aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Evidence of malice?
Thanks for the link, Maggie. And the tip.
I’ve been posting a lot about kids today and here it turns out we’ve got an Atlanta teen, Michael Murphy, who even the veteran prosecutor handling the murder case he’s in jail for isn’t convinced is guilty. So why’s the kid in jail nine months after the crime?
The prosecutor’s DA boss, Paul Howard, told him to try the kid as an adult on murder charges that carry an automatic life sentence if convicted:
Howard declined to comment other than to say, “The indictment speaks for itself.”
Defense attorney Rusty Mayer insists his client isn’t the one to blame for the June 17, 2007 shooting of Byron Watson, 18, who died a couple of days later.
Instead, Mayer claims that Watson was with a group of 15-20 teens who had surrounded Murphy’s Mills Street apartment near the Georgia Aquarium. They were angry with Michael Murphy’s mom, Teresa Murphy, who then worked as a security guard at the complex, Mayer said.
“She had run several of the kids off or had them arrested for selling weed or trespassing,” Mayer said.
Teresa Murphy, who legally carried a gun, also made enemies in her other jobs â€”tracking down fleeing suspected felons as a bounty hunter and snitching on lawbreakers as a criminal informant to Atlanta police.
So she was frightened when she spotted the group of teens walking up to her apartment. She yelled for her son, who also had a gun, to come to her aid.
Someone from the crowd yelled: “Pull the tool!” which Michael Murphy feared meant he or his mother was about to be shot.
Some serious self-defense. Adds Maggie:
[T]he autopsy shows the victim was hit from the back, meaning it’s more likely the shot came from the crowd, who was also firing. A good DA looks at that information and sees that trying this case is probably not worth their time. And a Assistant DA in Fulton County did just that. He was going to send the case to Juvenile Court to be dealt with on lesser charges. ...given the situation, you’d think the least they could do is let this kid out. But no bond has been granted. Instead the Judge berated the kid for having a gun. (And this is in Georgia! Where we’re regularly expanding the gun rights of our citizens! In fact, it seems like given the political climate, we’d be leaning in the kid’s favor instead of against him.)
Now Prosecutors can often be kept in check by defense attorneys and Judges. But the more serious the charge, the more leeway that prosecutor is going to get. All Murphy has going for him right now is time, but it looks like that’s time he’ll be spending in jail. I’m hopeful the case will turn out now, but how much is being lost in the mean time?
Even if it doesn’t rise to the level of willful malicious prosecution (and I tell you, I really have to wonder) it reeks at the very least of prosecution for the sake of re-election—as opposed to prosecution for what I, the common man, understand to be the legitimate reason: to make a safer city.
Inheritance, good. Pay for grades, bad?
Do we not see our own biases??? Paying for grades may well work but even if it does I don’t trust that we’ll ever know:
Family Academy is one of 60 New York City public schools that volunteered to participate in the Spark incentive program, which is open to fourth and seventh graders for one school year. The money they earn is deposited into their own bank accounts, but they are free to spend it however they wish.
The Spark program, conceived by Harvard economist Dr. Roland Fryer, was created to narrow the educational gap between the haves and the have-nots. In other words, “trying to figure out a way to make school tangible for kids, to come up with short-term rewards that will be in their long-term best interest,” Fryer said.
Spark isn’t the only program in the country aimed at motivating kids with monetary incentives. Schools in a dozen states have similar programs. In Albuquerque, N.M., students at the Cesar Chavez Charter School can earn up to $300 a year for good attendance. In Santa Ana, Calif., kids who do well on their math tests can earn up to $250 and in Baltimore, students can take away $110 depending on their test scores.
The story asks “what does the research say?” then answers definitively that “despite short-term gains, [paying for grades] may be detrimental in the long-term by decreasing their motivation, especially when the incentive is removed.”
Huh??? MAY???? It ”may be detrimental?” WTF???
They use that conclusive qualifier to disqualify the whole idea and play into our cultural pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps myth when the simple fact is that social mobility between classes has lessened in this country—not increased—in the past 50 years.
We rail about the “death tax” so that the entitled can keep their leg-up, but don’t you go giving those poor kids money for good grades!!!
Fryer got one interesting quote into the story:
“The idea that we shouldn’t be giving kids rewards—come on. In affluent neighborhoods, parents take their kids to dinner, buy them shiny red cars. We’ve got to get past ‘It’s wrong, it’s bribery.’ We are in crisis mode; we’re beyond philosophy. If it doesn’t work, we’re all arguing over nothing.”
Fryer’s an interesting guy. I’ll be watching him.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Why are so many African Americans in prison?
Among the points made by Richard Thompson Ford in today’s WaPo:
Many of our nation’s cities are as racially segregated as they were in the era of Jim Crow, many minority neighborhoods are crime-plagued and bereft of opportunities for gainful employment, and one in three black men between 20 and 29 is in prison, on parole or on probation.
I hasten to remind folks of the work of Thomas J. Sugrue, Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. From the podcast of his lecture, Jim Crow`s Last Stand: The Struggle for Civil Rights in the Suburban North, I learned both that he has an important book book coming out in the fall, and that today 23 of the 25 most segregated metropolitan areas in the United States are in the Northeast. (And that the states with the highest degree of educational segregation by race are also disproportionately in the Northeast and the Midwest.)
But I live in the rural South and in my town we have six prisons. Six prisons. America has grown more and more retributive and punishing—more so even than anyplace else in the modern world—as the crime rate has fallen to historical lows.
Glenn C. Loury asked last summer in The Boston Review, Why Are We Locking Up So Many Americans:
[I]mprisonment rates have continued to rise while crime rates have fallen because we have become progressively more punitive: not because crime has continued to explode (it hasn’t), not because we made a smart policy choice, but because we have made a collective decision to increase the rate of punishment.
One simple measure of punitiveness is the likelihood that a person who is arrested will be subsequently incarcerated. Between 1980 and 2001, there was no real change in the chances of being arrested in response to a complaint: the rate was just under 50 percent. But the likelihood that an arrest would result in imprisonment more than doubled, from 13 to 28 percent. And because the amount of time served and the rate of prison admission both increased, the incarceration rate for violent crime almost tripled, despite the decline in the level of violence. The incarceration rate for nonviolent and drug offenses increased at an even faster pace: between 1980 and 1997 the number of people incarcerated for nonviolent offenses tripled, and the number of people incarcerated for drug offenses increased by a factor of 11. Indeed, the criminal-justice researcher Alfred Blumstein has argued that none of the growth in incarceration between 1980 and 1996 can be attributed to more crime.
But with those rates of black imprisonment, with the raw numbers of African American males who are jailed and broken and not trained and not schooled and not given a first much less a second chance, one really truly has to wonder if our prison system isn’t a descendant of slavery, if it isn’t its modern relative.
Slavery ended a long time ago, but the institution of chattel slavery and the ideology of racial subordination that accompanied it have cast a long shadow. I speak here of the history of lynching throughout the country; the racially biased policing and judging in the South under Jim Crow and in the cities of the Northeast, Midwest, and West to which blacks migrated after the First and Second World Wars; and the history of racial apartheid that ended only as a matter of law with the civil-rights movement. It should come as no surprise that in the postâ€“civil rights era, race, far from being peripheral, has been central to the evolution of American social policy.
The political scientist Vesla Mae Weaver, in a recently completed dissertation, examines policy history, public opinion, and media processes in an attempt to understand the role of race in this historic transformation of criminal justice. She argues-persuasively, I think-that the punitive turn represented a political response to the success of the civil-rights movement. Weaver describes a process of “frontlash” in which opponents of the civil-rights revolution sought to regain the upper hand by shifting to a new issue. Rather than reacting directly to civil-rights developments, and thus continuing to fight a battle they had lost, those opponents-consider George Wallace’s campaigns for the presidency, which drew so much support in states like Michigan and Wisconsin-shifted attention to a seemingly race-neutral concern over crime:Once the clutch of Jim Crow had loosened, opponents of civil rights shifted the “locus of attack” by injecting crime onto the agenda. Through the process of frontlash, rivals of civil rights progress defined racial discord as criminal and argued that crime legislation would be a panacea to racial unrest. This strategy both imbued crime with race and depoliticized racial struggle, a formula which foreclosed earlier “root causes” alternatives. Fusing anxiety about crime to anxiety over racial change and riots, civil rights and racial disorder-initially defined as a problem of minority disenfranchisement-were defined as a crime problem, which helped shift debate from social reform to punishment.
Of course, this argument (for which Weaver adduces considerable circumstantial evidence) is speculative. But something interesting seems to have been going on in the late 1960s regarding the relationship between attitudes on race and social policy.
We are, these days, swept up in the hope of a new generation of leadership. I hope, too, that a new day is dawning. But I fear that these are big powerful forces we are up against.
I believe that our two powerful Democratic candidates are going to reconcile their differences. Both will lead and we will win the presidential election this year. I only hope that united we can begin to chip away at these challenges.
From great challenges come great solutions. We sure need a great solution for this one.
Pond Scum & The Flip Side of The Race Card
Richard Thompson Ford says in today’s WaPo that modern racism isn’t like the water in a well. It’s more like the scum in a pond:
It might settle to the bottom if left alone, but it can also be whipped up into a froth. And that’s what Bendixen was really doing.
The Bendixen he’s referring to is Hillary Clinton’s Hispanic pollster Sergio Bendixen. Thompson Ford says Bendixen was pond scum playing the race card when he told a reporter last month that Latino voters haven’t generally “shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates.”
Thompson Ford continues:
...by insisting that Hispanics are anti-black bigots and insinuating that black politicians won’t serve the interests of Hispanic constituents, Bendixen may well have helped inspire the racial tensions he purported to describe. African Americans have had their worst fears of anti-black racism confirmed by a supposed expert on Latino opinion; Latinos, told that their community rejects black candidates, may well assume that this must be so for a good reason—such as African American prejudice against them.
He’s “insisting that Hispanics are anti-black bigots???” That is word-smithing worthy only of a master politician. Where is this insistence? Oh, it’s coded? Who’s doing the inflaming now?
I’m telling you, Richard, I agree with you and understand this concept is complex, but you are an academic and where is the academic rigor in that statement? There are all kinds of qualifiers in your argument—no one called Hispanics anti-black bigots! You are committing the same reductionist slight you’d like to stop!
A lot of contemporary racial antagonism isn’t based on hatred and animus, but rather on mutual suspicion and mistrust. Overt racism is rare, but racial inequalities remain widespread and subtle. As a result, we often have to guess whether or not our neighbors are secretly prejudiced. People of color wonder whether their white neighbors and co-workers secretly hold them in contempt because of their race; whites worry that people of color secretly resent them for the color of their skin. And the increasingly complex relationships among black, Latino and Asian groups present similar anxieties, as well as their own unique vexations. An insidious suggestion from an influential person can trigger these suspicions and set off a dismal spiral of mistrust, reaction and recrimination.
It’s ironic that, as politicians play the race card for personal advantage, pervasive racial injustices go unaddressed. None of the presidential candidates has proposed a policy response to the real racial problems facing our society: Many of our nation’s cities are as racially segregated as they were in the era of Jim Crow, many minority neighborhoods are crime-plagued and bereft of opportunities for gainful employment, and one in three black men between 20 and 29 is in prison, on parole or on probation.
Looking for coded racism is tricky business; kind of like Bush’s war on terrorism—once we start looking we can find it anywhere. We ought to be careful.
I need to read the book to learn the nuance of the argument. I’ve seen the interview, read the first chapter and reviews and easily agree with what I understand of its central thesis. But it occurs to me that the Race Card can be flipped. We might reasonably ask why is Obama not addressing these very same racial issues you describe in your piece.
Yes, I agree, no candidate “has proposed a policy response to the real racial problems facing our society.” By your very same logic, shouldn’t it be Obama? Not solely because he is the black candidate—though he is—but because he has that absolutely terrific record in Illinois.
Even better, we know from his writings where he stands on so much of this. If he won’t tackle these issues in the relative safety of a primary fight, can we expect him to do it in the general election? And after he is elected, will he do it when hope turns to gritty Washington reality?
Why, in this vitally important presidential primary race, are we talking about the race card and not about issues of racial justice?
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Kennedy Brewer & willful malicious prosecution
Just a bit more on Kennedy Brewer:
Brewer was convicted in 1995 of the rape and murder three years earlier of Christine Jackson, the child of his girlfriend. In 2002, he was freed from Death Row after DNA tests on semen on her body revealed a DNA profile that was not his, but he was held in jail several additional years as prosecutors decided whether to retry him.
Neufeld said the DNA in the case linked another man, Justin Albert Johnson, 51, to the girl’s murder. Concerned that local authorities would not handle the case fairly, the Innocence Project asked the state attorney general’s office to undertake a new investigation.
Huh??? The DNA showed he didn’t do it but he was held in jail several additional years as prosecutors decided whether to retry him.
And all bullshit happy talk anchors can ask is if he’s angry for being wrongfully imprisoned for 15 years??? How about asking about willfully malicious prosecution???
Richard Moran, a professor of sociology and criminology at Mount Holyoke College, finds that it’s real and it happens:
My recently completed study of the 124 exonerations of death row inmates in America from 1973 to 2007 indicated that 80, or about two-thirds, of their so-called wrongful convictions resulted not from good-faith mistakes or errors but from intentional, willful, malicious prosecutions by criminal justice personnel. (There were four cases in which a determination could not be made one way or another.)
Yet too often this behavior is not singled out and identified for what it is. When a prosecutor puts a witness on the stand whom he knows to be lying, or fails to turn over evidence favorable to the defense, or when a police officer manufactures or destroys evidence to further the likelihood of a conviction, then it is deceptive to term these conscious violations of the law - all of which I found in my research - as merely mistakes or errors.
Mistakes are good-faith errors â€” like taking the wrong exit off the highway, or dialing the wrong telephone number. There is no malice behind them. However, when officers of the court conspire to convict a defendant of first-degree murder and send him to death row, they are doing much more than making an innocent mistake or error. They are breaking the law. [...]
Even if we limit death sentences to cases in which there is “conclusive scientific evidence” of guilt, as Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate and former governor of Massachusetts has proposed, we will still not eliminate the problem of wrongful convictions. The best trained and most honest forensic scientists can only examine the evidence presented to them; they cannot be expected to determine if that evidence has been planted, switched or withheld from the defense.
The cause of malicious unlawful convictions doesn’t rest solely in the imperfect workings of our criminal justice system â€” if it did we might be able to remedy most of it. A crucial part of the problem rests in the hearts and souls of those whose job it is to uphold the law. That’s why even the most careful strictures on death penalty cases could fail to prevent the execution of innocent people - and why we would do well to be more vigilant and specific in articulating the causes for overturning an unlawful conviction.
If only the Left could turn “malicious prosecutors” into the kind of demon buzzword the Right has made the term “activist judges.” Those prosecutors need to be reigned in.
Kennedy Brewer: I’m mad as hell!
From The Today Show this morning:
JENNA WOLFE, anchor: And finally, an emotional day in a Mississippi courtroom as a man once sentenced to death for the kidnapping and murder of a three-year-old girl is now free. Kennedy Brewer was freed Friday, more than a week after another man confessed to the crime. That man is already doing time for murdering another child in the same community. Brewer has been in prison since 1992 and he talked about how he got through that time in prison.
Mr. KENNEDY BREWER: You have to find the strength to make it like that. You have to find strength. And I found strength through God. Through the word of God I found strength. And by my family sticking by me, that was my strength.
WOLFE: An emotional Brewer says he is not angry, he just wants to spend time now with his family.
That’s the news. Now back to Lester, Amy and Chris.
I am sick to death at this kind of story being casually reported by happy-talk reporters. Specifically, that these stories routinely include that the victims of these horrible institutional injustices are “not angry.” And that’s the best these reporters can do, ask is the guy angry after 15 years of a life that cannot be recovered. Reduced to a happy ending story for their crappy little news segment!
A search of my 130 blog feeds finds no one—not one post—mentioning Brewer. A Google News search finds more, but not nearly enough. How in God’s name can this not be news???
LATER: For this I have added Talk Left to my reader.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Colbert plays The Race Card
Sunday, February 10, 2008
The exquisitely subversive Race Card
Harvard’s Orlando Patterson reviews Richard Thompson Ford’s The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse in today’s NYTimes Book Review:
To left-leaning readers and victims of genuine racism, Ford’s relentless evenhandedness and cost-benefit balancing act may seem at times to skirt the edges of conservative reaction. But a patient reading of this astute and closely reasoned work reveals an exquisitely subversive mind. Ford is adept at stealing the best-defended intellectual bases of the right on behalf of a pragmatic, antiracist liberalism unflaggingly committed to the increasingly scorned goal of integration - and to relief for the truly disadvantaged, who suffer the persisting injuries of past racism in the absence of those who engendered their plight and, perplexingly, in the presence of growing racial tolerance.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
Race transcended or transformed?
From a piece in the NYTimes today, The Tightrope of Promising a Genuine Transformation, on Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s state of the city speech:
It was a reminder that Mr. Obama, for all the extraordinary elements of his campaign, is hardly a solitary figure in American politics, but one representative of a new generation of young black politicians that includes Mr. Booker, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty of Washington, Representative Artur Davis of Alabama and former Representative Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee. It reflected the way race hasn’t been transcended, it has just been transformed. While Mr. Obama has to prove to voters nationwide that he’s not “too black,” Mr. Booker has had to convince voters in Newark he’s black enough. The multi-ethnic America of today is not the black and white world of the past.
Most of all it was a reflection of the delicate tightrope traversed by politicians promising something genuinely transformative. It’s powerful stuff, but it’s dangerous, too, because the only thing worse than failing to offer hope is to offer it and then be unable to deliver.
SEE ALSO: Cory Booker, The Color of Polititcs.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Cory Booker: The Color of Politics
From last week’s New Yorker (it arrives late down here and, unfortunately, this piece is not online) a really fine profile of Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, The Color of Politics; A mayor of the post-racial generation:
Booker’s ability to ease into different cultures was put to perhaps its most difficult test when he decided, in 1995, to go to Newark. He subsequently moved into a notorious housing project known as Brick Towers, and lived there until 2006, when the building was condemnedâ€¦ “It was weird,” he said. “I didn’t grow up in Newark, but the time I felt most at home was at Brick Towers.” Booker lived on the sixteenth floor of the building, whose heaters and elevators worked only occasionally. The place was down the street from a crack house. One day, while he was walking with his father, a teen-age shooting victim stumbled into their path and died in Booker’s arms. Brick Towers was Booker’s passage to Newark. “I just felt so at home there,” he told me. “I felt like I was part of something, finally.”
Brick Towers became Booker’s political base in Newark. His residence there, and his legal work on behalf of the project’s fifteen hundred residents, gave him a credential (the Yale law degree meant little in Newark), and it was the president of the tenants association, Virginia Jones, one of Booker’s “professors,” who urged him to run for office. Outside Brick Towers, however, Booker encountered something, in each of his three campaigns, that he had never before really experienced: raw racial prejudice. The Newark grapevine had it that the light-skinned Booker was actually white, an agent of malign outside forces, maybe even the Ku Klux Klan. “He went to Stanford, and he’s Jewish,” Sharpe James declared matter-of-factly on the “Today” show in 2002.
The question of who is and isn’t authentically black touched a nerve in the community. “I think that is one of our deepest prejudices-not recognizing the diversity that is in the black community,” [Cory’s mother] Carolyn Booker says. “You can take it back to slavery, where there was such a divide between the field slave versus the yard slave versus the house slave, in terms of their relationship with the white plantation owner and planter. Which then gets you into the whole color thing-what shade you are. They thought I was white. â€˜He has a white mother,’ they’d say. Some columnists still write that he’s from a racially mixed family. I find it almost comical, because surely, at some point back in my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s generation, that was true. But as we go down the line, from my grandmother, who was married to a black person, to my mother and father, who are both black, to Cary and me, who are both black-I don’t know how you get there. But, obviously, the skin color, the eyes, the straight hair, says, Well, you physically don’t look like I look, so, therefore, your experience couldn’t possibly be like my experiences.”
Booker’s a big Obama backer [LATER: it’s reciprocal: “Newark Mayor Cory Booker was pretty much anointed as the next Obama by none other than Obama, who called Booker â€˜a shining star, a rising star-not just in New Jersey but in the nation.’"]; he’s no doubt helped move Hillary Clinton down to under 50% in four different New Jersey polls.
Like Obama, Booker’s presidential potential has been noted by the political pros and the media almost from the start. Booker was approached about running for the senate in 2002. Casting his lot with Newark, he declinedâ€”and went on to lose his mayoral bid. (The story of that race is told in the documentary film Street Fight.)
He ran again and in 2006 won by a record margin:
“It’s this weird moment,” Booker told me a couple of months later. “I’m elected to the highest job of my life, something I’ve been aspiring to for years, and you’d think I’d feel this great sense of independence and power. But it’s not so. It’s the time of my life when I actually feel- maybe not weaker, but more dependent upon others than ever before. And that my success is completely dependent upon how other people are doing.”
The article is not online. But they do have his talk with David Remnick from last year’s 2007 New Yorker Conference, “2012: Stories from the Near Future,” in which he discusses “post-racial politics.”
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
More praise for Stephen
I was afraid that maybe I went over the top comparing Stephen Colbert to Edward R. Murrow, but I’m happy to see that I am far from alone in healing praise on last night’s show.
In last night’s episode of the Report, Stephen staged one of the most touching displays of love to the picketing writers that I have seen since the start of the strike.
Before introducing the night’s guest, Ambassador Andrew Young, the last living member of Dr. Martin Luther King’s inner circle, Stephen rolled a video celebrating Young’s efforts in a certain strike in 1969. In Stephen’s hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, hundreds of black hospital workers went on strike, demanding fair pay, equal to their whiter counterparts. Young played a huge role in leading the community to support the workers. However, when he attempted to have some private negotiations with the hospital, the only administrator that was willing to speak with Young was a man named Dr. James Colbert, Stephen’s father.
A good portion of the interview with Young was spent discussing Dr. Colbert’s influence in the strike. I was really touched by the way Stephen was listening to the stories. For anyone that doesn’t know, Stephen lost his father and two of his brothers in a plane crash when he was only ten years old, and I think maybe that’s what made it so touching to me. Young also went on to say that he was Stephen’s destiny and told him that he’s the one that will end the writers’ strike, just the way his father helped to end the hospital workers’ strike. It was really an incredible moment that could have been topped only by a rousing rendition of “Let My People Go”, lead by Stephen and backed by Andrew Young, Malcom Gladwell (the night’s other guest), and the Harlem Gospel Choir.
Stephen Colbert is a great entertainer, but the reason he has resonated so strongly with audiences particularly during this administration is because he has a core of earnestness that deeply reflects a strong moral sense and a desire to educate, illuminate, and do good works. If you think I’m being overblown, all you need to do is watch last night’s episode of The Colbert Report, which was uniquely inspiring, edifying and touching - all while still managing to be completely hilarious. [...]
In a clip that the WGA should blast to every studio, network and media organization across the country (which we have below, of course), Young said the current striking writers weren’t a whole lot different than the striking hospital workers in 1969, fighting to be paid the same wages as their white counterparts - in both cases, said Young, it was about a small amount, fair money for fair work, but more than that it was about respect. He called on Stephen to start the behind-the-scenes work to start settling the strike...just like his father. Even though Colbert is as jovial and joke-cracking as ever during this, it is hard not to respond to all of this - the historical and personal context, the moment of the meeting between Young and Colbert, the fact that Stephen was actually getting a mission from this giant of the civil rights movement and American history. Who turns down Obi Won Kenobe? Probably not Colbert, who has always had a thing for fantasy. Liken Young to Gandalf and it’s pretty much a done deal.
Jim Crow’s Last Stand: racism North & South
Matt Bai had a piece in the NYTimes Magazine Sunday taking issue with what has become the received wisdom on the South:
It has been in vogue throughout the Bush years for Democrats to assert that the South is unredeemable and politically unnecessary. I remember seeing Kerry speak at Dartmouth College in the days before the 2004 New Hampshire primary, when he flatly told the audience that a Democratic nominee could win the presidency without worrying about the South. (He went on to test the formula; it didn’t work out so well.) Two years later, Thomas F. Schaller, a political scientist and liberal blogger, won over a lot of his fellow progressives with an entire book devoted to the premise that Democrats should ignore the South and instead focus their finite resources on the growing and more diverse states in the West and Southwest. In “Whistling Past Dixie,” Schaller marshaled a pile of statistics to argue, essentially, that the region’s long legacy of prejudice left it hopelessly blind to the nobility of the Democratic cause.
Nobility of the Democratic cause. Kind of smug, no? I’ve argued before that they should get down here and do something, not follow Schaller’s advice and tactically write off one of their main constituencies, African Americans.
Another book I’m looking forward to is coming from Thomas J. Sugrue, Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. From the podcast of his lecture, Jim Crow`s Last Stand: The Struggle for Civil Rights in the Suburban North, he discusses the book, Sweet Land of Liberty: The Unfinished Struggle for Racial Equality in the North, a history of civil rights in the united States from the Great Depression to the present.
Sugrue says that fifty years after Brown v Board of Ed, forty since the Voting Rights Act, and thirty since metropolitan school desegregation, we have to confront a paradox:
That paradox is that patterns of racial inequality in the United States remain deeply entrenched, especially in housing and education. And those patterns of racial inequality are most deeply entrenched not in the region of the country that has attracted most of our scholarly and media attention, the South, but instead up in the North.
Consider a few factsâ€¦ that point to this pattern of persistent racial inequality in the North. Today 23 of the 25 most segregated metropolitan areas in the United States are in the Northeast and the Midwest. Here are the top 10:
8. New York City
10. St. Louis
The states with the highest degree of educational segregation by race are also disproportionately in the Northeast and the Midwest.
Sugrue argues that our focus on race in the South comes at the great detriment of racial understanding in modern American.
According to Bai, this election isn’t playing out the way Schaller had strategized.
Other Democrats, like Mark Warner, the former Virginia governor, short-lived presidential hopeful and now Senate candidate, have argued that if the party aspires to build a real governing majority like the one it enjoyed for much of the 20th century, it will have to at least compete seriously in the South. (After all, recent history would suggest that while it is “possible” for Democrats to win without making any inroads in the South, it’s possible only in the same way that it’s possible to shoot 10 straight free throws with your eyes closed.) These Democrats insist that the party’s problem isn’t Southern voters but the way Northern and coastal Democrats tend to relate to them or don’t. In other words, if you condescend to Southerners or simply don’t show up, then it’s all but impossible to erase the legacy of mistrust left over from the era of desegregation.
This argument seems especially relevant now. The nationwide dismay over the Bush years may be opening a door for Democrats in Southern states. What’s more, as some of the sharper Democratic strategists have realized, reaching voters down South isn’t only about the South. Culturally and ideologically, there isn’t much that separates most Southern, independent white voters from those who live in exurban Ohio or in rural Missouri. (It was the native Southerner James Carville who famously observed that Pennsylvania was, for all practical purposes, just Alabama sandwiched in between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.) If Democrats want to win those perennial swing states by anything other than the tiniest of margins, then they will probably have to put forth the kind of candidate and argument that will also resonate in much of the South, whether they care about the region or not.
We’ve got real racial problems in America. Schaller-style pointing South does nothing to fix them.
Stephen Colbert to producers: LET MY PEOPLE GO
At around the time of Stephen Colbert’s infamous speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Robert Thompson, a professor of Television and Popular Culture at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University, dubbed the practitioners of fake news The Fifth Estate:
I think what Colbert has proved is that Comedy has moved in as the Fifth Estate when the Fourth Estate had dropped the ball. The press, of course, as others have said, completely rolled over in the lead-up to the war and the only good commentators out there were all coming from the perspective of the support of the president - the Bill O’Reillys, the Rush Limbaughs and so forth and so on - and comedy moved into that vacuum ... if you continue to watch Comedy Central shows you get a sense that boy, you know, maybe this isn’t a bad place to be getting some of our news information.
Last night Colbert demonstrated how true that is. Proving he is nothing less than the modern embodiment of Edward R. Murrow, Colbert addressed both race and the writers’ strike in a stunningly effective way. The show demands to be seen. This being Comedy Central, it’s likely to be repeated throughout the day today. Watch it.
Colbert begins with an interview of Malcolm Gladwell discussing his important New Yorker article on what race doesn’t tell you about IQ.
In the article Gladwell convincingly refutes the arguments of the “I.Q. fundamentalistï¿½? that blacks have an innately lower IQ than whites. He discusses the article on his blog here, here and here and manages in the difficult format of a Colbert interview to get across the very complex point that IQ is rooted in modernity; we answer those IQ questions in context--a context more favorable to some than to others.
The interview isn’t funny. Colbert’s in character, poking at Gladwell throughout, but - as in the correspondents’ dinner - the laughs are really beside the point.
We come back from commercial to learn that it’s all about Stephen. In a remarkable piece of history tossed in the center of a comic fake news show, we learn about the 1969 hospital strike in Charleston, SC (watch especially for the white policemen beating the black women strikers):
So you see, Stephen’s father ended that strike by brokering a deal with Andrew Young.
Now Andrew Young has been the subject of intense criticism over some frank remarks he made last fall in favor of Hillary Clinton. The whole clip remains online here.
Andrew Young was Colbert’s guest last night. Together they reminisce about Colbert’s dad:
Stephen: Do you remember my father?
Andrew Young: I do. Very, very wellâ€¦ your father apologized. See, he was a southern gentleman from New York. That’s kind of unusual.
And all I aspire to be.
Young is an old man and not the most articulate. He has walked the walk, not just talked the talk. We have much to learn from his experience even if some of us today may disagree with the lessons he’s learned. To trash him as a jealous cranky old man for supporting Hillary is despicable.
(For more on the post-civil rights era fallacy, see Salim Muwakkil in In These Times.)
Back from commercial and it all comes together. In the earlier interview Colbert asked Young, “Were you guys fighting over internet residuals?ï¿½? Young answered, “it’s the same thing:ï¿½?
YOUNG: I am your destiny. See this strike was 100 days. And your father and I settled it. But the key to settling it was neither of us got credit. So you have to settle this strike.
COLBERT: And not get credit.
YOUNG: And not get credit.
COLBERT: I like credit for things.
YOUNG: Being humble is a difficult task.
COLBERT: I have trouble with strikers. If you don’t show up to work, then that’s like not playing in the gameâ€¦ how is striking the right thing to do?
YOUNG: Well, it’s not. You only strike when you can’t talk. And the right thing to do is to talkâ€¦ A Teamster union organizer told me strikes are never about money, they’re always about respect. And when people can sit down and respect one another and work a problem out, it’s settled. And that’s what your father and I didâ€¦
COLBERT: Nowâ€¦ this is the first strike I’ve ever been involved in. And the way that strikes go is that one side makes a proposal and the producers get up and leave and they don’t talk anymore.
Now Colbert closes the show with the power of song. He dedicates it to “everyone involved in the WGA strike, but especially my writers.ï¿½? I choked up as I watched Colbert on stage singing with Andrew Young, Malcolm Gladwell and the Harlem Gospel Choir, carrying on Martin Luther King’s fight for economic justice:
LATER: More praise for Stephen.
LATER STILL: I wanted to know if Dr. Thompson shared my view that Colbert had approached the writers’ strike “in a stunningly effective way” and that the Colbert episode “demands to be seen.” So I called him up. Thompson saw it differently. He called it a missed opportunity to educate.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
On Obama fatalism
Speaking of Richard Thompson Ford, Tuesday in Slate he looked at liberals who say Obama can’t win because he’s black. He suspects three reasons for Obama fatalism among liberals of all races: false realism, once-bitten timidity, and investment-in-oppression.
He explains why each in invalid and concludes:
An Obama victory would hardly signal the end of racism in America. But Obama’s recent and dramatic success does suggest that simple color prejudice is not always the decisive factor in the lives of racial minorities that it was 20 or 30 years ago. No doubt some Obama supporters do their unwitting parts to perpetuate such racial inequalities, such as neighborhood segregation, subtle job discrimination, overzealous law enforcement, and punitive criminal sentencing. But it’s unlikely that such an Obama supporter is a “racist” in any meaningful sense of that word. She may simply be living in a world shaped by race, even when her politics are not. If we’re now living in a society where many racial injustices are not caused by racism strictly speaking but by subtler social hierarchies, economic inequalities, and the present-day effects of decades-old racial policies, we may need to rethink approaches to racial justice that inevitably presume that racial injustice is to racism as smoke is to fire.
A boycott or civil demonstration makes sense when the goal is to pressure, shame, or discredit a bigot, but it may well be misplaced when problems of racial injustice involve factual ambiguities, close judgment calls, sins of omission, and problems of inertia. The fracturing of American racism is reason for optimism, but the new opportunities and challenges it creates also may be disconcerting and threatening to many long-suffering racial minorities and racial-justice activists, who are as comfortable with the known enemy of old-school racism as a Cold War general was with the Soviet Union. Learning to navigate a world in which racism is less of an impediment to success that we had once thought is a burden we all should be happy to accept.
I agree with Ford’s conclusion, but I am more cautious of his Investment-in-Oppression argument that “some people are simply too invested in the idea that American racism is monolithic and implacableâ€¦ a lot of professional racial activists will need to hastily revise their speeches.”
Maybe so. But my experience finds it way too easy and facile of liberals, most especially white liberals, to criticize the black Civil Rights establishment.
They’ve done their duty. They’re steeped in the past but they’re putting themselves out there and they continue to speak for those whose stories are too messy for the media and the establishment to fathom.
I am a yankee who now lives in the South. I see that the South has become an easy place to put racism in this country and be done with it. Race is not a Southern problem. It’s a big national problem and pointing South has a not-my-problem ring to it. It does nothing to help solve the problem.
Similarly, blaming the Civil Rights establishment for not coming up with new answers doesn’t solve the problem. Yes, we need something new. No, they’re not likely to find it. But I like to think we can come up with the new we need without belittling the old.
The truth about Jena?
The headline over Amy Waldman’s Atlantic piece promises to explain “why America’s black-and-white narratives about race don’t reflect reality.”
I agree they don’t. But I didn’t see any real analysis or insights that even begin to explain why:
In the fall of 2006, Mychal Bell was a football hero, and his hometown, Jena, Louisiana, loved him for it. As his high-school team posted its best season in six years, Bell scored 21 touchdowns, rushed for 1,006 yards, and was named player of the week three times by The Jena Times. The paper celebrated his triumphs in articles and photographs, including a dramatic one in which Bell, who’s black, stiff-arms a white defender by clutching his face guard. But within weeks after the season’s end, Bell was transformed into a villain, accused of knocking out a white student, Justin Barker, who was then beaten by a group of black students. The parish’s white district attorney charged Bell and five others with attempted second-degree murder. Six months later-after the DA had reduced the charges against Bellâ€”a white jury convicted him, as an adult, of aggravated second-degree battery, a crime that carried a possible 22-year prison sentence. By then, he, along with his co-defendants, had been transformed yet again: together, they’d been dubbed the Jena Six and had become icons of a 21st-century civil-rights movement.
When Bell began to get into trouble, his football hero status apparently helped folks look the other way:
No wonder he didn’t see that punching a white boy at school could change the rules. “This is Jena,” Anlynne Hart says. “You had the judge and DA at those ball games Friday night, clapping them on-you see what I’m saying? And all this is going through the courts while they’re clapping him on, running up and down the football field, and then the minute this happened to the white boy-it’s like, uh-oh-click-click-he going to jail.”
Everything I read about the DA, J. Reed Walters, suggested he was a big problem. That’s affirmed here:
Walters remained convinced that everything he did in the case of the Jena Six was “absolutely 100 percent correct-without question.” Never mind that even some of Walters’s white friends say he charged too severely, not least because the victim was able to attend a school function that night. Walters believed his decision to charge Bell as an adult with attempted murder reflects both the facts of the case, including Bell’s history, and the values that his community holds dearâ€”"conservative," “help-oriented,” and “Christian.” (I spotted a photocopy of the Ten Commandments hanging on the courthouse bulletin board, next to the bail-bondsman and paternity-testing ads.)
Walters says he does not look at race in his prosecutions. But that does not mean the racial boundaries of his community do not influence him. Whites outnumber blacks by 7-to-1 in the parish; beyond one black member apiece on the 10-member school board and on the 10-member police juryâ€”both from a racially gerrymandered ward-no black has a position of power. There are four black teachers on a parish staff of 196. Black-owned businesses? Sammy Franklin could think of two: a car-detailer and a funeral home.
As for Walters himself, his world-like that of many white Americansâ€”is white, as is most of his neighborhood. The restaurants he frequents rarely have black employees or black patrons. The worshippers at his church are white, as are the small-town-elite circles in which he moves. In 17 years, he says, he has never had a black employee, beyond some who helped him “privately.” He offered as evidence of Jena’s “perfect” race relations that the high school’s white quarterback throws to both black and white players. The white kids who hung the nooses were of Walters’s worldâ€”indeed, one of their families attends his church. Mychal Bell was, in essence, a stranger.
Read the entire piece. It’s interesting in that it both confirms and refutes the press narrative prevalent at the time. What it doesn’t do, what I’m looking for, is someone to change the frame.
Yes, it’s clear that we need a new language, a new paradigm, to depict the challenges of contemporary race relations. Yes, white and black and press and activists all place these stories in the old template.
Who’s going to build a new one? Two people I have found so far who might help:
Melissa Harris Lacewell. She calls the traditional civil rights movement a hammer but says, “Contemporary racial inequality is a screw, and if you take a hammer and start pounding on a screw, you just end up with a mess.” We need to build a screwdriver.
Richard Thomspn Ford. He says, “the racial problems facing this town-and many others-are more complex than simple prejudice, and finding solutions will necessarily require more nuance than a mass protest can offer...” I’m wondering if his forthcoming book, The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse, will offer something new.
Monday, January 07, 2008
Misogyny and racism in the campaign
Ezra Klein’s pal David Roberts, a staff writer at Grist, sent him this e-mail:
I’ll grant upfront that my thoughts on misogyny and racism in the campaign are somewhat fraught, since as your run-of-the-mill privileged white dude, I hardly have the most direct window into their effects. Nonetheless, I’ll venture an observation: misogyny is a much bigger player in this election than racism.
When Obama and Clinton first started running, I cringed in advance. I expected all sorts of crude race and gender stereotypes to come bubbling up-not only from the right, where you’d expect it, but from the media and even from some quarters of the left.
When it comes to racism, I’ve been somewhat surprised to find that I was wrong. Very little of the narrative around Obama’s run has touched on race; very few of the attacks on him have been coded racism, and those that have-the occasional mention of his drug use, the links to his “madrassa"-have come off as unspeakably crude and sunk like a stone,registering only in the fever swamps. If anything, the perception of Obama as “post-racial” (yes, I know there’s no such thing) has been an asset, almost an insulator. (Expect that to change, obviously, if he makes it to the general. Jonah Goldberg’s “the coloreds will riot!” post of last week is a preview.)
On misogyny, though, I’ve been shocked in the other direction: it’s been more overt, more odious, and more unashamed that I could have predicted. The serial depictions of Clinton in the media (and yes, in blogs and op-eds both right and left) are a veritable hit parade of stereotypes about women: She’s humorless. No, she cackles. She’s a cold robot. No, she’s a hysterical crybaby. She wears ugly pant suits. No, she’s showing too much cleavage. Virgin, whore. Ballbreaker, weakling. Chris Matthews has been the standard-bearer here, but he’s just the leader of an astonishingly large chorus of crude gender resentment-a chorus that lamentably contains quite a few women.
I’m not a Hillary voter, for any number of reasons. I happen to think she’s the wrong candidate for the historical moment. But I’d be crying too if I were her. This stuff is just gross.
REMEMBER TOO: Kathleen Hall Jamieson on the avalanche of misogyny directed at Hillary Clinton.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Racist history debate misses the point
Bruce Bartlett is an interesting Republican. A Reagan supply-side policy adviser and George H. W. Bush deputy assistant treasury secretary, I have quoted him for his clear opposition to hair-brained Flat Tax proposals and for calling out the current Bush White House for the Jeff Gannon press plant.
Bartlett’s got a new book out, Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party’s Buried Past:
It basically argues that, historically speaking, the Democratic Party has been the party of racism in this country throughout most of its existence. I am hopeful that the book will open the door to Republicans in the black community. For their own good, I think African American voters need to be courted by both parties. As it is, they are essentially ignored by both--the Democrats take them for granted, while Republicans have given up hope and don’t even try to get black votes any more.
Bartlett’s bugged that Dems (in the guise of Paul Krugman) see Ronald Reagan declaring his secret sympathy for Southern racism in a 1980 speech he gave near Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964. There Reagan said he supported “states’ rights.”
In the Wall Street Journal yesterday Bartlett gathered a long list of quotes from prominent Democrats:
[I]f a single mention of states’ rights 27 years ago is sufficient to damn the Republican Party for racism ever afterwards, what about the 200-year record of prominent Democrats who didn’t bother with code words? They were openly and explicitly for slavery before the Civil War, supported lynching and “Jim Crow” laws after the war, and regularly defended segregation and white supremacy throughout most of the 20th century.
Matt Yglesias will have none of it. He sees a 30-40 year Democratic intra-party battle between urban northern African-Americans and white liberals and the white supremacist agenda of the South in which the good Dems win:
The political views of the Southern Democrats were unconscionably evil, and the corrupt bargain national Democratic Party figures struck with them was a terrible thing. But in a series of intense political battles, the Democratic Party eventually broke decisively with that heritage, prompting breakaway segregationist campaigns in 1948 and 1968 and eventually leading the bulk of the white supremacist constituency to drift to the Republican Party.
The significance of the history of race in America—and of the centrality of the Democrats’ corrupt bargain with white supremacy to American political history—really shouldn’t be minimized. But what it shows is that the Democratic Party’s decision to embrace the civil rights movement and the Republican Party’s decision to embrace opposition to civil rights has been integral to the Republican Party’s political successes toward the end of the 20th century.
My problem with our Democratic position is that we treat Civil Rights like a done deal. Where Bartlett’s chosen Krugman’s book, The Conscience of a Liberal, to get riled up about, I choose Tom Schaller’s, Whistling Past Dixie, in which he very clearly suggests we tactically use Southern racism as “a burdensome stone to hang around the Republicans’ neck” (on page 18). You just have to wonder, if Dems are using racism as a winning strategy, where is their motivation to do something about it?
I see a whole lot of people pointing to the South when they talk about racism, but the race problem in America is simply not a Southern problem. It is a national problem that I have argued is the central moral failing and the deepest open wound we have in this country. And Obama’s dilemma suggests to me that Democrats, too, are way too comfortable with the status quo.
I’m not satisfied with the place race relations and racial issues hold in the Democratic party. It seems to me that Democrats are vulnerable to the argument that they take the black vote for granted and I don’t think the fact that they do more than Republicans is enough. I’d be happy to see either Democrats or Republicans respond to Bartlett’s challenge with something more than name calling in the place of action.
PLEASE SEE ALSO: Blacks get screwed. It’s time we build a screwdriver.
Monday, December 24, 2007
A Newsweek Periscope piece labeled “Race” say the Revs. Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young and Al Sharpton are lost in the Obama era:
At times they can seem like jealous, cranky old men, as in December when Young suggested Bill Clinton was “every bit as black as Barack.” Or when Jackson said Obama was “acting white’’ by skipping a giant rally for the Jena Six.
But it’s not just jealousy. They are also frustrated by mainstream voters’ eager embrace of an African-American raised without a traditional African-American experience-who’s not, in other words, an “angry black man.” Reared in Hawaii by white grandparents, Obama didn’t have a family history of segregation and Jim Crow laws. And sources close to all three reverends say the men are hurt that Obama hasn’t sought their advice, even privately. (Still, Jackson has endorsed Obama.) The leaders appreciate Obama’s dilemma. They know he’d lose many white voters if he reached out to leaders known primarily for advocating black issues. Obama’s refrain is that there is just one America. It may be what America wants to hear-but the three lions of the old school couldn’t disagree more.
It seems to me that those old lions are right. I’ll be happy as can be if Obama’s elected, but what is the likelihood of him doing something substantive about race relations or racial inequality in America?
If “Obama’s dilemma” means that because he’s a black man he can only be elected if he minimizes race and acts every bit as much the centrist status quo as Hillary or Edwards, why should those who value racial equality embrace him?
Dr. Ronald Walters, the director of the African American Leadership Center at the University of Maryland, worked for both of Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns. He said this on Bill Moyers Journal about the Oprah tour:
I looked at this spectacle the other day of Michelle and Oprah and Barack-- three black people in front of this sea of white faces in Iowa. I said, “That’s amazing.” But when you look at who they are they don’t, for example, take very strong issues having to do with race. They have made part of the professional and their political life dealing with the problems of whites. They are trusted in those communities. And, therefore, they have a right to be there. That’s historically important.
And Salim Muwakkil wrote this about The Post Civil Rights Fallacy for In These Times:
[T]he media has been awash in assessments of a new cohort of black leadership. These neophytes are generally described as well-educated (often Ivy Leaguers), non-ideological coalition builders-in that they were not nurtured in the race-tinged battleground of the civil rights movement.
The star players in this coterie are Obama, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford, Alabama Rep. Artur Davis, Philadelphia mayoral candidate Michael Nutter and a few others.
These attractive newcomers are being cast as the harbingers of a new America, a nation untroubled by the ogre of rank racism. Race-focused leadership, like that expressed by the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jackson, are to be relegated to another era, a 20th century paradigm.
These ideas are part of a hardening notion that the protest mode is an ineffective way to redress the racial problems of the 21st century. Increasing numbers of commentators are stressing the need for African Americans to place more focus on internal social and moral reform than on external protests for civil rights. This is hardly a new debate. In fact, it was the core disagreement between W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington at the beginning of the 20th century. [...]
Obama is a black politician seeking national consensus. If he responded to every expression of racial bias, he would alienate his supporters who believe we live in post-civil rights America. However, some African Americans are uncomfortable that Obama’s prospects for success are enhanced by a state of racial denial.
I’m all for the new leaders. But they’ve got some big old problems to solve. If the only way they can get elected is to deny those problems, I’m just not sure there’s much progress is being made.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Gladwell takes on the I.Q. fundamentalists
In What I.Q. doesn’t tell you about race Malcolm Gladwell looks at the work of James Flynn, a social scientist at the University of Otago in New Zealand to convincingly refute the arguments of the “I.Q. fundamentalists.”
To the I.Q. fundamentalist, two things are beyond dispute: first, that I.Q. tests measure some hard and identifiable trait that predicts the quality of our thinking; and, second, that this trait is stableâ€”that is, it is determined by our genes and largely impervious to environmental influences.
Not so says Flynn:
The best way to understand why I.Q.s rise, Flynn argues, is to look at one of the most widely used I.Q. tests, the so-called WISC (for Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children). The WISC is composed of ten subtests, each of which measures a different aspect of I.Q. Flynn points out that scores in some of the categories-those measuring general knowledge, say, or vocabulary or the ability to do basic arithmetic-have risen only modestly over time. The big gains on the WISC are largely in the category known as “similarities,” where you get questions such as “In what way are â€˜dogs’ and â€˜rabbits’ alike?” Today, we tend to give what, for the purposes of I.Q. tests, is the right answer: dogs and rabbits are both mammals. A nineteenth-century American would have said that “you use dogs to hunt rabbits.” [...]
The psychologist Michael Cole and some colleagues once gave members of the Kpelle tribe, in Liberia, a version of the WISC similarities test: they took a basket of food, tools, containers, and clothing and asked the tribesmen to sort them into appropriate categories. To the frustration of the researchers, the Kpelle chose functional pairings. They put a potato and a knife together because a knife is used to cut a potato. “A wise man could only do such-and-such,” they explained. Finally, the researchers asked, “How would a fool do it?” The tribesmen immediately re-sorted the items into the “right” categories. It can be argued that taxonomical categories are a developmental improvementâ€”that is, that the Kpelle would be more likely to advance, technologically and scientifically, if they started to see the world that way. But to label them less intelligent than Westerners, on the basis of their performance on that test, is merely to state that they have different cognitive preferences and habits. And if I.Q. varies with habits of mind, which can be adopted or discarded in a generation, what, exactly, is all the fuss about?
Flynn then talked about what we’ve learned from studies of adoption and mixed-race children - and that evidence didn’t fit a genetic model, either. If I.Q. is innate, it shouldn’t make a difference whether it’s a mixed-race child’s mother or father who is black. But it does: children with a white mother and a black father have an eight-point I.Q. advantage over those with a black mother and a white father. And it shouldn’t make much of a difference where a mixed-race child is born. But, again, it does: the children fathered by black American G.I.s in postwar Germany and brought up by their German mothers have the same I.Q.s as the children of white American G.I.s and German mothers.
The difference, in that case, was not the fact of the children’s blackness, as a fundamentalist would say. It was the fact of their Germanness - of their being brought up in a different culture, under different circumstances. “The mind is much more like a muscle than we’ve ever realized,” Flynn said. “It needs to get cognitive exercise. It’s not some piece of clay on which you put an indelible mark.” The lesson to be drawn from black and white differences was the same as the lesson from the Netherlands years ago: I.Q. measures not just the quality of a person’s mind but the quality of the world that person lives in.
The hereditarians begin with the assertion that 60 percent to 80 percent of variation in I.Q. is genetically determined. However, most estimates of heritability have been based almost exclusively on studies of middle-class groups. For the poor, a group that includes a substantial proportion of minorities, heritability of I.Q. is very low, in the range of 10 percent to 20 percent, according to recent research by Eric Turkheimer at the University of Virginia. This means that for the poor, improvements in environment have great potential to bring about increases in I.Q.
Comments Gladwell: “It’s very persuasive. And it would be interesting to see what, if anything, die-hard hereditarians like Charles Murray have to say in response.”
I’ll be watching for that response too.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
The young are our future and our hope
Today we are in the promised land. We are the freest that African Americans have ever been. Things are not perfect but the course of our lives is directed more by our own will then it is by racism. The significance of Moses and Joshua to the African American struggle is that they represent a passing of leadership from one generation to the next. The failure of the modern African American community is a failure of the Civil Rights generation to let go of the reigns of power and pass them on to the next generation.
Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, when asked why he didn’t support Barack Obama, said “It is not a matter of being inexperienced, it is a matter of being young”. He stated that he wants Barack to be president in 2016. At 46, Barack is older than John Kennedy when he became president. Bill Clinton was 46 when he became president and yet Barack isn’t old enough for Young. His belief that the Joshua generation is not old enough to take the reins is not unique among people his age. This phenomenon is detrimental to the African American community.
The greatest barrier to an African American president, and the rise of young leadership in the African American community, are Civil Rights vets. The Moses generation attacked the Blackness of Obama who spent the majority of his adult life working on the south side of Chicago in Black communities because he doesn’t shout like Sharpton or Jesse. Corey Booker’s African American identity was attacked as a sellout because he was a Yale grad despite the fact that he lived and worked in the projects of Newark. The attacks on these great men do not come from racist but people in our community.
I, like many of my generation, am very grateful to the Moses generation for helping us escape the bondage of Jim Crow and entrenched institutional racism. However, we cannot continue to follow the lead of those who act counter to the interest of our people. Those, like Andrew Young, who would hold back the progress of our people because they fail to adapt to the new situation in which we find ourselves, or who hold on to power to the detriment of the people, must step out of the way of progress. The future of the African American people is not in the glory of past victories, it is in the upcoming generation of leaders who will build a nation.
Friday, November 16, 2007
The parties go duck hunting
The New Republic’s Eric Rauchway says both parties have a history of catering to white racists. The Democrats stopped. Have Republicans?
In the 1890s, southern states began to amend their laws and constitutions to keep black people from voting, in part because they wanted to stop poor whites from joining the Populist Party, which sought to implement an income tax and break up business monopolies. Democrats, then the reigning political power in the South, figured that they could keep some large number of poor whites from worrying about their economic status by appealing to their racism. They proved correct. Thus the South solidified behind the Democratic Party and white supremacy.
Cracks opened in this sectional foundation when the Democrats nominated Al Smith for the Presidency in 1928. The multi-ethnic, Catholic, Manhattanite Smith represented “card playing, cocktail drinking, poodle dogs, divorces, novels, stuffy rooms, dancing, evolution, Clarence Darrow, overeating, nude art, prize fighting, actors, greyhound racing, and modernism,” as one Protestant minister raved. As H. L. Mencken noted, these fears would get “Methodist Ku Kluxers of every state south of the Potomac ... building forts along the coast to repel the Pope.” The Republicans benefited, and picked up a few southern states.
These cracks opened wider in 1948 and 1960, both close elections in part because white southerners punished Democrats for taking small steps toward civil rights. In 1948, Harry Truman’s effort ”to secure these rights“ prompted Strom Thurmond to run on a “states’ rights” ticket, costing Truman electoral votes he could scarcely afford. In 1960, some southern electors fled the Catholic and tepidly tolerant John Kennedy for a ticket with states’ righters Harry Flood Byrd and Strom Thurmond on it. These southerners whose votes had kept Democrats in office--southerners who for generations had been poorer than their northern counterparts--nevertheless let race-baiters woo them away from the New Deal, whose political programs had done them so much good.
By the 1960s it had become clear that the white South would bolt the Democratic Party under the right circumstances. As Barry Goldwater told fellow Republicans in 1961, owing to the New Deal, the GOP would never “get the Negro vote ... so we ought to go hunting where the ducks are.”
With that the catering-to-white-racist baton is handed off to the Republicans. But I’m not seeing how Goldwater’s strategy is a whole lot different than Tom Schaller’s prescription for Democrats in Whistling Past Dixie. The Dems is a sin of omission rather than of commission:
For a generation the Republicans have benefited from keeping Mississippi burning, just as the Democrats did before. Both hoped that racist populism would trump economic populism. The coming year will likely bring more of the same, and the results will tell us whether Americans will be so simply fooled again.
Dems may rightfully claim they’re not the party catering to white racists but so long as they use that fact as a benefit to win rather than actually doing something on the ground to counter and change it, they are complicit in the ongoing structural racism. And that’s not much to be proud of.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Color of Change
And quoted Jill Tubman:
NAACP: 500,000 members, almost $20,000 raised for Jena 6, 0% of funds disbursed to families and lawyers to date
Color of Change: 400,000 members, over $200,000 raised for Jena 6, 100% of funds disbursed to date
As African American Political Pundit points out, which of these organizations looks more competent, effective and credible in terms of black leadership to you?
Monday, November 05, 2007
Giuliani’s very own “Southern Strategy”
Strategists for Rudy Giuliani are quietly preparing a significantly race-based campaign strategy to strengthen support among socially conservative white voters, in the South as well as in the North.
The themes the campaign are lining up for renewed emphasis are those reflecting Giuliani’s confrontational stance towards black New Yorkers and their white liberal allies, as well as his record of siding decisively with the police against minorities who launched protests alleging police brutality during the years he was mayor from 1994-2001.
Giuliani’s eight years as New York’s chief executive exemplified a Northern adaptation of the GOP’s politically successful “Southern strategy” - the strategy playing on white resistance to and resentment of federal legislation passed in the 1960s mandating desegregation - resistance that produced a realignment in the South and fractured the Democratic loyalties of white working class voters in the urban North from 1968 to 2004.
Via Steve Benen:
Giuliani will appeal to white conservatives by emphasizing his conflicts with NYC’s African-American community. The idea, apparently, is to deflect attention from his positions on abortion, gays, guns, and immigration by pointing to race - the implicit message being: “How liberal can Giuliani be if he constantly fought with black people in New York?” [...]
When assembling the list of reasons why Giuliani is an offensive presidential candidate, be sure to keep race high on the list.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
The biggest one for me is #4, as everything I’ve read suggested the DA mishandled the situation and inflamed passions. I was previously aware of 1, 2, 3, 8, 10 & 11.
So far it has not fundamentally changed my take. The media behaves the way the media behaves - the blogosphere, too - and eye-witness testimony is known to be prone to errors. We’re not ever going to know the whole truth.
I’ll say more later.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Stop looking for excuses NOT to see the injustice
Elle, phd calls on the progressive blogosphere to get your purportedly progressive foundation in order:
Do you know these people? Aside from the fact that they were unbelievably brave and principled?
Do you ever wonder why Rosa Parks instead of Claudette Colvin (who’d refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, AL, bus nine months before Mrs. Parks?) was the face of the Montgomery bus boycott?
Do you ever wonder why this picture of Elizabeth Eckford remaining composed in the face of Hazel Massery’s vitriol was such an important image to promote?
Do you ever wonder why sit-in participants had to be so well-dressed, so calm, so “respectable?”
Well, of course you know. The people who would be the face of the Civil Rights Movement had to be virtually blameless. They couldn’t give white bigots fodder to dismiss them or the movement. They had to tread a line between being the human face of the movement while upholding super-human reputations and faithfully remaining non-violent.
It was a lot to expect, this demand for perfection, this unspoken implication that African Americans had to be more than human, had to prove themselves worthy of fair treatment, of justice.
But I believe it was necessary then, to stave off attacks from enemies of the movement. Because a flaw, a sign of poor judgment, an episode of human error could be used to question the validity of not only the people involved, but the movement itself.
Well, skip ahead half-a-century, and AAPP makes an observation that struck a chord within me, that “white liberals and white bigots seem to agree.”
See, when faced with the question of how the hell can you be so silent in the face of injustice, of unequal treatment, of blatant racism, rather than admit you dropped the ball* or more importantly, that you just didn’t get it, you reached back and borrowed those old techniques for impugning the movement.
You can’t support the Jena Six (or issues this highlights) because there is no hero?
For people who didn’t know much about the Jena Six, suddenly you were awfully concerned about offenses for which Mychal Bell had been convicted.
We protest because Jena is not a rural Southern town, it is a state of mind - not from the 1950s, but of the here and now in every American town, suburb and city from South to North and sea to shining sea.
SEE ALSO: my The Post-Civil Rights Fallacy.