "we'll know it when we see it" and "it's not time yet so why worry for now."

As for getting specific, fine, let's discuss the UofM's undergraduate and law school admissions policy (Bolinger). I thought the undergraduate system was way too formulaic and fundamentally unfair even as a remedy for past discrimination. I had less problem with the law school system. However, I'm not sure what a "critical mass" of minority students is and whether that is all that different from a quota. I have no problem with preferring a minority "all things being equal" for a time although I can't say what that time should be. I even think that something a bit more would be fine with me (although I can't articulate what that would be) so long as there were some end date so to speak.

My difficulty in giving specifics is, I believe, simply a reflection of the difficulty of the problem. If we don't just stop, why not simply say "X years of preference" and after that it's done? I might even support outright quotas with a definitive end date. I might even support a NATIONAL program with an end date.

Just no department of AA. Enough with the government spending already.

russell: Which, in real life, resolves to (2). Are you up for that?

Well, you can also use affirmative action programs to fight against institutional racism.

Brett: in it's most common incarnation as racial preferences and quotas, isn't a way of stopping racism, it IS racism, with the victims and oppressors swapped around

As I recall, last time we discussed this, you were unable to show any evidence of your thesis that affirmative action "IS racism". Going to try again, this time with actual evidence?

No, because "affirmative action", in it's most common incarnation as racial preferences and quotas, isn't a way of stopping racism, it IS racism, with the victims and oppressors swapped around, and an extra helping of self-righteousness.

Keep repeating the obvious and ignore any alternatives.

As I recall, last time we discussed this, you were unable to show any evidence of your thesis that affirmative action "IS racism". Going to try again, this time with actual evidence?

The legal basis for affirmative action cases (various cases against both companies and labor unions) is that it is a race-based solution and were acknowledged as being racial in nature, but were accepted as being the least damaging solution (taking into account the status quo as being an alternative).

bc: However, I'm not sure what a "critical mass" of minority students is and whether that is all that different from a quota. I have no problem with preferring a minority "all things being equal" for a time although I can't say what that time should be.

Well, one mechanism for looking at whether affirmative action is still needed is to look at the proportion of minority students in the law school versus the proportion of minority students in the school's catchment area, and plan to continue until there's no significant difference between the two.

But we were talking about AA in the general sense, as in whether ANY preference is a proper remedy for past wrongs.

As always, always, always, the legal determination is what is the least harmful solution. It is no argument to reject a race based solution if there are no alternatives given, or to maintain the status quo (both of which are really kind of obvious). It is also not a good argument (in my book) to throw out an alternative that MIGHT work, at some time in the future, without some sort of measure of definite progress (because that maintains the harm that is being done without a solid enough measure of alleviation).

gwangung: I'm not sure what "changers of the status quo" means. Could you explain? Are you just using that term for whites? And why should the burden be on any one group? If we're all in this together, or want to be, minorities should be just as eager to end preferential treatment as soon as possible (as soon as the situation has been remedied sufficiently).

Well, your fuzziness may be due in part to my own fuzziness in writing...

But my thinking stems from thinking about groups as a whole (and does not necessarily apply to just one group; much of it is context based, as, for example, I would not want an entire medical class to consist of Asian Americans, despite test scores). Too, it's a bit of a problem when there's evidence that the underlying problems of racism has not disappeared, but are still persistent (as you point out).

My difficulty in giving specifics is, I believe, simply a reflection of the difficulty of the problem.

Yes, it's a difficult problem; we shouldn't pretend it's not.

"Well, one mechanism for looking at whether affirmative action is still needed is to look at the proportion of minority students in the law school versus the proportion of minority students in the school's catchment area, and plan to continue until there's no significant difference between the two."

Which will be never. Has it occurred to you that one of the consequences of cultural diversity is that, even in the utter absence of discrimination, different groups aren't going to chose particular career paths in the same exact proportions?

Find a stopping rule that would eventually be satisfied in the real world, or admit that you mean for the quotas to last forever.

Well, you can also use affirmative action programs to fight against institutional racism.

Quite so. The options I listed were in response to Brett, who'd prefer to leave affirmative action aside.

Find a stopping rule that would eventually be satisfied in the real world, or admit that you mean for the quotas to last forever.

IMO, a reasonable standard for success for an affirmative action program would be if there was no statistically significant difference in the demographic mix of folks who wanted into a program vs those who actually got in, all other things being equal.

That's hard to measure in the real world, because of the "all other things being equal" part. But IMO it's a pretty reasonable standard.

Here's the deal, Brett.

Nobody is saying affirmative action is a perfect solution. Giving preferential treatment based on race is not the ideal approach.

But the utter absence of discrimination is a fantasy.

Whether it's bad enough to merit attention at the policy level, whether there is anything you can do about it at the policy level, whether any particular policy is actually effective, and whether the negative effects of any particular policy are acceptable -- these are all good questions. And as Gary pointed out, none have meaningful answers in the abstract. They need to be answered in the context of particular programs and situations.

And I really, really do take your point that racial preferments in any direction are not a great thing, and ideally should not exist.

But the ideal isn't available, so we either have to find other ways to at least try to approximate something like fairness, or else agree to accept unfairness as an unfortunate fact of life.

Pick one.

Thanks -

The admirable Russell: "And I really, really do take your point that racial preferments in any direction are not a great thing, and ideally should not exist."

Since I feel it would do Brett good to hear it, and it's still that season in our culture, I'll repeat that: racial preferments in any direction are not a great thing, and ideally should not exist.

That's not something most anyone of us, I suspect, disagrees about. It's not an issue. The question is whether, like democracy in Winston's words, it might be at times and places, in controlled amounts, the least bad response to evil history.

But that it should be limited, at best, also isn't a question.

What then is at question is whether any addressing at all by government of "race" issues is valid, proportional, and justified. Not that it should be limited in time, space, and every other aspect.

Brett says "never." I don't find it an indefensible position at all. I find it rather ahistoric and questionable and arguable, but not incomprehensible or inherently unreasonable.

But the ideal isn't available is a point I should have emphatically agreed with. That's the point of departure for asking what should be done?

Personally, if we just had a negative income tax that took everyone out of poverty (easily affordable when compared to the expense of the Iraq war), and funded social services that didn't seek to punish and drive off people from seeking them (yes, while also being structured in a way to avoid encouraging dependency from those not needing to be dependent), I'd be thrilled and happy to dispense with all "race"-based solutions and responses to opportunity, equality, and a good life.

Or what someone once called a Great Society.

But are we all for that sort of non-racial solution to poverty? Or do we think that poverty is eternal, and that governmental response to it is simply damaging and useless?

Gary,

With all due respect, Brett's position is inherently unreasonable. He does not deny racism exists. He calls AA 'racist'. That is his whole argument.

He calls this making liberals 'uncomfortable'. I call it showing another example of the bankruptcy of movement conservativism.

He brings nothing to the discussion, to wit: given institutional and widespread societal racism by whites (who, some keep forgetting here, actually, like, RUN things in this nation), what is an appropriate policy response?

If all Phil's facts were totally wrong and there were no significant statistical outcome discrepancies due to race, then we wouldn't be having this discussion, and there would be no AA.

Pretty damnned obvious, if you ask me.

Has it occurred to you that one of the consequences of cultural diversity is that, even in the utter absence of discrimination, different groups aren't going to chose particular career paths in the same exact proportions?

Someone said upthread that in a discussion on another thread, you'd strongly defended The Bell Curve theory. This does sound like more of the same.

Given that we have no idea what a society will look like in the utter absence of racial discrimination, how on earth could you know that, in such utter absence, people will choose professions based on their color of skin? "Cultural diversity" in my experience does not strongly affect a person's choice of career: discrimination in education or the workplace does.

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