Social Order and Strict Parenting

“I remembered when I was a child being in a bank and other places of business with my mother and experiencing the same phenomenon of watching the white kids play while my mother insisted that I stay near her. Watching the repeat of my experience, I wondered how the little black girl who stood in the bank line felt while she watched the white boy run and play in the bank. I suspect she felt a number of emotions: fear of the consequences she might receive from disobeying her mother; shame from the curious looks of her white peers; anger at not being able to move about freely.

“Without explicitly saying so, the black mother sent a message to her children and the message was, ‘little white children can safely run and play but you cannot because it is not okay or safe for you.’ These experiences teach black children that somehow this world does not belong to black boys and girls, but it does belong to the little white children.”

This is from a book I somewhat randomly was perusing. It is Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Joy DeGruy (Kindle Locations 580-599). I get the point the author is making, but I’d widen the significance to the social order. This isn’t just a race thing. Many poor white children have had similar experiences, even without the harsh legacy of slavery. My mother grew up working class and her parents grew up poor. Her family was very strict in their parenting and it was assumed children would not stray.

By the time my brothers and I were born, the family was joining the ranks of the middle class. After living in a factory town on the edge of Appalachia, we moved to a wealthy suburb of Chicago. My mother has told me how the children of the wealthier families were given great freedom and made the center of attention. That isn’t how my mother was raised and that wasn’t how she raised us. I can’t say that my brothers and I clung to my mother’s dress, but we knew we were to be obedient and not cause trouble. As children, we most definitely didn’t run around in places of business. We stood still or sat quietly. We weren’t raised as if we had the privilege to do whatever we wanted, not matter how much it bothered others. Instead, we were raised as lower class kids who should know their place in the world.

Consider a rich kid. When Donald Trump was a little boy, did anyone tell him what he couldn’t do? Probably not. If his mother was in a bank line, he could have ran screaming around the place, punched the bank guard in the balls, and no one would have done anything about it. That isn’t because Trump was a white boy but because he had the privilege of being born into immense wealth. Everyone in that bank would have known who the Trump family was or at the very least they would have known these were rich people who were used to doing whatever they pleased.

That explains the kind of person Trump grew up to be. Trump bragged that he could shoot someone in public and he would lose no support. That mindset comes from someone who has spent his life getting away with everything. It doesn’t even take immense wealth to create this kind of a spoiled man-child. I live in a town with plenty of well off professionals in the medical field, living the good life even if not filthy rich like the Trump family. Yes, most of them are white but more importantly they have money as part of an upper class identity. As a parking ramp cashier, I’ve experienced many people get upset. This has included a wide variety of people, including minorities. Yet of those who have exploded into full tantrums, I must admit that most of them are wealthier whites.

In dealing with such tantrums of privilege, does it help that I’m a white guy? Not that I can tell. Their sense of privilege is in no way checked because of our shared whiteness, as they are upper class and I am not. The only thing I have going for me is that I have the authority of the government behind me, as a public employee. I can threaten to call the police and make good on that threat, for the police will come. I’ve done that before on a number of occasions.

I remember dealing with an upper middle class white lady who simply wouldn’t cooperate in any kind of way, while a long line of cars piled up behind her. You’d think that she’d be better behaved because she had young kids in the car, but maybe that was all the more reason she felt a need to demonstrate her sense of entitlement in getting her way. Still, I wouldn’t budge and I eventually gave her an ultimatum, with my calling the police being one of the options. She went batshit crazy and it amused me to no end, although I remained outwardly professional. I’m sure she contacted my boss later and maybe even demanded I be fired. Fortunately, I’m a union member which offers some small amount of protection. If not for that protection, my whiteness wouldn’t have saved me.

Many upper class people don’t think the same rules apply to them that apply to everyone else. I’m sure that is even true of many upper class blacks. Does anyone honestly think that Obama or Oprah would accept being treated in the way poor whites are treated in this country? I doubt it. Just imagine if a wealthy black was having a tantrum in a parking ramp and a poor schmuck like me threatened to call the police on them. Do you think that they would act with submissive deference just because of some kind of supposed white privilege? I also doubt it. To return to the original example, I simply can’t imagine that the Obama daughters when they were children huddled in anxious obedience around their mother when they were at the bank.

None of this lessens the harsh reality of racism. Even so, there is an even longer history and entrenched legacy of class hierarchy. It’s easy forget that poor whites were the original oppressed race in European society, when race first developed as a scientific concept during late feudalism. Racialized slavery replaced feudalism, but it didn’t eliminate the ancient prejudices of a class-based society. No matter how racially biased is our society, that doesn’t change the fact that whites represent the majority of the poor, the majority of those abused by police, and the majority of those in prison.

As with blacks, whites aren’t a monolithic demographic with a singular experience. Most Americans, if given the choice, would take being a rich black over being a poor white. To put it more simply, most Americans would rather be rich than poor, whatever other details were involved. A large reason racial order has so much power is because it is overlaid upon and conflated with the class-based hierarchy, as blacks are disproportionately of the lower classes. That is an important detail, but the point is what makes being black so tough is that for so many it has meant being condemned to poverty for generations. Nonetheless, this is true for many whites as well, as a large part of the white population in the US has continuously been poor for longer than anyone can remember, going back to a time prior to slavery.

Strict parenting among the poor, black and white, is a central part of the maintaining the social order. There is a good reason why poor parents willingly participate in this system of control. After all, the consequences are very much real, if their children don’t learn to behave accordingly. There are many dangers in poverty, not just from the violence of poor communities but more importantly from the power of authority figures. This is why poor people, black and white, less often have tantrums in dealing with parking ramp cashiers for they have no desire to deal with the police nor any expectation that police would treat them leniently.

Race as Lineage and Class

There is an intriguing shift in racial thought. It happened over the early modern era, but I’d argue that the earliest racial ideology is still relevant in explaining the world we find ourselves in. Discussing François Bernier (1620-1628), Justin E. H. Smith wrote that (Nature, Human Nature, and Human Difference, p. 22),

“This French physician and traveler is often credited with being the key innovator of the modern race concept. While some rigorous scholarship has recently appeared questioning Bernier’s significance, his racial theory is seldom placed in his context as a Gassendian natural philosopher who was, in particular, intent to bring his own brand of modern, materialistic philosophy to bear in his experiences in the Moghul Empire in Persia and northern India. It will be argued that Bernier’s principal innovation was to effectively decouple the concept of race from considerations of lineage, and instead to conceptualize it in biogeographical terms in which the precise origins or causes of the original differences of human physical appearance from region to region remain underdetermined.”

This new conception of race was introduced in the 17th century. But it would take a couple of centuries of imperial conquering, colonialism, and slavery to fully take hold.

The earliest conception of race was scientific, in explaining the diversity of species in nature. It technically meant a sub-species (and technically still does, despite non-scientific racial thought having since diverged far from this strict definition). Initially, this idea of scientific races was entirely kept separate from humanity. It was the common assumption, based on traditional views such as monotheistic theology, that all humans had a shared inheritance and that superficial differences of appearance didn’t indicate essentialist differences in human nature. Typical early explanations of human diversity pointed to other causes, from culture to climate. For example, the belief that dark-skinned people got that physical feature from living in hot and sunny environments, with the assumption that if the environment conditions changed so would the physical feature. As such, the dark skin of an African wasn’t any more inherited than the blue-pigmented skin of a Celt.

This millennia old view of human differences was slow to change. Slavery had been around since the ancient world, but it never had anything to do with race or usually even with ethnicity. Mostly, it was about one population being conquered by another and something had to be done with conquered people, if they weren’t to be genocidally slaughtered. The wars involved nearby people. Ancient Greeks more often fought other Greeks than anyone else and so it is unsurprising that most Greek slaves were ethnically Greek. Sure, there were some non-Greeks mixed into their slave population, but it was largely irrelevant. If anything, a foreign slave was valued more simply for the rarity. This began to change during the colonial era. With the rise of the British Empire, it was becoming standard for Christians to only enslave non-Christians. This was made possible as the last Pagan nation in Europe ended in the 14th century and the non-Christian populations in Europe dwindled over the centuries. But a complicating factor is that Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa included a mix of Christians and non-Christians. Some of the early Church Fathers were not ethnically European (e.g., Augustine was African). As explained in a PBS article, From Indentured Servitude to Racial Slavery:

“Historically, the English only enslaved non-Christians, and not, in particular, Africans. And the status of slave (Europeans had African slaves prior to the colonization of the Americas) was not one that was life-long. A slave could become free by converting to Christianity. The first Virginia colonists did not even think of themselves as “white” or use that word to describe themselves. They saw themselves as Christians or Englishmen, or in terms of their social class. They were nobility, gentry, artisans, or servants.”

What initially allowed West Africans to be enslaved wasn’t that they were black but that they weren’t Christian, many of them having been Islamic. It wasn’t an issue of perceived racial inferiority (nor necessarily cultural and class inferiority). Enslaved Africans primarily came from the most developed parts of Africa — with centralized governments, road infrastructures, official monetary systems, and even universities. West Africa was heavily influenced by Islamic civilization and was an area of major kingdoms, the latter not being unlike much of Europe at the time. It wasn’t unusual for well educated and professionally trained people to end up in slavery. Early slaveholders were willing to pay good money for enslaved Africans that were highly skilled (metalworkers, translators, etc), as plantation owners often lacked the requisite skills for running a plantation. It was only after the plantation slave system was fully established that large numbers of unskilled workers were needed, but even many of these were farmers who knew advanced agricultural techniques, such as with rice growing (native to West Africa, as it was to China) which was a difficult crop requiring social organization.

We’ve largely forgotten the earlier views of race and slavery. Even with Europe having become Christianized, they didn’t see themselves as a single race, whether defined as European, Caucasian, or white. The English didn’t see the Irish as being the same race, instead portraying the Irish as primitive and ape-like or comparing them to Africans and Native Americans. This attitude continued into the early 20th century with WWI propaganda when the English portrayed the Germans as ape-like, justifying that they were racially ‘other’ and not fully human. There is an even more interesting aspect. Early racial thought was based on the idea of a common lineage, such that kin-based clan or tribe could be categorized as a separate race. But this was also used to justify the caste-based order that had been established by feudalism. English aristocrats perceived their own inherited position as being the result of good breeding, to such an extent that it was considered that the English aristocracy was a separate race from the English peasantry. As Americans, it’s hard for us to look at the rich and poor in England as two distinct races. Yet this strain of thought isn’t foreign to American culture.

Before slavery, there was indentured servitude in the British colonies. And it continued into the early period of the United States. Indentured servitude created the model for later adoption practices, such as seen with the Orphan Trains. Indentured servitude wasn’t race-based. Most of the indentured servants in the British colonies were poor and often Irish. My own ancestor, David Peebles, came to Virginia in 1649 to start a plantation and those who came with him were probably those who indentured themselves to him in payment for transportation to the New World see: Scottish Emigrants, Indentured Servants, and Slaves). There was much slavery in the Peebles family over the generations, but the only clear evidence of a slave owned by David Peebles was a Native American given to him as a reward for his having been an Indian Fighter. That Native American was made a slave not because of a clearly defined and ideologically-determined racial order but because he was captured in battle and not a Christian.

More important was who held the power, which in the colonial world meant the aristocrats and plutocrats, slave owners and other business interests. In that world as in ours, power was strongly tied to wealth. To have either indentured servants or slaves required money. Before it was a racial order, it was a class-based society built on a feudal caste system. Most people remained in the class they were born into, with primogeniture originally maintaining the concentration of wealth. Poor whites were a separate population, having been in continuous poverty for longer than anyone could remember and to this day in many cases having remained in continuous poverty.

A thought that came to mind is how, even when submerged, old ideas maintain their power. We still live in a class-based society that is built on a legacy from the caste system of slavery and feudalism. Racial segregation has always gone hand in hand with a class segregation that cuts across racial divides. Poor whites in many parts of the country interact with poor non-whites on a daily basis while likely never meeting a rich white at any point in their life. At the same time paternalistic upper class whites were suggesting ways of improving poor whites (forced assimilation, public education, English only laws, Prohibition, War on Poverty, etc), many of these privileged WASPs were also promoting eugenics directed at poor whites (encouraging abortions, forced sterilizations, removal of children to be adopted out, etc).

Even today, there are those like Charles Murray who suggest that the class divide among whites is a genetic divide. He actually blames poverty, across racial lines, on inferior genetics. This is why he doesn’t see there being any hope to change these populations. And this is why, out of paternalism, he supports a basic income to take care of these inferior people. He doesn’t use the earliest racial language, but that is essentially the way he is describing the social order. Those like Murray portray poor whites as if they were a separate race (i.e., a separate genetic sub-species) from upper class whites. This is a form of racism we’ve forgotten about. It’s always been with us, even as post-war prosperity softened its edges. Now it is being brought back out into the open.

Fearful Perceptions

They all look the same.

That is a stereotypical racist statement, an excuse for generalizing, but it isn’t just rhetoric. It is directly related to perception and so is the basis of racism itself. You first have to perceive people as the same in order to perceive them as a race in the first place.

I’ve even heard otherwise well-meaning people make comments like this, with no self-awareness of the racist implications of it. Most racism operates unconsciously and implicitly.

Then this informs specifically how an individual is seen. For example, all people perceived as ‘black’ also are perceived as older and guiltier—see the MNT article:

“The evidence shows that perceptions of the essential nature of children can be affected by race, and for black children, this can mean they lose the protection afforded by assumed childhood innocence well before they become adults,” said co-author Matthew Jackson, PhD, also of UCLA. “With the average age overestimation for black boys exceeding four-and-a-half years, in some cases, black children may be viewed as adults when they are just 13 years old.”

Consider another aspect of perception, that of generations over time. Most people, especially as they age, look to the past with nostalgia. The world used to be a better place and the people were better too.

I’ve explored this before with the rates of teen sexuality and all that goes with it. Many older people assume that a generation of sluts has emerged. It is true that kids now talk more openly about sex and no doubt sexual imagery is more easily accessible in movies and on the web.

Even so, it turns out the kids these days are prudes compared to past generations. Abortion rates are going down not just because of improved sex education and increased use of birth control. It’s simply less of an issue because the young’uns apparently are having less sex and it sure is hard to get pregnant without sex. To emphasize this point, they also have lower rates of STDs, another hard thing to get without sex.

On top of that, they are “partaking in less alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.” Not just prudes, but “boring prudes.”

None of that fits public perception, though. Everyone seems to know the world is getting worse. I’m not necessarily one to argue against the claim that the world is going to shit. There is no doubt plenty going wrong. Still, I do try to not generalize too much.

The other article I noticed, by Mike Males at CJCJ, is also about changes in crime rates.

Imagine that a time-liberated version of vigilante George Zimmerman sees two youths walking through his neighborhood: black, hoodied Trayvon Martin of 2012, and a white teen from 1959 (say Bud Anderson from Father Knows Best). Based purely on statistics of race and era, which one should Zimmerman most fear of harboring criminal intent? Answer: He should fear (actually, not fear) them equally; each has about the same low odds of committing a crime.

So, why are young blacks such an obsession of our collective fear?

In the town I live in, white kids commit crimes all the time and it rarely get covered by the local media, but any black kids step out of line and it is major news. Over about a decade (1997-2009), there were two incidents where police shot an innocent men, one white and the other black. Guess which caused the most outrage? Guess which one now has a memorial in the local city park? Let me give you a hint: It wasn’t the black guy, despite his having been fairly well known in town and well liked by those who knew him.

Further on in the CJCJ article, the author points out that:

We don’t associate Jim and Margaret Anderson’s 1950s cherubs with juvenile crime—but that’s based on nostalgia and cultural biases, not fact. Back then, nearly 1 in 10 youth were arrested every year; today, around 3 in 100. Limited statistics of the 1950s show juvenile crime wasn’t just pranks and joyriding; “younger and younger children” are committing “the most wanton and senseless of murders… and mass rape,” the chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency warned in 1956.

We certainly don’t associate 1950s white kids as having been dangerous criminals. Even so, if you look back at the period, you quickly realize that adults during that era were scared shitless of the new generation, between the new media of television and the emergence of full-blown Cold War paranoia. To get a sense of how kids were perceived back then, watch the movie “Village of the Damned.”

And, with immigration barely a trickle, that was when whites came to hold the largest majority in any time of American history. Following decades of racial laws and practices, it was the perfect white utopia or as perfect as it was going to get.

It is true that there was a decline, having begun with Boomers and perfected with my own GenX peers. I’ve written about that issue a lot. The economy was heading down its slow decline and lead toxicity rates shot up like never before. So, the parents were losing their good jobs while the kids’ brains were being poisoned, a great combination. The whole world was shifting beneath the American population, and it didn’t tend to lead to good results. Communities and families were under extreme stress, often to the breaking point.

Since the sainted Fifties, America has seen rapid teenage population growth and dramatic shifts toward more single parenting, more lethal drugs and weapons, increased middle-aged (that is, parent-age) drug abuse and imprisonment, decreased incarceration of youth, decreased youthful religious affiliation, and more violent and explicit media available to younger ages. Horrifying, as the culture critics far Right to far Left—including Obama, who spends many pages and speeches berating popular culture as some major driver of bad youth behavior—repeatedly insist.

It used to be that blacks were blamed for almost everything. They still are blamed for plenty and disproportionately so. Yet the political right has started to viciously turned on its own favored group, the white working class. Charles Murray did that in his recent book, Coming Apart, where he almost entirely ignored blacks in order to focus on the divide emerging between whites, sorting into the low class losers and the upper class meritocracy.

In a post from last year, I pointed to some articles discussing Murray’s book. One article (by Paul Krugman over at Truthout) makes a relevant point:

Reading Mr. Murray’s book and all the commentary about the sources of moral collapse among working-class whites, I’ve had a nagging question: Is it really all that bad?

I mean, yes, marriage rates are way down, and labor force participation is down among working-age men (although not as much as some of the rhetoric might imply), but it’s generally left as an implication that these trends must be causing huge social ills. Are they?

Well, one thing oddly missing in Mr. Murray’s work is any discussion of that traditional indicator of social breakdown, teenage pregnancy. Why? Because it has actually been falling like a stone, according to National Vital Statistics data.

And what about crime? It’s soaring, right? Wrong, according to Justice Department data.

So here’s a thought: maybe traditional social values are eroding in the white working class — but maybe those traditional social values aren’t as essential to a good society as conservatives like to imagine.

Nell Irvin Painter at NYT offers this thought:

Involuntary sterilization is no longer legal, and intelligence is recognized as a complex interplay between biology and environment. Indeed, the 1960s, the era that Mr. Murray blames for the moral failings that have driven poor and middle-class white America apart, was the very same era that stemmed the human rights abuse of involuntary sterilization. (Not coincidentally, it was the same era that began addressing the discrimination that entrenched black poverty as well.)

The stigmatization of poor white families more than a century ago should provide a warning: behaviors that seem to have begun in the 1960s belong to a much longer and more complex history than ideologically driven writers like Mr. Murray would have us believe.

Considering it all, who should we fear? That is who should we fear, besides Muslims, immigrants, and foreigners. Should we fear blacks? The young? Or the Poor? Fortunately, we don’t have to choose between our fears. Any combination of black, young, and poor will do—all three together, of course, being the worst.

When fear drives perception, we perceive a fearful world. To release the tension of anxiety and paranoia, someone has to be the scapegoat, whatever group is easiest to generalize about without any confusing emotions of empathy, which in practice means those with the least power to speak out and be heard. The generalizations don’t need to correspond to reality, just as long as a good narrative can be spun in the mainstream media.

Young Poor Darker-Skinned Minority Men

The recent incidents of cops killing poor black men puts the issues into context.

Some have pointed out that poor whites and black women also get killed by cops. But the point is that they don’t get killed as often as poor black men. Also, rich black men don’t get killed either very often. Bill Cosby doesn’t have to worry about being shot.

It isn’t just getting disproportionately shot that is the problem. The entire criminal system directs itself most strongly against poor black men. Actually, it is young poor black men. To be yet even more precise, it is young poor darker-skinned minority men, as research shows that darker skin leads to greater racial bias.

Simply being a lighter-skinned young poor black man will likely save you some grief with the police. Or being a woman will make a major difference in how likely you are to be arrested and convicted for the exact same crimes committed by a man. Or just aging a bit transforms a dangerous threat to society into a wise old black man.

It isn’t just a race issue. It isn’t just a conflict between whites and blacks. It involves a centuries-old class war and much else besides.

It’s this combination of factors that is so strange to my mind. All of it gets mixed up. Why is the young poor black man the ultimate in bigoted scapegoating and police targeting? What does this stereotype represent in our collective psyche?

Americans Left Behind: IQ, Education, Poverty, Race, & Ethnicity

Race realists like to use the example of No Child Left Behind.

They see it as proof that next to nothing can be done about the social problems in this country. In their minds, it is some combination of inferior genetics, inferior culture, inferior parenting, etc; just generally inferior people, individually and collectively.

Hence, we shouldn’t waste money and effort on people who don’t deserve it or, to the extent we do offer some assistance, we should at least not expect much from anything we do. Instead, we should expect failure and so there is no reason to try avoid failure, since it is inevitable, right?

My main focus here is No Child Left Behind, but I want to keep it within the larger context. Also, I want to make clear that this isn’t just a ‘black’ issue about ‘black’ problems. No, these are collective problems involving a society-wide failure.

In this light, I’ll begin with a passage from the perspective of a Scots-Irish white guy from Appalachia, Joe Bageant. He writes about poor whites and the oft-proclaimed ethic of taking personal responsibility and working harder. He only has one mention of No Left Behind, but the way he frames it all is a doozy!

After that passage, there several more passages from other books where No Child Left Behind, along with education in general, is discussed more fully.

* * * *

Meanwhile, the conservative Republicans ballyhoo “personal responsibility” to working-class employees like the guys and gals here at Royal Lunch. Most working people around here believe in the buzz phrase “personal responsibility.” Their daddies and mamas taught them to accept responsibility for their actions. They assume responsibility for their lives and don’t want a handout from the government. They see accepting public help as a sign of failure and moral weakness. Consequently, they don’t like social spending to give people a lift. But self-reliant as they are, what real chance do they have living on wages that do not allow them to accumulate savings? What chance do they have living from paycheck to paycheck, praying there will be no layoffs at J. C. Penney or Toll Brothers Homes or Home Depot?

According to Republican economic mythology, human beings are economic competitors; the marketplace is the new Olympia where “economic man” cavorts; the almighty market is rational and rewards efficiency, thrift, and hard work; and free competition “rationally” selects the more worthy competitor, and thus the wealthy are deserving of their elite status. According to the conservative canon, if you haven’t succeeded, it can only be because of your inferiority. Nearly everybody at Royal Lunch feels socially inferior. But in any case, they feel they can at least be self-reliant. They can accept personal responsibility.

We first started hearing about the average Joe needing to take complete responsibility for his condition in life, with no help from the government, during the seventies, when Cold War conservatives Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz dubbed themselves “neoconservatives.” In doing so, they gave a name to an ultrarightist political strain that passionately hated taxes and welfare of any kind, and that favored a national defense strong enough to dominate any part of the world—or the whole world—at any given time. Neoconservatives hated the counterculture and saw it as the beginning of everything that was wrong with America. And they saw plenty of evidence of a shift toward a welfare state, most notably Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, which for the first time funded school districts, college loans, Head Start, Medicare, and Medicaid, and cut poverty in half. America was close to being a Communist welfare state, and people had better start taking some personal responsibility, they thundered. We find neoconservatives today all but owning the Republican Party and attempting to axe Social Security and slash unemployment insurance in the name of “personal responsibility.”

But what sort of personal responsibility is possible in the neocon environment? A wage earner’s only asset is his willingness to give a day’s work for a day’s pay, the price of which he does not determine. So where does he get the wherewithal to improve his circumstances? He gets that wherewithal from the wages he earns. But in the new neocon environment, that wage does not support savings. It does not support higher education. It only allows the wage earner to survive from paycheck to paycheck, hoping he doesn’t lose his job and feeling like a loser down inside. Another beer, please.

Admittedly, a real blue-collar middle class still exists in some places, just as unions still exist. But both are on the ropes like some old pug boxer taking the facial cuts and popping eye capillaries with no referee to come in and stop the carnage. The American bootstrap myth is merely another strap that makes the working poor privately conclude that they must in some way be inferior, given that they cannot seem to apply that myth to their own lives. Hell, Pootie, if immigrants can put together successful businesses of their own, why can’t you keep up with your truck payments? Right now, even by the government’s spruced-up numbers, one-third of working Americans make less than $9 an hour. A decade from now, five of the ten fastest-growing jobs will be menial, dead-end jokes on the next generation—mainly retail clerks, cashiers, and janitors, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Some of us were born sons of a toiling god, with the full understanding that life was never meant to be easy and that it comes with more than enough opportunities for personal responsibility. But at least we could always believe that our kids had a chance for a better life. I certainly achieved a better life than my parents. These days, it’s harder to believe that. I am quite certain that if I were trying to get into college today with the mediocre grades I made back then, and no family college fund or family home to second-mortgage, I would not make it as far as I have. Years ago, there were college scholarships, loans, and programs out the yin-yang, and a high school education more or less prepared a person for college.

That is not to say the class divide was not a steep and ugly ditch back then. It was. But it is an absolute canyon now, and growing deeper. All you have to do is look back at the unfunded No Child Left Behind program or the scam of “teacher-based accountability.” When it became obvious that Johnny is now so dumb that he can’t pour piss out of a boot with the instructions on the bottom—assuming he can even read the instructions—the elite regime in power was quick to get up a posse to lynch the school marm, then resume the theft of education funds on behalf of the rich. Conservative leaders understand quite well that education has a liberalizing effect on a society. Presently they are devising methods to smuggle resources to those American madrassas, the Christian fundamentalist schools, a sure way to make the masses even more stupid if ever there was one.

Is it any wonder the Gallup Poll tells us that 48 percent of Americans believe that God spit on his beefy paws and made the universe in seven days? Only 28 percent of Americans believe in evolution. It is no accident that number corresponds roughly to the percentage of Americans with college degrees. So intelligent liberals are advised to save their depression and the good booze for later, when things get worse.

Until those with power and access decide that it’s beneficial to truly educate people, and make it possible to get an education without going into crushing debt, then the mutt people here in the heartland will keep on electing dangerous dimwits in cowboy boots. And that means educating everybody, not just the small-town valedictorian or the science nerds who are cherry-picked out of the schools in places like Winchester or more rural areas. These people end up in New York or Houston or Boston—places where they can buy boutique coffees or go to the art cinema—holding down jobs in broadcasting or research or economics.

But what about the rest of the class? What about this latest generation of kids left to suffer the same multigenerational cycle of anti-intellectualism and passivity? Right now there are millions who will be lucky if they are accepted by the military, and if they are extra lucky they will qualify for a vocational school before they are absorbed forever by America’s passive, ignorant labor pool culture. In Winchester, for example, even though we are getting an influx of Washington, D.C., suburbanites who feel differently, most native hometown kids are not concerned with upward mobility at all. They could give a rip about school, and they care even less about what educated upscale people think of them.

This is a terrible and silent crisis. Working-class passivity, antipathy to intellect, and belligerence toward the outside world start early. They begin at home and continue in grade school. Yet even if the entire working class in America suddenly got religion and wanted to send every child to college, and if all children made perfect grades and wanted to broaden their worlds, it would be financially impossible under the present system. They have no savings and nothing to borrow against. Many people reading this financed their children’s educations with second mortgages. These days, working-class people who own homes have no equity left due to refinancing to pay credit card debt or medical bills. And the working poor have even less of a chance. They rent until they die, with no hope of passing along to their children any accumulated wealth in the form of equity in a home. So over the generations they stay stuck or lose ground. And they stay dumb and drink beer at Royal Lunch and vote Republican because no real liberal voice, the kind that speaks the rock-bottom, undeniable truth, ever enters their lives. Hell, it doesn’t even enter liberals’ lives these days. But it can. I have on many occasions at this very tavern found an agreeing ear to all of the very arguments made above.

One of the few good things about growing older is that one can remember what appears to have been purposefully erased from the national memory. Fifty years ago, men and women of goodwill agreed that every citizen had the right to health care and to a free and credible education. Manifestation of one’s fullest potential was considered a national goal, even by Republicans. Ike wanted national health insurance and so did Nixon. Now both are labeled as unworkable ideas. (Maybe even downright com’nist, Pootie.)

Bageant, Joe (2008-06-24). Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War (Kindle Locations 353-416). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

* * * *

“Compensatory education has been tried, and it apparently has failed.”
—Arthur Jensen (1969)

“There is no evidence that school reform can substantially reduce the extent of cognitive inequality as measured by ability] tests.”
—Christopher Jencks and others (1972)

“There is no reason to believe that raising intelligence significantly and permanently is a current policy option, no matter how much money we are willing to spend.”
—Charles Murray (2007)

IN 2002 THE U.S. CONGRESS passed the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandated that American schools eliminate the gap between the social classes and between minority groups and whites by 2014. I don’t know if most members of Congress actually believed that such accomplishments are possible. But if so, they are deeply ignorant of the forces that operate to produce high academic achievement.

Intellectual capital is the result of stimulation and support for exploration and achievement in the home, the neighborhood, and the schools. To think that this can be changed by mandate— operating only through the schools —is preposterous. Moreover , the schools attended by minorities and the poor are wanting in ways that cannot be drastically improved overnight. The problems include quality of teachers willing to work in these less rewarding schools, the caliber of school management, the disruptiveness produced by high levels of student turnover, and the nature of the schools’ clientele, whose homes and neighborhoods make it unlikely that they will be encouraged toward high academic achievement.

It should be clear from the previous chapter that there is no theoretical limit on the degree to which the achievement gap between blacks and whites can ultimately be closed. Though there is far less evidence on the native intellectual ability of the extremely broad and diverse group of cultures labeled as “Hispanic,” I see no reason why the gap cannot ultimately be bridged there as well.

On the other hand, it should be clear that unlike the black/ white and Hispanic/ white gaps in achievement and IQ, the social-class gap is never going to be closed. This is true, if for no other reason, because the well-off are always going to find ways to get a better education for their children and are always going to find ways to be ahead in terms of parenting skills and are always going to be able to provide superior neighborhood environments. In addition, there is always going to be at least some difference in the gene pools of the lower class and the middle class. Recall from Chapter 1 that within a given family the sibling with a substantially higher IQ achieves much higher socioeconomic status (SES) than less favored brothers and sisters. And since the higher IQ is attained in part by virtue of a better luck of the draw from the gene pool of the parents, higher SES is always going to be in part a result of better genes for intelligence. So higher-SES people are going to pass along better prospects for intelligence to their offspring by virtue of having, on average, better genes and by offering better environmental advantages to their offspring.

But these considerations should not be cause for pessimism about the degree to which the intellectual lot of lower-SES people can be improved. Recall from Chapter 2 (on heredity) that the effect of an upper-middle class upbringing on children born to lower-SES parents is to raise the IQ by 12 to 18 points. The theoretical ceiling for improvement of lower-SES intellectual capital is very high indeed.

But how much improvement can we realistically hope to produce for lower-SES individuals and for currently disadvantaged minorities?

Nisbett, Richard E. (2009-01-08). Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count (Kindle Locations 1840-1869). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Since school makes children smarter, there is no doubt that better schools can make them smarter still. Although vouchers, charter schools, whole-school interventions, and teacher certification or higher academic degrees do not reliably improve education, other factors do— and some matter a great deal. Teachers differ a lot in quality, and so finding ways to improve the quality of teaching could make a great difference. If we could replace the bottom 5 percent of teachers every year with average-quality teachers, the level of children’s academic performance would increase hugely in just a few years. Use of computer-assisted forms of teaching can produce huge gains in the rate of learning, and some types of cooperative learning are highly effective. And recall the Herrnstein demonstration with an intensive program in Venezuela that radically improved the problem-solving skills of ordinary junior high school students . It also raised their IQ scores by a nontrivial amount— 5 points on a typical test of multiple problem-solving skills.

The received opinion about the relationship between social class and intelligence is that intelligence, which is largely inherited, drives social class. Smarter people have better genes so they are destined to rise in society, whereas less smart people have worse genes so they are destined to fall. It is true that intelligence is partially heritable, and more intelligent people on average will be of a higher social class in virtue of their greater inherited intelligence. But I believe that the role of genetic inheritance in determining social class is fairly small. The difference between the average IQ of the children of the lower third of the socioeconomic status (SES) distribution and the average IQ of the children of the upper third is about 10 points. We know that some of this is due to biological but not genetic factors, including exercise, breast-feeding, and exposure to alcohol or cigarette smoke, as well as hazardous chemicals and pollution. And some of it is due to the disruption in schools of lower-SES children and to the fact that peers are pulling intelligence mostly in a down direction. We also know that socialization in lower-SES homes is not optimal for developing either IQ or school readiness. Moreover, a child born into roughly the bottom sixth of the SES distribution will have an IQ 12 to 18 points higher if raised by parents from roughly the top quarter of the SES distribution. All of this does not leave much room for genes in the social-class equation. I do not doubt that genes play a role, but I would be surprised to find that the differences in inherent genetic potential of the social classes are very great. Certainly much if not most of the 10 points separating the average of the children of the lower third and the average of the children of the upper third is environmental in origin.

For the race difference in IQ, we can be confident that genes play no role at all. Most of the evidence offered for a genetic component to the race difference is indirect and readily refuted. Virtually all of the direct evidence, which is due mostly to the natural experiment resulting from the fact that American “blacks” range from being completely African to largely European in heritage, indicates no genetic difference at all with respect to IQ. And the difference between the races in both IQ and academic achievement is being reduced at the rate of about one-third of a standard deviation per generation. The IQ of the average black is now greater than that of the average white in 1950.

The No Child Left Behind Act demands that the difference in academic achievement between the classes and between the races be erased in half a generation by the schools alone. This is absurd. It ignores the fact that class and race differences begin in early infancy and have as much to do with economic factors and neighborhood and cultural differences as with schools.

That is the bad news about gap reduction . The good news is that big improvements in IQ and academic achievement for lower-SES and minority children are possible. And we know at least the outlines of what those improvements look like. Half-measures have been tried and are not going to make a lot of difference. We need intensive early childhood education for the poor, and we need home visitation to teach parents how to encourage intellectual development. Such efforts can produce huge immediate gains in IQ and enormous long-term gains in academic achievement and occupational attainment . Highly ambitious elementary, junior high, and high school programs can also produce massive gains in academic achievement. And a variety of simple, cost-free interventions, including, most notably, simply convincing students that their intelligence is under their control to a substantial extent, can make a big difference to academic achievement.

Believing that intelligence is under your control— and having parents who demand achievement— can do wonders. At any rate that has been true for Asians and Jews. There is no reliable evidence of a genetic difference in intelligence between people of East Asian descent and people of European descent. In fact, there is little difference in intelligence between the two groups as measured by IQ tests. Some evidence indicates that East Asians start school with lower IQs than do white Americans. After a few years of school this difference seems to disappear. But the academic achievement of East Asians—especially in math and the sciences, where effort counts for a lot— is light-years beyond that of European Americans. Americans of East Asian extraction also differ little in IQ from European Americans. In any case, the academic achievement and occupational attainment of Asian Americans exceed by a great amount what they “should” be accomplishing given their IQs. The explanation for the Asian/ Western gap lies in hard work and persistence.

Jewish culture undoubtedly has similarly beneficial effects. Jewish values emphasize accomplishment in general and intellectual attainment in particular. Differences between Jews and non-Jews in intellectual accomplishment at the highest levels are very great. A genetic explanation for this is not required inasmuch as even greater differences have occurred for Arabs and Chinese versus Europeans in the Middle Ages, for differences between European countries at various points since the Middle Ages (with reversals occurring between Italy and England and with movement from savagery to sagacity in scarcely two centuries in Scotland), and for regional differences in the United States. We are left with an IQ difference of two-thirds to a standard deviation between Jews and non-Jews. At least some of this difference is surely cultural in origin.

Finally, there is much that we can do to increase the intelligence and academic achievement of ourselves and our children . Everything from the biological (exercise and avoidance of smoking and drinking for pregnant women, and breast-feeding for newborns) to the didactic (teaching categorization, following good tutoring principles) can make a difference to intelligence.

We can now shake off the yoke of hereditarianism in all of our thinking about intelligence. Believing that our intelligence is substantially under our control won’t make us smart by itself. But it’s a good start.

Nisbett, Richard E. (2009-01-08). Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count (Kindle Locations 2967-3018). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

* * * *

Although the premise of “No Child Left Behind” (the Bush administration’s signature education bill) is that racial achievement gaps should be closed completely within ten years, the legislation never came with the kind of resource supports needed to make that goal achievable. Although No Child Left Behind requires certain outcomes, it does not mandate that schools must equalize the resources available to all students in order to make those more equitable outcomes likely. Nor did the law—which has so far been continued under the Obama administration, with very little functional change in its specific policy formulations—seek to put an end to the pernicious tracking practices in our schools that all but guarantee the leaving behind of children. In fact, many states have adopted norm-referenced tests as determinants of their “annual yearly progress” (mandated by the law), failing to appreciate that norm-referenced tests by definition produce a distribution where half of all test-takers will fall below the 50-percentile mark and thus be considered below average.169 In other words, tests that mandate failure and inequity in achievement are being used under a law intended to promote success and reduce inequity! To advocate equity but maintain structures that, by definition, create inequity is the ultimate contradiction.

As a result of No Child Left Behind, schools have been under intense pressure to meet federal guidelines for test scores, so as not to be sanctioned by the Department of Education. This pressure has been especially intense for schools serving mostly students of color, causing many such schools to emphasize teaching to the test, simply to meet federal and even state standards, rather than teaching the kinds of high-level materials given to students in suburbs and private schools.170 High-stakes testing has also created incentives for schools to push lower-achieving students out, rather than keep them in the schools, attempt to educate them and suffer the possible penalty if they fail, in terms of meeting testing requirements.171 In Chicago, for instance, schools have been expelling low-achieving students even by the age of 16, under the pretense that their academic achievement or attendance records make it unlikely that they would graduate by the age of 21. Rather than resolve to educate such students—almost all of whom are students of color—the schools give up, remove the students and thus boost their test-score profile as a result, with blacks banished from the schools at three times the rate of whites or Latinos.172

In post-Katrina New Orleans, supposedly “open enrollment” charter schools—intended to inject competition into the city’s previously failing school system and lauded as having done so—have been pre-screening students to determine which of them are unlikely to pass a state required test the following year. Then the students who fail in the pre-test are pushed out, so as to protect the school’s test scores in line with state and federal mandates. Others have counseled parents of lower-achieving students, or those with inconsistent attendance, to voluntarily withdraw from charter schools or face expulsion. Once these students are removed, the charters are left with the supposedly “better” students, which allows them to meet federal and state standards by selecting their student bodies. Needless to say, virtually all students being pushed out are black.173

Also under No Child Left Behind, schools must demonstrate the elimination of performance gaps between those who have limited English proficiency (LEP) and those for whom English is their native language. Although this is an admirable goal, it cannot be met in most cases for one simple reason: namely, in most districts, once students demonstrate English proficiency, they are removed from the LEP group and their scores are no longer considered part of the LEP group averages. Thus, by definition, the only persons remaining in the LEP group will be those who are not proficient in the language of the test, and who therefore will not likely perform well on it.174

In addition to unequal instruction and regulations under No Child Left Behind that all but ensure disparate racial outcomes in schooling, there is also a substantial amount of evidence demonstrating profoundly unequal discipline meted out to students of color as compared to whites. Nationally, fourteen separate studies have found clear racial disparities in rates of suspension and expulsion from school. Black students are two to three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than whites, even though they do not, contrary to popular belief, violate school rules disproportionately, relative to white students.175 Indeed, when it comes to some of the most serious school rule infractions, whites often lead the pack, and they certainly violate those rules at least as often as black and brown students do, from possession of drugs to drinking and smoking.176 Most of the infractions for which students of color are punished are vague, highly subjective offenses—far more given to interpretation and thus implicit bias on the part of teachers—such as “disrespect for authority,” “making excessive noise” or loitering.177

Significantly, the research suggests that unequal discipline is not due to mere class bias against lower-income students. In fact, even when comparing only blacks and whites of the same economic status, black students face disproportionate suspensions and expulsions relative to rates of misbehavior. As Russell Skiba, a professor at Indiana University, notes:

“Contrary to the socioeconomic hypothesis, the current investigation demonstrates that significant racial disparities in school discipline remain even after controlling for socio-economic status. In this sample, an index of socioeconomic status had virtually no effect when used as a covariate in a test of racial differences in office referrals and suspensions. Indeed, disciplinary disproportionality by socioeconomic status appears to be a somewhat less robust finding than gender or racial disparity.”178

As with so much of the evidence regarding racial inequity in the educational system, this suggests that colorblind universalism as a way to reduce racial disparities will prove inadequate. There is simply too much race-specific injury occurring to allow for post-racialism (at the level of ideology or policy) to suffice. Unfortunately, teachers often go out of their way to be colorblind— or what educational theorist Mica Pollock calls “colormute”—by failing to discuss race, or even to use basic and benign racial descriptors to describe their students. As a result, educators replicate inequities by failing to get to the bottom of their own biases or the structural impediments to equal opportunity within their schools.179

Wise, Tim (2010-06-01). Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity (City Lights Open Media) (Kindle Locations 1544-1604). City Lights Publishers. Kindle Edition.

And finally, authorize a substantial amount of money, as part of the No Child Left Behind educational reform package, to train teachers nationwide on the various ways that racism and discrimination—both explicit and implicit—can indeed leave children behind, despite the best of teacher intentions. Although No Child Left Behind is problematic in any number of ways, one of its biggest weaknesses is having a mandate for the closing of racial achievement gaps without the resources necessary to actually close them. Those resources, however, are not just material supplies—as is often believed—but also the resources of teacher preparation and an understanding of the specific dynamics that are contributing to the racial achievement gap in the first place. Unless teachers are trained, and consistently so, to recognize the social determiners of the achievement gap, even their best efforts at instruction may not help close those gaps. If the federal government is going to place mandates on local schools and school districts, it should see to it that teachers receive the kinds of preparation needed to make their efforts successful. These trainings should be developed in conjunction with educators in the nation’s teaching colleges, utilizing the best practices known to them for preparing teachers to reduce racial achievement gaps.

Wise, Tim (2010-06-01). Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity (City Lights Open Media) (Kindle Locations 2700-2709). City Lights Publishers. Kindle Edition.

170. Paul Street, Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in Post-Civil Rights America (New York: Routledge, 2005), p. 78.
171. Linda Darling-Hammond, “From‘Separate but Equal’ to ‘No Child Left Behind’: The Collision of New Standards and Old Inequalities,” in Many Children Left Behind, eds. Deborah Meier and George Wood (Boston: Beacon Press, (2004), p. 4.
172. Street (2005), p. 81.
173. Sarah Goff, “When Education Ceases to Be Public: The Privatization of the New Orleans School System, Post–Hurricane Katrina,” submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master’s of Science in Urban Studies, University of New Orleans (May, 2009).
174. Darling-Hammond (2004), 10.
175. Russell J. Skiba et al., The Color of Discipline: Sources of Racial and Gender Disproportionality in School Punishment (Indiana Education Policy Center, Research Report SRS1, June 2000), pp. 6, 13.
176. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System: Youth 2003 Online, Comprehensive Results (2004), http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/yrbss.
177. Skiba et al. (2000), p. 4.
178. Russell Skiba, Robert S. Michael, Abra Carroll Nardo and Reece L. Peterson, “The Color of Discipline: Sources of Racial and Gender Disproportionality in School Punishment,” The Urban Review 34:4 (December 2002), p. 333.
179. Mica Pollock, Colormute: Race Talk Dilemmas in an American School (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004).

* * * *

Education experts are keeping an eye on the Afrikan Centered Education Collegium Campus (ACECC) in Kansas City, Missouri . The 40-acre campus, which opened in 2007, serves mostly black pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students . Teachers stress cultural pride and “expected greatness” as students strive for academic excellence. In 2007, all the schools on the campus met the Average Yearly Progress (AYP) standard mandated by the national “No Child Left Behind” Act.

The schools are the brainchild of educator Audrey Bullard, who worked as a teacher in Liberia for 18 months more than 30 years ago. In 1991, Bullard led a grassroots effort with other educators and parents to transform J.S. Chick Elementary in Kansas City into a school with an African-centered curriculum. The school has consistently scored as one of the top schools in the school district, with 48 percent of its students scoring at the proficient or advanced levels on the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) fourth -grade math test in 2005 . Comparatively, only 24 percent of black students and 36 percent of white students statewide scored as high that year. Although the approach relies heavily on parental involvement and an innovative curriculum, it offers another important component: students are taught to see themselves as contributors, leaders, potential entrepreneurs, and valuable parts of their communities.

The Betty Shabazz International Charter School in Chicago, founded by Madhubuti and his wife Safisha, is an institution that teaches black children that they control their lives and futures. It’s a crucial factor, Madhubuti said:

“You can’t minimize the importance of cultural knowledge… you cannot build a healthy child— most certainly, he or she will not have a healthy world view—if he or she does not see himself or herself involved creatively in the development of civilization, culture, industry, science.”

In 2006, the school ranked first in composite test scores among 10 public schools in the Greater Grand Crossing area, where Shabazz is the only charter. Sixty-seven percent of the school’s students met the state’s educational standards. When teaching science, for example, Makita Kheperu, principal at Shabazz, explained how the school makes the subject relevant to a student’s environment: “In science, they examine what kinds of decisions scientists make… and they learn the scientific method by exploring culturally relevant questions like: Why is diabetes more prevalent among African Americans than the general population?”

According to Illinois State data, Shabazz and Woodlawn Community School— another African-centered Chicago school— outperformed several neighboring schools on the 2006 Illinois Standard Achievement Test, with about 68 percent of Woodland’s students meeting the state’s standards.

These schools reflect the unfinished business of educational experiments started after Emancipation with the likes of Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and the dreamers who sought to establish independent black schools before they were sidetracked by the promise of better education in white schools. These institutions offer templates for educational reform that can reprogram parents and students to help close the achievement gap, and open bold new pathways to unlimited possibility.

Burrell, Tom (2010-02-01). Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority (Kindle Locations 2877-2902). SmileyBooks. Kindle Edition.

* * * *

Test score gaps between minorities and majorities are real, and they measure something that matters for performance in economic and social life. However, they do not estimate all that is important.

Gaps in Soft Skills.

Most discussions of racial and ethnic achievement gaps focus on measures of scholastic ability. Indeed, many analysts measure the achievement gap exclusively by differences in scores on standardized academic tests. This emphasis reflects a broad consensus in American society about the value of achievement tests that are used to monitor the success and failure of schools and students. The No Child Left Behind Act has pushed this focus to what some have described as a mania. The program has created a culture of “teaching to the test” in schools, with consequent neglect of the subjects and by-products of schooling that are not tested.[25]

Success in life requires more than book learning or high scores on achievement tests.[26] As filmmaker Woody Allen put it, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”[27] While the cognitive skills measured by achievement tests are powerful predictors of life success, so are socio-emotional skills. Sometimes called “soft skills” or character traits, these include motivation, sociability (the ability to work with and cooperate with others), attention, self-regulation, self-esteem, and the ability to defer gratification. Good schools and functional families foster soft skills as well as cognitive skills.[28] Soft skills are as predictive, if not more predictive, of educational success, wages earned, and participation in crime or in healthy behaviors as are cognitive skills.[29] Disadvantaged children of all race groups possess lower levels of soft skills.[30]

Klarman, Michael J.; Sabbaugh, Daniel; Lee, Taeku; Young Jr., Alford A.; Massey, Douglas S.; Wilson, William Julius; Heckman, James J.; Nisbett, Richard E.; Bobo, Lawrence D. (2011-07-14). Daedalus 140:2 (Spring 2011) – Race, Inequality & Culture, Vol. 2 (Kindle Locations 1703-1717). MIT Press. Kindle Edition.

25 Daniel M. Koretz, Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2008); Richard Rothstein, Rebecca Jacobsen, and Tamara Wilder, Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right (New York: Economic Policy Institute and Teachers College Press, 2008).
26 Mathilde Almlund, Angela L. Duckworth, James J. Heckman, and Tim Kautz, “Personality Psychology and Economics,” Handbook of the Economics of Education, ed. Eric A. Hanushek, S. Machin, and L. Wößmann (Amsterdam: Elsevier, forthcoming 2011).
27 William Safire, “On Language; the Elision Fields,” The New York Times, August 13, 1989.
28 See the evidence summarized in Almlund, Duckworth, Heckman, and Kautz, “Personality Psychology and Economics.”
29 Ibid.
30 See the evidence cited in Pedro Carneiro and James J. Heckman, “Human Capital Policy,” in Inequality in America: What Role for Human Capital Policies? ed. James J. Heckman, Alan B. Krueger, and Benjamin M. Friedman (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003); Flavio Cunha, James J. Heckman, Lance J. Lochner, and Dimitriy V. Masterov, “Interpreting the Evidence on Life Cycle Skill Formation,” in Handbook of the Economics of Education, ed. Eric A. Hanushek and Frank Welch, vol. 1 (Amsterdam: North-Holland, 2006).

 

 

 

Working Hard, But For What?

There has been a lot of debate and discussion about what Bill Cosby has said about blacks. One thing he argues for is the need for hard work. The thing that he doesn’t understand is most blacks believe in hard work as much as most whites. But being a hardworking poor minority doesn’t get you very far in this country without all the privileges of race and class.

The cook at McDonalds making minimum wage, the self-taught unlicensed car mechanic working in an alley, the people doing yardwork for cash, the prostitute, and the drug dealer are all working hard. But they are working hard in a society that is working against them when they are poor minorities.

Those are some of the hardest jobs in the world. And some of the people working them are the among the most brilliant and talented around. The guy who works his way up from a high school drop out to the head of a gang is more hard working and innovative than the average manager you’ll find in other careers. I’m often reminded of the drug dealer who was intelligent and was well informed about economics (Social Environment & Human Potential):

“In the project, Venkatesh finds men and women who easily flit back and forth between the legal and illegal economies (depending, usually, on which pays more at any given moment). Drug dealers aspire to buy small businesses, and their subordinates move between legitimate jobs and the hustle of drug dealing and prostitution. What Venkatesh is able to develop, through the view J.T. grants him, is a new way of thinking about the ghetto and ghetto crime, as the consequences that come when morality is uncoupled from the law.

“J.T. is a good tutor. He is a learned and steady bureaucrat of the drug trade, a man with some college and management experience behind him. Most of his life is spent dealing with, somewhat endearingly, the small headaches of petit bourgeois career life—managing less-than-competent subordinates, handling the objections of Taylor Homes residents, and trying to restrict police access to the project.”

These people believe in the American Dream and try to live it best they can, under almost impossible conditions. They aren’t asking for handouts. They are solving their own problems, even when those problems are forced on them by the larger society.

Take gangs, for example. Most gangs are what white people would call militias. When the police fail in their job, gangs do the job for them. If you are a black who is targeted by the police and everyone you know is targeted by the police, you’ll organize in order to protect yourself, your family, your friends, and your neighborhood.

That is how community forms when all of the outside world is against you, when life is difficult and desperate, where daily living is a fight for survival. When there are no jobs available, poor minorities make their own jobs. When there are no police to protect them, poor minorities police themselves. When the larger society is against them, they make their own communities.

They do this all under the hardest conditions in America. It is quite impressive what humans are capable of. Imagine what poor minorities could accomplish if the larger society supported them instead of trying to destroy their lives?

If hard work mattered in this country, black communities would be among the wealthiest. If there was a way to measure it, I wouldn’t be surprised if the results showed the average black is more hardworking than the average white.

Cosby isn’t wrong in saying hardwork is generally a good thing. But it misses the entire point.

It seems to me that most Americans love to work, even in our off time when no one is paying us. If Americans have a problem, it is that we work too much and work so hard that we work ourselves into an early grave.

In a just and fair world, we would work less for more. But neoliberal capitalism tells us our only worth is our time spent in labor and our worth is measured by our pay check. That seems effed up to me. There is or should be more to life than work, especially the drudgery work most Americans have to do just to get by.

We live at a time when there are more people looking for work than there are jobs. With mechanization and computerization, those jobs aren’t coming back and even more jobs will be disappearing. The advice of working harder is cruel and ignorant, especially when directed at the most poor and disadvantaged, those least likely to be able to find a job no matter how hard they work or how much education they get.

That said, if we must speak of hard work, let’s talk about working hard to build stronger communities, to build more social capital, to build better schools, to build much needed infrastructure, to build housing for the homeless, to build more parks, to build a stronger labor movement, and to build an actually functioning democracy.

Why not use our hard work for things that matter and make the world a better place? Why not use all the hard work we are already doing in order to achieve great things in our communities and our country?

Class and Race as Proxies

“Perhaps what binds them all together, though, is class. Rural or small town, urban or suburban, the extreme Right is populated by downwardly mobile, lower-middle-class white men. All of the men I interviewed—all—fitted this class profile. When I compared with other ethnographies and other surveys, they all had the same profile as well.

“In the United States, class is often a proxy for race. When politicians speak of the “urban poor,” we know it’s a code for black people. When they talk about “welfare queens,” we know the race of that woman driving the late-model Cadillac. In polite society, racism remains hidden behind a screen spelled CLASS.

“On the extreme Right, by contrast, race is a proxy for class. Among the white supremacists, when they speak of race consciousness, defending white people, protesting for equal rights for white people, they actually don’t mean all white people. They don’t mean Wall Street bankers and lawyers, though they are pretty much entirely white and male. They don’t mean white male doctors, or lawyers, or architects, or even engineers. They don’t mean the legions of young white hipster guys, or computer geeks flocking to the Silicon Valley, or the legions of white preppies in their boat shoes and seersucker jackets “interning” at white-shoe law firms in major cities. Not at all. They mean middle-and working-class white people. Race consciousness is actually class consciousness without actually having to “see” class. “Race blindness” leads working-class people to turn right; if they did see class, they’d turn left and make common cause with different races in the same economic class.”

America’s angriest white men: Up close with racism, rage and Southern supremacy
by Michael Kimmel
from Salon
November 17, 2013

HBD Proponents, Racists and Racialists

I came across a typical racist blog post that is posing as being intellectually credible.

It is typical in its racism, but I suppose I should at least give credit to the blogger for being atypical in putting some effort into defending his racism. Basically, he gathers together all the data that shows blacks are bad and inferior, ignores any positive data and dismisses out of hand the entire history and context behind the data. Also, he only focuses on his own preferred scapegoat group while not pointing out similar problems and other problems among whites, not to mention among Americans in general when compared to other countries (see here, here and here).

It’s important that we don’t ignore arguments like this, even though they are motivated by racism. We should never let a single injustice go by unchallenged. This goes back to what I was saying in my last post. A racist, like any other true believer, is beginning with a generalization and then cherrypicks the particulars that conform to their preconceived conclusion. This is why, in that post, I emphasized the particulars. The details of reality are messy and don’t easily fit into simple categories.

It is so hard to respond to people like this because of a simple truth Lionel Trilling once expressed:

“Where misunderstanding serves others as an advantage, one is helpless to make oneself understood.”

But I’m a fool for truth. So I feel compelled to try, and I did try. I left a comment at that post which was deleted. Hence, my presenting my thoughts here.

By the way, I came across this racist blog post because hbd chick posted it with a bunch of links.

I like and respect hbd chick. She isn’t a racist and, as with me, she would point out that poor rural Southern whites have their problems as well. Even then, she admits that she is speculating and hasn’t objectively proven anything (in the scientific sense). Still, the fact that she would post this racist link in her blog demonstrates a problem that is common among the proponents of human biodiversity (HBD).

If HBD blogs are to be used as a platform for racists, that brings discredit to HBD. I think that would be a shame because bloggers like hbd chick have a lot that is worthy to offer.

HBD attracts some overt racists and even among those who aren’t racist they often don’t recognize or acknowledge racism. The issue of racism is an uncomfortable truth which, to the conservative-minded, is a politically incorrect issue to be denied and dismissed rather than discussed. Many HBD proponents seem less interested in taking a moral stance and prefer instead to claim they are just objectively presenting data. If they do this, they are shifting the blame to the cherrypicked data and denying responsibility for having cherrypicked the data in the first place.

Of course, it is a moral issue and those involved are taking a moral stance. Data never speaks for itself. It is we who use data in support of our speaking.

From a rational perspective, there are two basic problems with the racist argument and sometimes with the non-racist HBD argument.

First, correlation is not causation, but it can imply it. I’m very interested in correlations and so I don’t mean to dismiss them. I take them very seriously which is why I take seriously the responsibility to not use them in a dishonest or prejudiced way.

Second, the reason correlation is not causation is because correlating data by itself doesn’t meet scientific standards. Using careful research methods, one has to prove a correlation is valid and that it has a causal relationship. Also, one needs to control for all known confounding factors.

That is a high standard to live up to. Nonetheless, for the intellectually honest, it is the standard one must live up to if one wants to be taken seriously. Racists and the intellectually lazy, however, are unwilling to strive for such intellectual self-responsibility.

I was particularly pointing out the aspect of confounding factors. There are so many of them, a whole history of them in fact.

For the record, here is the deleted comment I submitted to the racist post:

It is hard to respond such arguments because the author doesn’t consider the confounding factors. Looking at correlations without looking at confounding factors is the complete opposite of helpful.

If socio-economic class and systemic racial prejudice were taken into account, what would remain of many racial differences. I have yet to see this fully analyzed, but there sure are a lot of opinions. I must admit I get tired of opinions in search of supporting data rather than people merely seeking data to learn what might be discovered.

Here is what has been proven and yet ignored by the likes of the author.

More whites do drugs than blacks, but more blacks are in prison for drugs. Studies have shown that blacks are more often pulled over by police than whites, more often have criminal charges brought against them than whites for the same behaviors, are more likely to be judged more harshly by juries than whites for the same crimes, and more likely to be punished more harshly by judges than whites for the same crimes. These are the inconvenient truths that most Americans don’t want to face.

Poverty and lack of social mobility are major problems facing minorities, the former increasing and the latter decreasing in America these past decades. This of course relates to racism. Data has shown how discrimination has limited opportunities for blacks for many generations now. There was discrimination during the Progressive Era government assistance programs. There has been discrimination since involving housing, employment and bank loans.

We also know that poor rural Southern whites are the most violent group in America. But those who point out the problems of blacks never seem to notice or acknowledge this disconcerting fact. Like blacks, what these rural whites share is poverty, lack of opportunity, and a long history of oppression/scapegoating by the upper classes.

We all know this. It is no longer an issue that can be argued. Why can’t we have an honest discussion about all of this? What would be so horrible about objectively looking at all the data instead of cherrypicking what fits our preconceived conclusions?

What we don’t know is, after all these confounding factors are accounted for, what remains for the differences in crimes and IQ. Many are willing to offer opinions, but few opinions are very well informed on the matter. We need to get serious about this and quite playing scapegoating games.

America has massive problems of racism and classism that are inseparable from problems of poverty, economic inequality and social mobility. These problems are larger than any other problems we face.

To offer context, I’ve previously argued about this issue with HBD proponents. So this isn’t new territory I’m treading – for example, see: IQ Dilemma: Inconvenient Correlations, Uncomfortable Data. In another post about IQ and racism, someone going by the name Szopeno commented and I responded thusly:

“Do blacks in the south and north are the same biologically-wise?”

Most of the blacks in the North came from the same population of blacks in the South. And before that most blacks in America came from the same few tribes in Africa.

“E.g. it would be enough that only smarter blacks were emigrating north; that would create a pattern you have shown, without creating any need to appeal to poverty rates.”

There is no known evidence that this was the case or none that I know of. Why speculate about an unknown (only smarter blacks were emigrating north) when we can theorize on the proven facts (poverty and related factors have negative impact on cognitive development and IQ). Nonetheless, that would as I argued still disprove the white supremacists.

“No to mention of course the question of admixture – Jensen in g factor wrote that white admixture is higher in northern blacks than in south.”

You could only argue this by ignoring some of the known facts. The Southern whites who have some of the lowest IQs in the country don’t have more black genetics. They are among some of the whitest of whiteys around. As I pointed out in a recent post, Southern blacks are found in greatest concentration precisely where the Scots-Irish, Scottish and Irish are found in the least concentration.

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/maps-are-fun-us-data/

There are only two known commonalities between American blacks in general and American whites in the South. They are both environmental commonalities. First, as Thomas Sowell argues, blacks have a culture similar to poor Southern whites, a culture they certainly inherited from their time in the South and brought North with the mass migration. Second, the only other known commonality is poverty. Genetics is the very thing that most separates poor low IQ blacks and poor low IQ whites.

“All I say that what you have presented here is not an argument which could convince hereditarians.”

All the facts in the world couldn’t convince many hereditarians. I don’t deny the known facts about heredity and I actually find that field interesting, but I will never understand those who will ignore or dismiss known facts for the sake of speculation that better fits their interpretive lense. Why not begin with what we know? Why not go with the simplest explanation first?

That is not an atypical interaction with many HBD proponents. A whole lot of speculation on limited data. I have no problem with speculation, but I usually prefer to limit my speculation to the data. It’s not as if the HBD proponent is making an entirely unintelligent argument. They just seem overly attached to a particular conclusion or theory which makes one suspicious of their biases, possibly their prejudices as well.

I don’t know the data about ethnic genetic ratios in regional US populations. Let me assume that Northern blacks have more European genetics. Why would we jump to the conclusion that Northern blacks having higher average IQs is genetically caused? More European genetics also means lighter skin and hence, as has been proven, less racial prejudice experienced. Isn’t that a simpler explanation? Unless we scientifically know of a precise gene that makes blacks stupid, why would we want to believe that is the case? The only reason we’d do so is for the sake of racial bias, whether overt racism or unconscious racialism.

Besides, I’ve found most people making this argument find it inconvenient to acknowledge that many blacks have large percentages of European genetics. It is hard to be racist or racialist when the boundaries are blurred between the races. As for me, I find it fascinating that the average African American is about 1/5 European and 1 in 10 African Americans have more European genetics than African genetics. So, as for those 1 in 10, why do we call them African Americans in the first place? Also, what makes them ‘black’ if their skin color is closer to Europeans than native Africans?

Oh, the confounding factors! What is one to do!?!

My comment to the racist blog post was also added to the comments section of hbd chick’s blog (and she has the intellectual evenhandedness to let almost anyone post, even critics which is why I like and respect her even when I disagree with her). The only person so far to respond to my comment there was a someone called bleach:

“We also know that poor rural Southern whites are the most violent group in America. But those who point out the problems of blacks never seem to notice or acknowledge this disconcerting fact.”

Uhh maybe because the “fact” is total bullshit, you just made it up and keep repeating it without any evidence. AE has the actual numbers:

http://anepigone.blogspot.com/2013/01/black-homicide-rates-by-state.html

http://anepigone.blogspot.com/2013/01/white-murder-rates-by-state.html

Southern whites aren’t even the most violent amongst just whites; southwestern whites are. But the more important fact is how much higher, monumentally higher, the black rates are for every state.

Which everyone who wasn’t a hick from a 99% white Midwestern zip code KNEW ALREADY.

I’m not even going to bother with the rest of your claims, there is no reason to believe they have any truth when you keep repeating falsehoods and provide no data for anything. No one needs the opinion of an ignorant liberal hick on race relations, either. Have you even met any real life black people yet?

What is so interesting about his comment there is that he also commented on my post White Supremacy Defeated… yet again. His recent comment shows no knowledge of our ever having discussed this before. It is as if such people live in a bubble. Even when interacting with them, they aren’t listening to you or hearing anything other than the voices in their self-constructed echo chamber.

I’d previously explained the data to him. It isn’t just state by state data. It is data that is a combination of looking at both the North/South divide and the urban/rural divide. It’s not just that all Southerners are more violent, but that specifically white rural Southerners are the most violent. As for states over all, it would partly depend on which Southern states have higher ratios of rural whites to urban whites.

Also, he missed the entire point of confounding factors. What do poor rural whites and poor urban blacks have in common? Poverty. And what historical circumstances do they share in being poor? Centuries of oppression and prejudice, specifically in the South. Most of the poor rural whites are of Celtic ancestry. The upper class whites in the South have always looked down upon them. Before that, the upper class whites of Britain also looked down upon them.

For both poor blacks and whites, this has often been a severely violent history with political disenfranchisement. If poor whites are showing such problems without ever having experienced slavery, is it so surprising that blacks have had an uphill climb? When my parents were growing up, Jim Crow was still in effect. Even today, studies show that racism continues, including institutionalized racism.

These racists and racialist fellow travelers have never proven that these problems are anything other than the direct results of centuries of racism and classism. Yet they claim others as enforcing political correctness when those others point out inconvenient data that contradicts their cherrypicked data. The confounding factors are so numerous and complex that I doubt any scientific research has yet been able to control for all of them. It is so vast of a problem that we don’t know how to face it as a society.

It’s not as if I’m denying that genetics plays a role in human behavior and cognitive ability. But any theory proposed has to be scientifically proven with scientific data provided by scientific research. Just correlating a bunch of data found online isn’t the same thing as doing science. I love correlating data as much as the next blogger, but I take it for what it is.

In my thoughts, I return to my post about generalities vs particulars. The particulars are messy and can feel overwhelming whereas generalities can feel comforting as they give the appearance of providing simple conclusions and an orderly understanding, but the danger is this is too often superficial and deceptive.

To be a truth-seeker is to accept the responsibility of the moral force of truth, in all of its complexity and uncertainty. Yes, it is uncomfortable and sometimes even disconcerting. There are few easy answers and absolute knowns. But the alternative is much worse.

In my previous post, I presented two ways of focusing on data, the general vs the particular. There is also two ways to use data. You can use data as a way to speak truth to power or else you can use data to kick people while they are down. The sad part about the latter way is that the whole reason the poor, whether whites or blacks, are down in the first place is because they were kicked to the ground and have been continuously kicked ever since. After all this, to keep kicking them is to ensure they stay down. If we stop kicking them for a moment, who knows what might happen? For instance, they might stand up for themselves

What are the racists and racialists afraid of if they quit kicking the downtrodden and let them stand up with the rest of humanity?

If after that they fall down on their own, then be an asshole and point that out. But at least quick kicking them in the meantime. Heck, maybe even offer them a helping hand. Could you imagine if we gave these groups the same amount of assistance and compassion that they have received in oppression and prejudice? The worst part is those who like to kick the helpless the most are precisely those who have benefited the most and inherited the benefit of those who have gained the most from keeping those other people down.

All I can say is there are some sick assholes in the world.

Instead of just looking at the results of social problems, why don’t we look to the cause of social problems? The ethnic/racial ruling elite that existed in America’s oppressive past is basically the same ethnic/racial ruling elite that exists in America’s dysfunctional present. Is that mere coincidence? I think not.

I was imagining a truly worthy version of a HBD advocate. There is a worthy aspect to HBD theory. The data is interesting, but it is just a tiny piece of the puzzle.

I didn’t so much like the links offered by hbd chick, but I do like her blog. She is smart and I appreciate how data-driven she is, not in a cherrypicking kind of way. However, her focus is rather narrow on just HBD and so she mostly just looks at certain kinds of data and often doesn’t seem interested in data outside of that. I can’t blame her for following her interests, but I still can’t deny the sense that HBDers like her don’t appreciate the moral imperative of truth-seeking and truth-telling. It’s not just data. Human lives are involved.

I’m not an ideologue in the political sense and also not in the sense of having loyalty to theories. Even with my favored viewpoints, I’m only likely to defend them to the extent that they act as a proxy in my seeking balance with other perspectives and to the extent they act as conduits toward a greater field of understanding (which is why they are favored viewpoints in the first place). For example, I strongly appreciate Myers-Briggs and personality theory/research of all sorts, but I’m not overly identified with Myers-Briggs being absolutely true, although it is a theory that I’ve probably studied more than any other.

It isn’t just a loyalty thing. It’s obvious that hbd chick likes her own HBD theory, but she’ll admit to it possibly being wrong. So, she is less loyal than some HBDers. Nonetheless, this doesn’t stop her from remaining intently focused on a narrow band of data. My mind, however, wanders. I constantly have my toes in many pools. This allows me to see broad connections, the type of broad connections I rarely come across in any HBD blog.

I’ve had conflicts with HBDers such as JayMan because of this. JayMan’s blog is subtitled “Where Sacred Cows Go To Die”, but apparently that only applies to other people’s sacred cows. As for Jayman’s sacred cows, he’ll defend them at all costs. He has great loyalty to HBD, but moreso it is a narrow focus that seems motivated by a sense of thick boundaries. HBDers are particularly obsessed with boundaries between races, ethnicities and nations. I, on the other hand, am very thin boundaried in comparison.

I’m not an anything-goes universalist that wants to throw the borders open and let anarchism rule the land, although that would be an interesting experiment to do under the right conditions. But certainly, unlike most HBDers, I’m not an ethnocentric nationalist. I’ve noticed that there is an imperialist bias in the thinking of many HBDers. This became apparent in a discussion I was having in a post by hbd chick. Oddly, I’m apparently both more liberal and more libertarian than the average HBDer I’ve dealt with. I responded to that post with a post of mine where I discussed this issue of defense of empire as a defense of ethnocentrism.

There is nothing wrong in being narrowly focused. It makes hbd chick an impressive researcher. She focuses in on a particular area and it is amazing what she can dig up. However, it also leads to massive blindspots because of a lack of seeing the bigger picture and fully appreciating far different perspectives. One thing I notice is how rarely she discusses politics and world events. The type of analysis offered by someone like Noam Chomsky doesn’t even seem to exist in her world of data. I couldn’t even find any of her posts that included the likes of John Gray (the philosopher), Morris Berman and Wendell Berry. I haven’t come across a single HBDer who comes close to offering the subtle and wide-ranging insight of a Joe Bageant and certainly not the moral vision of a Thomas Paine, both being great examples of speaking truth to power.

One would think that HBDers would have a better ability to see outside of cultural biases, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I think the problem is that most of them don’t want to see other cultural views, either to understand them on their own terms or to understand their criticisms of American and Western culture. Understanding others doesn’t seem to be their main priority. People aren’t individuals. They are races, ethnicities, clans and nationalities. Most HBDers are smart people. It’s just they seem strongly driven by an agenda or maybe just strongly attached to their cultural comfort zone.

I’m trying to get into the mindset of why someone like hbd chick would post links to racist blog posts. To her mind, I’m sure she doesn’t see the racism at all. She just sees a blogger correlating data. She sees the data but not the lives behind the data. Certainly, what she doesn’t see is the cherrypicking and the ignoring of confounding factors. Even if I pointed this out to her, she still wouldn’t likely see it. It simply isn’t part of her HBD reality tunnel.

I remember the first serious lengthy discussion I had with JayMan. I found his view interesting, but I couldn’t get him to understand my view.

I pointed out the confounding factors and it didn’t change his mind. It was as if the confounding factors didn’t exist. He was sure it had to be a genetic explanation because that is what he was looking for. He expected to find genetics and so couldn’t see the relevance of what he didn’t expect. It was strange to my mind, this narrow focus.

I tried to broaden his perspective by pointing out that these confounding factors matter because of the implications of ignoring them, but he didn’t find the idea of morality compelling. He saw himself as an objective researcher looking for objective data. Genes were in his mind more objectively real than the people influenced by the ideas he was advocating.

I suspect something similar with hbd chick. although with less obtuseness. When I speak of truth as moral imperative, that probably would make no sense to her. She would deny having such a responsibility to truth and morality. She might like truth and choose to communicate it in her own way, but not because of a moral imperative. The fact that linking to a racist blog post has moral implications wouldn’t seem relevant to her. Like JayMan, she likely would see herself as just an objective researcher looking for objective data.

Morality and ethics is the one area I never see discussed in HBD blogs. It is all about the data. The framework of HBD is scientific or, I would argue, in many cases pseudo-scientific. There is an insular nature to the HBD community. They are mostly talking amongst themselves and preaching to the choir. A moral perspective would require them to peak their heads outside this ideological enclave and look at the larger world of people with other views, a world that where their beliefs and ideas lead to real consequences, not just for them and their group but for everyone.

I think that ends my time commenting at hbd chick’s blog. It just is too frustrating being the only voice pointing out uncomfortable truths to an audience that doesn’t want to know uncomfortable truths. They don’t want to hear it and I’ve done all I can do at this point. *sigh*

I’m brought back to Tim Wise’s insight: The ultimate privilege of being a member of a privileged group is not having to know or acknowledge your privilege nor the systemic and institutionalized privilege throughout society. It takes a lot to force a privileged person to confront their own privilege. That is a rare event.

As a society, our only hope is to help the next generation understand before they become identified with the system of privilege, specifically in terms of the society of ethnocentric imperialism. We need to encourage the questioning of our society, deep soul-searching and most of all speaking truth to power. Could you imagine a society that put truth before all else, specifically truth as a moral imperative? I’d love to live in that society.

On a related topic, I thought I’d point out another link that hbd chick included in her post. It is Kinship or Citizenship? by Steve Sailer, the author being one of the most well known HBD defenders. Basically, he is attacking the poor, powerless minority groups for supposedly being clannish and hence their supposed unfairly picking on all the wealthier, more powerful white folk. I decided to point out this article for how well the comments section tore apart his argument:

Rebecca Trotter says:
I don’t think it’s victim groups we have to worry about. Rather, the new clans who act in their own interests without regard for their fellow man or citizens are the hyper-rich, the Ivy league elites, wall street masters of the universe. Even Obama could only benefit from his race because of his position as the child of academic elites and a member of the Ivy league. It’s a minutely tiny number of minorities who are able to leverage their “victim status” for any gain! For the overwhelming majority being part of a minority group is still a major disadvantage and media concocted fears of the white majority aside, that’s unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. The clannish nature of our wealthy elites has been well documented and is probably the biggest threat to our democracy that America has ever faced. The pap we are fed to argue over is nothing more than a distraction.

Northern Observer says:
Sailer writes a nice essay and blows it all in his conclusion. If we are to take the idea of tribalism and clan politics seriously in America than we need to admit that the most dominant clan in America is the Southern White Conservative tribe. It is the behaviour of this political clan grouping that will determine the quality of political life in America for some time to come. The ongoing drift of this tribe’s politics to romantic irrationalism is something to worry about. In the big picture, homosexuals and African Americans are small potatoes. The Southern tribe’s rejection of the responsibilities of citizenship, as epitomized by the GOP controlled House and State Legislatures, is the most alarming political development in America today.

Frank Stain says:
It is an old and rather tiresome tactic of racists to suggest that the marginalized group identities formed by the efforts of the majority to defend its cultural privileges are in fact ‘clannish’ behavior. Hitler in fact argued specifically in Mein Kampf that the Jews are more clannish than other people, and act in concert to promote a Jewish agenda. Rather than the concentration of Jews in finance being a result of their exclusion from areas of communal endeavor, it appears to the anti-semite as evidence for the ‘clannish’ nature of the Jew.
Similarly, Steve Sailor is suggesting here that the efforts of blacks, Latinos, and Gays to claim full citizenship, and to reject the exclusions foisted upon them by white christians, are evidence of ‘clannish’ behavior, rather than an attempt to construct an ideal of full citizenship beyond the exclusions of race, sexual identity, and religion.

Eric says:
Does he have anything to say about the old WASP clan and its loss of power in this country?

Fran Macadam says:
Loyalty to clan precedes when citizenship no longer confers any benefit. Oligarchy is a form of superclan from which the mass of citizenry are excluded, by force if necessary. No wonder that this style of “warlord” governance, updated for the 21st century, has established and defends democratically unaccountable secret police tactics, such as mass surveillance and “homeland security” applied to all those outside their clan, to whom granting any real power would threaten their hegemony.

As for anyone reading this who cares about truth, including that of confounding factors, I’ll offer you the data:

In my major post about the North/South divide, it was the first time I explored the issue of violence and the South. I included an article by The Atlantic, The Scots-Irish Vote by Cameron Joseph. That article is a good introduction to the research done on the culture of honor. As general commentary, further down in my post, I add these thoughts:

…obesity rates (in developed countries) are correlated to both poverty and high wealth disparity (whereas, in developing countries, obesity and poverty are negatively correlated). So, societies with high wealth disparity tend to have higher obesity rates and societies with low wealth disparity tend to have lower obesity rates. But the real interesting part is that even wealthy people have higher obesity rates in societies with high wealth disparity. The explanation is that high wealth disparity societies tend to be more stressful places to live with higher rates of violence, bullying and social conflict. All of this stress impacts the poor and wealthy alike. The body responds, as a survival mechanism, to stress by increasing fat reserves. This is particularly true for babies whose mothers experienced high rates of stress while pregnant, in which case the body becomes permanently set at fat reserve mode.

I came across another example offering support for egalitarianism. Some conservatives like to point out the fact that gays have higher rates of suicide, implying homosexuality is unnatural and inferior. But, of course, it’s rather convenient for conservatives to ignore their own complicity. A study showed that “Suicide attempts by gay teens – and even straight kids – are more common in politically conservative areas where schools don’t have programs supporting gay rights”. When one group is singled out and treated unequally, all people in that social environment will suffer the consequences.

My point being that it is hardly surprising to find problems in an unhealthy and unjust society. It is also more than unsurprising that the worst victims of such a society show the worst problems. When talking about race and ethnicity, we are talking about problems that have their roots in the distant past. There hasn’t been a moment in the history of this country that these problems haven’t existed.

These kinds of problems came up again with the Trayvon Martin murder. In my post about it, I included a massive number of links and quotes. It is disheartening when you take it all in. It reminded me of a local case involving the death of John Bior Deng which I wrote about and added another post about the issues of racism and classism.

There are a few other posts of mine I haven’t mentioned yet which go to the heart of the data:

Disturbing Study Highlights Racism

Institutional Racism & Voting Rights

Obama vs The Bell Curve

Race & Wealth Gap

Prison Insanity

Old, Male, White, Religious, Rich Republicans Are Happy! Surprise, Surprise!

John Bior Deng: Racism, Classism

This post is some commentary that initially was a part of the post John Bior Deng: R.I.P..  So, my thoughts here are about the social context of a white officer shooting a black homeless guy.

 – – –

Racism is very central to this topic, but it’s mixed with classism… and the two can’t be entirely separated.

Would Bohnenkamp aggressively confronted a clean-cut white guy in a business suit if that person had dropped a bottle?  Probably not.  Would Deputy Stotler have shot a clean-cut white guy in a business suit if he was holding a knife after being beat up by a homeless black guy?  Probably not.  If this case had been investigated by an all black (or even just a mixed race) group of officials instead of an all white group of officials, would they have written a different report about the justification of a white guy shooting a black guy?  Probably so.  If Deputy Stotler had been a black guy who shot Bohnenkamp because he was beating up Deng after disobeying his commands, would racism have been considered more seriously by the all white investigators?  Probably so.

People constantly complain any time race is brought up, and it’s almost impossible to explain racism to someone whose racism is unconscious.  We’re all prejudiced in various ways.  It’s just human nature.  Are these racism deniers ideologically motivated?  Are they being disingenuous?  Or are they some combination of naive and ignorant?

Polls show that a large percentage of people believe that racism is an issue in the US and that a large percentage perceive racism in themselves.  Think about that, and then consider that the extremely racist people are the ones who are least likely to admit to it (even on a poll).  Research has even proven people are racist.  It’s mostly unconscious, of course… even for those who are aware of racism.

Psychologists have studied in great detail how people form social identities, how people create a sense of belonging, and how people exclude those who are different.  Humans (like any other animal) identifies with those who are most similar to them.  Studies have shown people tend to have spouses and friends who are like them.  People tend to help and hire those they can relate to.  This is commonsense (which just so happens to be supported by science).

Even if a police officer intentionally tries not to be racist, he is still going to profile.  It would be difficult to do his job without profiling.  If Deputy Stotler hadn’t profiled Deng and Bohnenkamp, he wouldn’t have been able to act.  He had limited information and had to make a quick decision.  He was forced to simplify these people in front of him into stereotypes according to his cultural biases and past experience (we all do this all of the time and research shows that first impressions don’t easily change).  Anyways, he isn’t going to stop in that moment to ask himself whether he is being racist… but it’s obvious in hindsight that his judgments were influenced by various prejudices.

I don’t know how such implicit racism can be changed.  Maybe it never can be fully ended.  Still, there seems to be something worthy in at least just being honest about it.

Let me go into more details by citing some sources.

I was listening to an interview of Dan Ariely who is the author of Predictably Irrational.  He pointed out one particular statistic which is significant.  Different type of people were tested on honesty.  Police officers only came out as average on honesty (meaning they’re no more trustworthy than the rest of us), but police officers perceived themselves as being more honest than others (which implies that officers are better than average at ignoring, forgetting, and/or rationalizing away their moments of dishonesty).  So, if the police are as honest and dishonest as the rest of us, then what is the norm (and shouldn’t we expect officers to be above the norm)?  Here is an article about the commonality of dishonesty in everyday life:

Dishonesty in Everyday Life and its Policy Implications by Nina Mazar and Dan Ariely

My point being that the police aren’t above the typical self-deceptions, rationalizations, and situational morality that are common to all of humanity.  The police aren’t, by virtue of their profession, therefore moral exemplars for all of us to blindly trust.  We should question the actions of police as we would question the actions of anyone (be they rich or poor, black or white).  Therefore, in an incident involving the police, the witness acounts given by the police should be given no more weight than the witness accounts by the general public (but I’m willing to bet that most investigations do give weight to the former).  The question of honesty vs dishonesty is very relevant to racism because there isn’t as much overt racism these days, but racism still has great influence on us as individuals and on society as a whole.

Here We Go Again by Charles M. Blow

It doesn’t have to be that way. Most Americans know that racism is an issue in this country. The question is how much (that’s where the arguments start) and if — and to what degree — that racism animates critics of the president.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in January found that 71 percent of whites and 85 percent of blacks think that racism in our society is at least somewhat of a problem.

How much discrimination is there? The world may never know, but we admit that we misjudge it.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted in January of last year found that 60 percent of whites agree that they underestimate the amount of discrimination that there is against blacks and 59 percent of blacks agree that they overestimate the amount of racism against them. How can we measure truth when everyone’s twisting it?

A better question might be how much racial prejudice are people aware of and willing to acknowledge.

An ABC News poll released in January asked, “If you honestly assessed yourself, would you say that you have at least some feelings of racial prejudice?” Thirty-eight percent of blacks answered yes, as did 34 percent of whites.

Then the question becomes whether this racial prejudice plays a part in the opposition to the president. Again, it’s impossible to know, but a 2003 study by Rice University researchers and published in the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies offers an interesting insight into its potential to be present: “One of the greatest challenges facing black leaders is aversive racism, a subtle but insidious form of prejudice that emerges when people can justify their negative feelings toward blacks based on factors other than race.” Sound familiar?

I put in bold a very important insight.  On the Iowa City Press Citizen online comments section, people constantly talk about taking care of the problem with public housing on the South side.  It just so happens that many black people happen to live in that neighborhood.  It’s useless for people to deny racism because most biases work unconsciously.  Going by the statistics, I feel particularly mistrustful of anyone who outright denies racism.

The Deng case has to be understood in the lager context.  America, obviously, has a long history of racism which lingers on.  However, the larger national context relates to the local context.  Iowa City isn’t just mostly white but also mostly upper middle class (I’ve heard it’s the highest concentration of educated people in the US).  At about the same time Deng incident, another supposed homeless guy (who was white) died by falling from a construction site.  What became clear was that some people considered the homeless to be less worthy than other citizens.  Some people even expressed happiness that there was less scum in the world.  It was questionable whether the other guy was even homeless as he was a local guy with family in town who may even have been working at the construction site, but the paper labelled him homeless and so he officially was.  To be poor, homeless or simply a minority is to stick out in this town.  You’re inevitably going to get more attention including attention from the police.

The racism/classism issue became even more clear with the news reporting (and online comments) about violence in one part of town.  Relative to many places, the violence was extremely minor and it was only a few troublemakers who were causing most of it.  But, to many Iowa Citians, this was a crime wave that was destroying our entire world, our safe little haven.  The blame was rather distorted because people don’t bother to look at facts, but fear without facts just makes some people feel even more certain (and makes them louder) about their opinions.

The problem that was focused on was public housing.  Despite the fact that public housing is based on laws set at the state and national level, people wanted to blame the evil liberals on the city council.  I find that rather funny.  Last year, 2 white professors were charged with sexual misconduct (both which led to their suicides) and at that time the evil liberals at the university were blamed.  It’s always the liberals fault in this town.  Furthermore, last year a white banker was caught stealing money which led him to kill himself along with his family and a white mother killed her children.  Did any of the fear-mongerers now complaining about the poor and homeless ever complain last year about the crime wave of upstanding white citizens?  No, they didn’t.  Did the people now arguing for a curfew for teenagers argue for a curfew for middle-aged people?  No, they didn’t.

This is a topic that could be written about endlessly and deserves much deep consideration and analysis, but I’ll end it for now.  For more of my thoughts, the following are some blog posts of mine inspired by these recent local news events:

Officer Shoots Homeless Man: Comments

Homelessness and Civilization

Cultural Shift: Generations, Race, Technology

If you wish to study the issue of racism for yourself, Wikipedia always a good place to start (as always check out the links at the bottom of the Wikipedia pages):

Racial profiling

Race and crime in the United States

Race and inequality in the United States

And here are some interesting articles about unconscious prejudices:

Scanning Brains for Insights on Racial Perception by David Berreby

Harvard’s baby brain research lab by Roger Highfield

The Implicit Prejudice by Sally Lehrman

Researchers Try to Cure Racism by Brandon Keim