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Race. Wrongs, and Remedies

Catz Part Deux

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What Hope? | The New Republic

I know some of you will enjoy reading this, at least the review.

This book is depressing because it is so persuasive. There is a school of thought in America which argues that the government must be the main force that provides help to the black community. This shibboleth is predicated upon another one: that such government efforts will make a serious difference in disparities between blacks and whites. Amy Wax not only argues that such efforts have failed, she also suggests that such efforts cannot bring equality, and therefore must be abandoned. Wax identifies the illusion that mars American thinking on this subject as the myth of reverse causation—that if racism was the cause of a problem, then eliminating racism will solve it. If only this were true. But it isn’t true: racism can set in motion cultural patterns that take on a life of their own.

Wax appeals to a parable in which a pedestrian is run over by a truck and must learn to walk again. The truck driver pays the pedestrian’s medical bills, but the only way the pedestrian will walk again is through his own efforts. The pedestrian may insist that the driver do more, that justice has not occurred until the driver has himself made the pedestrian learn to walk again. But the sad fact is that justice, under this analysis, is impossible. The legal theory about remedies, Wax points out, grapples with this inconvenience—and the history of the descendants of African slaves, no matter how horrific, cannot upend its implacable logic. As she puts it, “That blacks did not, in an important sense, cause their current predicament does not preclude charging them with alleviating it if nothing else will work.”

...One of the most sobering observations made by Wax comes in the form of a disarmingly simple calculus presented first by Isabel Sawhill and Christopher Jencks. If you finish high school and keep a job without having children before marriage, you will almost certainly not be poor. Period. I have repeatedly felt the air go out of the room upon putting this to black audiences. No one of any political stripe can deny it. It is human truth on view. In 2004, the poverty rate among blacks who followed that formula was less than 6 percent, as opposed to the overall rate of 24.7 percent. Even after hearing the earnest musings about employers who are less interested in people with names like Tomika, no one can gainsay the simple truth of that advice. Crucially, neither bigotry nor even structural racism can explain why an individual does not live up to it.

...Wax usefully asks: “Is it possible to pursue an arduous program of self-improvement while simultaneously thinking of oneself as a victim of grievous mistreatment and of one’s shortcomings as a product of external forces?”
 
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liblady

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What Hope? | The New Republic

I know some of you will enjoy reading this, at least the review.
Wax identifies the illusion that mars American thinking on this subject as the myth of reverse causation—that if racism was the cause of a problem, then eliminating racism will solve it. If only this were true. But it isn’t true: racism can set in motion cultural patterns that take on a life of their own.
we can't know this, of course, because we haven't eliminated racism. that said, there are some simple truths, like completing school and saving children for marriage, are large factors in rising out of poverty.

the issue is how to promote that behavior.
 

Geo Patric

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no, ending racism will not solve the problems caused by racism, but it could end the causation. Wax's argument that racism is no longer a cause for disparity is unsupported by her arguments OR the little stat she cribs. That "racism can set in motion cultural patterns that take on a life of their own" is eminently true. The Twin Towers are down and we are making plans to do new, neat stuff with the space they occupied. So, islamo-fascism is not a problem anymore?

whew! glad to hear it.

nice parable, but a little incomplete. the pedestrian must indeed learn to walk again and that is indeed, firstly, his responsibility. but the driver is not wholly absolved in merely paying the doctor. He may be (in law) if the injury was entirely accidental, and mutable by medicine. he certainly is NOT if he drove over the fella intentionally. Nor is he absolved, whatever the cause, if the fella is permanently disabled. he will then likely be responsible for a considerable more than the medical bills and would continue to do so until one or the other died... or the fella recovered sufficiently to care for himself.

has the black population 'recovered sufficiently' from 400+ years of slavery and oppression? To suggest that our racist history and has no effect now is patent nonsense.

“That blacks did not, in an important sense, cause their current predicament does not preclude charging them with alleviating it if nothing else will work.”
in this, m. Wax echoes Malcolm X and the Panthers, with whom, i would presume, she maintains a difference of opinion. And, NOTHING else will work? Who was the clever one who came up with that answer?

i love the twisting of reason in the Sawhill/Jencks reference. sure... a good home life will produce much better citizens. of course, a good home life depends a lot on... not being poor, not growing up with poor neighbors and poor schools and crime and .. and...

I have found references to this tiny stat all over... it has gone viral in the conservative blogosphere. Note that ONLY that little stat is ever used... Sawhill and Jencks understand that poor performance in school and early pregnancies are both a cause AND a result of poverty.

To attribute to these two the premise that WE cannot, through the auspices of our government, do anything to mitigate poverty (to say nothing of racism) is a misrepresentation. Isabel Sawhill, conservatinve economist, Brookings Fellow does not, herself, think that government programs are not of any use:
because of public resistance to paying higher overall taxes, this expansion [of social insurance programs such as SS, medicare] has .... put a tremendous downward pressure on [nonentitlement] spending, including programs for the poor. We shouldn't ignore this substitution effect in arguing for universal programs. their trickle down benefits have to balanced out against their cost in crowding out other efforts.

[we] need to revise the contract between the generations in a way that gradually reallocates resources from the more affluent elderly to struggling younger families and their children. Such a shift would not only help create more opportunity, it would improve the productivity of the next generation,
Five Myths About Our Land of Opportunity - Brookings Institution

Sawhill appreciates that it is CLASS that we are suffering from. Anyone who thinks that race in America is not a class issue needs medical attention.
“Is it possible to pursue an arduous program of self-improvement while simultaneously thinking of oneself as a victim of grievous mistreatment and of one’s shortcomings as a product of external forces?”
Of course it is and people, black, white and brown, do it every day. Is there a greater probability of failure when resources are negligible? you betcha. can we expect that the rate of failure to will increase as poverty increases? it is a good bet.

pity, The New Republic used to be such a good publication
geo.
 

Ikari

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You can end racism if you follow my plan to kill all humans.
 

Geo Patric

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THAT would do it.

geo.
 

RightinNYC

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nice parable, but a little incomplete. the pedestrian must indeed learn to walk again and that is indeed, firstly, his responsibility. but the driver is not wholly absolved in merely paying the doctor. He may be (in law) if the injury was entirely accidental, and mutable by medicine. he certainly is NOT if he drove over the fella intentionally. Nor is he absolved, whatever the cause, if the fella is permanently disabled. he will then likely be responsible for a considerable more than the medical bills and would continue to do so until one or the other died... or the fella recovered sufficiently to care for himself.

has the black population 'recovered sufficiently' from 400+ years of slavery and oppression? To suggest that our racist history and has no effect now is patent nonsense.
Curious about this in particular - if the concern is that the african-american population hasn't recovered from the unique damage of 400+ years of slavery, then that shouldn't apply to individuals who are not the descendants of slaves or products of an era of American prejudice, correct? If that's the reason, then should the compensation that you're referring to be limited to those groups, and not to blacks who have immigrated from other countries, latinos, indians, asians, etc.?
 

Goshin

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we can't know this, of course, because we haven't eliminated racism. that said, there are some simple truths, like completing school and saving children for marriage, are large factors in rising out of poverty.

the issue is how to promote that behavior.
Racism in the United States, particularly racism by whites against blacks, has to be at an all-time low.

I mean holy ****, we have a black president, black Supreme Court justices, black Senators, black CEO's (like the big corporation I work at, black lady owns the company}, I mean, how much more frigging equal can you get?

I think Wax is dead on.
 

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I am unwilling to accept that there can be no absolution, ever, for the collective sins of the white race.
Claiming that nothing we do will ever make any difference anyway is merely an excuse to do nothing.
There is honor in trying to ameliorate the damage caused by the actions of our ancestors, whether or not we ultimately succeed. The fact that we may never entirely succeed is a piss-poor reason not to even try.
 

Geo Patric

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Curious about this in particular . . . . should the compensation that you're referring to .. .
and what compensation did i refer to?

geo.
 

RightinNYC

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and what compensation did i refer to?

geo.
I apologize if I wasn't clear.

"but the driver is not wholly absolved in merely paying the doctor. He may be (in law) if the injury was entirely accidental, and mutable by medicine. he certainly is NOT if he drove over the fella intentionally. Nor is he absolved, whatever the cause, if the fella is permanently disabled. he will then likely be responsible for a considerable more than the medical bills and would continue to do so until one or the other died... or the fella recovered sufficiently to care for himself."

If you don't like the word "compensation," substitute "assistance" or "help" or whatever you want. You're arguing that because of the injury intentionally inflicted on the african american community through 400+ years of slavery, the people who intentionally inflicted that injury have a special obligation to help the african american community recover. I'm asking you how that creates obligations to groups that were not targeted by that malicious driver (or how it creates burdens on groups that were not part of the maliciousness).
 

Geo Patric

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I apologize if I wasn't clear.... I'm asking you how that creates obligations to groups that were not targeted by that malicious driver (or how it creates burdens on groups that were not part of the maliciousness).
ah, ok, clearer now.

my adoption of m wax's driver metaphor was for the purpose of showing that it simply did not hold up. m. Wax is, i think, conflating (purposely) the sense of responsibility some feel for the effects not necessarily of what we, individually may have done but what we as a nation have done, with some wimpish 'liberal gulity complex'. I might have pointed out that the driver may well have been held responsible to the victims children as well, if his actions deprived them of a parent... but we do not want to stretch the metaphor to the breaking point.

M. Wax has, i think, abused m. Sawhill's thinking in employing it in an attempt to deny that we have a responsibility to correct the hurt we have perpetrated... again, not you, not me but the people of the United States. It is not m Sawhill's contention that we do or do not have such a responsibility to do so, she does not write on race relations but on economic and class disparity... it is not entirely coincidental that 'class disparities' and 'racial disparity' seem to go together. We have created an underclass and for most of our history, consigned black folk there.

m. Wax has appropriated m. Sawhill's thinking for purposes other than they were intended.

In short, she fails to make her argument that the harm done to the african people is no longer an issue because it was in the past and we are not beating our slaves... anymore.

The issue of what we may owe to their descendants is a separate one and one I did not actually address aside from suggesting that the question is still a valid one.

Harm done is not undoable, but the lasting effects of harm done cannot be separated from the original hurt. That there ARE lasting effects is patently clear in precisely the form she suggests - cultural patterns that have taken on a life of their own.

The argument that it is 'lifestyle' that is largely the cause of the severe disparity in quality of life between black (or brown) and white is quite right. Trouble is, that 'lifestyle' is a continuing cultural pattern that can certainly be attributed to the oppression of those peoples. We cannot undo what is done but we CAN do what is not being done - we can contribute to the destruction of that cultural pattern.

And we can do it as a people through the auspices of our common utility - government.

many folks would argue for a 'racially neutral' approach. I have no difficulty with that, except when it is used as a means of denying responsibility.

a little reductionism is the pursuit of brevity (too late, i know). they say if you give a man a fish, he eats today, teach a man to fish and he can feed himself. but that same fella has to eat while he learns.

That we have not defeated poverty is obvious. that we have not cured racism as an element of poverty, even if you choose to deny it as a cause, is equally apparent. We will will never, in my thinking, end racism. We can, though, make it as close to irrelevant as necessary by eliminating its worst manifestation, poverty.

geo.
 
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Korimyr the Rat

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I am unwilling to accept that there can be no absolution, ever, for the collective sins of the white race.
Claiming that nothing we do will ever make any difference anyway is merely an excuse to do nothing.
We subjugated them because we were stronger. We stopped because we began to consider them a part of us. The only way to undo the damage caused by centuries of subjugation is to make them more seamlessly a part of our whole. It will be a slow process, and even once we abandon our policies and attitudes of racial divisiveness and begin the process, it will take generations to repair the damage caused in centuries.

There are two problems. One, we expect an instant solution, and two, we are on the wrong path.
 

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I am unwilling to accept that there can be no absolution, ever, for the collective sins of the white race.
Claiming that nothing we do will ever make any difference anyway is merely an excuse to do nothing.
There is honor in trying to ameliorate the damage caused by the actions of our ancestors, whether or not we ultimately succeed. The fact that we may never entirely succeed is a piss-poor reason not to even try.
I have no control over what color I am. I happen to be white. Whats with this "collective" sins of the white race. I never owned any slaves and I don't know any slaves. We are all equal and as long as we all have the same opportunities to succeed in life than all is fair. A black person has no control over what color he was born. Why should he get special treatment or compensation? Is he not as capable as a white person to earn his own way in life? I think he is and I wish all people success and happiness.We should take care of those who can't care for themselves but skin color has nothing to do with it.
 

spud_meister

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I am unwilling to accept that there can be no absolution, ever, for the collective sins of the white race.
Claiming that nothing we do will ever make any difference anyway is merely an excuse to do nothing.
There is honor in trying to ameliorate the damage caused by the actions of our ancestors, whether or not we ultimately succeed. The fact that we may never entirely succeed is a piss-poor reason not to even try.
then why does the money put towards things like affirmative action come from every tax payer, if you claim it is the sins of the white race, why do asians have to pay for it, why does a 2nd generation dutch immigrant have to pay just as much as the descendants of slave owners?

because i am white, do i have some sort of debt to black people, even though none of my ancestors ever went near America?
The problems of blacks in America will never be solved if you keep telling them the problems are caused by them being black.
 

reefedjib

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I am unwilling to accept that there can be no absolution, ever, for the collective sins of the white race.
Claiming that nothing we do will ever make any difference anyway is merely an excuse to do nothing.
There is honor in trying to ameliorate the damage caused by the actions of our ancestors, whether or not we ultimately succeed. The fact that we may never entirely succeed is a piss-poor reason not to even try.
I don't know for sure, but I suspect my ancestors did own slaves. My family got to America in the 1650s. I just don't know a lot about my family history in this regard, but I have emailed our expert family genealogist with the question.

I personally never owned slaves. And all the blacks I know were never slaves. But there is truth in the observation that blacks are generally more poor than whites. As a result fewer get the educations they need to rise above poverty level. This is a result of slavery, racism and Jim Crow.

I do think that much is being done to improve this situation, but as we determined in another thread, it is the parents who are primarily responsible for education, which is the key factor between poor and middle class. Very rare is the individual that can educate him or herself without parental support, even if they do participate in a program.

I do meet some blacks who have risen above it. Unfortunately, in my line of work, there are very few blacks in the industry - software engineering, but also Testing/QA and Business Analysts.

I am not sure what we as a society can do about it, other than provide educational opportunities. The truth is that the black community needs to primarily establish the excellence that education can bring their youth and the gangster culture prevalent in poor black communities, as well as the decline in the church and ministries, don't head in that direction. We can't do it for them.
 

American

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we can't know this, of course, because we haven't eliminated racism. that said, there are some simple truths, like completing school and saving children for marriage, are large factors in rising out of poverty.

the issue is how to promote that behavior.
And there you have it!!!! But you first must decide to promote the behavior, which is not done in the US. Black civil rights leaders (besides MLK) did/do not promote that behavior. You can't expect a change if you don't first PROMOTE the behavior. This is what the right has been saying all along. We are sorry the injustice happened, but you still have to take the right steps yourself. Education is your helping hand, please take advantage of it. Get out of the wagon and help the rest of us pull; we are happy to have you. The injured party must invariably move on.
 

Geo Patric

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There is honor in trying to ameliorate the damage caused by the actions of our ancestors, whether or not we ultimately succeed. The fact that we may never entirely succeed is a piss-poor reason not to even try.
it was the "honor' part of your response, 10, that tripped me.

we whine about how it wasn't me... i did not hold any slaves. and that is true, of course, but we are a people and if I am one of a people i want that to be an honorable people.

the denial of a 'collective guilt' though, is think is valid. you and i do not share guilt for what our predecessors did. but what those who would use this as a means of denying any responsibilty for what that history has done to people living today conveniently ignore is that those slaveowners created a nation that they and WE still benefit from.

Class and poverty are the greatest evil, it just so happens that our predecessors built an underclass that was predominantly black. And it still is. And we still benefit from it.

rather than condemn the enormous population of poor as indolent and draining we should begin to recognize that we depend on that 'worker surplus'. A certain degree of undemployment is considered acceptable for precisely this purpose.

the racism comes in only secondarily, as an inherited social ill. in that we allow a significant portion of our citizenry to live in a manner that any rational person would consider unacceptable is a dishonor to us as a people. that we are willing to continue with the consignment of a certain group to fill that shameful niche only worsens our dishonor.

i am not always this preachy, honest.

geo.
 
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