A review of what some black intellectuals think, in The Black Intellectual & The Condition of the Culture: A Salmagundi Symposium at Skidmore College. Fairly ho-hum secular liberal doctrine for 2020, but there are some things that are worth pointing out.
THOMAS CHATTERTON WILLIAMS:The Black Intellectual & The Condition of the Culture: A Salmagundi Symposium at Skidmore College.
Many of our most audible black voices today will say things that do sound radical. In one small—but not frivolous—example, we might use a formulation like, “people who believe they are white” in their writing.” That is not at all empty rhetoric. It’s quite radical. It’s a way of saying that whiteness is not something that is real, which is a way of saying that race itself is an illusion. […] They seldom ever display the kind of radical imagination, or perhaps just the willingness to face ridicule, that would force them to conduct their lives as though they genuinely believed, or wanted to believe, that the implications of such statements were true.
Racism is a bore for the Right Sort: the action today is with various flavours of sexual deviancy. THAT makes a good social and legal barrier between the Properly Indoctrinated and the Wrong Sort.
Also: as any Marxist could tell you, more power is can be gained by dividing people, setting one against the other. War and strife strengthens the hands of the revolutionaries, not peace and tranquility. Claiming that race is just a social construct, that all people are of equal worth, implies that all people should be equal before the law: and this is something no Marxist or Progressive will tolerate.
My father, a brown-skinned man from segregated Texas, is old enough to be my grandfather, and his grandfather was old enough to be born in the final year of chattel slavery. My mother is a pale-skinned Anglo-Saxon protestant from a bible-thumping, evangelical family in southern California. As a family, we were an island unto ourselves in a de facto segregated New Jersey town, whose white side we lived on as a form of silent protest against the attempts of various realtors to steer us across their invisible, but ultimately real, red lines. Yet despite these particularities we never questioned that ours was an unequivocally black household. Sometimes my father, a sociologist by training, would even joke, half-jest, that his wife wasn’t really white at all—she was just light-skinned, he’d laugh. Once, when I was ten or so years old, I pressed him on this, saying “Come on, you don’t really believe that, do you?” “Well, she’s got black consciousness, doesn’t she?” is what he’d say.
White is a reasonable thumbnail of “light-skinned”, and Black is a not-so-hot but tolerable thumbnail of “dark-skinned”.
(There are a lot more dark-skinned people than just people with some African decent.)
If I was a betting man, I’d put a tidy sum on that bible-thumping family being a racist family, especially before the 50s and 60s. Like most whites at the time: especially including the atheistic Darwinians and Progressives of the era.
Parenthood changes everyone, but looking back on it now, I can say without exaggeration that I walked into that delivery room as one person, and came out an altogether different man. The sight of my blond-haired, blue-eyed, impossibly fair-skinned child shocked me, along with the knowledge that she was indubitably mine. I thought of Albert Murray’s wonderful line in The Omni-Americans: “But any fool can see that the white people aren’t really white, and the black people aren’t black.” And I did feel myself to be a fool right then.
*Shrug* The man was willing to learn, in the face of evidence thrown at his face. Not such a fool, in racial matters.
Me? I’ve always been more interested in law and justice than blood and soil: and even that somewhat atavistic universe, family and tribe are more real than racial boundaries.
“So, are you more substantially related to that racist bible-thumping family in California, than to an unbelieving man of your own race?”
“It depends if said family dropped the racism. If they held on to injustice, then what do I have to do with people who put race above the Commandments? But if they ditched the racism, if they love God and Law and Justice and Mercy they are my brothers and sisters, and not an unbeliever, regardless of his skin shade or genetic ties.”
In this view, the conditions at the core of the country’s founding don’t just reverberate through the ages—they determine the present. No matter what we might hope, that original sin—white supremacy—explains everything: an all-American sonderweg.
That depends on the possibility of repentance and restitution, and to whom you are repenting before. Of course, the living victim of injustice must be compensated, but repentance must be shown to God as well, as you harmed, damaged, and/or destroyed HIS property, HIS children.
Note that Darwinian don’t really believe in repentance, or sin, or law, or anything like that. Except as social poses, to transfer more power from the Wrong Sort to the Right Sort.
The call for people to soberly acknowledge their white privilege as a self-standing, totemic act is based on the same self-justification as acknowledging one’s fundamental sinfulness as a Christian. “One is born marked by original sin; to be born white is to be born with the stain of unearned privilege,” McWhorter writes.
It is reasonable to assume that the speaker Mr. Williams, loathes the idea of original sin, or even of the idea of sin. “No law exists, and no sin exists, because of some supposed supernatural authority. The only laws that matter, and the only sins possible, are that proclaimed by the Right Sort: the only real authority that has ever existed, or ever will.”
Original sin — the fact that we as humans always lean somewhat to evil, willful blindness, lies and theft and murder and delusional levels of egoism (if we can get away from it) — is just a fact of life. The real problem occurs when you secularize it, make sin and righteous mean what you say it means, and then declare “THOSE PEOPLE are Sinners, but MY PEOPLE are Pure!”
Instead of EVERYONE turning to God for Salvation via Jesus Christ, WE turn to machine guns to eliminate THEM, to bring in paradise. As any Socialist, Red or Black, will quickly recommend.
We are a composite nation, as well as a nation of composites. And alt-right fantasies of an all-white ethno-state in Montana and the Pacific Northwest notwithstanding, we are stuck together. The racial resentments conjured and magnified by the 2016 election amount to a giant step in the wrong direction. It is impossible to deny that. But falling back into our narrow identities, even those forged by legitimate grievance, and foisted upon us by the bigotry of others, only delivers a further victory to the opponents of a healthy society.
I lack the confidence the speaker has in the permanence of the American Republic. “All Empires Fall”, and make no mistake, this is an empire, ruled from New York and Washington, D. C.
That being said, it may well outlast my lifetime, and is likely to endure for another century. After bankruptcy – North’s “Great Default” — there will be a sharp devolution of powers to the states and the counties: call it “a revolution within the form”. Rather more decentralized than today, with a lot less agreement on mores and laws: but probably no notable movement to secede from the Union.
It’s unlikely that white racism will be the ethno-nationalism that will break apart a bankrupt state with a discredited ideology. It’s just too weak, and to easily demonized and destroyed. Latino America has a better demographic, but they are more interested in assimilating into the nation, than breaking it apart.
Black Americans are uninterested in making their own independent nation or autonomous region on the American continent: what they want (if Black Collectivist) is more stuff transferred from white pocket to their own, or (if Biblical) a single standard of justice for whites and blacks alike, without biased ‘licensing laws’ or ‘PC speech codes’ or ‘drug wars’ that are geared to crush the Wrong Sort.
White Collectivists, of course, just want fewer Black
Americans humans running around, and have a certain optimal number in mind.
A more durable rejection of the racism and xenophobia animating our public life requires an appeal to a deeper, more profound, and racially transcendent humanism. This, in turn, would demand the convincing expression of shared ideals and democratic values.
I share no ideas with Our Leaders, and democratic values are only useful if they support assorted flavours of Progressivism, as any American aristocrat can tell you. Fortunately, a bankrupt state is a radically diminished state, so it will be increasingly unnecessary to run my affairs according to the dictates of my formerly powerful enemies.
My wish, then, foolish as it may be—foolish in Albert Murray’s sense, I hope—would be for as many people as possible, of all skin tones and hair textures, to turn away from the racial delusion. But I don’t think that it would be unfitting in the least for black intellectuals—who too often, for so many reasons, end up reciting an American sonderweg notion of white supremacy—to take the lead here. Not only do we have the most to gain from the dismantling of the American black/white binary, we also have scarce incentive to wait for all, or even most, of the people deemed “white” to get on board.
I am comfortable with the destruction of the ideological side of race: my focus is on what a man does, not his genetics. As for the reality of race… it just isn’t that important.
Justice is important. Mercy is important. Genetics is not that important, except as a way to cure various inheritable diseases.
[The discussion moved to Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attack on Kaynes West. Too much ‘inside baseball’ for me, but there is this tidbit:]
I think that there were still far too many who felt comfortable that Coates had the authority to come down with the tablets and make a proclamation. And I said it was Mullah-like because there is, in fundamentalist religion, an idea of correct and incorrect behaviors.
And there is no such thing as ‘correct behaviour’ – or even more to the point, ‘correct thought‘ — in Progressive and Secularist circles?
Some levels of self-blindness are frankly amusing.
[ORLANDO PATTERSON:] Blacks became, in many important respects in the public sphere, a profound presence in America. In many ways they define American society. Their influence on the popular culture is out of all proportion to their numbers; one cannot imagine popular culture without seeing black persons. A dominant part of the Democratic party is comprised of black people. We had a black president which, for me, was the culmination of this movement of blacks in the public sphere. We know a lot about failures and persisting problems, but to neglect what has happened to American society in these decades is to miss something extraordinary. I find myself wondering about all of this in my relationship with graduate students, who often talk as if nothing significant has happened. And I don’t know how to explain that.
It is good to recognize that we do not live in 1968, or even 1982.
We have to acknowledge the existing sociological and political realities, so as to acknowledge that this is a different world we’re in. This is not the old Jim Crow, and it’s ridiculous to act as though it is. But that’s where we are. Complete refusal to acknowledge the changes. We have to accept them and then ask ourselves what exactly it is that we’re dealing with here. Obviously there is a problem: we have a racist asshole as a president, he has a hoard of racists supporting him. But then racists were always there. And yet this is a profoundly different society. We cannot talk as if we’re confronting what James Baldwin saw in the 1960s. Am I wrong?.
As usual, the first thing to do is to see what is in front of your nose.
[JOHN MCWHORTER] I agree completely. Micro-aggressions are real, and there indeed needed to be a word for them. And I think that micro-aggressions are an important thing to talk about. What disturbs me is the idea that you’re supposed to collapse in front of them. I’m too old to get that. If some person gives you a funny look, or if you don’t get chosen for some group, or if somebody asks you where you’re from and you’re from Cleveland, frankly, it just doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter.
So, not all Black Intellectuals are delicate snowflakes. Good to know.
[DARRYL PINCKNEY] At the same time, it’s important for blacks in the Democratic party to think of itself as a voting bloc. If the same number of people turned out in Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Detroit in 2016 as those who voted in 2012, then Hillary Clinton would have won the electoral college. What this election showed us is that there’s no such thing as not voting. This is what you get—this kind of minority government. I don’t think that white supremacy defines most white people. I don’t even think that white privilege defines most white people.
A Master Class certainly exists… but it isn’t strictly defined by your skin colour.
Well, they are all white people in America — say, a Superclass of the 20,000 most powerful political & business executives, overlapped with the 20,000 most wealthiest families — but most white people aren’t part of the Master Class.
(Note my careful exclusion of famous intellectuals and scientists from the Superclass. Expensive, highly paid, high-status help doesn’t cut it for Mastery.)
DP: Well, I think there’s still a lot of things that black people go through that other people don’t. I haven’t lived in a black neighborhood since I was a child, and I see, in the neighborhood in which I now live, that people live very differently than the way white people live. Even the black middle class is different from the white middle class, because the black middle class is based primarily on earnings rather than assets. And that’s a big difference when it comes to fragility, stability, and what you can pass onto your children.
MJ: And how you behave.
DP: These discrepancies and challenges are real.
OP: Absolutely. Blacks are as segregated now as they were in 1970. And black schools are slightly more segregated now than they were in 1970.
Now, we’re talking about the core of the matter, accumulated wealth.
I am not worried, at least not for God-fearers… regardless of skin colour.
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.Proverbs 13:22, English Standard Version
But of course, the modern Black Intellectual has no time for God or His supposed promises.
Which means such intellectuals must rely on transfers provided by political means — “the State is the source of the law, of course” — with some Dear Leader transferring money from his class enemies, to his class friends.
And himself, of course.
TCW: To your question, as well as to the earlier point about micro-aggressions, I want to mention a moment that I included in my book: It happened when I was a newlywed with my wife, who is Parisian, and we were at her grandmother’s country house in Normandy. Her grandmother is from a much older, wealthier generation that’s accustomed to much greater ease and mastery in the world that even my wife, as a white woman, doesn’t know at all. It’s not racial so much as generational and a matter of class, representative of a time before global competition and things like that. Anyway, this woman has, on her coffee table, a porcelain head which, I realize when looking at it, is a slave head. And I think that counts as a micro-aggression: a visual representation of your inferiority in the room. But she’s super nice, she loves me, she’s extremely kind to my father, who is clearly a black man. And, in reality, we are making a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-national, multi-linguistic family work, and we love each other. And I am trying to think through and gauge how mad I am supposed to be about this thing…
Love covers a multitude of sins.
DP: Everyone’s into it now. All these Venetian lamps that people used to be ashamed of have come down out of the attic. You can’t get anything for a bargain anymore if it’s black representation. It’s true! You used to be able to pick up this stuff at auctions. And you can’t anymore because everyone’s into it.
TCW: The French love it. They never gave it up, and they never gave it away.
DP: They never hid it, either.
The French have considered themselves culturally superior for a long time, longer than the English. Even with the rise of Germany, millennium-old habits still stick around.
AUDIENCE MEMBER 2: You mentioned the cops, and the police, and the way that things have changed. And yet there is such a thing as trauma, and collective memory. The cops may not play so much a role in our present life, but there may be people in our families who have been impacted by cops and by mass incarceration. It may not necessarily be that a cop is going to take your life, or that you have to walk around wondering about that. And yet the cops exist, they can deprive you of all sorts of things.
JM: Of course. The question is whether black men are preyed upon and/or killed by the cops disproportionately to their numbers in the population. They aren’t. The facts are in.
You might call it an inconvenient truth.
JM: Sure. But the question is whether we should think of that as racialized. In 1965, yeah. In 1975, no doubt. But things do change. So yes, it’s traumatic if your father is up the river. But the question is whether that’s a black problem. And I thought it was, until about two years ago when I had a very interesting conversation with my constant interlocutor, Glenn Loury. What we’ve been fed is not true. I maintain that if we weren’t taught that particular message, then all of the other things that black people suffer—and racism has something to do with a lot of them—would not condition this idea that our responsibility is to have the same rage that Huey P. Newton did. And in terms of disproportionate incarceration, it’s complicated. Despite what Michele Alexander put forth—God bless her, I wish her well—it’s not a new Jim Crow. These issues are much more complex than they seem when you refer to people in positions of power not liking black people and deciding to lock us all up. That’s a good story, but that’s not how it works. Not anymore.
True enough. Ever since the great European slaughters from, say, the start of World War I to the death of Joseph Stalin — and on to the great European sterility/abortion drive of the 1960s to today — there just isn’t the strength to follow the old Progressive racial program anymore.
They prefer to focus on other enemies now.
M: But I’m gonna keep fighting because the numbers are crystal clear. I am not just expressing an opinion.
DP: Right. The difference between what Michele Alexander says and what James Forman Jr. says is this: Forman is saying that black communities themselves supported tougher prison laws for drug offenses. But Alexander’s not making up the numbers of black men in prison. Nobody is. That comes from somewhere.
Worthy of note.
DP: Except that the policing of black men has been the experience of black people in this country since we got here. The plantation system was organized to police the population; immediately after the Civil War, vagrancy laws were passed in many southern states and used as a tool of controlling the men who were on the roads looking for their families who’d been sold away. This policing of the black population has been a part of social policy since we got here. Nobody made that up. It’s just been around for so long that we’re looking for other reasons.
JM: But Darryl, are you really supposing that I don’t know those things or am denying them? All of those things are very real, but my question is, what now? How should we feel right here, in 2019?
DP: Obama should have pardoned all the marijuana offenders.
JM: I agree with that.
Obama was elected in part as a symbol of the legitimacy of Black American aspirations. Not to put in place programs to help Black America. (Excluding Obamaphones, which actually comes from a program under G. H. W. Bush)
JM: They wouldn’t have. You’re right. Last summer, I wrote an article called “Starbucks and the Swimming Pool.” What that was about was that every week, something you just described happens—where you know that if it had been a white kid, the something wouldn’t have happened. Every week, something like that happens to a black person: someone is barbequing on the side of a lake and someone calls the cops on them. That is real, and that is one of the things that I mean when I say that racism exists. Racist bias exists. And this is where, Margo, you and I might have a disagreement: I’m saying yes, that stuff is real, and I can even dredge up one thing that happened to me in my life, but I have a problem with the idea that those things—as opposed to the sorts of things that used to happen in the past—define your life, as well as the idea that those things constitute something that black America should be as enraged about as we were enraged before. I don’t mean this as hyperbole, and I’m getting a cold, so my voice sounds a little sharp, and I don’t mean for it to sound this way, but I’m going to say it: if any of you implies that one of those Starbucks or swimming pool incidents, or others like them, defines my life, and suggests that I should fall to pieces either in front of the person or when I go back to my apartment, I am insulted. I cannot think of any other group of human beings who are thought of as so delicate as that. So, these things ought to be decried. One of the great things about social media is that we hear about them every week. All of this has been happening forever, but now we can hear about it, and so maybe there’ll be some movement on it. But does it mean that we aren’t at home in America and that something that happens to some guy in Oakland defines his entire 50-year life? No. I feel like I have to defend that man.
“Delicate people need Strong Defenders, with Extraordinary Powers.”
I would say “That’s where God comes in!”: but the Strong Power these materialists are thinking of is not a supernatural deity.
OP: It’s our duty, also, to know just what the sociological and criminological facts are. There’s a lot of work done on death row and the death penalty. We have a pretty good idea of what the biases are. The leading scholar of incarcerations, a former colleague of mine named Bruce Weston, was the editor of what is supposed to be the definitive work on incarceration put together by the American Academy of Sciences, a 500-page volume. And there was not a single chapter in that volume on the question of violence. Interestingly, Bruce and several other criminologists have recently stated that they must bring in an understanding of the issue of violence. All studies I’m acquainted with show that the criminal justice system has profound racial biases, and that one of the main factors accounting for increasing incarceration is the fact that attorneys and prosecutors have a considerable amount of leeway in who they charge and who they don’t. That has been emphasized as a critical factor. But one has to take account of the fact that the black homicide rate is eight times greater than the white homicide rate: an unpleasant fact. We have to allow for the possibility that there may be more people in prison of a certain group because they commit more crimes. Now, we have factored that in, but the proportions are still much greater than they should be. A lot of work has been done on this, and as John said, it’s not as simple as it first appears. Even a lot of the die-hard scholars have had to backtrack a bit, and are now saying that, while there’s a strong element of racism involved, we have to consider other aspects of the situation.
Things are not as simple as they seem, once you dig into the numbers.
DP: One of the things that bothers me about Coates and his species of Afro-pessimism or fatalism is that a large part of it is grounded in the idea that black people and black culture are not pathological, that this is not an expression of any pathology. That we are healthy and society is sick. I’m afraid that this can’t be true. Ruling out the possibility of looking at black life as having pathological aspects cuts us off from exploring problems and coming up with solutions. You can’t say, “We’re healthy, but the society’s not.” It doesn’t separate that way, for me. There’s a lot of suffering that we don’t face. And mass incarceration aside, there are more poor people who are white in the United States than poor people who are black, yet black people remain the face of poverty.
You can’t look for a cure, if you insist that you are well.
OP: There’s one exception to your impression, and that’s black sociologists. Because we do spend an awful lot of time talking about class. Too much. Intersectionality is big, among sociologists—we invented the term, which takes in gender, class, race, and so on. Sometimes I feel like that’s all we ever talk about. But these are critical issues. There can be no doubt that a lot of what we’re attributing to race has a lot to do with class and poverty. And we can see that by simply making comparisons and seeing how other poor people behave. There are interesting studies contrasting the behavior of poor and working-class blacks and Latinos. That’s intersectionality
I don’t have a major issue with the concept of intersectionality.
I do enjoy a bit of enlightenment, as there is no academic field so dominated by Progressives as sociology.
The irony of sociology, an academic discipline that has long been dominated by collectivist political liberals and radicals, is this: the foundations of the discipline were laid by Edmund Burke, in his book, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). Burke was a classical liberal in his political views, a supporter of four revolutions: English, American, Indian, Irish. But he recognized before anyone else the destructive power of the French Revolution, which was founded on the twin doctrines of the rights of the individual and the role of the centralized state as the sole legitimate protector of these rights. He forecast accurately what would come in a society in which the state identified every person as “citizen.” There was no other judicial definition of an individual, and when the state classified anyone as ex-citizen, he was as good as dead. The Soviet Union repeated the procedure with “comrade.”
Nisbet observed that the conservative movement has twice gone to Burke as its source: 1790—1810 and 1953—1970. Burke’s affirmation of the legitimacy of intermediate institutions, associations, and loyalties became the touchstone of nineteenth-century European Continental conservatism and twentieth-century American conservatism. But it was not through the conservatives, but through liberals (Tocqueville, Acton) and radicals (Saint-Simon, Compte, Marx) that nineteenth-century sociology developed, with Weber and Simmel in the early twentieth century.Robert Nisbet: Conservative Sociologist, by Gary North
So, back to the discussion…
[OP] The interesting thing emerging in the sociology of black youth is that, if you ask them, “What do you think accounts for the fact that you’re in this really difficult situation?” in most cases, in over 90% of the cases, the answer is this: “I fucked up.” And when asked by the eager sociologist, with bated breath, “Well, what about race?” invariably, the answer is “Of course race is important. The police are pigs. I know all that. But that’s not why I’m in this shit.” And this has come up over and over again. And it presents quite a dilemma for sociologists. One of the funniest things is to see a sociologist who is reading his interviews and observations, and is trying to come to terms with the fact that his subjects are not cooperating with them by saying the standard thing: “Racism is what got me into this.” Sociologists then say that they are too isolated to understand how structural racism was the cause, while their subjects tend to say simply that they dropped out of school and they shouldn’t have done that, along with other related mistakes. I describe this sort of thing in my 2015 book The Cultural Matrix. It’s patronizing, isn’t it, to deny people’s interpretation of their own situation. And once they start becoming intellectuals—and some of them do become intellectuals—they do start to realize that race is a central factor in their lives. And that’s true, structural racism is an important factor in the reality and the persistence of the ghetto. But I can also tell you that almost every sociological study of non-intellectual black youth comes across this dilemma, where people will not attribute their problems to racism. As intellectuals, of course, we are in a different situation. We know that this situation exists, that perception can be highly individualistic, in a way that can be annoying to sociologists.
Interesting. People know who they are, and where they are, and why they are where they are.
It is the academics with a Big Plan who don’t have a clue.
“A priest is a priest is a priest… even if he swears to the strictly natural god, the State.”
MJ: I was very interested in the handling of class and gender power hierarchies. I liked the way that diversity was marshalled and appropriated by this school as a form of privilege. “Do not come”—those classic conservative verbotens. “Do not come if”—ah—if you are “conservative” in any way. These are broad oppositions that Senna handled with, I thought, real emotional subtlety. For example, the way the husband, Duncan, who is privileged, and who has had the rewards of being an “iconoclast,” likes to slip into a kind of very simple, black-inflected lingo. It’s a power tool: “I’m black, I haven’t forgotten.” It’s part of a class critique that’s also a form of comedy, which allows us to see the ways in which people are driven by historical, psychological, interior forces that can really thwart logic or just plain sense. It’s both painful and funny to see the wife wrestling with her humiliating longings to have her child in an elite school, and feeling that she needs to learn the rituals and mores of the city’s elite. This came up earlier in our discussion—the rituals and mores of class status, of gender status, of being an intellectual, and of being an intellectual of color. How do you place yourself? How do you attempt to show that you embrace a so-called progressive agenda within the rituals and mores of an elite, which you must master in order to succeed? What can you afford to feel, do, act on, and what must you avoid?
The Black upper class — with their huge salaries, and tiny levels of multi-generational wealth — need not worry. The Progressives are too weak to do the racial thing anymore: just treat Christianity with contempt, adore any and all opportunities to expand state power, and signal your Progressive credentials whenever the opportunity presents itself, and you’ll do fine in the Right Circles.
MJ: I myself have tried to be the umpire in family arguments about just this. Everybody’s childhood comes roaring to the surface as they pretend to be rational. In Senna’s story the mother’s anxieties relate to generations of rearing black children. The fear is if you make one mistake, you are off the path, no matter how much I am protecting you—there is no safety net for you, however privileged you are as a black person. That has changed, but that old fear is still clearly circulating, hovering over the story, and hovering over the mother Cassie more than the father Duncan.
Ah, the fear of Powerful Men.
TCW: Here I can’t help thinking of Nikole Hannah-Jones’s piece in the New York Times Magazine about consciously choosing to send her child to a working-class/poor public school in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Her husband, I believe, is black, but African or Caribbean, and he was profoundly bothered by the decision of taking a young kid and putting him in a worse school situation than they have to be in. Whereas she works through the logic that for everyone’s kids to do better, educated parents have to put their kids in the local school—that if you take educated families out of those schools, innocent kids are suffering, deprived of a rich learning environment. I’ve thought about this as a parent, from every angle, and I don’t think that I could do that. My father is a very typical black person who grew up in the segregated south, and education was the only thing that could allow his family to have a better life, was the only way that he could get out of a situation where his people were domestic workers and menial laborers. He would kill me if I did something like what Hannah-Jones did, no matter how high-minded it was, and I think that’s a pretty typical reaction. I really relate to the narrator’s position in Senna’s story, because it takes an extraordinary degree of privilege to be as dismissive as the husband Duncan can be about privilege.
And now you can see why all sorts of upper-class parents THIRSTS to put their kids into the Inner Circle of the Right Universities, where they will be taught to think correctly… and (it is hoped) will be put on a guaranteed career path to financial and social success.
“Invisible Gods don’t hold a candle to Visible Cash, and the Applause of the Powerful.”
TCW: In fake black English, from a family of doctors, no less. There’s lots of irony in Senna’s story, and a level of humor, but also a degree of realism that really resonates with the contemporary black experience. It takes a lot of privilege to be able to not strive for bourgeois markers of success, access, network capital, and things that you need to actually achieve before you can be a bourgeois bohemian.
The Above-the-Law Established Perverts can rely on a lot of family money, to pay for their evil. Not so their lower-class imitators.
DP: It’s such a Protestant issue, privilege. I find it bewildering that a people—who always believed that education was the way out of Egypt—should balk at these opportunities as though they were committing a kind of race treason. It doesn’t make any sense to me, especially as they were always told, education, education, education. People misunderstand privilege the way they misunderstood integration and affirmative action and thought of those things primarily as access to education. But they were never really about that, and yet education became the only thing that affirmative action was about. Presented with chances and advantages, it seems to me a privilege to turn them down, that it’s acting on, or acting out, a certain kind of cultural logic: “it’s better to be déclassé.” I don’t have kids, so I can’t put myself in a parent’s position, but it never seems to me a question—that of where someone should go to school. Saving the school system doesn’t start with my children going to a bad one. There are other things you can do first before you sacrifice your own child. Because people who are sending their kids to public or state schools are saying that to do otherwise is to support “the system,” but these are really broken schools that won’t be fixed in their child’s school career.
“Privilege” may well be an issue in the mainline (read: spiritually corrupt and demographically dead) Protestant churches in America. What do I know about what happens in those whitewashed tombs?
Out where I come from, the question isn’t “privilege”, it’s the use of the talents, time, and abilities God has given you: the balance between calling and job. The questions remain the same, regardless if you are rich or poor, powerful or weak” you are alive, you have been given various gifts by God, and you must discover the best way to put them to work, in service to God and your fellow man.
JM: The story exposes a number of things that people—the characters—are doing wrong, and so I really wanted the mother Cassie to tell the headmistress what’s really entailed in her obsession with landing another trophy black kid in that school. Sure I laughed at her, but if we take seriously what Danzy is saying—and I don’t know how she feels about it—then we must consider this: Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York wants to set aside 20% of slots in the top three high schools for brown students, with test scores not being an issue—the idea being that you must have not brown Indian faces, but brown, black, and Latino faces—so that standards have been changed, rather than making it so that students’ parents know of and have access to testing services that are available. And then you find out that Harvard is calling Asian students “boring people” and not letting them in, meanwhile letting in black and Latino students with substantially lower academic qualifications, talking about how “spunky” they are. You read this in the Times and you’re not supposed to shake your head and say, “That’s the way it’s supposed to be.” You’re supposed to not like it. Because all of that comes from the same place as that headmistress calling the mother, this Cassie character, again and again and eventually showing up at her house, uninvited. And I have no idea how Danzy Senna feels about those issues. But if that passage is telling us something important, we are supposed to question the derailing of affirmative action from what it was originally intended to be. And I’m not sure we’re ready to do that. So, I didn’t think most of this was very funny at all. I have dealt with that woman my whole life, and she wasn’t funny, and she never learned what she was doing wrong.
I’m not so worries about the defiling and the destruction of the government-run temples and cathedrals of the only Established Religion in America:
“Service to the State!
The Source of the Law, of Healing, of Wealth.”
MJ: I have seen that same scenario recently played out just as crudely. I think that many of the parents who bring their kids—black parents, mixed-race parents, Latino parents—to these elite, private schools are told in a code very similar to the one in the story: we’re courting you; it’s “You’ve Been Accepted” day, and here’s what we have to offer you. The “progressive” values are always tucked in. The word “diversity” is used. I don’t think you find out late. You know when you’re applying what your “credentials”—your race, class, economic status—are going to get you, or what you hope they’re going to get you.
More than enough breeder-level Christian parents sell out to gain Establishment Approval, making this approach very worthwhile to the God-haters.
[OP]: This is a complicated issue we’re struggling with in America. And really it’s too easy to mock successful elite schools—they do attempt to produce complex, integrated persons. But you know there are other factors, like the real differences between black boys and black girls. Something happens with black boys around the age of 13 or 14—it’s been written about a lot. At around that age, they struggle with identity issues, which makes it yet more difficult for parents faced with these decisions. There’s often a big fallout of black boys. Most of the girls continue to do well. And what most annoyed me about the father in Senna’s story is that he’s viewing things in a very superficial way.
Public/Establishment schools have been interested in firmly putting masculine boys in their place for a very long time now.
And the boys know it.
DARRYL PINCKNEY: […] The Lord Chief Justice’s ruling in the Mansfield Judgment held that no man in England could be held in bondage. My father said something like, “That was 1772, and if they got a black person back to the Caribbean, then that person reverted to being a slave.” I understood why my father thought racism deep in the English psyche went back so far as when black people were brought to England in 1555 and Mary Tudor, persecutor of Protestants, refused to permit English participation in the guinea trade. However, the English slave trade began after her death, in 1662, and 300 Africans were kidnapped by an English captain and taken to the Caribbean. The trade expanded greatly after Restoration in 1660.
Something to remember.
And really, the Puritans should have never permitted the Restoration. If anything, they should have admitted that the Catholic Queen Mary has a point, and uphold her view of the race situation.
I returned to Berlin, after several years away, for what became my own private observance of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, with Alfred Döblin’s tetralogy, November 1918, very much on my mind. I watched the sun come up over the gray, undulating rows of the Jewish Memorial; I turned away from the little stage in front of the Brandenberg Gate. The end of World War I meant trouble for Germany. It was not a day to be celebrated. Angela Merkel deserved praise for the refuge she offered Syrians fleeing war, whether Germany could afford to help or not. But I heard a woman say that it was dangerous for German women to have young, single, Arab men on German streets. She was not alone in her old-fashioned racial hysteria. The hope of thirty years ago has vanished. I noted that in the German History Museum, the chapter on German colonialism occupied a single glass case under some stairs. A wall of text acknowledged that the German army massacred thousands of the Herero people in the early twentieth century. I left the museum and walked the rainy streets, sat in places where I used to hang out for hours, and waited to feel something.
Lots of innocent blood and ugly sins — against God, and not against the State — in Germany’s spiritual account. In raw numbers, the massacres of the Herero (a max death toll of about 110,000) goes to the back of the line.
DP: Same thing for me. It’s always been strange that Europe was the refuge, for so long, to black Americans while being also the capital of the suffering of black Africans, given its history of colonialism. That’s always been difficult to navigate. Early on, Baldwin didn’t talk about Arabs, but later on in his life, he sort of Arab-ed up his Paris life, so to speak. And he would say that he noticed how, of course, he was treated very differently from how Arabs were treated. Now, if black Americans in Paris at the time were too outspoken about the Algerian War, they would risk deportation. That’s why people like Richard Wright didn’t say too much, because he’d found this refuge. He’d left Greenwich Village because he couldn’t find a place to live with his Jewish wife and his kids.
Life is a difficult thing… and sometimes, passing strange.
[OP] Looking at slavery in Jamaica—not just spending the rest of my life mourning my people’s slavery, but becoming curious as to what it was like, slavery for other peoples—led me down a long, long journey of looking into the nature of slavery, which then carried me to the roots of Western civilization, ancient Athens, which was the first slave society. And from that, I discovered that there was this peculiar relationship between Western civilization itself and slavery—that at all the high points of Western civilization, slavery was key. Athens was a slave society, and so was Rome, even more so. And, as historians are now discovering, capitalism itself rose on the backs of slaves. Slavery was not an oddity, an anomaly, antithetical to capitalism, as Adam Smith taught. On the contrary, capitalism rose on the backs of West-Indian and black American slavery. What does this all tell me? That, in fact, my experience was a crucial way of understanding the world, of understanding white people, of understanding Western civilization.
There’s quite a bit of bad history here… as well as good (ie. true) history.
Athens was not the first slave society, not by a long shot. Even in the Greek context, Sparta was far more dependent (and far more cruel) to slaves
Slavery was key to the Imperial (read, proto-fascist, government/business) states of Greece and Rome. And I refuse to consider such oppressive, statist, and stagnant cultures “the high point” of the West.
Capitalism — that is, free markets and free men, where goods are bough and sold at an auction (or equivalent thereof) — is traceable to the Bible: “equality under the law”, “protection of property”, “damages provided for theft or damages”. North spent his life pounding out the details, with footnotes, here.
(Compare this with with Adam Smith, who ran away from the concept of property ownership — the key point of a free economy, and freedom in general — because such questions would point to a God that he quietly loathed.)
[OP]: In many ways, black Americans are in a position to understand some of the essential issues of Western civilization more than any other group of people, because they are so close to slavery, but also as the most Christian group of people. The birth of freedom, of the social construction of freedom, grew out of the condition of slavery.
This is somewhat false: with the murder of the innocent and the supremacy of the Western State to determine what you may or may not say or do, in public or private, the West – at least it’s core, Western Europe – can in no way be consider Christian. Except in maybe some “check the census box” historical irrelevance.
“There is a new God in town,
a new Lord over your life and liberty and property.”
[MJ]: […] I called this memoir Negroland because I wanted “negro” to stand in for a whole nexus of historical facts. “Negro” was the word of choice among progressive, forward-looking colored people looking for respect; all this started in the late 19th and early 20th century. And then there was the fight to make “negro” capitalized, and that was a big fight; I think the Times didn’t capitalize it until something like 1943. I wanted that “-land” to signify not only the lands of segregated neighborhoods—I grew up in Chicago, and there was literally only one integrated neighborhood— but also to signify the historical search for a kind of homeland, as well as the sense of a group of people who, even if they have a land, lack historical prestige and power. Those borders are always being pressed upon. That was Negroland.
Long ago and far away. A historical curiosity now.
TCW: In the car, yesterday, I was telling Margo that at this point, my wife and I have produced two Swedish-looking children. And my dad comes from the segregated South. When my dad flew to meet my daughter after she was born, he was holding her when I asked, “What do you think?” He said, “Oh, son, she’s just a Palomino.” I had to Google what that word was. And it’s a horse-breeding term that Southerners have; it’s like a pale white and golden horse in the Southwest U.S. My father said, “I had three girls like this in my segregated high school in Texas; this is nothing new.” And then my friends from the Caribbean diaspora in Paris told me that she would be chapé, which is slang for échappé—escaped—and that there are 36 skin colors in Martinique and that the lightest color is chapé.
I’ve just finished a new book about the experience of having two children who have forced what I call “the fiction of race” into my life in a way that’s neither abstract nor theoretical, but which is lived. I’ve been thinking so much about skin gradations, as well as some things that do bother me within the black community and the white community. Blonde hair and blue eyes are so prized. My niece and nephew in my French family are brunette, dark brown eyes, and I can see how strangers on the street prioritize the blue eyes and the blonde hair that my daughter has. We value these superficial traits so much.
The difference between part of the in-group and the out-group. “One of Us” and “One of Them”.
DP: But they’re not superficial, I’m afraid. There’s still a kind of hierarchy of values.
TCW: Yeah. And blacks value them too. I’ve had so many compliments on my daughter’s blue eyes from blacks.
Just as they please.
MJ: Not that I know of. “Elite black America” now alludes to people with whom I no longer hang out, and to a group of people who, apart from work, still lead class- and race-segregated lives. None of the ones I still know would do anything with the Paper Bag Test except roll their eyes. Does that mean that they wouldn’t be pleased that they’re a lighter brown as compared to a browner brown? I don’t know. But it’s not embraced any more.
OP: In his memoir Colored People, Henry Louis Gates claims that he and this group once formally abolished the Paper Bag Test at the Yale dorms, so it was still around even as late as the 70s. This varied in terms of region, as well.
More curious news from a distant land.
MJ: I always thought it would have been really interesting if Obama could have run as both a black and a mixed-race president. Because in terms of American history, that’s what he is.
TCW: Totally. The black community didn’t accept him at first. And Stanley Crouch—and many others agreed with him—wrote an article about how Obama wasn’t black because his dad was African. Yet the black community, at first, was big time behind Hillary Clinton.
JM: If he hadn’t been married to a tall, dark woman, I don’t know that the black community would have gotten behind him.
OP: My barber certainly would not have; he made it clear to me that that’s why he voted for Obama.
Well, it’s important for some people.
OP: Can we go back to the Cuba conversation, since I teach Cuba and race? The simplistic way of saying it is that they have this system of color gradations, in which they recognize all these different categories in Spanish terms. Whereas in Brazil, there are over 133 Portuguese words for different color variations.
In Cuba, the lower down you go on the socio-economic ladder, you find whites and blacks just walking around together. The higher up you go, you eventually reach a certain point at which it becomes very white, exclusively white. It’s significant that there was a certain period after the revolution in which blacks were promoted a lot, and so on, but within 15-20 years, the Cuban political world was white.
I see America as almost the opposite. The lower down you go, the more segregated it gets—the more important whiteness becomes, positionally; for many in Appalachia, it’s all they have. America is different from Brazil in that the higher up you go, the more integrated things become (to the degree to which we have integration). There’s no counterpart anywhere else in the world—certainly not Brazil. In America, you have such a substantial number of middle- and upper middle-class black people. 51% of the Brazilian population self-identify as having African ancestry. Yet there is, if not legal, actual segregation. And more crucially, the elite is almost exclusively white.
There’s a little book of faux-pas of George W. Bush, and one of them happened when Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the sociologist-turned-president of Brazil, visited Bush. They were talking, and Cardoso mentioned that in Brazil, they were then in the process of adopting America’s affirmative action. And Bush looked at him in amazement and said, “You have blacks there, too?” That is a true story. And I like to finish by adding a little defense of Bush by saying that if his only relationship to Brazil was with an ambassadorial group, in Washington, then he had every reason to think that Brazil is a little white country.
And the same is true of the officer class. Over 10% in the officer class in the American army are black. That’s one of the incredible changes that we don’t talk much about. The military was the most segregated part of America until as late as the 60s. No country has come anywhere close to this; it’s one of the major achievements of integration. But in Brazil, in the ambassadorial classes, in the upper echelons of the civil service, and in business, a country which has over 50% of its population self-identifying as having black ancestry is very white.
Truth is truth.
[JM:] […] Obviously, there was racial animus directed at Obama, and that persists among many of Trump’s supporters who think they want America to be great again. But Obama was elected twice, and there had to be some magic to get to that. Is there any magic in Cory Booker? He is a very interesting and earnest figure, but I’ve met him a few times and, I don’t know. And Kamala Harris is a great idea, but there already was a Kamala Harris and it was Barack Obama. There’s no novelty there. And the idea is going to settle that it won’t matter to have a black president anyway. And that’s a damn shame.
DP: I don’t think we’ll have a black president again for a long time.
MJ: I don’t either.
The America that elects the next Black president is going to be a very different place, than the America that exists today.
Assuming that it does actually happen again, which is not something I have a lot of faith in. The Empire will probably have a formal break up before then.
“No money? No unified culture? No unified religion? No legal or political legitimacy, across social borders? No shared understanding of reality?
Forget about it!”
DP: I think that we shouldn’t buy into the populist disaffection for the political process. Because it’s too important for us. We don’t need “symbolic” candidates. The only symbol we need is victory.
Political victory IS salvation.
Until the money is gone, of course.
M: Mark Lilla, philosopher and all-around genius at Columbia, writes a book saying that the left needs, at least temporarily, to suspend its focus on identity politics in order to do undramatic things like elect the right people into the state legislatures, which define who is allowed to vote. That’s not as much fun as thinking who’s going to be president, but it’s absolutely crucial. But he got roasted by various well-meaning people, of all colors, as a white supremacist. That is our problem.
RB: You mean stupidity is our problem, yes?
JM: You’re right. But it also means we have to focus on more mundane things than how this person or that person feels about black people, including what Joe Biden did in terms of the crime bill at a certain point in the past—let it go. He would be better than what’s in the white house now.
DP: Not exactly the politics of hope.
I believe in the politics of hope.
The LOCAL politics of hope. Starting with dogcatcher.
JM: […] You know, it isn’t talked about enough, what an unprecedented miracle the Civil Rights revolution was—where there was a people in power, and a people who were brought here as slaves and treated as such for another one hundred years, and then, within a dazzlingly small amount of time, suddenly the people in power—though often merely symbolically, but enough of them—realized the errors of their ways, and laws were passed to desegregate officially. Even more than that, it wasn’t just the Civil Rights Act of 1964; it wasn’t just the fair housing act of 1968. In the 1970s, the way that educated whites began to step away from bigotry and racism is something nobody could have imagined, even as recently as the 1950s. Those of us of a certain age can recall the effect of the Norman Lear sitcoms at the time—All in the Family and Maude, to name two of them. Think about those shows having been on when just ten years before you couldn’t have had them. Something really happened in the late sixties, and thank God it did, but it happened really quickly, and it left two problems.
I think that today, what is considered the proper way to think about black people among non-black people has become a religious creed rather than a political program, and the problem with that is that the religious creed doesn’t help any poor black people be less poor. Therefore, I am not with it. And when I say it’s a religious creed I don’t mean that it’s like a religion; I’m not saying that for rhetorical power. I am saying that it is a religion. Any Martian who anthropologized the way that a typical New Yorker reader thinks about race today would recognize it as no different, in any significant way, from a fundamentalist Christian faith. It’s exactly what I feel about Mormonism. A friend of mine who is black became—believe it or not—a Mormon at 14. I used to think, “How could you be in that brain and be that Christian?” I don’t wonder any more. Because I see it all the time in white Americans, especially educated white Americans, and take in what passes for “woke.” What I mean, very briefly, is this: “I have white privilege, I own up to my white privilege, and I know I can never get rid of it, but I must think about it every day.” That’s original sin. It’s the same thing.
This atheist met some odd Christians. I am certainly uninterested in “thinking about original sin” every day: I am far more interested in matters of justice, mercy, and truth.
But then, I don’t believe in escaping reality, via mysticism or the Rapture.
I believe in expanding the Kingdom of God, on this earth, in history.
When Christians are hated and despised by atheists for the right reasons, we would have finally started making some progress!
JM: […] But the problem is that it doesn’t address the problems that the supposed objects of this religion have. It’s inwardly focused; it’s about displaying your faith à la what Martin Luther called Protestants to do. It’s more about you than about the people. It’s not political activism. It’s something that wouldn’t have been recognized by the equivalents of non-black fellow travelers 50 years ago. Nobody decided or conspired to do this—it’s not malevolent. But it’s inert.
Martin Luther had a deep respect for the political leaders of his day… so long as they were Protestant.
I will give them the finite level of tolerance God permits for the evil leaders the populace wish to lead the political establishment. That’s it.
Certainly, the churches — being step-and-fetch it servants of their real masters, Powerful Men — will forever and a day preach a mystical, retreatist, run-away-from-reality gospel. I am going to push for the expansion of the Kingdom of God, in the real world.
As should you.
JM: […] One thing that we didn’t do—some people would say we could not have, but that’s a different issue—was crawl up from the bottom entirely by virtue of our own efforts, with the overlords never changing in any way. We can’t think about it the way that the Irish can, or the way that the Jews can. We got help, and that help was an unprecedented intellectual revolution. But it had an unpleasant byproduct, which is that we can’t say we did it only on our own initiative.
That was true of Blacks being freed from the chains of slavery, but not so true freed from the restrictions of segregation: at the start by Blacks using their own power (as per the Black boycotts of segregated buses), but at the end by government fiat (and the assistance of the Leftists.)
You pay your prices to get the victory you want, on the terms you want.
So, I’m going to tell you what I think needs to be done. I am not a conservative; I am not a Republican. I do know how racism works. That’s not where this is coming from. I do not think that people need to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps; I have never written such a thing. That’s not my message. This is my message: There are problems in the black community that can be solved. I’m thinking of ten, but I am going to give you three.
First, there needs to be no war on drugs, and the reason that we need to get rid of that is because if you’re an underserved black male, it is too tempting to jump into that black market, and that ruins the rest of your life. That is my main reason for it. I think that if there were no war on drugs, black America would turn upside down within about ten minutes. It’s as simple as that. I have fought for this, I have spoken before the NAACP three times about this. There should be no war on drugs because it would change black America. Everybody should lobby for that. Yes, ou should be allowed to buy heroin at the drugstore. We can talk about the details. There should be no war on drugs. We should fight for that.
Second thing: all poor kids should be taught via phonics. Why in the world am I mentioning that? Because it is tragic to watch somebody from a bookless home—and too many black kids come from bookless homes; the Bible isn’t enough—to see teachers trying to teach them to read through a method that’s basically a matter of reading them nice stories and showing them pages with unicorns. And they’ll just pick it up. That will work for a kid in Scarsdale, New York—that’s the way I learned to read, sure. But that does not work for kids from different kinds of homes. They need to be taught how to read via a method that is, frankly, a little harder, and a little tedious, but I did it with my daughter when I found out they weren’t going to be doing it in her school. It’s tedious teaching somebody how to sound things out. But it works. And that’s been shown again, and again, since 1963. And yet we hear all these things about how poor kids can’t be taught to read. If we’re going to solve our race crisis, this needs to be addressed. Part of the issue is that if you don’t learn to read, the rest of school doesn’t quite work. Phonics. One should agitate for it. One should agitate to the teachers’ unions; one should agitate in one’s school. This is an issue with a brown face on it.
Third thing: too many kids are born to people. This is no longer a race problem, but still, it disproportionately affects black women. Too many black people have children because they just happened rather than because they planned it. No one is deliberately having a lot of kids, but you can be in a situation where it just happens, and you might not want to have an abortion. So, then you have the child before you really are ready. You don’t have a job, you don’t have a partner. That can happen to a person. One thing to solve our problem is Long-Acting Removable Contraceptives (LARCs). We have the technology now. You can give somebody something, and for five years, you can have all the fun you want, but what comes out of it isn’t a child. That should be given, for free, to any woman who wants it. That is not true now, and it should be. It doesn’t mean that I am quietly suggesting that black women be sterilized, though there have been programs of that sort directed at poor black women. But women like LARCs. They like them very much, and have asked for more. That’s civil rights. To conclude, three things: 1) get rid of the war on drugs; 2) use phonics; and 3) use LARCs, and you are 60% of the way there. That is a civil rights program.
I agree with the total end of the drug war, and I like phonics. I’d much more put a total end of the welfare state, and have Black Americans have the liberty to care for themselves as they wish.
Free stuff isn’t free: it involves stolen money. But then again, I don’t believe that the State is responsible for your health or your life. It is not a healer or a saviour, just a sword to punish the wicked.
[OP:] […] But I do want to add something which might affect the way we talk about an idea like reparations. Think, just for a minute, about how the white poor made it out of poverty. A colleague of John’s who I greatly admire is a political scientist by the name of Ira Katznelson, who wrote a volume called When Affirmative Action was White . What Ira documented, in great detail, was how the white working-class, the white poor, did not make it by pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. On the contrary, Ira showed that there was a systematic, highly funded government effort to help them. Over and over again. The GI Bill was white affirmative action, from which blacks were excluded. A good part of the shift towards suburbia, suburbanization—which was when a lot of the white poor and working-class made it into the middle-class—was overwhelmingly funded by our government. The whole idea that whites made it on their own is just a fiction. In fact, for most whites, it was a lot more complicated than that. There was heavy government subsidy for their movement into the middle-class.
Worthy of note, hmm?
Not that I can expect a dime of State funding, after the Great Default.
“Well, what do you know? Deficits do matter, after all!”
Life ain’t fair. But I have other goals, which will be more achievable once the Power-Idol of the State has been properly smashed.
And why does that matter? Because that has implications. For one, it’s not because we suffered slavery and Jim Crow that we need some sort of reparation in the form of affirmative action. That’s not my story. My story is that because the government used white affirmative action to promote the white middle-class, and given the fact that, for several hundred years, the state legitimized the oppression of blacks, there’s every reason why the state has major responsibility to promote programs to help blacks out of the horrendous dilemmas they now face. My justification is not reparation; my justification is that if they’ve done it for whites, they gotta do it for blacks, too.
Equality under the law, hmmm?
A very Biblical concept, although the stolen State funds aren’t going to be there by the end of the decade.
Then again, by that time the United States (or the territory ti currently encompasses) could not be considered White or European in any sense of the word.
You have to work in the environment you are in, not the environment you want.
DP: One of the reasons that we’re so offended by the idea of a black conservative is that we expect black people to be on the side of progress, not just because he or she is black but because that’s what “black” means: it means freedom. One of the things that’s happened is that the constant right-wing attack on liberal culture—of which blacks are the chief representatives—comes from this kind of envy of liberal culture, because right-wing culture has never produced anything to match the achievements of liberal culture.
JM: What do you mean?
DP: What book can you think of by a right-wing person that matters to you? Think of one.
[Silence. Clutches microphone and says nothing.]
JM: It’s not because I can’t name them. I’m really surprised. If I name you some right-wing books, will you just say that they’re bad, so they don’t count?
DP: Mostly they will be bad.
JM: I find that a rather arbitrary judgment.
DP: I know, but it’s also true.
Finally! Something that a Progressive will denounce as wicked, without any nuance or waffling!
I’ll let you guess what happens when these broad-minded liberals finally get the chance to eliminate the source of those filthy conservative ideas.
DP: Liberal culture is a minority culture. It’s the prestige of liberal ideas that the right-wing really resents, or hates, because it governs how we imagine America. The fight is getting over this inconvenient notion that the country should be about equality, fairness, and the chance for everyone to realize himself or herself. Instead of it just being about the way things were.
This much is true: conservatives just want things to stay the same: that is, protect the power structure and their own privileges, not uphold justice or defend the widow, the orphan, the poor, or the homeless.
(Throw in the fact that all conservatives are nothing but liberals of 10-20 years ago… and the screaming lunatics of 20-40 years ago… and it becomes obvious why everyone with authority can’t be bother wasting time on these congenial losers.)
It’s still odd, how a minority ruling class hates the majority because they won’t kneel to their contemptuous masters fast enough.
He wants peace. So do I. He wants decentralization. So do I. He wants local political resistance. So do I. To get this, he is willing to let liberal urban conclaves go their own way, but at their own expense. So am I.
What he describes is the political side of the Great Default.
A revolution has begun.
America is in the throes of revolution. The 2016 election and its aftermath reflect the distinction, difference, even enmity that has grown exponentially over the past quarter century between America’s ruling class and the rest of the country. During the Civil War, President Lincoln observed that all sides pray[ed] to the same God. They revered, though in clashing ways, the same founders and principles. None doubted that those on the other side were responsible human beings. Today, none of that holds. Our ruling class and their clients broadly view Biblical religion as the foundation of all that is wrong with the world. According to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy, or any form of intolerance.
The government apparatus identifies with the ruling class’s interests, proclivities, and tastes, and almost unanimously with the Democratic Party. As it uses government power to press those interests, proclivities, and tastes upon the ruled, it acts as a partisan state. This party state’s political objective is to delegitimize not so much the politicians who champion the ruled from time to time, but the ruled themselves. Ever since Woodrow Wilson nearly a century and a half ago at Princeton, colleges have taught that ordinary Americans are rightly ruled by experts because they are incapable of governing themselves. Millions of graduates have identified themselves as the personifiers of expertise and believe themselves entitled to rule. Their practical definition of discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, etc., is neither more nor less than anyone’s reluctance to bow to them. It’s personal.
In 2016, the masses blocked Hillary from her coronation. The establishment is outraged. It is willing to destroy the legitimacy of the electoral process to get even with Trump.
This strategy will backfire in the Great Default.
The establishment has contempt for the man in the street. The man in the street is catching on.
On the other side, some two thirds of regular Americans chafe at insults from on high and believe that the system- is rigged against them and, hence, illegitimate–that elected and appointed officials, plus the courts, business leaders, and educators are leading the country in the wrong direction. The non-elites blame the elites for corruptly ruling us against our will, for impoverishing us, for getting us into wars and losing them. Many demand payback–with interest.
So many on all sides have withdrawn consent from one another, as well as from republicanism as defined by the Constitution and as it was practiced until the mid-20th century, that it is difficult to imagine how the trust and sympathy necessary for good government might ever return. Instead, we have a cold civil war. Statesmanship’s first task is to prevent it from turning hot. In today’s circumstances, fostering mutual forbearance may require loosening the Union in unfamiliar and unwelcome ways to accommodate differences that may otherwise become far worse.
What is he talking about? This: the loss of political legitimacy. This is at the bottom of every political revolution.Codevilla on the Looming Civil War: The Establishment vs. Its Victims by Gary North
But, to continue with the original article:
[JM] […] Even at Columbia, I am frightened by what people have “learned” at the Teachers College, which is considered elite. They have no idea how to teach children how to do anything. They just learned that people are oppressed and that they should just teach children that people are oppressed, which doesn’t help. And if children aren’t learning anything, they have a way of fidgeting around and acting up. The next thing you know, you have all sorts of subcultures existing within the school, because people aren’t aware that they’re supposed to be there to learn. And so my action Thing #8— I’m pretending I have it numbered that carefully—concerns this new idea of keeping the miscreant in school because you don’t want to over-punish black kids. This is killing education for an awful lot of black kids. Three years ago, in New York City, it was decided that because more black kids get suspended (without talking about reasons why they get suspended more often), they were going to stop suspending them and keep them in the classroom, or were only going to suspend them for a day. And the performance plummeted in every school where that was applied. Nobody’s gonna tell you that in the New Yorker. That sort of thing is really a problem. So there you have two responses about school: suspension policies, and the teaching of teachers.
People get what they want.
Black readers here already know what I recommend: homeschooling, with a curriculum of your choice, either privately or with a neighbourhood support group.
Harvard might be happy with your children’s future being ruined, in the name of Cultural Unity and Conformity and Keeping Christian Trash in it’s Place.
You had better have a different set of goals.
MJ: But if your birth control options are not very good, then that emotion may have a great deal to do with the fact that you became a mother! You did not have other options, and so it becomes a source of compensation and self-importance. I would also add, in addition to LARCs being widely accessible and free, that there are free and safe abortions.
The basic problem is that these images of God exist.
“Something needs to be done about that… pre- or post-birth.”
[OP]: […] And if I can add something else, it’s that what works for middle class kids doesn’t work for inner city kids (white or black). We know, for example, that the number of words that a middle-class kid brings to school at age 5 is something like ten times more than what a lower class or inner-city kid does (sorry to use these terms).
JM: 20,000 for middle class kids.
OP: You have to begin by acknowledging the deficiencies, and if the gap between the two groups of students is so large, then you’re obviously going to need a different kind of teaching strategy for kids who are so far behind in their vocabulary. What is considered virtuous in teachers—to self-righteously ignore the differences and make no pedagogical modifications—is, perhaps, the worst possible thing they can do. Of course, teachers should offer kids the same enrichment, but only when they’re ready for it.
JM: An essential point here: “you have to begin by acknowledging the deficiencies” and not ignore what’s obvious.
RB: And not censor yourself when you see it and want to say something about it.
Parents who get involved with their kids can change things State schools simply cannot.
Harvard: “But we can’t let the Wrong Sort have that kind of authority!”
[OP]: […] The share of whites who would oppose the idea of a relative marrying a black person—that’s one of the standard questions. As late as 1992, 63% of white folks, from the North and the South, strongly opposed the idea of a relative marrying a black person. Today, that percentage is down to 14%. Of course, the question remains, what does that mean? This is always the dilemma with survey questions.
In practice, one way of testing this is to see the actual amount of intermarriage that actually takes place. This has been increasing quite substantially. For example, black men are now intermarrying at extraordinarily higher rates. In fact, some 30% of marriages of educated black men are intermarriages. At the same time, despite this public integration and, to some extent, these intellectual bourgeois marriages, there is still an extraordinary level of segregation in the private sphere. The saddest aspect of this is perhaps the segregation in housing and living conditions. The great majority of black Americans now live in segregated neighborhoods. And this doesn’t apply solely to the ghettos. In fact, the great majority of middle-class blacks live in segregated communities.
The Civil Rights Movement did achieve a lot: it reduced the income gap; it led to an increase in the middle classes. But there are things which it didn’t succeed in doing, and I want to emphasize this: it did not close the income or wealth gap. In 1970, the household income of black Americans was 65% of the household income of white Americans. In 2017, the household income of black Americans is 65% of the household income of white Americans. There’s been no change. The wealth gap is even greater. In 2017, the assets of whites come to about $171k; the assets of blacks to about $17k. If you break it down in terms of class groups, it becomes even more extraordinary. By the way, this wealth gap persists regardless of household education, marital status, age, or income. The median wealth of black households with a college degree equals about 70% of the median wealth of white households with a college degree. The recession wreaked havoc in all this. Of course, it reduced the wealth of everyone, but much more so among the black middle class.
There’s another dismal development which I find especially depressing. We often refer to the rise of the black middle class as one of the great achievements of the Civil Rights Movement. But here’s the bad news, and it’s really bad news: when we think of the middle class, we think of stable wealth; we think of passing one’s status, and standard of living, to one’s children. The really terrible news is that black Americans are not maintaining their middle-class status. There’s an extraordinary level of downward mobility among the black middle class.
Here’s one way of expressing this: White children in the top fifth of the income distribution have about a 41% chance of staying there. For blacks, there’s only an 18% chance that a middle-class person in the top fifth of the income distribution will have kids who would stay there. Here’s the even more disturbing news: when black middle-class kids move down, they don’t just move a little downwards—there’s almost an 80% chance that they move to the bottom fifth.
This partly has to do with the wealth gap, because one of the ways in which we ensure that all kids maintain our status is through the assets we pass down to them. Owning a home is where you have most of your assets. Middle-class white kids will inherit their parents’ home. I live in an upper middle-class area of Cambridge, where property values are escalating, and when I meet my neighbors, we mourn the fact that our kids won’t be able to live in our area, given the rate at which the prices of our homes are going up. They’d be better off, we figure, selling the homes and living someplace else. And that’s the privilege of a middle-class status.
The final piece of bad news is that poverty rates remain very high, over 20%; it’s now at 21.2%.
I have a suspicion: that a lot of the nicer black jobs are tied to government jobs, not personally-owned businesses. This may be part of the explanation.
[OP]: […] Bobo notes that most whites no longer hold the view that blacks are inherently inferior; instead, he argues that whites simply believe that they must defend their group interests. Overall, this seems to me a more sophisticated interpretation of the current situation.
This is something I find… fairly likely. The Federal government doesn’t belong to White Americans, or to all Americans, but to the Right Sort of Americans.
If and when Working-class, Middle-class, and the lower bounds (small business) of the upper class Whites find themselves the enemy of the State, they are going to break their habit of submission to the authorities. And that will be the informal end of the United States, as currently structured.
The formal end happens when the Federal government is bankrupt; there are no welfare checks; and the military is harshly cut to pay interest on loans.
The end of legitimacy = the end of political power.
[OP]: […] We all know that segregation and ghettoization are critical. So is the persisting educational gap. It’s sad that society remains so segregated, sadder yet that the most segregated parts of America are the most liberal parts of America. Among the most segregated cities are New York, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee. The irony is that the least segregated cities are in the Southwest. Places like Houston are far less segregated than good ole’ New York. A reason for this is the fact that these are relatively newer cities, which means they’re not dealing with long traditions of neighborhood segregation. This may partly explain something curious that’s been happening, which is a reverse migration of Black Americans back to the South.
Facts are facts.
[OP]: But there is one other factor I want to mention, which I admit is a bit contentious. Let us remember that the great ideal of the Civil Rights movement, as expressed by Dr. King, was desegregation. But somewhere during the seventies, something happened, and desegregation, as well as getting out of the ghettos—which were once the primary challenges to be overcome—became less and less of a priority among black leaders. When Douglas S. Massey wrote what has become a classic work on segregation, American Apartheid , he bemoaned the fact that sociologists and social scientists, as well as black leaders in general, weren’t taking segregation seriously. And it’s interesting to speculate why that was the case. There’s an element of black pride that is involved, but there’s also a sense that community ought to be cherished and developed, rather than fled. People like Nixon played on this direction—not to leave the ghetto, but to stay there and to “bring the jobs back.”
The point is that there was certainly a shift of priority in terms of seeing desegregation as less important, and I think that was a disastrous decision. Being in the ghetto is terrible. It’s toxic—not just socially and psychologically, but it’s literally toxic, chemically, which becomes incapacitating and is also linked to violence. All of this has been corroborated by numerous studies by economists and sociologists.
There’s good and bad news about education. The good news is that education accounts for the rise of the black middle class. The bad news is that reduction of the gap stops somewhere in the late 80s and is now getting worse. There’s a high level of non-performance and dropping out among black youth, especially inner-city black youth.
Time to abandon the sinking ship of Public
[OP]: […] What is true, however, is that there are aspects of African American culture and behaviors that are problematic. The most controversial factor—it’s controversial even to mention it—is the high proportion of poor single mothers. Between 70 and 72% of black children are being born to poor single mothers. That’s a disaster. One isn’t blaming the woman for this. But even if you’re the perfect mother, it’s very difficult to be poor, single, and a mother of one or more children. And the consequences have been thoroughly documented in sociology. One way in which you can deal with social and cultural issues is this: you can talk about it for a while, and then you can just forget about it. And that’s where we are right now. It’s like seeing the elephant in the room and pretending it’s not there; even worse, if you point out that the elephant is there, you’re accused of blaming the victim.
Clearly, to speak of these matters is not to reduce the responsibility of the state, which is another wrong assumption. We know that there are ways in which the state will have to intervene. We have to have ways of helping these women, in terms of pre-K education and in terms of income support. We know how to do it—the welfare states of Europe have shown us how. And despite the typical right-wing argument, the state has everything to do with it, for it is the state that has been complicit in this problem for hundreds of years. The state has a moral responsibility to change the situation.
The State is about 10 years from bankruptcy, eventually leading to the great reduction – or simple dissolution – of the public school systems.
Summer died long ago, and autumn in the West is rapidly drawing to a close.
Winter is coming.
Regardless if it’s fair or unfair, Black Americans are going to have to arrange their own education, or submit to a worthless nonsense dressed up as education.
[OP]: […] Lastly, I remember a 2012 poll: 43% of the black women polled said that they didn’t want to get married but they did want to have children. The interesting thing about the poll was that it crossed class lines. Middle-class black women and professional black women were saying this. And it’s a change in America itself: now, 35% of the electorate are single mothers; it’s not confined solely to blacks.
For two, three generations, Black women haven taught that the State is a far better husband than an actual man is. Why be surprised with the result?
Also, note that there is going to be a huge mandate for more government checks. When the state finally goes broke, nobody is going to put Humpty Dumpty together again.
[OP]: […] A single mother can bring up a child quite well—that’s not the question. The question is what kind of support she has. And the problem with black single mothers is that most of them remain single and poor and not having support. It is not true that blacks have a large network; that’s a sociological myth. In fact, it’s not true. Network studies have shown that blacks have the smallest network of people they can turn to.
I absolutely agree that we need a New Deal. Everything I’ve said indicates that. Any modern state has a responsibility to its poor. We don’t have to justify it historically. And if we spend over a trillion dollars fighting in a war that was based on a lie, in Iraq, well, a third of that money would solve all of the problems here.
The welfare state is based on theft: the warfare state is based on murder. If those are the choices, better the welfare state than the warfare state.
Both are enemies of God, and neither have long to live.
Christians are expected to depend on God, not the State-Idol. Christians are the ones who are supposed to have an independent law-order, and an independent social network.
We know what is going to happen: the godless are going to be stripped of their wealth and authority. We must be ready and able to take up the responsibilities of leadership in our towns and counties and neighbourhoods, when the end of the System comes.[
[JM:] […] live in New York, I ride the subway every day, and there’s a certain kind of mostly black or Latino man, who has a high school education, who is really hell-bent on showing society that he can do anything he wants, who works half-time and who’s uncivil, and you can tell that nothing is quite ever going to go right for this person. This person is not rare, and he’s not doing it because the cops don’t like him. He’s doing it because his big brother was like that, and he just grew up watching other people do it. That’s how human beings work. He’s not evil. My question is: How do you get to him? Like you say, of course the state has to help. But is there any way that you can change him?
He’ll have to find his own way home. Or a Christian may move him to repent, help him learn to get and keep a job, to make a change.
Or maybe he’ll just end up in an early grave.
There isn’t a lot of time left.
[OP]: […] There are several programs geared towards women, too. One program that has been surprisingly successful is called the Nurse-Family Partnership program, in which nurses enter the process when the women are still pregnant. For some reason, nurses are the best change agents: they help the mothers cope, and they give basic training. The nurses also stay with the mothers after the kids are born. That has been proven to be one of the most successful programs. So, we shouldn’t be pessimistic. We know that there are things that work.
If Christians want to rebuild the world, to expand the Kingdom of God, they had better get to it.
OP: I’m glad you mentioned that because I spent a lot of time looking at this, which I call the Dionysian syndrome that has come to affect black culture, especially black youth culture in advanced, industrial societies. An example of this would be suburban white youth going to hip-hop concerts, getting this Dionysian kick from this aspect of black youth culture. But for them, there’s the fact that they know when to opt for the SAT prep book. The problem for black youth is that it reinforces a deep satisfaction that is, in the long term, problematic.
Once again, summer is over, and autumn is dying in the West.
Regardless of the media fantasies, projected to young people.
TCW: I have a comment and a question for you, Orlando. I love The Cultural Matrix, and I worked a discussion of your book into a long essay I wrote for the London Review of Books on Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me. I felt that Coates’s memoir described a black experience that was very comprehensible to me but which didn’t describe my black experience, nor found a way to articulate things I knew to be true about my generation’s experience. My first book is a memoir called Losing My Cool, about the kind of Dionysian pleasures of making these choices—not feeling that history was making these choices for me but instead liking being anti-intellectual, or at least pretending to like being anti-intellectual, because my father didn’t actually let me.
I have two examples of something that I think might relate to your other point about downward mobility. My high school girlfriend of four years, a daughter of two black parents, was materially better off than my family was: two cars in the driveway, a large home. But she never sat for the SAT—she just never took the test. I went off to college and we dated, long-distance, during my freshman year, and by the time I came home for summer break she was pregnant, moving in with a crack dealer in the housing projects in Newark, New Jersey—going from a black middle-class suburb to the housing projects. The guy was going to support the family dealing crack.
At Georgetown, there was a black classmate of mine who had gone to Milton, one of the good New England prep schools, played on the tennis team, and had a side life dealing drugs and carrying a gun. He eventually got busted and got expelled from school during the second semester of our senior year, right before graduation. You could say that white kids, at good schools, deal drugs all the time and don’t have the same experience with the criminal justice system, but the fact remains that he felt an urge like Robert Peace did—from The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace—an urge to live up to an authentic street pose that became too real, and that wasn’t a pose any longer. I wonder about the ways in which blacks can slip out of the middle class, how much of that is based on behaviors, choices, cultural imperatives, and how we can disentangle that from the kind of laissez-faire racism that might also impact it?
There are many, many ways for a nation to kill itself.
How strange, that there is such a similarity between the German and the Black American way. One large-scale, the other small-scale, but both reading to the grave, hell, the lake of fire.
JM: Orlando, I have a question that is based on something Margo said. There’s a generational thing here. I grew up in a middle-class, all-black community, and even though I’m of a different generation, I saw the kind of story that Thomas told again and again. There was a guy who lived next door to me who even looked like me—people would mistake us from far away. His family had more money, he started selling drugs from his garage, he ended up going to jail, and now I’m sure he washes cars, or something. And that’s because he identified with this street culture. Margo, why do you think the same identification with street culture was happening for your generation?
MJ: It even happened often for guys who were going to white schools. It was toxically glamorous masculinity.
DP: The first person to be sentenced under the Rockefeller Drug Laws of 1973 was a white kid from Columbia University. He ruined his life.
Don’t ruin your life.
Fear the Lord, obey His commandments.
Stay out of trouble, keep your job, get married and THEN have children.
Always save some money, avoid debt except for a home or for your own business.
Get out of the ghetto.
And don’t depend on government help: it’s a trap.