Sadly, the national conversation on race has to start here

a liberal attempt to meet conservatives where they are


This week a number of conservative opinion-leaders took up President Obama’s challenge to have a national conversation on race. “You want a conversation, you got it,” Bill O’Reilly retorted combatively, denouncing “race hustlers and the grievance industry” and arguing that President Obama “has no clue at all about how to solve problems within the black community.”

That may not have been the response liberals were hoping for, but it’s the one we got. So OK, let’s start there: not just with O’Reilly, but also Rush Limbaugh, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, and the National Review’s Victor Hanson. Together, those four represent a significant and diverse audience on the Right, not just one guy popping off.

And they paint a unified picture, which I will call the Response. I suspect most of my liberal readers won’t get far into those links before tripping some rhetorical land mine that makes it impossible to keep paying attention calmly, so let me abstract the Response’s main points:

  • Slavery ended a century and a half ago. Back in the 1960s, we got rid of Jim Crow, and made explicit discrimination against blacks illegal. So that’s all ancient history and isn’t relevant to today’s problems. O’Reilly: “you cannot … design effective public policy that solves present problems by dwelling on the sins of the past.” Rubin: We should “not be held prisoners forever in a past that most Americans have never personally experienced.”
  • The ongoing problems of the black community are its own fault and can only be solved by blacks making better individual choices: getting off drugs, renouncing violence, and forming traditional families that take responsibility for their children. O’Reilly: “The reason there is so much violence and chaos in the black precincts is the disintegration of the African-American family. Right now about 73 percent of all black babies are born out of wedlock. … White people don’t force black people to have babies out of wedlock. That’s a personal decision; a decision that has devastated millions of children and led to disaster both socially and economically. So raised without much structure, young black men often reject education and gravitate towards the street culture, drugs, hustling, gangs. Nobody forces them to do that; again, it is a personal decision.”
  • Young black men are racially profiled by police and private citizens like George Zimmerman, not because of racism, but because they commit more crimes. Hanson: “The president knows that if it is true that African-American males are viewed suspiciously, it is probably because statistically they commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime.”
  • Blacks would rather blame whites for their problems than accept their own responsibility. Liberal politicians and black community leaders pander to this denial and stir up black anger against whites to further their own careers. Rubin: “I think it is time to stop using this both as a crutch and as a method for stirring up [Obama’s] base. … I thought we had gotten to the point where whites, blacks, Republicans, Democrats realized that there are certain problems in the African-American community that need to be addressed, but that at this point — however we got here — we’re here and we should start working on them: start having policies that are family-friendly, start having policies that if not reward at least encourage young men to take responsibility for the children they create. And instead, no, he’s there telling them it’s slavery or Jim Crow or something else. It’s really a horrible message.” O’Reilly: “Race hustlers and the grievance industry have intimidated the so-called ‘conversation’, turning any valid criticism of African-American culture into charges of racial bias. … It is now time for the African-American leadership, including President Obama to stop the nonsense. Walk away from the world of victimization and grievance and lead the way out of this mess.”
  • The same politicians and leaders show no interest in the victims (even black victims) of crimes committed by blacks. Hanson: “The world will long remember Trayvon Martin, but few people — and certainly not Barack Obama or Eric Holder, who have a bad habit, in an increasingly multiracial country, of claiming solidarity on the basis of race — will care that Khin Min and Lina Lim were torn to pieces by bullets and a knife. Few will care that they died in a vicious assault that had nothing to do with stereotyping, Stand Your Ground self-defense, weak gun laws, insufficient federal civil-rights legislation, or any of the other causes of interracial violence falsely advanced by the attorney general — but quite a lot to do with an urban culture that for unspoken reasons has spawned an epidemic of disproportionate violent crime on the part of young African-American males.”
  • Liberals want whites to feel guilty about racism, but the vast majority of today’s whites have nothing to feel guilty about. Limbaugh: “It’s time for all this white guilt to end. … White guilt is doing nothing for anybody, and white guilt is not solving anything. And besides that, a little history lesson for you: If any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it’s Caucasians.”

I’ve done my best to make a fair summary; if you hear something else in those links, think I have taken the quotes out of context, or believe I’ve constructed straw men that don’t really represent what conservatives think, please comment.

How to answer? First, let me say that I’m not surprised that a number of liberals reacted with anger. As I said, the four pieces (and many others) are filled with barbs that seem designed to shut down the conversation rather than move it forward. The in-your-face tone is most obvious if you watch O’Reilly; the topic seems to call for sorrow, but by the end of the segment he has worked himself up into a rage.

One advantage I get from being white is that it’s easier not to take those barbs or that anger personally. If my everyday experience included racial slights that sometimes progressed into unforgettably ugly incidents, I probably couldn’t listen as sympathetically to the conservative view.

But I’ve chosen not to return insult for insult and anger for anger because I’m not focusing on O’Reilly, Limbaugh, Rubin, and Hanson themselves, but on the audience of more-or-less well-meaning whites — some of whom I grew up with — who hear the Response and think: “That makes a lot of sense.” Angry blasts from the Left, I know, just harden them in that point of view.

First reply: Who are you arguing with? It’s tempting to jump into details of the Response and start disputing facts. But the most poisonous parts of the Response are the unstated assumptions behind it, not the particular details. If I argue facts and leave those assumptions unchallenged, new facts can be found (or stretched) to fill the gap.

What assumptions? Well, listening to the Response, you get the impression that someone — maybe Obama or “race hustlers” like Jesse Jackson — is arguing the opposite side: Someone is telling blacks to blame whites for all their problems, look to the government for salvation, and not accept any responsibility themselves.

That’s just not true. In reality, no one is making that case.

That may be hard to believe if you’re a white conservative who only sees black activists in the clips Fox News decides to air. But last summer, for example, Jesse Jackson said this:

Each year … about 7,000 African Americans are murdered, more than nine times out of 10 by other African Americans. … If a foreign foe took these lives, we would mobilize armies and armadas to stop them. But here, because much of this violence is contained in racially concentrated neighborhoods, there is too much resignation and too little outrage.

It wasn’t an off-the-cuff remark. Jackson was announcing marches in 20 cities to draw attention to the violence problem. After the Justice-for-Trayvon marches conservatives asked: Why don’t black leaders organize marches against black-on-black violence? Well, they do. Fox just doesn’t cover it.

And did you know that Barack Obama said this?

You and I know … that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled — doubled — since we were children. We know the statistics — that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.

That was in 2008 when he was a candidate. He has stuck with that message as president. In a commencement address to all-male, historically black Morehouse College this May, Obama again pushed graduates to take personal responsibility rather than use racism as an excuse:

We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. And I have to say, growing up, I made quite a few myself. Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. I had a tendency sometimes to make excuses for me not doing the right thing. But one of the things that all of you have learned over the last four years is there’s no longer any room for excuses.

When they address black audiences, the President and the First Lady have held so steady on that personal-responsibility theme that other blacks sometimes criticize their “finger-wagging tone“.

So if you’re white and get your racial information from conservative sources — especially if you live in a suburb or rural area far removed from the inner city — let me (and Tim Wise) suggest that you are being fooled. Black leaders who speak out against racism are not making the whitey-caused-all-our-problems argument.

It’s not an either/or. Believing that white racism is still a problem doesn’t mean that you think blacks are helpless victims who can only plead for whites to change or wait for the government to save them.

In short, there is no “grievance industry”.

Does the Response have any constructive point? My fellow white liberal Tim Wise calls the Response “white deflection”, because it doesn’t lead to any positive action. White opinion-leaders telling their white audiences that blacks are to blame for their own problems — that’s an excuse for turning the whole discussion off rather than solving anything.

Republicans control one house of Congress and the entire governments of the states that contain Philadelphia, Detroit, Houston, and Milwaukee. If they are in fact deeply concerned about the disintegration of the black family or inner city unemployment or black-on-black violence — if those issues are more than just excuses for whites to ignore racism — what constructive proposals have they put forward?

Bill O’Reilly is the exception that proves the rule: He followed up the piece I quoted with his plan for solving inner-city violence: “the feds should criminalize all gun crimes and impose strict mandatory sentences upon conviction” — as if this punish-them-harder idea is brand new and not what we’ve been doing for decades.

OK, maybe conservative office-holders aren’t proposing anything because they don’t believe in government solutions. Fine, but what about private efforts to discourage violence or promote education or help families in poor urban neighborhoods? Conservative media voices could be telling you which ones work and where you could effectively volunteer or send money. But they seldom do, because they are just raising these issues to shut off an uncomfortable conversation, not turn it in a more constructive direction. Conservative pundits will stop talking about black problems as soon as the Trayvon Martin controversy fades, because all they really want is for the topic to go away.

Black-on-nonblack crime. In the Asian-American murders Hanson discusses, he knows the perpetrator was black because the man was caught and charged without any public outcry. No one needed to march or protest, because the system was working fine.

To make Hanson’s case similar to Zimmerman/Martin, you’d have to assume that police found an armed black man standing next to the bodies, believed his story, didn’t immediately secure the area as a crime scene or canvass for witnesses, and let the man go until protests and bad publicity forced them to arrest him.

But of course that didn’t happen. It never would.

White-on-white? Yes, 93% of ten murdered blacks are killed by other blacks. But the same Justice Department report says (on page 13) 84% of murdered whites are killed by whites. This is why The Guardian’s style guide bans the term black-on-black violence:

imagine the police saying they were “investigating an incident of white-on-white violence”.

Again, that would never happen.

Racism in the justice system is real. Once you get past all the distracting noise, you’re left to deal with the facts of racism in the justice system. And I’m not just talking about the fact that blacks are more likely than whites to be in prison. (Those statistics cut both ways; they can be used to claim that blacks commit more crimes than whites.)

No, I’m talking about facts that are much harder to explain away:

  • Black murderers are more likely to be executed than white murderers. A report by the Death Penalty Information Center said: “The researchers found that, even after controlling for case differences, blacks in Philadelphia were substantially more likely to get the death penalty than other defendants who committed similar murders. Black defendants faced odds of receiving a death sentence that were 3.9 times higher than other similarly situated defendants.”
  • Juries are less likely to believe black self-defense claims. Anecdotally, many are contrasting George Zimmerman’s successful self-defense plea with John White’s unsuccessful plea in a black-on-white killing and Marissa Alexander’s unsuccessful stand-your-ground claim in a black-on-black case. Statistics tell the same story: Juries are most likely to accept self-defense claims when whites kill blacks, least likely when blacks kill whites.
  • Blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates, but blacks are four times more likely to be arrested for it. And communities that decriminalize marijuana tend to have small black populations; apparently, smoking pot is less serious when whites do it.
  • Crimes mostly committed by blacks are likely to carry far higher punishments than similar crimes mostly committed by whites. The most famous example is crack cocaine (popular among blacks) vs powder cocaine (popular among whites). For years, getting caught with 99 grams of powder would get you a lower sentence than 1 gram of crack. In 2011, the 100-to-1 ratio was reduced to 18-to-1.

That final point can be pushed a lot further if you’re willing to look at crimes that are harder to compare: Street crime carries far higher penalties than white-collar crime. A black pickpocket who steals your wallet is a lot more likely to go to jail than a white banker who illegally forecloses on your house. In fact, the number of crimes committed by corporations and the over-representation of whites in corporate management casts doubt on the claim that blacks commit more (or more serious) crimes than whites.

Group guilt. I still haven’t touched Limbaugh’s comments on white guilt. Actually (ignoring his trolling about slavery) I agree with a big chunk of what he said: Whites sitting around feeling guilty doesn’t help anybody.

But who’s asking us to? If you think the point of the Martin protests is for you to feel guilty for something your ancestors — or maybe just people who superficially resemble you — did a long time ago, I don’t think you’re getting an accurate account.

Here’s the actual point the Martin case has raised: Blacks still suffer unfairly from racial stereotypes. Those stereotypes have deep roots in slavery and Jim Crow, but the damage is here and now. Because of those stereotypes, whites are way too quick to assume that blacks are up to no good, that blacks deserve any misfortune they get, and that the best way to deal with black people’s problems is to punish them harder. Whites are too slow to consider a black person’s point of view and too slow to take seriously any problem that mainly affects blacks.

Here’s what you’re being asked to do about it: Personally, introspect to see how those stereotypes live and function in your own mind. (Here’s a place I notice it: When some jerk cuts me off in traffic, I get a bigger surge of anger if it’s a black jerk, like that’s some separate category entirely.) When you have to make a decision about a black person — whether you’re on a jury or a hiring committee — notice your tendency to jump to unfair race-based conclusions and try to resist it.

Politically, join the fight for justice. Help us roll back unfair laws and change processes that produce unfairly skewed results. Help us create the equality of opportunity that American ideals demand. And if you think an underlying obstacle to opportunity is drugs or bad parenting or whatever, find some constructive way to work on that, rather than use it as an excuse to do nothing.

And finally, if it makes you mad that someone might hold you responsible for things other white people did, use that resentment to understand how blacks feel when they are racially profiled. Unlike the largely imaginary white guilt, profiling has real effects. As you read these words, innocent young blacks are being stopped and frisked for weapons by New York police, not on suspicion of any specific crime, but because people who superficially resemble them have done bad things in the past.

You reject racial guilt in your own life. Take a principled stand and help other people fight it too.

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Comments

  • Nancy Browning  On July 29, 2013 at 10:04 am

    I love your analysis! Thanks for referring to Tim Wise. The only thing missing is at least a mention of “white privilege,” which I know you are aware of, as I read your great blog discussing privilege a few months ago. Whites shouldn’t feel guilty about something like slavery that they have no connection to, but I can understand why whites would feel “guilty” for having privileges that people of color don’t. For any readers who don’t know what I mean, please go to http://www.isr.umich.edu/home/diversity/resources/white-privilege.pdf and read Peggy McIntosh’s article on white privilege, or at least skim through the list of privileges that whites get, such as not being followed in stores, etc.
    Also, did you realize you are writing to a presumably white audience? I wonder how a person of color would feel about that aspect of your piece. Otherwise, great, and I’ve shared in on Facebook

    • weeklysift  On July 29, 2013 at 11:58 am

      A longer post is in the works where I’ll claim that personal guilt is the wrong model for thinking about privilege. It’s better thought of as a collective shame issue.

  • Dave Lance  On July 29, 2013 at 10:29 am

    The relationship between the culture of Africa and the culture of Western Europe has to find its way into this conversation. Regardless of the fact that the African culture in question was kidnapped and enslaved into this American microcosm of that relationship, this thing you are discussing is still a subset of it. So it warrants mention. And thanks for pointing me at a dictionary to look up “bloviating.”

  • Dave Lance  On July 29, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Read the whole report, but pay particular attention to the conclusion. Sound familiar? http://aei.pitt.edu/7152/1/002386_1.PDF

  • Dave Lance  On July 29, 2013 at 11:24 am

    “Bloviating.” Good word Doug.

  • annamadeit  On July 29, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Amen! Add to that that public schools in impoverished, and often minority areas currently are further penalized and often shut down in the name of “school reform”. This does NOTHING to help turn the ship around – au contraire – it further perpetuates and institutionalizes the stereotypes. We need to stop working backwards.

  • Mike Ignatowski  On July 29, 2013 at 11:49 am

    I really like you attempt to understand what people are thinking by restating their arguments as clearly as possible. I wish more people would do this as a regular practice.

    One thing I noticed after reflecting on the Response is that it’s almost entirely phrased as an “us vs. them” viewpoint. Instead of saying that the black society needs to reform itself, why not at least say “some elements of OUR society needs reforms”. That’s a total different view of the world, one that I have a hard time imagining will keep audiences as mad and motivated. It is more likely to lead us towards discussing solutions though.

  • Doris Smith  On July 29, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Doug, Thank you so much for this summary. Rooting out racism in our institutions is a hard job, but that does not mean we shouldn’t try to change attitudes.

    doris

  • samuraiartguy  On July 29, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    As I mentioned on my FB linking to this item, this is probably the best and calmest thing i have seen on race relations in a LONG time. One of the things that I’ve observed over the years is that race relations suffer in tougher economic times. When minority, working class and poor people feel they are competing for a shrinking share of the big pie and face increasing financial insecurity with diminished hope of digging out, the level fear and hostility to those perceived, or portrayed, as “other” goes up.

    As a mixed race person, I’ve found that the prevailing level of fear and hostility in any given group seems to determine whether or not I am “claimed” and accepted as a member of the group, or looked upon with suspicion and uncertainty as an outsider, as much as my own conduct.

  • Anonymous  On July 29, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this. As a black person who spends a lot of time having dialogue with liberal whites, I think that this helps both of us reframe our anger towards the conservative banter.

  • Harriss  On July 31, 2013 at 10:43 am

    “Here’s what you’re being asked to do about it: Personally, introspect to see how those stereotypes live and function in your own mind. (Here’s a place I notice it: When some jerk cuts me off in traffic, I get a bigger surge of anger if it’s a black jerk, like that’s some separate category entirely.) When you have to make a decision about a black person — whether you’re on a jury or a hiring committee — notice your tendency to jump to unfair race-based conclusions and try to resist it.” Ok. But do you honestly expect the average person to not feel guilt for thinking these things, or perhaps hearing what you’re saying and feeling like they’re being accused? Maybe that’s not how they should react, but it’s how they will. So no, we’re not being asked to feel guilt, but how do you really expect these kind of accusations to be perceived? In my mind there are two likely reactions A. Defensiveness (Limbagh, O’Reilly etc..) B.Guilt (Don’t you feel guilty for thinking those things about black drivers?) As far as I can see, lots of people ARE feeling guilty. So you can talk till you’re blue in the face about how they shouldn’t, or that they aren’t being asked to, but they do. And this is a natural reaction, not useful, I agree, but natural. You have to meet those people where they are too. It’s not enough to just say, “No one is asking you to feel guilty”, because they’re feeling it regardless.

    • Harriss  On July 31, 2013 at 11:04 am

      Just thought I’d add, it doesn’t seem to me that white guilt is, as you say, imaginary. It seems pretty clear to me that it exists. If what you meant is that it mostly exists in the minds of white people, and doesn’t have real world consequences the way stereotypes of blacks do, then makes more sense to me, but I’m not sure I’m in complete agreement there either.

      • Dave  On July 31, 2013 at 12:05 pm

        White Guilt only exists if you don’t understand or know the situation. If you live in racially isolated neighborhoods like upstate NH (AHEM DOUG). Surveys have been done that talking about this and the amorphous “white guilt” is virtually contained in relatively racially homogenous areas like New England mid-west (curiously not the northern states like Montana, Idaho, etc) and the west coast. What is ALSO interesting is that “white guilt” is almost always phrased in relation to Blacks. People in California, espc southern Cali do not have a sense of “white guilt” against Mexicans. Why is this? Simple. People who live with them (black or Mexican) experience them directly for who they are. As much as the north likes to mock the south for being ignorant, the south knows more than the north ever will about black culture and the black race. That is why “white guilt” doesn’t exist outside of liberal enclaves in isolated white communities. It’s because people experience the culture pure and simple. My advice to anyone experiencing “white guilt” move out of your racially white enclave and into a black neighborhood. You’ll get that guilt cleaned out REAL fast.

      • weeklysift  On July 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm

        Dave, I’m in the center of NH’s southernmost city, Nashua. Still not a large black population, but not exactly “racially isolated”. We also have a considerable Hispanic population, including the folks across the hall. Knowing only a few words of Spanish, I often have no idea what the conversation in the elevator is about.

      • weeklysift  On July 31, 2013 at 12:44 pm

        Harriss: By “imaginary” I meant, as you guessed, “without consequences other than the ones you impose on yourself”. You’re right, that’s not the best choice of words.

        The phenomenon of white guilt is something I plan to write more about in the future. In general, I think Liberal Guilt (of all forms) and Denial (of the reality of privilege) go hand in hand: People deny the existence of their privileges because they think the alternative is some kind of endless self-flagellation. Educating people about more productive ways to think about privilege would help everybody, I believe.

    • weeklysift  On July 31, 2013 at 12:56 pm

      “Don’t you feel guilty for thinking those things about black drivers?” Guilt isn’t the right word. If I’d expressed that surge of anger by yelling something abusive at the driver that I wouldn’t yell at a white who did the same thing, then I’d feel guilty. But I treat these reflexive responses the way I treat lots of other habitual mental malfunctions — like when I turn the wrong way (for the Nth time) because the store used to be over there. Maybe it’s an age thing; by your mid-50s, you get used to the idea that your reflexes are often wrong.

      • Sam Martins  On July 31, 2013 at 3:09 pm

        If I can interject here for a second. I think the point that Dave makes is a valid one. First, Nashua has a population of 86,000 people (I’m rounding here) 2.7% of which are black. The average income for a household is 60k and the average income for a family is 76k. Doug, this isn’t exactly the ghetto here. And more importantly, the blacks who can afford to live here are more like you. The upper, affluent class. Of course you’re not going to get the breadth of experience that people who live with the average black individual and see their culture because the upper class affluent blacks you are neighbors with (all 2.7% of them) are just like you. Or, to quote some black talking heads when speaking about Justice Clarance Thomas “they’re uncle toms” (I find that characterization even more offensive than the n-word because you’re maligning someone for succeeding and suggesting that only “true” blacks refuse to succeed). If you lived in New Haven around the university, I’m pretty sure you’d have a completely different outlook on the situation. And that is Dave’s point. The idea that “white guilt”, or, as you suggest in a soon to be followup article, “collective shame”, is something that needs to be dealt with comes mainly from people who know blacks who are like them (eg. affluent and successful). So, from your point of view it doesn’t make sense to see blacks as anything other than your successful affluent neighbor, and this is why the elite liberal characterization of blacks as being “discriminated” against or having “untrue stereotypes” flourishes; because you only read those things on your neighbors, who for all intents and purposes are just like you, and it doesn’t make sense to you to apply those things to people just like you. That’s simply Dave’s point. If every liberal on TV like Chris Hayes had to live a year in New Haven or The bad places in Chicago, I’m pretty sure we’d be having a different conversation. And to pretend like you live in an “ethnic diverse” community because there are 2.7% blacks and 9% Hispanics (of any origin [eg. Spain as well, which aren’t the Hispanics we’re talking about) for a whooping total of 11.7% is just disingenuous. What I’d like to see is a defense of why Chinese don’t engage in the same behaviour as blacks. They were enslaved (the RR construction in California. They were discriminated against). Or why the Native Americans don’t engage in the same behaviour as well.

      • weeklysift  On August 1, 2013 at 9:41 am

        Averages hide a lot. My building has a housing project on one side of it and subsidized veterans’ housing on another. There are subsidized units in my building — that’s how the developer got public money to convert the mill to apartments. Downtown Nashua is ringed by commuter subdivisions that pull our stats up, but that doesn’t mean that everybody who lives here is professional class.

        I spent six years in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, which (like Yale in New Haven) was an academic island surrounded by ghetto (moreso then than it is now). When I got on the El, it had just come from a ghetto stop and would make others before I got to the Loop. I had a car stolen and two bicycles; friends occasionally got mugged. Other friends were part of a group housing effort on the “wrong” side of the Midway. My wife had a couple of confrontations on the street that fortunately she escaped from.

        So, I don’t see your point. I also don’t see why you’d rather talk about the Chinese than about white racism. As I said in the article, that seems like a way for whites to wash their hands rather than part of any constructive dialog.

  • Sam Martins  On August 1, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    True, and I concede that averages do hide a lot, but, like you said, it’s not like Hyde park. Your having experienced the neighborhoods, in my opinion, gives you greater leeway to talk about these issues. However, I don’t think that you can deny that the difference between having your car stolen, some bikes, friends mugged, and your wife accosted on the streets wouldn’t happen so frequently in your current neighborhood. And I think that this bears some stressing because, from everything I have read and have seen, this is the single sticking issue with regard to this “conversation”. Ignoring that this happens more frequently in black neighborhoods is ignoring a big part of the question. I know that that is not PC to say, but it is true. We can argue about a number of causes, but, ultimately the responsibility rests on the black community.

    One of the excuses I see thrown about is that poverty causes this. I concede that, if it were simply a manner of petty thieving, I could (and the broader population could) get behind programs. But it’s not. Anyone who says “poverty” made them rape…is just wrong. And this folds into the second part of the discussion I’ve heard: That poverty is caused because the black communities have a dearth of gainful employment. Again, I concede that this is true, and it probably has something to do with the issues, but, again, I point out that what that excuse is basically saying is that because businesses refuse to invest in the black community, the black community is failing, but it ignores the fact that businesses refuse to invest in the black community because they have a higher rate of being robbed and vandalized. You can’t blame a small business for seeking the best environment for its establishment.

    And this goes to your final point in the article: Stereotypes. I concede that historically, the stereotypes of blacks have been based on fiction. It was used to justify slavery, and jim crow. “White man’s Burden” and all that. However, I would argue, and I think the data supports me on this, that the stereotypes TODAY of black individuals are, at the very least, based on some factual information. It’s not like people make up the fact that the black neighborhoods are more crime ridden, this is true. It’s not like people make up that a black individual is *more likely* to commit crimes that a white individual (again, I’ve heard arguments about this and how the data is applied. Table 43A of the FBI crime stats list 6.5 million crimes by whites and 2.6 million crimes by blacks. Blacks are 12% (39million) of the population while whites are 72%(220 million) of the population, that gives a per population rate of: White – 2.9% and black 6.6%. Thus I basically have to walk by *roughly* twice as many white people as black people before I run into someone who has committed a crime). Again, this is roughly done, but it shows the overall perception is NOT incorrect. Thus, I would argue that the stereotypes of black people TODAY are based more on empirical data than they were in the past. This must be addressed in the conversation, any conversation that makes this a non-issues or makes excuses is not a conversation.

    Finally, as to the Chinese and Native American populations. I think the question is on point and I’ve noticed that Liberals tend to fall back on the “oh, this is just an excuse not to talk about issues” when the issues being brought up are “unacceptable” to them. I’m not asking it because I want to say “well, the Chinese don’t do X, why should I care about blacks then”. I am bringing it up to say that the Chinese suffered under white oppression (and certainly the Native Americans did), and yet, they do not have the same amount of trouble that the black community does. And it’s not so simple as to say “oh, they don’t have racism against them”. Yes, they have. I would argue that racism against the Chinese and Native Americans is less than that towards blacks mainly because of the above mentioned statistics. As soon as those go down, you will see prejudice eliminate so fast against the black community that you will be surprised. But it is up to THEM to do it.

    Thank you for your time

    • weeklysift  On August 2, 2013 at 11:11 am

      As I said in the article, it’s not an either/or. The black community has problems it needs to deal with, and white racism is real. We can’t refuse to talk about our part of the problem until after they solve their part of the problem.

      • Sam Martins  On August 4, 2013 at 8:18 pm

        Ahh, I see what you’re saying, and you have a point. But the question that naturally flows from that is: What if our “racism”/”prejudice” (I’m not talking about the dyed in the wool KKK) is based on their behaviour as mentioned above in my previous posts?

      • Sam Martins  On August 4, 2013 at 8:19 pm

        How can one discuss the white “racism” when it stems directly from black behaviour?

      • weeklysift  On August 5, 2013 at 5:54 am

        I don’t see how that accounts for the evidence I presented in the article. When whites and blacks do the same things, blacks get arrested more often and punished harder.

        Stereotyping is NEVER the best way to look at a situation; it’s at best a quick rule-of-thumb for dealing with something you don’t want to think about too hard. That’s one of the lessons I learned in Hyde Park. When I moved there, I was afraid of blacks in general. The longer I lived there, the better I got at figuring out who WASN’T a threat.

        That became obvious once when friends from high school visited me. I took them to a restaurant I liked and they freaked out, because we were the only whites in the room that particular evening. But the blacks in the restaurant weren’t looking for trouble, they were looking for dinner. We were safe.

        We’d go to a bus stop and again be surrounded by blacks, freaking out my friends. But looking around, who were they? People on their way to work. A young couple in love. They weren’t interested in us. We were safe.

        So even if your stereotype is based on facts, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working to improve it. It’s a crude, quick-and-dirty response to the facts. And we let those stereotypes stay unrefined, because who suffers from them? Mainly blacks. And who cares about them? That’s the subtle racism that underlies a lot of the white side of the conversation.

      • Justin Siemaszko  On August 5, 2013 at 2:34 pm

        “I don’t see how that accounts for the evidence I presented in the article. When whites and blacks do the same things, blacks get arrested more often and punished harder.”

        Using a simple metric of use vs arrests doesn’t take into account the details of that usage or those arrests.

        A quick glance at my rapidly-gentrifying 20001 zip code might be of some help here. I can say with certainty that all the incoming wealthy people (largely white, but mixed heavily with asian, black, and indian) tend to be pretty drug-friendly, to say the least. The area’s amount of coke and pot consumption per-capita has probably gone up if due to nothing more than increased yuppie buying power. In the dozens of arrests I’ve seen, I also can’t say that I’ve seen anyone but black people being arrested. It would be easy to say at a glance that there’s a bias happening, but more attention needs to be paid.

        Here’s the difference: In 3 years living on my block, I’ve never once seen a white guy walking down the street smoking a blunt. I’d be willing to bet we could find a black guy smoking in my alley or on the sidewalk in only a few hours. The “white people” (used here to denote privileged gentrifiers of all races) are all using at private parties or indoors, and low-key because it’s DC and everyone’s got a job that requires maintaining a certain facade. They also don’t buy from guys selling out of cars with black tinted windows and armed escorts. Meanwhile, there’s a very visible portion of the local black population that’s effectively begging to be arrested by very blatantly disregarding the law while in public space.

        As weird as the drug laws are, and as skewed as they might be, I’ve never been affected by a tweaking coke addict, I’ve never seen one take a s#@t on a bus, and I’ve never caught one stealing my bicycles. Meanwhile, crackheads in my neighborhood are a very real and constant threat that do all of those things. It’s not unfair to suggest that the laws are different because the user bases of those nearly-identical drugs behave very differently from each other. (and I say this as someone whose home security system is currently in police custody due to a drug related shooting that took place outside my house this week.)

        I know that this doesn’t likely account for the whole bias, but it’s definitely a driving force on the side of those that want to maintain it.

  • rjacobsen0  On August 3, 2013 at 2:04 am

    I think Illdoc1 has something valuable to add to the race conversation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmdlMlRdt7Y&feature=em-uploademail-ctrl (I don’t know who Don Lemon is or what he said.)

    • weeklysift  On August 3, 2013 at 7:25 am

      “There are two types of advice that people usually give. There’s advice that you give to try and help someone with their problems, and then there’s advice that you give to help yourself feel better about not knowing how to help them with their problems.”

  • Sam Martins  On August 5, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    Well, right. I’m not saying that stereotyping is the correct term, it’s more like playing probability. You wouldn’t call someone a racist if they refused to play Russian Roulette because they didn’t like the 1 in 6 odds that they’d pull the trigger with a bullet in the chamber. Likewise, why are you calling people racists if they don’t like the increased odds that they will be victims in a black neighborhood, or that they are more likely to be victimized by a black man than a white man? All they are doing is judging probability and analyzing statistics and making the most rational decision. Why is this racist? Why is it something that whites have to “examine”?

    I guess what I don’t get is the position that you can’t make rational decisions based on statistics.

    Take your statement about your neighborhood now. Has your car been robbed? Has your wife been accosted? Have your friends been mugged? Prob not, and if so, not to the frequency as they were in Hyde Park. Have you considered the possibility that your friend’s experience was an aberration? That you all were lucky?

    There is always another side. I agree, we should be working to improve stereotypes. But what I view as stereotypes are the stereotypes that blacks are less evolved than whites, things like that. Your statement: “a crude, quick-and-dirty response to the facts” doesn’t make sense as it is a response to the facts, who cares if it’s quick and dirty? My response to burning my hand on the stove is quick and dirty, but it’s based on the fact my hand is being burned. I would argue that we haven’t let the stereotypes stay unrefined, we’ve improved them because we’ve moved beyond White Man’s Burden and all that other trash. Stereotypes are that stuff, they’re not rationally considering the facts and then acting accordingly.

    • Sam Martins  On August 6, 2013 at 1:10 am

      Also, as you also said above “averages hide a lot”. So, without showing the specifics of the arrest, the averages can mislead. Assuming, arguendo, that Blacks get arrested more often than whites do, it could have a significant amount to do with the way they use weed. They could smoke it while drawing attention to themselves while the whites smoke it in their homes. Like one of the guys in the ALCU study, he was blaring his music. Averages DO hide a lot, but they hide in both directions. So it’s not as simple as you’re making it out to be when you say: “I don’t see how that accounts for the evidence I presented in the article. When whites and blacks do the same things, blacks get arrested more often”. It’s not so much your evidence is wrong as it is your evidence presents an incomplete picture.

  • Louis Bricano  On January 10, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Here’s the problem. The left are lying when they say they want to have a “conversation” on race. What the left want is to deliver their same stale monologue: America is full of racists, America is “institutionally racist”, racism is worse than ever, we need affirmative action in perpetuity, etc. As James Taranto perceptively wrote in several Wall Street Journal pieces, the left NEED racism. I go further. I maintain the left are race-obsessed, to the point that it is itself a form of racism. Racism at its core is the belief that race matters, or ought to matter. Only the left believe that as a matter of widely shared doctrine. There are plenty of individual racists on the right, but only the left have a dogmatic belief that race matters and OUGHT to matter as part of identity. That’s racism.

    • weeklysift  On January 11, 2014 at 11:11 am

      So in order to have an “honest” conversation about race, we would have to not state our beliefs about it? How does that make any sense?

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