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The Role of Mark Antony will be played by Victor Davis Hansen


Friends, Americans, Lend him your ear.

He comes not to praise Affirmative Action, but to bury it.

The End of an Idea -- Why Affirmative Action Should Stop

Victor Davis Hansen, Works and Days
May 16th, 2011 - 1:01 pm


2011, not 1970?

We have had about a half-century of racial preferences and often unspoken but real quotas for hiring and admission based on racial identity. If the original intent was to level the playing field for African-Americans and Latinos, who had been subject to systematic and often gratuitously mean discrimination throughout much of the American South and Southwest, nonetheless the current rationale for sustaining affirmative action has become a veritable nightmare of contradictions, biases, and incoherence that is now well beyond reform. Conservatives mostly believe this; an increasing number of liberals quietly think it.


Several of us who post here at Wizbang have been circling this issue for some time now.

In summary, I think we're agreed that Racism was a very real problem, that vestiges of it remain to this day but have become so socially unacceptable as to be an offense which dare not whisper it's name, and that the charge is now commonly leveled to shut off discussions which have become uncomfortable for the left.

What then of Affirmative Action?  Are its predicates still applicable?  Does its remedy solve a problem, or perpetuate one?

Does it make sense to have variable standards based on race?  Do not such variable standards perpetuate the belief that the color of one's skin is indeed more important than the content of one's character?  Have we debased the coin of accomplishment by jiggering the scales to ensure equality of outcome?

Wrong is Wrong -- Always

But no amount of explication and good intentions can mask an obsolete idea, whose time has come and gone. Its contradictions outlined above are not aberrant, but logical given the eternal truth that it is wrong to judge humans on their outward appearance or racial heritage -- always.


Indeed.  Racism is the action of pre-judging and predicating behavior or attitudes on the basis of race, which itself has become an ill defined and essentially meaningless concept.

Read the whole of VDH's essay, and ask yourself if we should continue to institutionalize racial prejudice.

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Comments (63)

"Have we debased the coin o... (Below threshold)
Sep14:

"Have we debased the coin of accomplishment by jiggering the scales to ensure equality of outcome?"


Sounds kinda racist there.

Heh,Leading with a... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

Heh,

Leading with a Graves' law violation. Were it not made in jest 'twould be deeply ironic... It illustrates another coin which has been severely debased...

I'm all for race-based affi... (Below threshold)
James H:

I'm all for race-based affirmative action in certain, limited circumstances ... but even there, race should only be one factor among many.

And those limited circumstances, IMO, are closing fast, and should mostly be in situations where there is recent, systematic racial discrimination.

Otherwise, particularly in an educational context, we really, really need to rethink whehter affirmative action targets the right people.

Targeting economic background accomplishes far worthier goals, IMO.

James H,In what ".... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

James H,

In what "...limited circumstances."?

Who should make the call as to those circumstances and their remedy?

Did you read the rest of my... (Below threshold)
James H:

Did you read the rest of my comment?
There is an answer there:

And those limited circumstances, IMO, are closing fast, and should mostly be in situations where there is recent, systematic racial discrimination.

As to who prescribes the remedy -- a judge, administrative judge, or other finder of fact in a trial or administrative hearing, or parties could reach an agreement via a settlement document.

James,Please provi... (Below threshold)
Kenny:

James,

Please provide us with an example of recent, systematic racial discrimination.

Thanks!

Kenny:Such cases exi... (Below threshold)
James H:

Kenny:
Such cases exist, although typically cash damages (most often in settlement) are more appropriate than affirmative action.
Here's one. And the EEOC has a list of cases here.

And while it's sex discrimi... (Below threshold)
James H:

And while it's sex discrimination rather than racial discrimination, I should point out that Wal-Mart is currently in litigation regarding pay and promotion of female employees companywide.

In the 2007's Satchell v. FedEx Express, FedEx settled a racial discrimination case brought by 20,000 employess.

And here's another case.

Yes, a number of these are currently in litigation or were settled without admission of error by the defendants. But they do carry with them allegations of racial discrimination.

Hasn't ou... (Below threshold)
Sep14:

Hasn't our country paid enough cash for affirmative action to close the case now?


I would think so..

Well, let's see.Yo... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

Well, let's see.

Your primary case (via WaPo) was a hostile workplace complaint which seems well supported.

The list from your second link though...

First bullet point was a reverse discrimination case on tribal lands. Had there been no racial preference in the first place...

Second bullet point was appears to be a quota/equality of outcome beef.

Third bullet point consistent application of standards appears to have merit.

Fourth bullet point is good old fashioned (as in reprehensible) nepotism. Question: had the rejected applicant not been from a protected minority group would the nepotism have been any less reprehensible? Would the EEOC have been involved?

Fifth bullet point could be titled "Quotas bite back." Would there have been an issue if there had been no racial quotas in the first place?

Sixth bullet point appears presumptive, not enough information to draw any conclusions (other than the DVA has issues).

Seventh bullet point, oh yeah. Why wasn't that supervisor terminated for cause as part of the settlement?

So of the eight I have reviewed, we have five dead to rights and three ambiguous. Not seeing much systematic behavior there.


James,Thanks, int... (Below threshold)
Kenny:

James,

Thanks, interesting case. I'll grant you that 3 1/2 years ago is recent. However, there is nothing systemic in this case. Charles Daniels is a single man, there is no allegation or evidence that any other black than him was being discriminated against. Where is the widespread, systemic racism at Lockheed Martin to justify affirmitive action?

Except for the fact that Charles is black, compare his story to the news this week that CWA union members were threatened by union members and bosses for blowing the whistle on union corruption, Harrassment, death threats, same as Charles, but also physical violence. Link here:
http://weaselzippers.us/2011/05/15/union-members-blow-whistle-on-labor-bosses-stealing-promptly-beaten-by-thugs-receive-death-threats-dead-rat-thrown-in-locker/

Should those union members be paid 2 1/2 million each for the harassment they received from the union?

I haven't looked at the EEOC link yet, but if Charles is an example, I suspect the other cases will be individuals as well. Got any examples that actually show systemic discrimination where race-based affirmitive action would be an appropriate measure?

Kenny: although I... (Below threshold)
James H:

Kenny:

although I would say cash damages are a more appropriate measure, check the FedEx and Best Buy cases above.

Also, there is this Kodak class action, settled recently.

When analyzing these, keep in mind that the narrative typically includes only one or two individuals' discrimination claims, but that class certification is granted only when a court finds that there may be multiple claims that are likely to succeed. For further cases, here is the Google search I ran. You can pick through the results at your leisure.

For the most part, affirmative action is not an appropriate remedy for a court to impose on a private actor, IMO. In such cases, cash damages and/or retroactive promotions are more appropriate.

But in terms of public actors, it may be appropriate. And, of course, I maintain that if a party chooses to offer an affirmative-action program as part of settlement negotiations, that party should be free to do so.

I've encountered several se... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

I've encountered several sexual discrimination issues during my years working.

One was being paid less salary than my only other collegue even though I worked the more difficult shifts, worked longer hours and had more responsibility. My boss put me in this position because I produced significantly more and better quality work, yet I had to sit him down and demand at least an equal salary as my collegue. He smiled condescendingly but gave me what I asked for.

Another was as manager of a store I was approached by a salesman who asked for the manager. When I told him he was speaking to her, he was non-plussed and asked if there was a "man" manager. I told him to take a hike.

Another was an employer who inadvertantly let slip that he gave one of his managers a raise and not me because the other guy "had a family to support and I didn't need it as much".

So yeah, there's still plenty of it out there.

But never, never would I feel good about taking a job I was offered merely because I am female.

<a href="http://www.afjusti... (Below threshold)
James H:

Here's another one.

Regarding Oyster's comment:

But never, never would I feel good about taking a job I was offered merely because I am female.

I recommend reading both Justice Thurgood Marshall's opinion in Bakke and Justice Clarence Thomas's opinion in Grutter. Both have informed my opinion of affirmative action.

James,I thank you ... (Below threshold)
Kenny:

James,

I thank you for the Fed Ex case. I don't think it proves your point, I think it proves VDH and Rodneys.

Fex Ed Settles the case and strongly denies any discriminatory conduct.

Fed Ex agrees to stop using a basic skills test in determining promotions. The suit claimed that 86% of white employees had passed the test, compared to 47% of black employees and 62% of Latino employees. That fact is the basis for the racism charge.

Congratulations, Affirmative action won out. You now have people who are not qualified being promoted. This lawsuit may explain why some police and fire departments are dropping their tests altogether or lowering the 'passing' score as well because not enough minorities could pass the skills test.

Sorry, but I'll stand with Martin Luther King on the one and judge a man not by his skin color, but by the content of his character and his abilities. You shouldn't get a job or a promotion just because you have a certain skin color. You should get the job or promotion because you have demonstrated your qualifications for it.

Kenny:First off, o... (Below threshold)
James H:

Kenny:

First off, of course FedEx denies wrong doing. Defendants always deny wrongdoing -- or at least refuse to admit wrongdoing -- when a case settles. It happens all the time.

The skills tests can be screwy, quite honestly. If you have a "skills test" with such widely disparate results when examined by race, then, IMO, it's worth seeing whether there is discrimination at work.

I didn't say it's automatically discrimination. It's just worth seeing whether the test is jury-rigged somehow. And let a plaintiff's lawyer do the legwork, thankyouverymuch.

There are cases where such results are held up as per se evidence of discrimination, but I'm not really comfortable with that contention.

And here's where things get really, really mixed up. It's very rare where you find a case where people of two different races are exactly, equally qualified and one of them got the opportunity because of race. It's more often a morass of factors, in which race would be only one of several factors.

And nobody admits overt racism anymore, so you have to hunt for it.

Now answer me this hypo, Kenny. Let's say you and a co-worker of another race have similar qualifications for a job that you could each be promoted to. You two aren't equally qualified. You are more qualified in some areas, he is more qualified in others. But your colleague gets the promotion, and you don't. Later, the manager takes you aside and says that your colleague's race was a factor in the promotion decision.

Is this something you would sue over? Or not? It's certainly racial discrimination by textbook definition, but would you consider it acceptable or not? And what if the situation were reversed, and you received the job, and the hiring manager later confessed to you, "I'm not comfortable working with people of his race." I'm interested in your response.

Assuming sufficient sample ... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

Assuming sufficient sample sizes and controlling for other variables, if 86% of whites pass a test and 47% of blacks pass a test, either:

1) the test demonstrates systematic bias against blacks and is prejudicial and therefore illegitimate; or

2) society fails to provide sufficient education to blacks in order to compete as equals in the workforce, which warrants massive social engineering; or

3) blacks as a sub-set of the total population of test-takers are worse at taking tests (or, if you prefer, blacks skew towards lower intelligence--they're just dumb!).

Are opponents of affirmative action comfortable asserting that #3 is the case? I wouldn't be comfortable making that assertion because I was raised to believe that racism is a bad thing.

James H ~ What you are adv... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

James H ~ What you are advocating is that if one party injures a second, or even several or many, then it justifies injuring innocent third parties for the benefit of fourth parties who suffered no injury at the hands of the first. There is no way this makes any sense at all; it is the very definition of perversity.

As "Affirmative Action" was originally conceived, all it meant was that employers (or colleges, who freely and enthusiastically adopted the idea as well) in whose workforces minorities or women were "underrepresented" would make a special effort to increase their percentage by seeking out QUALIFIED persons of those groups and recruiting them. There was to be NO degradation of standards and NO quotas.

Obviously, that concept went by the way swiftly, and AA is now nothing but reverse discrimination.

The civil rights movement was allegedly dedicated to eliminating such considerations from society but, the minute special treatment could be used to the benefit of the formerly aggrieved, the goalposts moved.

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.
I didnt read the rest of te... (Below threshold)
retired military:

I didnt read the rest of teh comments but I will say this. The battle cry of the left

"If you end Affirmative action than you are just plain racist"


Hyper how about number 4

What would be the conclusion if you substituted Asians for Whites and Americans for Blacks.

4. African Americans as a subset of the total population of test takers dont study in school as much. It isnt that they are dumb. It is that as a whole they do not apply themselves to academics as much as other groups.

hyperobolist,Equal... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

hyperobolist,

Equality of Opportunity does not guarantee equality of outcome.

Your first explanation is explicitly one of equality of outcome.

Your second explanation is implicitly one of equality of outcome, in that it assumes that for a given ability at the outset of an academic program the results will be uniform, and blaming the system for failing to produce that uniformity of outcome.

Your third explanation is an invitation for others to attribute to race a physical trait or learned ability (intelligence or test taking ability) which has never been scientifically demonstrated to be racially determined (quite the opposite).

Jim:What ... (Below threshold)
James H:

Jim:

What you are advocating is that if one party injures a second, or even several or many, then it justifies injuring innocent third parties for the benefit of fourth parties who suffered no injury at the hands of the first.

Which is why, above, I stated a preference for cash damages. I said such a thing should be an option, not the only solution.

retired military @ 19,... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

retired military @ 19,

I'm not sure what you were getting at, and think you may want to try that posting again...

Actually, written tests are... (Below threshold)
James H:

Actually, written tests are kind of hairy. What if you have a system in which you have both a written test and a practical test? Members of one race do well on the written, but not quite as well on the practical. Meanwhile, members of another race do less well on the written, but generally ace the practical. Now suppose members of the first race all get promoted, but those of the second, don't. How does this all work out?

I'd like to dig up Hunbert ... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

I'd like to dig up Hunbert H Humphrey and insure that he's still spinning in his grave.

Affirmative action is a nic... (Below threshold)
Tsar Nicholas II:

Affirmative action is a nice way for spoiled-brat lefty students and their washed-up hippie professors to feel good about themselves. In real life, however, out on Main Street, it's an unmitigated disaster.

r_m, so you're alright with... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

r_m, so you're alright with blacks having on average less opportunity than whites because social factors align to make them less likely to succeed in school? "C'est la vie"?

Doesn't seem good enough to me, but then I'm someone who has a problem with society advantaging certain groups above others.

Rodney: same point, basically. Radically disparate results between two racial groups, to me, is proof that there is not in fact equality of opportunity. It implies, to me, that the opportunities are weighted towards one group over the other; that simply allowing blacks to apply for jobs/positions in schools/whatever is not giving them the same opportunity, if they are limited in opportunities via social factors from the get-go.

The choice stands: if most blacks fail a test, and most whites pass it, then either 1) the test is biased against one of the groups, 2) society has failed one of the groups, or 3) one of the groups is inherently bad at things like test-taking.

r_m's fourth option--that blacks are lazy--isn't a very good dodge of the racism charge implicit in #2 or #3. If a racial sub-set of the overall population does indeed demonstrate a propensity for not applying themselves as much in school, then either 1) society isn't working and needs to be fixed, or 2) you're committed to the view that they're lazy (and then you're a racist).

I really don't think that the United States--or much of Europe, or certain parts of Canada and Australia--will ever reach a point where blacks are viewed and treated as equals. It's too strongly interwoven into the social fabric. And so I think that it's fine to disadvantage those who otherwise benefit (and profit) from the disadvantage of blacks.

I also think that this line of reasoning can be applied to people of any group that exhibits behavioural trends that can be attributed to cyclical poverty/disadvantage as a result of systematic discrimination--i.e. aboriginal peoples and women. I would make an exception for the loser descendants of slave owners, because maybe some people just deserve to be treated badly. Kidding (sort of)!

James,If ... (Below threshold)
Kenny:

James,

If you have a "skills test" with such widely disparate results when examined by race, then, IMO, it's worth seeing whether there is discrimination at work.

I didn't say it's automatically discrimination. It's just worth seeing whether the test is jury-rigged somehow.

There are cases where such results are held up as per se evidence of discrimination, but I'm not really comfortable with that contention.

It is too bad that neither the EEOC or the court systems shares your opinion. To the EEOC, if the lowest group scores less than 80% of the highest group, it is evidence of discrimination. Period. The 9th circuit agrees.

I remember many years ago when NUMMI wanted to open a manufacturing plant in Stockton, CA. They offered good wages, and an automatic boost after 4 months of training/probation. But to be hired you had to pass a test showing english reading comprehension and math skills, mostly adding and subtracting fractions. Nearly half the applicants failed the math part of the test, mostly latinos failed, mostly whites passed. Is that test racist? Would you really want to buy a car partially built by someone who couldn't read the schematics/instruction or set up the equipment correctly?

As for your hypotheticals, it is not something I would sue over, or file a complaint with the EEOC. I would probably talk with management to understand why they think race has any bearing on doing the job, and see if policies would change to remove it.

Sadly, with the EEOC rules, and the entrenched lefties supporting it, we probably cant kill AA, although it should be.

I repeat, judge people based on their actions and abilities, not skin color.



Tsar_Nicholas II, actually,... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

Tsar_Nicholas II, actually, Main St. is a disaster because capitalist robber-barons pillaged the treasury and sent all the jobs overseas. It's not the fault of affirmative action that factories are closed and 401ks were wiped out during the recession. University professors didn't tank your economy and steal all the loot and farm out all the decent blue collar jobs.

Rodney is right, r_m. Your post #19 basically states that blacks are lazy and predisposed to failure. Give it a re-think.

Rodney,Eq... (Below threshold)
Kenny:

Rodney,

Equality of Opportunity does not guarantee equality of outcome.

Absolutely right. Also note that in general, conservatives look for equality of opportunities, while liberals look for equality of outcomes in judging whether something is 'fair' or not.

hyperobolist lives down to ... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

hyperobolist lives down to his self selected nic with:

Main St. is a disaster because capitalist robber-barons pillaged the treasury and sent all the jobs overseas.

Which is absolute drek.

The monies payed out of the treasury have primarily done so as transfer payments.

The Robber Barons shuffled from this mortal coil long ago.

Jobs have gone overseas because it is more competitive (read less costly due to taxation and regulation) for employers to do so.

AA is one of the regulatory hurdles which encourages companies to manufacture overseas.

University Professors were indeed running the big investment houses, Treasury, Fanny/Freddy etc. that got us into the bubble and recession.

Finally, should I need someone to restate my case, I'd not ask the hyperbolist to do so and suggest he refrain from such.


Hyper:Society's re... (Below threshold)
James H:

Hyper:

Society's responsibility to various groups is irrelevant when you're talking about private discrimination cases.

"University professors didn... (Below threshold)
Sep14:

"University professors didn't tank your economy and steal all the loot and farm out all the decent blue collar jobs."


No, but the ultimate bi-product of Affirmative action, Barock robber Baron Obama, continues down a path of debt to cripple future generations with a smile on his joker face, quipping on about the great job he is doing and how he needs more time to??

Finish us off??

hyperobolist wrote @ 26:</p... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

hyperobolist wrote @ 26:

r_m, so you're alright with blacks having on average less opportunity than whites because social factors align to make them less likely to succeed in school? "C'est la vie"?

Doesn't seem good enough to me, but then I'm someone who has a problem with society advantaging certain groups above others.

hyperbolist declared intend and implied malice.

Social and familial factors do have a demonstrated close correlation to success in education. Is there any reason to believe that the Federal Government could, let alone should, re-engineer elements of our culture and society to guarantee equality of outcome? Does anyone here fail to realized that it is easier to suppress achievement than it is to encourage achievement?

Rodney: same point, basically. Radically disparate results between two racial groups, to me, is proof that there is not in fact equality of opportunity. It implies, to me, that the opportunities are weighted towards one group over the other; that simply allowing blacks to apply for jobs/positions in schools/whatever is not giving them the same opportunity, if they are limited in opportunities via social factors from the get-go.

You might be able to make a case if society at large were ostracizing the group in question. At one point it was unarguably so.

Feel free to make a case that society at large is acting cohesively to suppress "minorities" when large sections of the nation (such as my Native Bay Area) have NO "Majority" ethnicity whatsoever.

Further, should a sub-culture choose to make itself less academically and professionally competitive, is the larger culture (and are the more competitive sub-cultures) to be penalized to bring about the equality of results you are basing your judgment upon?

The choice stands: if most blacks fail a test, and most whites pass it, then either 1) the test is biased against one of the groups, 2) society has failed one of the groups, or 3) one of the groups is inherently bad at things like test-taking.

Asked and answered. But to recap:

Your first explanation is explicitly one of equality of outcome.

Your second explanation is implicitly one of equality of outcome, in that it assumes that for a given ability at the outset of an academic program the results will be uniform, and blaming the system for failing to produce that uniformity of outcome.

Your third explanation is an invitation for others to attribute to race a physical trait or learned ability (intelligence or test taking ability) which has never been scientifically demonstrated to be racially determined (quite the opposite).


r_m's fourth option--that blacks are lazy--isn't a very good dodge of the racism charge implicit in #2 or #3. If a racial sub-set of the overall population does indeed demonstrate a propensity for not applying themselves as much in school, then either 1) society isn't working and needs to be fixed, or 2) you're committed to the view that they're lazy (and then you're a racist).

I'd like to see retired military clarify his position before we start down that path.

I will note, however, that we do not live in a unitary culture.

I really don't think that the United States--or much of Europe, or certain parts of Canada and Australia--will ever reach a point where blacks are viewed and treated as equals. It's too strongly interwoven into the social fabric. And so I think that it's fine to disadvantage those who otherwise benefit (and profit) from the disadvantage of blacks.

That view, that non-black races are inherently racist, is itself an attribution of behavior due to race and thus racism.

I also think that this line of reasoning can be applied to people of any group that exhibits behavioural trends that can be attributed to cyclical poverty/disadvantage as a result of systematic discrimination--i.e. aboriginal peoples and women. I would make an exception for the loser descendants of slave owners, because maybe some people just deserve to be treated badly. Kidding (sort of)!

Socioeconomic attributions of racism? Last I knew money neither knew nor cared the race of the persons holding or spending it.

RodneyIt didnt come ... (Below threshold)
retired military:

Rodney
It didnt come out as I meant it. I admit.

IMO the vast majority of the african american population lives in cities. Most of those cities are run by democrats. 90% of the african american voters historically vote democrat and as such Dems generally stay in power. Democrats have more invested in ensuring people dont improve their lot. As a result a mindset exists in a lot of communities run by democrats historically where instant gratification is paramount. As such you have large problems with drugs, violoence and crimes in cities. That mindset rots lives and families and leads to prison or a young death for many. Things such as education which dont offer quick fixes arent as valued in those communities.

--------------

Hyper

"so you're alright with blacks having on average less opportunity than whites because social factors align to make them less likely to succeed in school? ""

Actually I feel they have just as good an opportunity as 95% of the population. The other 5% being mostly made up of those that are either born into affluence and dont squander their chances or else those few that have a natural gift for learning things in specific areas.

Unfortunately the rot that exists as I describe above leads to most of those who live in those communities to choose other paths than to use the resources available to them to better their lives. That doesnt mean that those resources dont exist.

I was born in the projects and lived all of my childhood in the inner city. Niether of my parents went past the 5th grade in school. I made up my mind as a child that I wanted something better for my life. I did well in school and joined the military.


Others have those same choices. Some dont choose to take it.

--------

Hyper if you want inner city children to do better than a good start would be vouchers so that parents can use the free market to get kids out of the lousy education system and give those schools a reason to actually do better. Right now no such reason exists and affirmative action doesnt improve the situation for the vast majority.

Further, should a sub-cu... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

Further, should a sub-culture choose to make itself less academically and professionally competitive, is the larger culture (and are the more competitive sub-cultures) to be penalized to bring about the equality of results you are basing your judgment upon?

I wonder at what point did American blacks collectively decide--by vote, perhaps?--to do badly?

I still don't think you've answered the question with which I tried to answer your question. You're not a fan of measuring things by the quality of outcomes--and I agree with this to a certain extent. I don't think every single person deserves the right to succeed when pursuing an education, because some people are stupid (to be mean about it). But when most blacks fail a test that most whites pass, that is empirical evidence of either a deficiency on the part of black test-takers (i.e. they're inherently incompetent); that society has cooked the books against them; or that the test isn't written to be fair. So, which is it? Is it just that some people aren't studying hard enough for that test, and by sheer coincidence that group of slackers are wildly disproportionate in terms of racial/ethnic composition? Or is it that society has failed, and it behooves society to fix itself? Because if it is broken, then--if what you care about is opportunity--it does fall upon everyone else to mend it. Not because non-blacks are inherently racist--but because there can be no equal opportunity so long as one group is inherently better off in terms of probability for success. Or is it just that that particular test is bullshit, and not written to not bias one group over another, and therefore ought to be thrown out or revised?

Your last point missed mine, which is to say, I don't think that race is the only factor by which people can be systematically disadvantaged in terms of opportunity. Gender is relevant too, as is the fact that people born into poverty do not have the same opportunity to succeed as people born into wealth. You care about equality of opportunity? Great. I'm glad you share my concerns about injustice.

r_m, for your reply to make sense, you'd have to believe that FDR and LBJ made poor people's lives worse in order to reinforce their respective voting bases. That's not the case, so, QED, right?

I get where you're coming from but despite how bad the public education system is, there isn't evidence that letting people choose their schools produces better outcomes.

http://www.balloon-juice.com/2011/05/18/public-goods-are-shared-goods/

And defenders of vouchers now even acknowledge that but say it isn't the point--that the point is freedom, even if freedom makes things worse. Hurts the brain.

hyperobolist writes:<... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

hyperobolist writes:

I wonder at what point did American blacks collectively decide--by vote, perhaps?--to do badly?

No "vote" is required. A decision to reject mainstream culture and carry on a sub culture which does not value education and a work ethic carries with it consequences. Failure to foresee those consequences does not negate those consequences.

Compare and contrast, if you will, Chinese immigrants (to take but one example). Most arrive here with no real cash reserves, but with a cultural imperative to work and improve their status through education. The University of California through their EO/AA policies actively discriminates against the children of these immigrants who have strong test scores and academic achievement.

In what way is this good for our society and our business environment?

I still don't think you've answered the question with which I tried to answer your question. You're not a fan of measuring things by the quality of outcomes--and I agree with this to a certain extent. I don't[sic] think every single person deserves the right to succeed when pursuing an education, because some people are stupid (to be mean about it).

The benefits of education accrue less to those with greater native intelligence than to those with the work ethic to take advantage of the benefits of education. Finishing college is often less about native intelligence than about staying the course and completing the program.

EE/AA has effectively discounted that credibility by ensuring equality of outcome.

Failure is miserable, but it is also a learning experience. I have seen folks who had never failed (more often never been allowed to fail) who could not cope with failure, who could not pick themselves up, brush themselves off, and re-engage. Protecting people from failure and the learning experiences accompanying failure is not doing them any favors in the long run.

But when most blacks fail a test that most whites pass, that is empirical evidence of either a deficiency on the part of black test-takers (i.e. they're inherently incompetent); that society has cooked the books against them; or that the test isn't written to be fair. So, which is it?

Your attributions as to cause are too narrow.

Is it just that some people aren't studying hard enough for that test, and by sheer coincidence that group of slackers are wildly disproportionate in terms of racial/ethnic composition? Or is it that society has failed, and it behooves society to fix itself? Because if it is broken, then--if what you care about is opportunity--it does fall upon everyone else to mend it. Not because non-blacks are inherently racist--but because there can be no equal opportunity so long as one group is inherently better off in terms of probability for success. Or is it just that that particular test is bullshit, and not written to not bias one group over another, and therefore ought to be thrown out or revised?

Or have You have determined a desired outcome and thus are rejecting out of hand what may really be an objective measure based on the actual outcome?

Your last point missed mine, which is to say, I don't think that race is the only factor by which people can be systematically disadvantaged in terms of opportunity. Gender is relevant too, as is the fact that people born into poverty do not have the same opportunity to succeed as people born into wealth. You care about equality of opportunity? Great. I'm glad you share my concerns about injustice.

Sex and race share one common characteristic. Both are readily identifiable by direct observation. Socioeconomic background rather less so. I have no objections to programs which work to counter socioeconomic factors (such as school vouchers) as long as they are blind to race, sex, and (sub) culture.

As regard justice, it applies only to individuals, and is then best tempered by mercy. The right to attempt to achieve is accompanied by the possibility of spectacular failure.

r_m, for your reply to make sense, you'd have to believe that FDR and LBJ made poor people's lives worse in order to reinforce their respective voting bases. That's not the case, so, QED, right?

Only if you do not believe in unintended consequences and in the purity of political motivations. I will note for the record that purity and LBJ should not be used in the same sentence without a negation.

Hyper"there isn't ... (Below threshold)
retired military:

Hyper

"there isn't evidence that letting people choose their schools produces better outcomes."

If by choice you mean one public school over another than I might believe you.

Private schoools consistently outscore public schools on academics. In addition, the atmosphere is more condusive to learning as those who cause impediments to learning can be shown the door.

Tell me again what public schools Obama, Clinton, Bush, and members of congress send their kids too.

HyperName the last... (Below threshold)
retired military:

Hyper

Name the last preident that didnt go to Harvard or Yale.

Also wasnt one of the lefts talking points against Palin was that she went to a community college instead of an Ivy league school.

I knew we were echoing a ca... (Below threshold)
James H:

I knew we were echoing a case with this discussion of tests, and I found it: Ricci v. DeStefano.

My position, restated and shortened, is that if a putatively objective skills test results in some form of disparate impact, then a person affected by that impact should certainly be entitled to bring a case if he suspects discrimination.

But I remain uncomfortable with the "disparate impact" measurement, as it strikes me as an unsound way to measure discrimination.

Furthermore, I believe that affirmative action needs to fade in the next generation. While it has been useful to remedy past evils, we are reaching a point where it is using that utility. Among the reasons: multiracial families are becoming more common, and the question of who qualifies as a particular race is becoming a more difficult question.

So let me get this straight... (Below threshold)
Ryan M.:

So let me get this straight: Equality of outcome should trump actual ability to do the job. Just like the places that reduced the minimum physical requirements of firemen so more women could meet them, regardless of whether those reduced physical requirements were good enough to do the job.

Also. .

James, I woudl think you woudl be much better than claiming a large number of ACCUSATIONS equals "THe accusation must have merit" Especially in this day of frivolous lawsuits and ambulance chasing lawyers looking for out of court settlements to go away.


Rodney for President!... (Below threshold)
epador:

Rodney for President!

Or haveyYou have determi... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

Or haveyYou have determined a desired outcome and thus are rejecting out of hand what may really be an objective measure based on the outcome?

Yes: the desired outcome is a test that affords reasonable opportunity for success to a test-taker regardless of their racial/ethnic background. That's the only outcome. Doesn't matter if a particular black person fails, but if most black people fail, then the test is a failure. Objectively.

As regard justice, it applies only to individuals

Tell that to every Aboriginal North American/Australian. That's not the case. Justice is often meted out to and by groups that share common characteristics. What you meant to say is "I would prefer that justice were only applied to individuals", but that is not how ethics and the law operate.

And as for LBJ's intentions, I don't think they were as pure as FDR's. But certainly they did benefit the lower-middle class, and there is no evidence anywhere to suggest that he was attempting to create a permanent Democratic majority. Unless you consider being decent to poor people to be crass and cynical political opportunism.

r_m, I have a problem with private schools full stop because, like you and Rodney, I care about equality of opportunity. A rich kid did nothing to earn his/her spot in a prestigious academy, just as a poor kid did nothing to deserve being thrust into an underfunded inner-city public school. So do away with the private schools, and voila, public schools get better students, more money, and better staff. I know you disagree with this, which goes to show that what you care about isn't equality of opportunity, but--quite simply--a lack of government interference in the affairs of moneyed people.

Ryan M., your point would be a valid one if you could cite something that demonstrates a reduction in efficacy of fire halls in states where they were forced to diversify their crews. (The bigoted grumblings of white male fire-fighters doesn't count.) Otherwise, boo hoo. My uncle is a brigade captain in Ottawa and bitched and moaned when they were forced to hire Asians and women, but lo and behold, Parliament remains standing. He was just upset that they didn't bring his drinking buddies' kids into their cushy union. AA in situations like that is a great way to break up Good Ol' Boys' clubs and end nepotism. Without it, that department would never have hired women or visible minorities, regardless of how well they performed.

epador,Oh hell no.... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

epador,

Oh hell no.

I enter my Full Sherman response: If nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve.

I had written:<blockq... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

I had written:

Or have You have determined a desired outcome and thus are rejecting out of hand what may really be an objective measure based on the [actual] outcome [failing to match your desired outcome]?

To which the aptly self named hyperbolist replied:

Yes: the desired outcome is a test that affords reasonable opportunity for success to a test-taker regardless of their racial/ethnic background. That's the only outcome. Doesn't matter if a particular black person fails, but if most black people fail, then the test is a failure. Objectively.

So a test which was designed to fulfill arbitrary quotas by race would be fine in your estimation since it would result in your desired equality of outcome.

I ask again: In what way is this good for our society and our business environment?

I had written: As regard[s] justice, it applies only to individuals
To which the aptly self named hyperbolist replied: Tell that to every Aboriginal North American/Australian. That's not the case. Justice is often meted out to and by groups that share common characteristics. What you meant to say is "I would prefer that justice were only applied to individuals", but that is not how ethics and the law operate.

History is replete with settled peoples being overrun by waves of immigration. The historical phenomenon is not isolated to the Americas (viz Cortez and Pizzaro) nor to Australia. Europe's history is replete with "barbarian invasions" from the East. Asia's history is replete with such examples (and the Mongol hordes drove out the peoples who became the invading barbarians of Europe). The Middle Kingdom was repeatedly invaded and invaded its neighbors.

Justice had and has NOTHING to do with it.

Western society in general, and the English Speaking Mafia in particular, make great efforts to deal justly with their citizenry. Quotas enforcing equality of outcome are in no way just.

r_m, I have a problem with private schools full stop because, like you and Rodney, I care about equality of opportunity. A rich kid did nothing to earn his/her spot in a prestigious academy, just as a poor kid did nothing to deserve being thrust into an underfunded inner-city public school. So do away with the private schools, and voila, public schools get better students, more money, and better staff.

That would be re-enforcing failure.

California is near the very top of the nation in terms of per student spending, and has some of the lowest graduation rates and worst test scores to show for it. Private schools, particularly the Catholic schools, do much better and with lower per student budgets drawing primarily from the same "poor kid" who you complain is "...thrust into an underfunded inner-city public school."

Let the parents choose. Give them a voucher for the funds the state would pay for public school and let them spend that voucher on the school of their choice for their children, and let the market take it from there.

I know you disagree with this, which goes to show that what you care about isn't equality of opportunity, but--quite simply--a lack of government interference in the affairs of moneyed people.

How about less government interference in the affairs of ALL THE PEOPLE.

Who (other than you) said a... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

Who (other than you) said anything about "quotas"?

If when controlling for all other variables, a white person is more likely to pass a test than a black person, then the test is flawed. Period. It's not about fulfilling quotas. It's about equality of opportunity--remember, that state of affairs you purported to care about so much?

You then lose the plot entirely when you ask me to explain how this would be good for society and our business environment. Issues relating to social justice necessarily trump the concerns of the captains of industry. It's a moral question, and you're changing the subject when you try and subjugate it to the bottom line.

"Justice had and has NOTHING to do with it."

That doesn't make any sense. I had assumed that we're both committed to the view that our civilization is superior by virtue of how we treat one another compared to, say, the right-wing Islamic or collectivist Chinese alternatives. That other tribes were decimated and then systematically exploited on other parts of our planet is not justification for doing the same thing ourselves--because we're better. It's not about competitive advantage, it's about justice, which transcends juvenile arguments like "But they did it too!"

"That would be re-enforcing [sic] failure."

No, society as it currently stands reinforces failure. It's called cyclical poverty. Anyone who cares about equality of opportunity--as you claimed to do--has a problem with cyclical poverty, regardless of how much the free market depends on it for cheap labour pools. "Letting the market take it from there" means leaving an unconscionable number of students behind, and dooming them to a lack of opportunity. And you have a problem with that, because you're not a bad person, right?

As for Catholic schools: a) I went to one; b) it was better than the alternatives; c) my parents should not have had the right to divert their tax dollars into a separate education system regardless of how deeply intertwined the Catholic Church may be in the thread of my country. (To a much greater extent than it is in your country's, I must say.) A Conservative candidate for the premiership of Ontario was defeated because he had the intellectual honesty to say that if Catholics are entitled to their own school boards, then so too are Muslims and Orthodox Jews, and people went ape-shit and he lost to our shitty, spineless Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty (he of the 15% approval rating!). It's a shame that John Tory (he of the apt last name) lacked the political courage to say the right thing, which is no religious schools. Religion is and ought to remain a private affair--learn it at home and in church.

Rodney,Let the ... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

Rodney,

Let the parents choose. Give them a voucher for the funds the state would pay for public school and let them spend that voucher on the school of their choice for their children, and let the market take it from there.

So how does the market take care of everything? This sounds like an empty free market response that avoids the whole issue. The market doesn't really do anything, Rodney. Your answer takes a whole slew of historical, political, social, and geographic factors and pretends that the magical free market will solve all problems. It's a non-answer. It's not just a matter of choice or shopping on the open market when it comes to education. There are plenty of communities/populations--whether in inner city LA or Eastern Kentucky--whose education systems are notoriously underfunded, year after year. These issues require a bit more than the idealistic and ideological stock responses of Milton Friedman.

Hyper"So do away w... (Below threshold)
retired military:

Hyper

"So do away with the private schools, and voila, public schools get better students, more money, and better staff. I know you disagree with this, which goes to show that what you care about isn't equality of opportunity, but--quite simply--a lack of government interference in the affairs of moneyed people.
"

This would not cause better schools. It would merely be dumbing down to the lowest denominator instead of raising to a higher standard. You wouldnt get more money because of the fact that the schools are funded through tax dollars where as people who pay for private schools still pay their taxes to public schools.

Private schools (since they are private) can get away from the crap classes that are taught in public schools and enforce a strictor curriculm and standards on the students. Public schools cant because of the beaurocracy and law suits which can prevail. Hard to sue private schools for curriculum when you can are paying and can go elsewhere instead.

Some cities are spending as much as $13k or more on public school education per pupil. My proposal would be something like this.
Meanwhile private schools have tuition in those same cities for as little as $4k per year.

Split yearly cost of 1 student in half. Say 10k for ease.
$5k goes to vouchers to parents that want them to send kid to private school. $5k goes to the school which the student would have went to.

What do you have now.

a. Smaller class sizes in public schools
b. More money being spent per pupil in public schools

Win win

The only one that loses are

a. Teacher unions - fewer teachers teaching in public schools and more teachers in private schools.

b. Democrats who cant control curriculum as much and who loses power to brainwash kids into their way of thinking.


It seems to me any test for... (Below threshold)
John:

It seems to me any test for a position should be geared toward the skills required for the position not the race of the test taker. So I take exception to the notion that any test that consistenly has higher scores for whites is in fact flawed. Per Hyper "If when controlling for all other variables, a white person is more likely to pass a test than a black person, then the test is flawed" If you recall not that long ago a very accomplished African American, Bill Cosby, was very critical of the notion in some African American communities that doing well in school was "acting white" and therefore to be shunned. I also remember recently that DC which has historically poor schools had a very successful school choice program that was espcially effective in the African American community, do we all remember what happened to that program? The elites in DC (who all send their kids to private schools) decided it was inappropriate for regular DC residents to have "choice".

Hyper -I spent two... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Hyper -

I spent two years maintaining computers in a local public school system. Even though it's an economic stretch, we're running the little guy through a private school with good academics (he's doing more in 7th grade than I did in 12th...) because it was my observation that the public system was NOT functioning as it should. (And hey, we were zoned for a school that was at 39th percentile in the 49th ranked state.)

Ain't my job to try to drag the local school system up, but it IS my job to make sure the little guy's got the best possible education he can get. When you've got public school teachers telling you that private school's the way to go, you know there's something badly wrong with the system.

And sometimes, you can't just throw money at the problem. One common problem that the teachers in the poorer-performing schools I took care of mentioned is that they couldn't discipline the kids. The students knew that there was no penalty for backtalk, non-performance, moderate disruption in class - and they took advantage of it. Plus, it wasn't considered politically correct to have students that really were there to learn separate from those there who didn't want to learn - so there were few classes that didn't have some sort of disruption above around 8th grade.

You can have equality of opportunity - but equality of outcome is never guaranteed as long as there's any sort of variable in the amount of effort the student is willing to put forth. If the student won't study, that's not the fault of the teachers.

The aptly self named hyperb... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

The aptly self named hyperbolist asks:

Who (other than you) said anything about "quotas"?

You have assiduously avoided the term, but your repeated assertion that a test cannot be valid unless certain minimum percentages of one "racial" group or another pass it is a de facto quota.

If when controlling for all other variables, a white person is more likely to pass a test than a black person, then the test is flawed. Period.

Leaving aside the issue of "controlling for all other variables" (which is major handwavium) you are still setting an equality of results standard of validity.

That remains a de facto quota whether you choose to admit it or not.

It's not about fulfilling quotas. It's about equality of opportunity--remember, that state of affairs you purported to care about so much?

Which equality of opportunity you are evaluating based on the equality, or lack thereof, of outcome. If the outcome does not match your pre judged value (a de facto quota) for representation it cannot meet your requirements for "equal opportunity."

You then lose the plot entirely when you ask me to explain how this would be good for society and our business environment.

Indeed. You don't seem to believe that society and business are best served by the most qualified candidates being selected regardless of race, creed, or color.

Issues relating to social justice necessarily trump the concerns of the captains of industry. It's a moral question, and you're changing the subject when you try and subjugate it to the bottom line.

Social Justice?

Like they had in the Socialist Paradise of the Soviet Union? Such as that enjoyed even now in Cuba?

I suppose there is a certain justice to everyone being equally miserable and poor, from a certain warped perspective.

The freedom to succeed carries with it the opportunity to fail, sometimes to fail miserably. The outcomes are not equal, and cannot be absent an outside force tipping the scales.

"Justice had and has NOTHING to do with it [displacement of settled peoples by subsequent waves of immigration."

That doesn't make any sense.

Then you raised a red herring which we are now done discussing.

[in re hyperbolists proposal that all private schools be closed in favor of public schools which perform worse than their private competitors]"That would be reenforcing failure."

No, society as it currently stands reinforces failure.

That really depends on which subculture of the society one is speaking of. Some of the sub-cultures, despite being economically disadvantaged, are doing quite well. Others spectacularly less so. Public Education as it currently is practiced is a one size fits all bureacracy vice a useful tool for educating our young and preparing them for the business world.

It's called cyclical poverty. Anyone who cares about equality of opportunity--as you claimed to do--has a problem with cyclical poverty,

I want to remove barriers to success.

regardless of how much the free market depends on it for cheap labour pools.

The United States economy these days is driven less and less by products produced by unskilled labor. Our most productive and fastest growing economic segments require a work force which is educated and technologically savvy. Industries which require "cheap labour" have already mostly departed these shores.

"Letting the market take it from there [sorting the successful schools from the failing schools as parents take their children, and their education voucher, to the schools they deem best for their children]"
means leaving an unconscionable number of students behind, and dooming them to a lack of opportunity.

Only the state knows what is best for our children when it comes to their education? Really?

And you have a problem with that, because you're not a bad person, right?

I don't believe that would be the outcome. What say we start some serious experimentation and see if the State is really a better judge of such matters than parents are?

As for Catholic schools[given as an example of private schools]: a) I went to one; b) it was better than the alternatives; c) my parents should not have had the right to divert their tax dollars into a separate education system regardless of how deeply intertwined the Catholic Church may be in the thread of my country. (To a much greater extent than it is in your country's, I must say.)

If tax dollars are being collected for the purpose of educating our children, is not the effective education of those children the FIRST priority and all else commentary?

If the Catholic schools of your upbringing were superior to the alternatives, why shouldn't the opportunity for that education (partial payment in the form of a voucher) be available to all?

A Conservative candidate for the premiership of Ontario was defeated because he had the intellectual honesty to say that if Catholics are entitled to their own school boards, then so too are Muslims and Orthodox Jews, and people went ape-shit and he lost to our shitty, spineless Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty (he of the 15% approval rating!).

Shift to a voucher system and school boards lose significance as parents select the school they feel is best for their children.

It's a shame that John Tory (he of the apt last name) lacked the political courage to say the right thing, which is no religious schools. Religion is and ought to remain a private affair--learn it at home and in church.

More aptly, education should not be a Government monopoly.

I'm declaring the education digression of this discussion of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity closed. If you (and others) really want to have a discussion of Education (there was a thread about it last week as I recall) I'll consider posting on the subject.

Trying to address equal opp... (Below threshold)
John:

Trying to address equal opportunity after secondary school is 12 years too late. Our liberal friends want to lower acceptable test scores for employment, or other standards to meet the job expectations, but don't want to give under privleged childern opportunities to escape failing government schools.

Clarify something for me, R... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

Clarify something for me, Rodney: do you presently believe that African-Americans have the same opportunity as white Americans? Or do you agree that there are still systematic barriers to success for members of that group? I believe that such barriers exist, and that passing laws to strike them down is only ostensible equality, not substantive equality. When can you tell that equality of opportunity is, in fact, a reality--and not just an abstraction for judges and/or congresspeople to feel good about? When outcomes start to track in a positive direction. Otherwise there is no reason to assert that a society does in fact afford equal opportunities to disparate groups.

Also, do me a favour and avoid the ad hominem equivocation of 'social justice' with hard-line authoritarian communism. Social justice involves things such as civil rights, the abolition of child labour, and women's suffrage. Social justice is a pillar of any functional liberal state, including the United States. So do try to avoid derailing an otherwise interesting discussion by way of McCarthy-esque hand-wringing.

If the Catholic schools of your upbringing were superior to the alternatives, why shouldn't the opportunity for that education (partial payment in the form of a voucher) be available to all?

Because radically illiberal schools could offer even better education! Is this seriously an argument you're willing to defend? That so long as your kid is performing well, it doesn't matter to you what are the religious underpinnings of that academy? You're in favour of allowing Islamic schools in the United States? I'm not in favour of allowing them in Canada.

Anyway, I didn't see the post a week ago as I haven't been keeping up on this blog. Changed jobs, settling into a new apartment with my girlfriend and 60 of her favourite pairs of shoes, etc.. Thanks for the reasoned and thoughtful replies.

James, I woudl thi... (Below threshold)
James H:
James, I woudl think you woudl be much better than claiming a large number of ACCUSATIONS equals "THe accusation must have merit" Especially in this day of frivolous lawsuits and ambulance chasing lawyers looking for out of court settlements to go away.

I concentrated my search on cases in which discrimination is at issue, especially given the criteria of searching for something "recent." Anything within the last few years is going to still be in the "accusation" stage as it winds its way through the court system, or will be settled with no specific admission of misconduct by defendants.

Don't you have some social ... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Don't you have some social problems to address in Canada, Hyper?
Like the systemic predudices against the indegenious peoples...
Or are you just unterested in tossing rocks at other people's windows?

Or do you agree that the... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Or do you agree that there are still systematic barriers to success for members of that group?

Oh, I believe there are MAJOR barriers to African-American success. And they're imposed upon themselves, by themselves.

You have hip-hop culture. You've got rap. You've got a general disrespect for the idea of even learning English, much less history and math, or even adherence to the rule of law. Marriage is laughed at, actual 'family values' scorned. The culture, as Bill Cosby tried to point out one time (and got slammed severely for it) is severely flawed and one that's damn near deadly to anything other than subsistence living. You've got a significant lack of role models in the AA community apart from sports figures and rap stars.

It's hard to feel sorry for someone who voluntarily cripples themselves to 'fit in with the crowd', and then complains later that they can't run when called upon to do so.

What's the answer? Hell if I know - because past a certain point the schools have no further influence. You have peer groups becoming far more important, and a communal culture that places emphasis on the street over the school. You can't force someone to learn when they see no advantage in it. Those that do escape the trap are seen as race traitors, Uncle Toms, all sorts of fun phrases to emphasize to those who'd dare stick their heads up that THEY aren't really BLACK.

So yes - there's still systematic barriers to success - and they'll be the hardest to dismantle because they're self-imposed. How do you break the chains a slave willingly forges for himself, and insists make him 'free'?

Does the fact that I post h... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

Does the fact that I post here on the subject of American socio-economics precludes me from doing the same on Canadian blogs, SCSI? Don't be so obtuse. I'm firmly on the reparations side of the "What to do about First Nations' Peoples?" debate in Canada in case you care--and you don't, so why I bothered to inform you of that, I'm not sure.

You've got a general disrespect for the idea of even learning English

Just to be sure, JL, are you talking about black people in cities or white people in rural towns? And are you really saying that there's a "right way" to speak English--and that it's white Americans that have it figured out? There are several hundred million people who might beg to differ.

As for black people scorning family values, I assume you feel the same way about white people who get divorced? (My point: nobody in America seems to care about actual family values, but one vocal minority has gotten quite good at pretending to do so.)

Anyway, I do get the gist of your point about elements of black culture perpetuating a self-defeating cycle of failure. There are positive elements, though--take the rapper Common, for instance--but racists (actual, demonstrably racist people) like Rush Limbaugh can't distinguish between them and Eazy-E. Could have been a great teaching moment for a lot of black youth--hey, a successful rapper with street cred but artistic vision and a genuinely hopeful and positive message performing at the White House!--but the right-wing media went and turned it into "street-hustlin' black President hosts violent dickhead". Doesn't matter that they lied, it's what a lot of people now believe to be true.

So: there are obstacles to black people breaking the cycle of poverty, and some of those exist in the consciousness of "normal" "mainstream" "real" Americans.

hyperbolist,I'm di... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

hyperbolist,

I'm disappointed.

Me too, Rodney. Common repr... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

Me too, Rodney. Common represented a genuine teaching moment for America but then Limbaugh et al had to go and transform him in the public eye into Malcolm X. For shame.

Hyper -Your moral ... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Hyper -

Your moral equivalence is disturbing - rather like looking at a train wreck and comparing it to a fender bender between two Priuses, and calling the severity equal.

http://blackandmarriedwithkids.com/2011/05/05/four-myths-about-black-marriage-debunked-just-in-time-for-jumping-the-broom/

From the comments - "oh PLEASE. 30% getting married is pathetic. That still means 70 PERCENT OF BLACK WOMEN remain unmarried...and usually it's the man that asks the woman to be his wife, so that means 70% of black women are not wanted by their own men. And the article itself points out that in online and offline dating black women are approached the LEAST by all men. A steady rate of something over the last 10 years is NOTHING to be proud of if the rate is a rate of nearly total failure! If our children come home with 30% scores on tests for the past 10 years, are we going to congratulate them for keeping a steady pace of EXTREME FAILURE for the last 10 years???? smh Black people need to stop trying to find a way to turn UGLY TRUTHS on their head and face it and fix it instead. 70% of women left in the lurch is ridiculous, cause technically that then means only 30% of black people in this country should be having children, and we know that's not what's happening! Get a grip. It should be 70% of us MARRYING not the other way around!"

"way too many of us black folk condone t his shacking up and having kids as teens with different dads. I am married 19 years and have a 19 year old college attending daughter. It aint all roses but we push through and i mean through cancer, surgeries, everything all for validating our marriage our daughter"

Slight difference between getting a divorce and never getting married in the first place.

"And are you really saying that there's a "right way" to speak English--and that it's white Americans that have it figured out? There are several hundred million people who might beg to differ."

When the schools I used to go to had signs up reminding elementary kids to use 'school speech', and when I ask the teachers it's because the speech they use at home is so inflected that it's not going to be understandable outside their neighborhoods, then yes - I DO think there's a more or less standard version of the English language. That English is used as the standard for international aviation communication indicates that there's an overall 'acceptable' English standard worldwide. With regional accents taken into account, I can understand and be understood by folks from Hawaii to the Pac Rim to Australia to India, the ME and Europe - while urban cant... can't.

If you refuse to learn math, you can't kick if you find yourself disqualified for jobs where it's a priority. If you refuse to learn French, you'll probably have a heck of a time getting at job in France. If you refuse to learn carpentry skills, it's unlikely you'll be hired as a carpenter. If you don't learn to read, your chance of getting a job as an editor is pretty slim.

I know you're pretty heavily soaked in your moral equivalency marinade, but could you at least TRY to understand that reality doesn't give a damn about ideology?

Hyper"So: there ar... (Below threshold)
retired military:

Hyper

"So: there are obstacles to black people breaking the cycle of poverty"

The biggest obstacle for anyone to suceed can be found simply by looking in the mirror.

If you want to suceed then you take the steps to do so and dont give up until you achieve it. Will everyone become a millionaire? no. Can anyone who tries really hard become a millionaire? Yes if they the steps and make the nescessary choices to do so.

JLawson,First of a... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

JLawson,

First of all, long time no see around these parts. Mostly because I have been slammed this semester. Ok, onto the discussion...

"Oh, I believe there are MAJOR barriers to African-American success. And they're imposed upon themselves, by themselves."

I don't buy this argument at all. Granted, personal choice/responsibility is one factor, but your argument dismisses all sorts of other factors and just blames poor people for being poor (an argument that has been around at least since Herbert Spencer). That might explain some cases, but I do not think it tells us much about persistent poverty among specific social groups. There has been consistent poverty in places like LA, Detroit, the rural south--not to mention predominantly white communities in places like Eastern Kentucky--and explaining all of this away as a factor of bad life choices or "culture" doesn't really add up to me. There's more to it.

"The culture, as Bill Cosby tried to point out one time (and got slammed severely for it) is severely flawed and one that's damn near deadly to anything other than subsistence living. You've got a significant lack of role models in the AA community apart from sports figures and rap stars."

But is there really just one "culture" among African Americans that we can identify with specific characteristics like this? No, there isn't. These are generalizations, and while they may apply in some cases, I do not think this is all that helpful in trying to explain and understand poverty, lack of education, etc, overall. This same kind of argument is applied to poverty among whites as well, by the way, and it's no more useful.

"It's hard to feel sorry for someone who voluntarily cripples themselves to 'fit in with the crowd', and then complains later that they can't run when called upon to do so."

Agreed. But this argument does not just apply to one social group--this isn't some inherent trait of African Americans or any other group. There are plenty of people from numerous cultural/ethnic groups that this applies to.

"So yes - there's still systematic barriers to success - and they'll be the hardest to dismantle because they're self-imposed."

So a kid goes to a school in a community where the education system is atrocious. The teachers are terrible, the infrastructure is terrible, and the neighborhood is ridden with crime and drugs. There aren't too many jobs, and often kids either do poorly in school or do not finish. This has been a persistent problem for decades. You really think that the kids who come out of such a place (whether in Michigan or Mississippi) are simply dealing with "self-imposed" barriers? Really? Why not at least consider other factors?

Sorry for all the questions and the long-winded post.

retired military,"... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

retired military,

"The biggest obstacle for anyone to suceed can be found simply by looking in the mirror."

Maybe in some cases, but this does not really give us all we need to know about the roots of poverty. This argument is purely ideological. Yes, personal responsibility matters, but you can't just ignore everything else going on because you *believe* that we can all succeed if we just try hard enough. It would be wonderful if this was the case, but it's not. Hard work and effort can lead to success, but it's by no means automatic. If persistent, brutal, hard work and sheer persistence *did* automatically lead to success, then we would have a lot more immigrants from places like Guatemala who were millionaires. Ironically, not too many of them are getting rich despite their drive, work ethic, and motivation.

"Can anyone who tries really hard become a millionaire? Yes if they the steps and make the nescessary choices to do so."

Sorry, but this is complete, sheer, utter nonsense. Is this really an argument you believe? If you know the steps it takes to become a millionaire, please share. You know, a lot of you guys get on "the liberals" for making pie-in-the-sky arguments*, but when it comes to this whole discussion about poverty and "hard work," some of you guys start making argument that are so idealistic it's shocking. Seriously.

*Yes, I do think that there are plenty of liberal folks out there who make inane, highly ideological arguments and who have silly beliefs. But they don't have a lock on ideologically driven beliefs and arguments, that's for sure. Plenty to go around. Just wanted to keep the record straight.

Hi, Ryan A!This th... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Hi, Ryan A!

This thread may be dead, but let me address your points:

"Granted, personal choice/responsibility is one factor, but your argument dismisses all sorts of other factors and just blames poor people for being poor (an argument that has been around at least since Herbert Spencer)."

Bullshit. I'm not blaming them for being poor - I'm blaming them for making choices that ensure they STAY poor. Millions of immigrants arrived here without a pot to piss in, yet managed to pull themselves up and make successes of themselves. The main thing that powered them was a DRIVE to succeed, and do what it took to do that. They made decisions, and acted on them. One of them was, in many, many cases, to abandon the language of their homeland and make sure THEY learned English, or if they couldn't, their childred did.

The most important factor is the choice to learn. If the student chooses not to learn - FOR WHATEVER REASON - then they're screwed, and no amount of money thrown at the system will fix that.

"So a kid goes to a school in a community where the education system is atrocious. The teachers are terrible, the infrastructure is terrible, and the neighborhood is ridden with crime and drugs."

The thing was - the teachers WEREN'T terrible at the elementary level. The schools were equivalent in effect until right around junior high. And then something changes - the street has more influence than the school. Once being cool with the 'right people' becomes more important than grades - the student is fucked.

There's only so much that can be done. The opportunity is there - it's been there for decades. And it was taken advantage of - there used to be a very thriving black middle class up until the early 60s. Education rates were going up, there was a solid core in the inner cities. Something changed in the '60s - I've got my own ideas about it, but you tell me what you think. (Think 'unintended consequences' of good intentions.)

But in brief - personal choice/responsibility is one factor, and from that one factor depends a lot of others. If a culture rejects education because it's 'acting white', if a culture rejects responsibility - then there's little to no hope for progress.

But there ARE signs of hope...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlKL_EpnSp8

In another post to RM, you said -

If you know the steps it takes to become a millionaire, please share.

They're simple. Get a job. Learn and progress in it. Save your money in a 401k or IRA. Make savings a priority. Monitor your IRA or 401K to make sure you get as high a return as possible. Get married to someone who has the same savings values you do. Keep working. Buy less house than you can afford. Keep saving. Buy good used cars, not new - or if you buy a new car keep the thing for at least 10 years. Don't keep up with the Joneses - buy stuff used or on sale. Pay extra (if you can afford it) on your mortgage - pay off the house and then put that monthly payment in your 401K.

Over time, your savings will add up. In my 401K currently, even with the crappy economy we've got now, I've got investments that are doing pretty well. (Fidelity Advisor Equity Income T - 9.44% YTD, Fidelity Advisor Freedom 2050 T - 8.66% YTD, 31.23% in the last year. Wish I'd had more of my money in that one...)

But get that 401k started ASAP. Time is your friend on that - and I started way late...




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