Tag Archives: civil rights

The Civil Rights Perspective on Race

The facts of the recent case are now well known. Adding some inferences to it, a reasonable reconstruction of the events is as follows:

On February 26, 2013, Trayvon Martin in walking home after buying some candy and tea. He was observed by George Zimmerman, a volunteer who had recently talked with neighbors about black youths invading neighborhood homes. Zimmerman got out of his vehicle to talk to Martin. Martin, not knowing Zimmerman, and suspicious of “creepy ass crackers” (which I belies referred to gay homosexual white men), likewise acted in a way suspicious to Zimmerman. Shortly thereafter a fight broke out, and Martin got the better of Zimmerman, bashing his head against the cement. Zimmerman then used deadly force to protect himself, killing Martin.

A tragedy, and a sad one.

But why the effort to lynch Mr. Zimmerman? Why the great emotion in the case? What is behind it?

It is impossible to understand what happened without realizing that life is far worse for African-American men than could have been expected in 1973. (By “African-American” I refer to the ethnicity that was brought in chains to British colonies south of the Mason-Dixon line from Africa,primarily remained there as slaves until the Civil War, and then following Reconstruction lived as second-class citizens in the Jim Crow South until either emigrating to the north or experiencing the revolution of the Civil Rights Era).

  • There has never been an African-American President. (There is currently a President of African descent, Barack Obama, but he was born in Hawaii and on his father’s side is not a descendent of American slaves.)
  • There has been been a powerful African-American man in the Cabinet. (Secretary of State Colin Powell’s parents were from Jamaica. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is an African-American women.)
  • Structural changes in the economy have lead to a decline of marriage rates for African-American men, as their earning power has been exceeded by African-American women.
  • There has been no de facto progress on desegregation since the original Civil Rights efforts a lifetime ago.
  • The United States is engaged in a long-term project to import large numbers of Spanish-speaking immigrants, which not only further depresses wages of African-American men, it reduces African-Americans from being the “largest minority” to the second-largest minority.
  • The cultural battle over gay marriage reveals African-American powerless in the face of other members of the Democratic Party coalition. Not only cannot the Democratic Party realize African-American goals generally, or defend the relative position of African-Americans, it will actively work against African-American churches and social networks when white liberals disagree with African-American objectives.

Things are bad. They are getting worse. This is real pain.

In this horrible political situations, there are probably two rational responses

  1. A Fresh Start. A complete dismantling of the political work of a lifetime, an acceptance of the basic failure of the “Civil Rights” perspective on race, and an attempt to reboot nearly everything
  2. The Civil Rights Perspective on Race. The creation of an outrage which can unify the African-American community against their enemies, including white Democrats and hispanics.

The costs of (1) are so huge, and the uncertainty so great, that it is unlikely as anything other than a last desperate measure. We’re not there yet.

Option (2), on the other hand, requires simply a reply of the Civil Rights playbook, with some hapless patsy replacing Bull Connor, George Wallace, and other actual enemies of the past. The near-term results are a relative increase in power and sympathy for African-American males.

It is hard for anyone — especially a man — to live without pride. Imitating a Martyr provides some pride. Being politically organized enough to (nearly) lynch a hispanic provides some pride. Getting media attention gets some pride.

But more pride would come from having a functioning education system that prepared African-American men for the economy. Of earning enough to attract a mate. To not lose a job to harder-working lower-paid immigrants, to not have your sacred institutions tramped on, and so on.

Without a road-map for achieving this, we’ll get another Martin case in a few years, another outrage, another attempt to win some political favors and gain some pride through some dead person.

But dismantling the Civil Rights movement, abandoning the Civil Rights perspective on race, and starting over, is the smarter way to go.

Other groups have come from behind without this focus on manufactured outrage. Irish, Koreans, Chinese, Jamaicans, and many others recognized that social hostility can be battered, not thru the “Civil Rights” perspective on race, but through wealth accumulation.

As a friend recently told me, in America there are two colors of people — “Green” and “Red” — people with money, and people struggling paycheck to paycheck. Controlling wealth and the production of wealth is more important than leadership in a group of poor people.

This harsh reality, that the economic infrastructure matter more than political superstructure — that true political success comes from economic value — is much colder than talking about dreams and ideology.

Life can be cold.

But the Civil Rights Perspective on Race is a lie.

Educational Equality: The Civil Rights Struggle of Our Day

When I taught a unit on child development, I would tell a story a professor once told me: : His young son talked up proudly to him one day and announced “Cars are alive but trees aren’t.” “Why not?,” asked the professor. “Because trees only move when the wind pushes them, but cars can move all by themselves!”

The child in the story was not stupid. Indeed, as far as brute facts go, the son was not even ignorance. The child made a natural mistake along the way to develop an understanding of what “living” and “not living” meant.

I say this because I am fascinated by a recent blog post, “The Strange Genesis of ‘Education Reform’- How a Crackpot Theory Became National Policy,” which appeared on Mark Naison’s blog, With a Brooklyn Accent. The first two paragraphs are indicative of the rest of the post:

In future generations, historians are likely to tell the following story. Some time during the early 21St Century, a cross section of the top leadership of American society began to panic. They looked at the growing chasm between the rich and poor, the huge size of the nation’s prison population, the growing gulf in educational achievement between blacks and whites and poor and middle class children and decided something dramatic had to be done to remedy these problems.

But instead of critically examining how these trends reflected twenty years of regressive taxation, a futile “war on drugs,” the deregulation of the financial industry, the breaking of unions and the movement of American companies abroad, America’s leaders decided the primary source of economic inequality could be found in failing schools, bad teachers, and powerful teachers unions.

So much of this beginning is right-on: the understanding of the cross-elite nature of the education reform movement, the deep distress of the political class at the nature of America’s public school, the willingness to take radical measures, and so on.

But the author also thinks the reason for this was a focus on “equality.” While the word equality does come up in the education reform debate, it is a coded word, which means nothing at all like what the author thinks it means.

Within the context of education reform, stakeholders are arranged along three dimensions of force. Employers and parents care about child development; Districts and States care about power; Teachers and publishers care about money. Behind this debate states the federal-academic complex of bureaucrats, researchers, and politicians.

But why in the world would anyone care about “equality”?

The only people who care about “Equality” as an end in itself are those that are weak, and thus are least able to influence the debate.

I suspect people who think “equality” matters in the education reform debate also think “equality” mattered in the civil rights debate. Of course it didn’t, policies weren’t changed out of moral desire. The major civil rights policies (whether rules, laws, or rulings), were made by a cross-section of the elite that supported an interventionist foreign policy and recognized the captive nation of African-Americans provided the only intractible source of nationalist opposition against the Federal government possible in the United States at the time. (For context, the British, French, and Portuguese were being torn apart in the post-war world by the forces of natioanlism, as the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires had already been, and the Soviet empire soon would be.)

America wasn’t the first multinational economic and political union — but the Federal Government also didn’t want to be the follow the British Empire into becoming a broken union.

The day of “states rights” as a force capable of starting a revolution were over by the 1940s. The day of nationalism as a force capable of starting a revolution had begun. Men such as Earl Warren helped lead America’s first attempt at breaking a potential sub-nationalism by interning the Japanese.

Men such as Earl Warren helped lead America’s second, smarter, attempt at breaking a potential sub-nationalism by enforcing desegregation. At the same times, patriots (from the Federal perspective) or quislings (from the perspective of would-be black nationalists) such as Martin Luther King were fetted with honors by the elite for their part in this “awakening” moment.

 

There were other forces at work too, of course, but those forces were provincial, self-interested, and soon to fall back into the noise of everyday political tumult. On a grand scale, the story of the Civil Rights era is a story of the abortion of a internal threat to the Federal government.

In our own day, the national security of the United States is at risk by our terrible public education system. This is because our broken education system means that our critical infrastructure is run by Chinese (and Indians, and Russians, and other foreign nationals).

When “equality” is used in this debate, it is not used to refer to closing the achievement gap between different groups, or any other nicety that would feel good but not flatter major forces. Rather, it is used in the sense that Steve Jobs used it when he said, “Equal opportunity to me more than anything means a great education” — in other words, nothing at all like addressing economic inequality.

There are other players at work too, provincial and self-interested ones such as teachers or parents, but on a grand scale, the story of Education Reform is the story of an attempt to abort an internal threat to the Federal government.

Let’s hope they — we — succeed.

The National and Homeland Security Amendment

The class that abolished a parliamentary republic to embrace direct democracy still has that form of government. There’s a notable drop in participation, which is typical of classes that undergo such a constitutional shift. Students — and I think I can generalize this to most human beings — dislike participation and deliberation, and go out of their way to avoid it.

The Tyranny of the People?

Nonetheless, after my suggestion the now leaderless class agreed to discuss the following potential amendment to the US Constitution:

(i) No person who, through religions doctrine, belief, or sympathy owes loyalty, fealty, or obedience to any foreign state or foreign network or any sort, shall serve as an Officer or Representative of the United States or of any State.

(ii) The Congress of the United States, and the Legislatures of the several States, shall have the power to enforce this law.

By the end of the initial discussion, the class was largely split between people who opposed the amendment outright and others who opposed “loopholes in it” (such as the implied persecution of the Catholic Church).

I then altered the assignment, so that students were told that this amendment was guaranteed to pass, but they had the power to alter it to make it less offensive. While still vocally opposed by a healthy minority, the following revision removed most of the opposition

(i) No person who, through religious doctrine, belief, or sympathy may impede the national or homeland security of the United States shall serve as an Officer of the United States or of any State.

(ii) The Congress of the United States, and the Legislatures of the several States, shall have the power to enforce this law.

What changed? (Additions in italics, subtractions struck-through):

(i) No person who, through religions doctrine, belief, or sympathy owes loyalty, fealty, or obedience to any foreign state or foreign network or any sort, may impede the national or homeland security of the United States shall serve as an Officer or Representative of the United States or of any State.

(ii) The Congress of the United States, and the Legislatures of the several States, shall have the power to enforce this law.

While the changes “narrowed” the amendment by moving away from foreign-control to actualy theats, the alterations “expanded” the amendment by including threats to homeland security, and not just national security. Two religious groups were openly discussed by the class: the Roman Catholic Church and the Ku Klux Klan. The RCC is apparently disestablished by the original amendment, while the Klan is apparently persecuted by the revised one.

Bush Protects Civil Society from Leftism/Establishmentarianism

Civil Rights Hiring Shifted in Bush Era,” by Charlie Savage, Global Staff, 23 Jule 2006, http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2006/07/23/civil_rights_hiring_shifted_in_bush_era/?page=full (from MyDD).

Whatever one may think of his weakened foreign policy, Bush’s domestic cultural policy is still going strong. Indeed, as a cross-party, more or less globalist, consensus has been in charge of America’s foreign policy since 1977, focusing on domestic cultural concerns may be the clearest place for Bush to leave his mark.

Bush realizes that the greatest threat to a society comes from its government, because only the government has the ability to crush civil societies by passing onerous laws (a process of replacing “horizontal controls” with “vertical controls”):

Robert Driscoll , a deputy assistant attorney general over the division from 2001 to 2003, said many of the longtime career civil rights attorneys wanted to bring big cases on behalf of racial groups based on statistical disparities in hiring, even without evidence of intentional discrimination. Conservatives, he said, prefer to focus on cases that protect individuals from government abuses of power.

The President is doing this in the context of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft switched the hiring processes, insisting on greater democratic oversight of hiring. This has lessened the Leftist..

Hiring only lawyers from civil rights groups would “set the table for a permanent left-wing career class,” Driscoll said.

and Eastern Establishmentarian

The academic credentials of the lawyers hired into the division also underwent a shift at this time, the documents show. Attorneys hired by the career hiring committees largely came from Eastern law schools with elite reputations, while a greater proportion of the political appointees’ hires instead attended Southern and Midwestern law schools with conservative reputations.

structural discrimination in the department, rolling back two very dangerous ideologies.

I support President Bush for great actions such as this.

Mr. President, thank you.