Tag Archives: racism

What they say about race when they don’t say anything about race and poverty

My picture from the 2013 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

My picture from the 2013 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Referring to The Bell Curve, Paul Krugman wrote that Charles Murray was “famous for arguing that blacks are genetically inferior to whites.” In response, Murray wants us to know that the book was not about race and IQ. The research in the book (co-authored with Richard Herrnstein), purporting to show the powerful effect of genes on intelligence and success in America, was about Whites. Its sole concrete statement about race, Murray says, was this:

It seems highly likely to us that both genes and the environment have something to do with racial differences. What might the mix be? We are resolutely agnostic on that issue; as far as we can determine, the evidence does not justify an estimate.

That led to this Twitter exchange:

murray-fire-tweet

Why do so many people think the book was a sociobiological racist tract, when it made only indirect claims about genetic racial hierarchies? Context matters. In the U.S., you can practice racism without speaking about race.

In my teaching, I often discuss the role of male incarceration, mortality, and unemployment in contributing to the difference in marriage rates between Black and White women. And when I show that Black men have incarceration rates many times higher than White men’s, I focus on racism more than race. That is, these inequalities are not the outcomes of race, but of the way racial inequality works — explicit and implicit racism, unequal opportunity, policing practices, incarceration policies, and so on. Sometimes I do use phrases like “low-income communities,” or “inner city areas,” but I try to be specific about race and racism when it’s called for — even though of course it can be uncomfortable, for me and my students, to do that. It’s important because in the U.S. system of inequality racial inequality is not just an outcome: the system doesn’t just differentiate people by class or gender or skills or something else, with a lower-class population that “just happens” to be disproportionately from racial-minority groups.

One thing that frustrates me in the growing conversation about economic inequality is the appearance of a perhaps-too-comfortable stance in which being explicit about economic inequality means not having to address racial inequality. It is true, and important, economic inequality exacerbates racial (and gender) inequality. That’s why this stance frustrates me rather than angering me. But there is a certain politeness involved in talking about class instead of race that sometimes doesn’t help. Of course, this issue is not new at all, having been litigated especially extensively in the 1980s around the sociological work of William Julius Wilson (see, e.g., this collection).

Wilson’s research — the declining significance of race, or, the increasing significance of class — contributed to today’s movement against class inequality (as Krugman’s post illustrates). But it has also been co-opted by people taking the really racist position that inequality is caused by race (rather than racism). That is: poor minorities cause poverty. This position ironically doesn’t have to discuss race at all, because the framing is the dog whistle.

Which brings us around to the flap over Paul Ryan’s recent racist-without-race remarks. Here is a series of quotes to put that in context. None mentions race. Follow the underlined sequence:

William Julius Wilson: “Inner-city social isolation also generates behavior not conducive to good work histories. The patterns of behavior that are associated with a life of casual work (tardiness and absenteeism) are quite different from those that accompany a life of regular or steady work (e.g., the habit of waking up early in the morning to a ringing alarm clock).”

Newt Gingrich: “Really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods, have no habits of working, and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday, they have no habit of staying all day.”

Paul Ryan: “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.”

Charles Murray: “Try to imagine a GOP presidential candidate saying in front of the cameras, ‘One reason that we still have poverty in the United States is that a lot of poor people are born lazy.’ You cannot imagine it because that kind of thing cannot be said. And yet this unimaginable statement merely implies that when we know the complete genetic story, it will turn out that the population below the poverty line in the United States has a configuration of the relevant genetic makeup that is significantly different from the configuration of the population above the poverty line. This is not unimaginable. It is almost certainly true.”

In this progression, we go from children not being sufficiently exposed to steady work, to children seeing no one working in their daily lives, to multiple generations not even thinking about working, to people who are genetically lazy. That’s something!

What they talk about when they’re not talking about race

In his post on the Paul Ryan comment, Shawn Fremstad compares Ryan to Murray and concludes that Murray is more apocalyptic because he’s warning against a White cultural collapse, not just complaining about a Black one. Murray has perfected the strategy of writing about Whites (including in his latest book, Coming Apart). But I usually think of this as a dog whistle device to protect his mainstream image while whipping up his racist base. That is, if you show that genetic intelligence determines economic inequality among Whites (Bell Curve) or that declining moral standards undermine families and the work ethic among Whites (Coming Apart), then the implications for Blacks — poorer and therefore supposedly more morally decrepit and less intelligent on a population level — are obvious and need not be repeated in polite company. Just say, calmly, “Smoke,” and let (racist) nature takes its course.

But maybe Fremstad is right, that the Full Murray is more extreme than the dog-whistling Ryan. Here’s how he puts it:

In short, today’s Charles Murray thinks the much bigger culture problem—the one that really puts American society’s very survival at risk—is with white working-class people, which is what makes Ryan’s almost-nostalgic dog-whistling about “inner-city” men so striking. The big question here is whether Ryan is willing to up ante, and go for the full Murray by calling out white working-class “culture”, particularly in the suburbs and small towns where so many low- and moderate-income white people live.

I don’t know. But one answer to that came in the follow-up flap, in which Ryan insisted to a reporter that he was talking about all poor people, such as the rural poor, for whom “there are no jobs.” As Jay Livingston points out, that’s not a clarification that was warranted when he was talking about “inner city” men who are “not even thinking about working.”

What does Brad Wilcox have to not say about this?

The other recent entry in this tradition is none other than Brad Wilcox, currently a colleague of Murray’s (and apparently an impressive one) at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). In last year’s attempt to promote early marriage, the “Knot Yet” report, he wrote about the “education and class divide” in non-marital births — and avoided race almost entirely.

But seriously, if you claim to be serious about the serious issue of unmarried women having babies, you can’t politely ignore race and racism. It’s ridiculous (as I’ve argued before, about mobility). This issue simply does not reduce to social class or education level. Look: Black mothers are much more likely than White mothers to be unmarried at every education level.

unmarriedmothers

Among college graduates, Black mothers are 5.4-times more likely than White mothers to be unmarried; for high school graduates it’s 1.7-to-1. Asian mothers who are high school dropouts are less likely to be unmarried than Black college graduates. However you want to address this issue (if you want to address it at all), if you ignore this pattern and only talk about education or social class, you’re either uninformed or dishonest.

Or, you don’t care about Black families. This is exactly what Wilcox exhibited in a shocking interview with James Pethokoukis for AEI. Wilcox said the government should lead a public education campaign to convince people to be married before they have children. Then the question was, “What would be the nature of that sort of PR campaign, and to whom would it be directed?” This was his answer (from the edited transcript):

Well, the first thing is you have to understand is where all the momentum is here. Basically, since the 1970s, you’ve seen pretty high levels of single parenthood and non-marital child bearing among poor Americans and Americans who are high school dropouts. And we’ve also seen in the last really 20 or 30 years that in some important respects, marriage is stronger among college-educated Americans. So, for instance, divorce has come down from the ’70s to the present for college-educated Americans. So there’s been progress there.

But I think in terms of where all the sort of movement is recently, and it’s primarily in a negative direction, it’s among moderately educated Americans who have got a high school degree or some college or kind of classic working-class or lower middle-class Americans. And it’s this particular portion of the population and where about half of their births are outside of marriage today. And they’re at a tipping point. They can go down the road of not having marriage as the keystone to their family formation, family life, or we can hold the line, if you will, and try to figure out creative strategies for strengthening marriage in this particular middle demographic in the United States.

What is the “classic working class or lower middle-class American”? Hm. Here I’ll switch to my own transcription of the audio file AEI posted, because the details they edited out are interesting. Pethokoukis asks Wilcox to elaborate, “is this the bottom 20 percent we’re talking about”?

No, no. I’m talking about, essentially, from the 25th percentile, if you will, to the 65th percentile. So, one way to talk about it would be, sort of, you know, in some ways the NASCAR demographic would be one way to talk about it. Actually a large share of the Hispanic population in the United States would fit into this demographic group. You know, it’s sort of this middle American group, both white and Hispanic, where, once again, they’re at kind of a tipping point. And if we can kind of I think get a positive message to this group or these groups about marriage and fatherhood, you know it’s kind of an ideal, it’s a goal. That is part of the solution.

Really. The 25th to the 65th percentile of family income? That is from $32,500 to $85,000 income per year. That includes 33 percent of the African American population, 37 percent of Whites, and 38 percent of Latinos.* So, it’s more or less the middle third of each group. Or, you know, sort of, Whites and Hispanics. And NASCAR people.**

Photo by familymwr from Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by familymwr from Flickr Creative Commons

Now I suppose this is what Shawn Fremstad calls the Full Murray. Wilcox is raising the alarm about Whites, “classic” Americans, who are “at kind of a tipping point.” Just as Ryan invokes the lack of jobs when he gets out of the “inner city,” when Wilcox is talking about “classic” Americans, he says there is still time to stop them from going “down the road of not having marriage as the keystone to their … family life.” With them, “we can hold the line” for marriage. The clear implication is that Blacks passed that “tipping point” already, so that no such intervention is warranted.

*All these numbers are based on the Current Population Survey of the civilian non-institutional population.

** Wilcox presumably assumes NASCAR fans are White, but various sources (like this and this) say Blacks are about 9% of its fan base (can you find the Black fan in the picture above?).

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The less things change, the more they stay the same: Michigan edition

The Black Student Union at the University of Michigan is protesting against the campus administration. One of their demands is 10% Black representation on campus.

The story in the Michigan Daily brought me back to my freshman January in Ann Arbor, in 1989, 25 years ago this week! It was the university’s first “Diversity Day,” a ham-handed response to student demands that the university celebrate Martin Luther King Day by canceling classes. At the time, the United Coalition Against Racism was demanding 12% Black representation.

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What a great photo, by Robin Loznak.*

The story of Black representation at Michigan is long and rather sad, in the intervening decades involving multiple Supreme Court cases (Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003), and then a ballot measure that banned affirmative action, which is before the court now.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ IPEDS Data Center (which has this useful tool), the University of Michigan’s full-time undergraduate student population was 4.4% Black in 2012. The states’ 18-24 year-old population is 18.9% Black.

How does that compare to other big state universities? Using that NCES tool, and IPUMS.org’s 2012 American Community Survey data tool, I made the same comparison for the 30 largest 4-year state universities in the country (just enough to include my own, UMD). Those below the red line have higher Black representation in the state 18-24 year-old population than in the university. Those above the line… just kidding (click to enlarge).

blackstudents

Percent Black among 18-24 year-olds in the state, and among full-time undergraduate students in the university (30 largest 4-year state universities, 2012).

The three schools piled on top of each other are Cal State Fullerton, UC Davis and UC Berkeley.

Here’s the data in a table:

blackstudents-table

Michigan trend addendum

Dan Hirschman has provided data on the trend for Michigan from 1975 to 2009. Here is his note (from the comments), followed by my graph of the trend:

Black students at the University of MIchigan have been demanding – and needed to demand – 10% enrollment all the way back to the late 1960s (for a an overly detailed history, see here, starting on page 23). In the mid-1960s, after the first affirmative action programs were initiated, black enrollment rose from less than 1% to a bit more than 3%. At that point, there were actually enough black students to effectively organize and make demands (like increased minority enrollment). By the early 2000s, black enrollment actually approached 10%. Then the Supreme Court decision restricted the undergraduate race-based affirmative action program and the 2006 ban gutted it entirely, and we’re where we are now. So, the overall similarity of present and historical demands masks significant variability, and gains that have been lost.

um-trend

* A few days earlier, January 13, 1989, I wrote an op-ed for the paper in support of a proposed mandatory course on racism for arts college majors which never came to pass — the essay is actually here in the Google News archive of the Michigan Daily, where I got this screen shot.

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Black-White Polls on Race

DSC_0706

Photo by Philip Cohen (for my other pictures from the march, see here).

I attended the 50th anniversary March on Washington march the other day. It looked to me like the majority of the crowd was Black, though I haven’t seen any estimates.

Here are a few recent polls on race relations and inequality, timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

la-times-race-pollSource: Pew Research Center in LA Times.

virginia-race-poll

Source: Quinnipiac University Poll of 1,589 Virginian adults, August 14-19.

gallup-race

Source: Gallup poll, June 13-July 5.

gss-race

Source: General Social Survey (RACDIF1).

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Who’s following Zimmerman and Martin, and to where?

Some especially virulent racism in the Atlantic comments on my post there about the George Zimmerman trial got me thinking about our “conversation about race.”

Trigger warning: a little hate speech follows. If you’re interested in the hate-Trayvon stuff I’m sure you’ve found it already. Just so you know what I mean, here are a few comments from the Atlantic comment section:

  • …any rational white person should be presumptively afraid of young black men, so long as they “look” and act a certain way. Why? Because they commit a huge, disproportionate number of crimes against white people, and because they act menacingly.

  • The only solution is to make sure we have less blackies in society, sterilization of prisoners is probably the way to start to make sure they don’t leave any off-spring and forced abortions of mothers on welfare.

  • Its not fear to be wary of young black males, its simple common sense. Even Jesse Jackson agrees. What you should fear though is the Federal leviathan and the presstitute Corporate Media which will both come down on your head like an anvil if you are White and dare defend yourself from violent, feral blacks.

  • Trayvon actually got less than what he deserved. PS. not including eternity in Hell where he now resides. [You might be glad to know that the up-vote:down-vote ratio on this one is 2:1. -pnc]

That kind of overt racism seems to simply drive many reasonable people out of the comments section, so there isn’t much resistance. At the same time, about 100 people tweeted out the post, and the ones who had faces visible in their Twitter avatars were mostly Black:

zimmerman jury tweeters

(To fill out the square I enlarged the guy with 90,000 followers.)

I don’t have the data or the know-how to really analyze web traffic on the blogs I write for. But I do see some broad patterns. For example, stories about race get a higher ratio of tweets to Facebook likes, which could represent the greater Black presence on Twitter. The Zimmerman post has a FB/Twitter ratio of 2.5 at this writing, compared with 11.3 for my last post on gay marriage.

ojreax

OJ acquittal reactions.

The conversation

Once again, the divergences in this conversation are more obvious than the convergences. I wonder if this is getting better or worse. One piece of evidence suggests it might be getting worse.

Believe it or not, attention to this case has been low by the standards of “racially charged news stories,” according to polling from the Pew Research Center for the People and Press.

The final days of the trial of George Zimmerman … attracted relatively modest public interest overall. In a weekend survey, 26% say they were following news about the trial very closely. … However, the story has consistently attracted far more interest among blacks than whites – and that remained the case in the trial’s final days. Blacks are more than twice as likely as whites to say they tracked news about the Zimmerman trial very closely (56% vs. 20%).

That 26% interest is a big enough slice of the population to make CNN go wall-to-wall, but it’s not discourse-shattering. The most interesting part of that Pew report is the historical trend of Black and White interest for a series of related public moments. Their table is sorted so that the events with the largest Black-White interest gaps are at the top.

pewblackwhiteinterestAll the events show greater Black than White interest, unsurprisingly. But if you squint – or sort the table by date – you can see that the gap has widened since 1992. Here are the Black and White interest levels arranged by date:

pewblackwhiteinteresttrend

This is only 10 events that generated national coverage, and there could be any number of reasons for the trend, so we can’t make too much of it. The Rodney King point is maybe in a different category because it’s not just a trial but a major conflagration afterwards. But that decline in White interest is pronounced even if that point is removed. If White interest in our “conversation on race” is declining, the apparent polarization we see now suggests it might be the middle that has lost interest.

My take on this is whole thing is mostly negative. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

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Who’s Afraid of Young Black Men?

Originally posted at TheAtlantic.com.

How gender did (and didn’t) affect the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial

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AP Images

In conversation, I keep accidentally referring to Zimmerman’s defense lawyers as “the prosecution.” Not surprising, because the defense of George Zimmerman was only a defense in the technical sense of the law. Substantively, it was a prosecutionof Trayvon Martin. And in making the case that Martin was guilty in his own murder, Zimmerman’s lawyers had the burden of proof on their side, as the state had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Martin wasn’t a violent criminal.

This raises the question, who’s afraid of young black men? Zimmerman’s lawyers took the not-too-risky approach of assuming that white women are (the jury was six women, described by the New York Times as five white and one Latina).

“This is the person who … attacked George Zimmerman,” defense attorney MarkO’Mara said in his closing argument, holding up two pictures of Trayvon Martin, one of which showed him shirtless and looking down at the camera with a deadpan expression. He held that shirtless one up right in front of the jury for almost three minutes. “Nice kid, actually,” he said, with feigned sincerity.

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Joe Burbank/AP Images

Going into the trial, according to one kind of analysis the female jurors were supposed to have more negative views about Zimmerman’s vigilante behavior, and be more sympathetic over the loss of the child Trayvon. As a former prosecutorput it:

With the jury being all women, the defense may have a difficult time having the jurors truly understand their defense, that George Zimmerman was truly in fear for his life. Women are gentler than men by nature and don’t have the instinct to confront trouble head-on.

But was the jury’s race, or their gender, the issue? O’Mara’s approach suggests he thought it was the intersection of the two: White women could be convinced that a young black man was dangerous.

Race and Gender
Racial biases are well documented. With regard to crime, for example, one recent controlled experiment using a video game simulation found that white college students were most likely to accidentally fire at an unarmed suspect who was a black male — and most likely to mistakenly hold fire against armed white females. More abstractly, people generally overestimate the risk of criminal victimization they face, but whites are more likely to do so when they live in areas with more black residents.

The difference in racial attitudes between white men and women are limited. One analysis by prominent experts in racial attitudes concluded that “gender differences in racial attitudes are small, inconsistent, and limited mostly to attitudes on racial policy.” However, some researchers have found white men more prone than women to accepting racist stereotypes about blacks, and the General Social Survey in 2002 found that white women were much more likely than men to describe their feelings toward African Americans positively. (In 2012, a minority of both white men and white women voted for Obama, although white men were more overwhelmingly in the Romney camp.)

What about juries? The evidence for racial bias over many studies is quite strong. For example, one 2012 study found that in two Florida counties having all-white jury pool – that is, the people from which the jury will be chosen – increased the chance that a black defendant would be convicted. Since the jury pool is randomly selected from eligible citizens, unaltered by lawyers’ selections or disqualifications, the study has a clean test of the race effect. But I can’t find any on the combined influence of race and gender.

The classical way of framing the question is whether white women’s group identity as whites is strong enough to overcome their gender-socialized overall “niceness” when it comes to attitudes toward minority groups. But Zimmerman’s lawyers appeared to be invoking a very specific American story: white women’s fear of black male aggression. Of course the “victim” in their story was Zimmerman, but as he lingered over the shirtless photo, O’Mara was tempting the women on the jury to put themselves in Zimmerman’s fearful shoes.

Group Threat
But do white women really feel threatened by black men? That’s an old, blood-stained debate. In the 20th century there were 455 American men (legally) executed for rape, and 89 percent of them were black–mostly accused of raping white women. That was just the legal tip of Jim Crow’s lynching iceberg, partly driven by white men asserting ownership over white women in the name of protection. But the image of course lives on.

In the specific realm of U.S. racial psychology, one of the less optimistic, but most reliable, findings is that whites who live in places with larger black populations are on average express more racism (here’s a recent confirmation). Most analysts attribute that to some sense of group threat–economic, political, or violent–experienced by the dominant majority.

cohen_racegraph.png

Maybe white women’s greater overestimation of the black population is not an indicator of perceived threat. In the same survey white women were no more likely than white men to describe blacks as “prone to violence.” But that’s a question with an obvious right or wrong answer. Anyway, whether women feel more threatened than men do isn’t the issue, since the jury was all women. The question is whether the perceived threat was salient enough that the defense could manipulate it.

I don’t know what was in the hearts and minds of the jurors in this case, of course. Being on a jury is not like filling out a survey or playing a video game. But however much we elevate the rational elements in the system, of course emotion also plays a role. Whether they were right or not, Zimmerman’s lawyers clearly thought there was a vein of fear of black men inside the jurors’ psyches, waiting to be mined.

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The conversation about race next time

More on the Zimmerman trial soon, but first…

From Adam Nagourney in today’s New York Times:

The fallout over the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin reverberated across the country on Sunday from church pulpits to street protests, setting off a conversation about race, crime and how the American justice system handled a racially polarizing killing of a young black man walking in a residential neighborhood in Florida.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it has a certain repetitive feel to it:

conversationaboutrace

 

 

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You got your immigrant in my interbreeding!

Immigration is in the news. What will American become this time?

I’m shocked at David Brooks’ gross mischaracterization of history. He writes America is becoming a “nation of mutts”:

…up until now, America was primarily an outpost of European civilization. Between 1830 and 1880, 80 percent of the immigrants came from Northern and Western Europe. Over the following decades, the bulk came from Southern and Central Europe. In 1960, 75 percent of the foreign-born population came from Europe, with European ideas and European heritage.

But were all those European immigrants considered to be part of “European civilization” a century ago? In fact, even excluding American Indians, Blacks, Mexicans, Chinese and others, “we” were already being described as a nation of mutts in the 19th century. To choose one of many examples, here is Timothy Wilfred Coakley speaking at Faneuil Hall in Boston on Independence Day 1906:

We have evolved the race of races, the American race. We are sprung from all the peoples of Europe. … It was not alone that one nation was to be framed from thirteen colonies, it was that Frenchmen and Englishmen, Irishmen, Welshmen, Spaniards, Swedes, Dutchmen, Jew and Gentile, had been welded into one. It was this blend, now of mind, now of body, now of both, which made possible the type of intelligence able to grasp the opportunity and to brave the test of revolution.

American was not a product of a unitary “European civilization,” but of a “racial fraternity” of these “various European races,” which made the “American race.” Here it is in verse:

To the making of heroes like these, perforce,
Humanity’s federate blood-strains have gone;
But, Keltic or Saxon, Teuton or Norse,
Latin or Slav, they are Yankees of course,
For Freedom has fused them in one.

It’s a particular tradition of American racism to believe, as Brooks suggests, that Europeans are all one “race,” that so that only with the latest waves of immigration are “we” becoming a “nation of mutts.”

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“Becoming a nation of…”

Brooks’s entry joins the “becoming a nation of…” historical parade I have described before, the roster of which comprises American nations of (in chronological order): free men, drunkards, castes, bull-dogs, music lovers, dreamers, lawyers, neurotics, coffee drinkers, the elderly, readers, illiterates, burger flippers, joiners and orthorexics.

He’s seems a little late to the parade with this term, though. I was sure I’d heard it before, not just from PETA complaining about the Obamas’ dog, but from some guy on the Op-Ed page of the Washington Times in 1997 (“America is rapidly becoming a nation of mutts. Our country’s traditional character is being systematically destroyed by nihilistic “liberals”); Jonathan Turley in 2004 (“If you want a pure breed, buy a dog”); Stanley Crouch; Joe Feuerherd; various college guides, and many more.

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Have Obama haters lost traction?

Maybe it’s because Donald Trump isn’t really a true hero to anti-socialist, anti-Muslim, racist Americans.

For whatever reason, there has been a real slump in the number of people typing “obama gun” (will he take our guns away?), “obama muslim” (the idea used to run at about 20%), “obama socialist” (the republic “hangs in the balance“), and “obama citizen” (thank you, Snopes) into the Google search box since the 2008 election.

Here’s the Google trend (and the search link):

We don’t know how much these fears, versus other concerns, will affect votes against him this year, although there have been some good efforts to track the effects of anti-Black racism on his vote tally.

Naturally, not everyone who Googles these things believes the underlying stories or myths. But it seems likely they either believe them, are considering them, heard someone repeat them, or are arguing with someone who believes them, etc. So I’m guessing – just guessing – that these trends track those beliefs.

But maybe four years of Obama as an actual president has softened up the hard-line hatred in some quarters. What do you think?

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National Organization for Marriage: delusional and hateful?

I pose the title as a question, and leave it to the reader to judge (naturally). The evidence today is from Alvin McEwen at Firedoglake, who links to a strategy document from the National Organization for Marriage that has come out as part of that organization’s legal battle to keep its donor list secret.

The document is titled “Marriage: $20 Million Strategy for Victory.” It details some of their plans to oppose the extension of marriage rights to homogamous couples (on language), relying on ballot initiatives rather than the courts and legislatures, the source of traditional civil rights advances.

Are they delusional? Here’s one thing:

Are they hateful? Here’s another thing:

You be the judge.

FYI, NOM was quickly out with a response today, a vivid demonstration of the strategy, which read in part:

NOM … has worked extensively with supporters of traditional marriage from every color, creed and background [listing some of their best friends prominent leaders] … Gay marriage advocates have attempted to portray same-sex marriage as a civil right, but the voices of these and many other leaders have provided powerful witness that this claim is patently false.

I have previously written about Black Christian opposition to marriage rights in Maryland, which divided Democrats and almost prevented the state legislature from passing the law (which it now has).

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Charles Murray on his propaganda playing field

I have some notes on Charles Murray’s new book Coming Apart, and the reactions to it, for a would-be essay. Since I haven’t read the book yet, I’m not ready to write that essay, but there are some things you can say without reading the book. Maybe this will be handy or interesting for those who operate in the faster information lanes.

First, remember who we’re dealing with: Murray is not a scholar doing (peer reviewed) research to advance our collective understanding of social life. He is a political propagandist. So we can hold him responsible primarily for the consequences of his work rather than its scientific veracity (which does require reading the book). He works for the American Enterprise Institute, a charitable-in-the-legal-sense front for corporate interests, which launders the tax-free contributions of its donors — a who’s-who of right-wing elites — to create “expert” opinion that in turn shapes and justifies the actions of government leaders.

Of course, they are not alone in this, but they are leaders of the form. This is from their latest annual report:

By treating their representatives as legitimate experts we play into their diabolical schemes.

Stop the presses

In addition to wasting everyone’s time in Congress, AEI is also very effective at promoting their representatives’ work in the media — where hardly anyone does more than mention AEI in passing. Murray’s book has been reviewed not once, but twice in the New York Times. And AEI achieved a near-perfect placement record among the Times‘s top columnists, including David Brooks (“I’ll be shocked if there’s another book this year as important”) and Ross Douthat (“brilliant”), Paul Krugman (“the new book at the heart of the conservative pushback”), and Nicholas Kristoff (“he’s right to highlight social dimensions of the crisis among low-skilled white workers”). The latter two are critical, too, but not enough to overcome the adage about publicity. (The Times also ran a good roundup by Thomas Edsall.)

The marketing campaign includes, naturally, advance bashing of sociologists, the small corner of academia that did the best job of debunking his last big book, The Bell Curve. “I am sure there are still sociology departments where people would cross themselves if I came into the room,” he smirked to the Chronicle of Higher Education. But in that article, sociologist Dalton Conley is quoted as calling Murray, “probably the most influential social-policy thinker in America” (before offering some critical comments as well).

As Anne Coulter might say, though, “our sociologists” aren’t so bad. Brad Wilcox, for example, has joined the fawning chorus at the Wall Street Journal (which previewed the book), declaring we (Whites) are “a nation where millions of people are losing touch with the founding virtues that have long lent American lives purpose, direction and happiness … The scope and cost of government grows, and liberty withers, when the family breaks down.”

Like old times

Like Newt Gingrich, Murray uses the looming specter of Black pathology to whip up apocalyptic fears among Whites (while somehow convincing some people he’s not a racist because he describes “America” with data on Whites). The two were anti-welfare soul-mates in the 1990s, when Murray wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal called “The Coming White Underclass” (10/29/93), which was a preview of Coming Apart.

He wrote then:

Every once in a while the sky really is falling, and this seems to be the case with the latest national figures on illegitimacy… now the overall white illegitimacy rate is 22%. The figure in low-income, working-class communities may be twice that. How much illegitimacy can a community tolerate? Nobody knows, but the historical fact is that the trendlines on black crime, dropout from the labor force, and illegitimacy all shifted sharply upward as the overall black illegitimacy rate passed 25%. … But the brutal truth is that American society as a whole could survive when illegitimacy became epidemic within a comparatively small ethnic minority. It cannot survive the same epidemic among whites.

For what it’s worth, the “illegitimacy” rate is 41% nationally, and 29% for non-Hispanic Whites. And, of course, the crime rate is through the … floor. So, look to him for reliable predictions about whether “American society as a whole [can] survive” at your own risk.

His solutions then, in addition to zeroing out welfare for single mothers, included dropping the sentimental attachment to letting people raise their own children:

Those who prattle about the importance of keeping children with their biological mothers may wish to spend some time in a patrol car or with a social worker seeing what the reality of life with welfare-dependent biological mothers can be like.

This is a very partial rundown. Feel free to add your own links in the comments.

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