The "State of the Dream" & The 30-Years Conservative Nightmare

by: Paul Rosenberg

Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 19:53


As I explained in my previous diary dealing with the "State of the Dream 2009" report, in this diary, I want to I want focus in on the confluence of several driving dynamics behind the persistence of the deep economic divide between the races. These are:
    (1) The pre-existing racial disparities in wealth and income dating back to the pre-Civil Rights Era.

    (2) The sharp break between pre-1975 liberal economics and post-1975 conservative economics, after which economic advancement was sharply concentrated amongst the more affluent, and particularly the super-rich.

    (3) The concentration of wealth-promoting policies on those who need it least-those who are already among the most affluent of all Americans.
This combination of factors shows that there is a very real, hard-core economic explanation for why blacks (as well as Latinos) have been mired in struggle economically, despite the fact of tremendous efforts over the last four decades.  This combination of factors also ties back into conservative ideology, which is directly responsible for closing off opportunities for poor people in general, and for blacks and Latinos in particular.
Paul Rosenberg :: The "State of the Dream" & The 30-Years Conservative Nightmare
Initial Agreement: The Racist Roots of Historical Inequality

To begin with, there is virtually no dispute that prior to the Civil Rights Movement, blacks were heavily discriminated against, and suffered economically as a result.  This can clearly be seen in the following chart from the report, which shows blacks with an income in 1947 that was barely half that of whites:

From 1947 to 2005, the median income gap narrowed in terms of percentage--falling from gap of 48.9% to 39.8%--even as it widened in terms of absolute dollar amount, more than doubling, in fact, from $11,453 to $23,530.

Thus, there is no doubt about the structural foundations of the black/white income gap in the segregation era.  But there is ambiguity since then: there has been clear progress by one measure--income percentage, while there has been a widening income gap by another measure--absolute dollars.  And the widening is not trivial.

Beyond the figures, moreover, there is a deeper dispute: many conservatives argue that there are no more barriers blocking blacks economically, and that any remaining disparities are purely a matter of their own individual inadequacies.  Furthermore, they have used such rhetoric consistently to foster racial hostility, and divide the working class, as well as pitting middle-class whites against poor and working-class blacks.

The Rise of Class Inequality In The Modern Conservative Era

Traditionally, the American Dream has most often been described in terms of each generation sacrificing to provide a better future for their children.  This has come about though two distinct, but connected phenomena. First, each successive generation of a given population is, on average, more educated, more skilled and more productive than the one before it.  One can think of this in terms of moving from one income group to another--from the bottom decile (10% of the population) or quintile (20% of the population) to the next, for example. New immigrants come in on the bottom, and each generation climbs up the relative income ladder.

Their incomes rise for two reasons, however, not just one. First, their incomes because they have a higher skill level than their parents (call it a skill bonus).  This is the result of being in a higher income decile or quintile.  Second, their incomes rise because everyone with that higher skill level makes significantly more than those at that skill level made in the previous generation (call it a generational bonus).  This is the result of the entire decile or quintile making more money.

You can think of it like climbing an escalator.  You step up to the next decile on your own, gaining more skills, more education, becoming more productive.  But the escalator is also moving up at the same time, taking you higher regardless of your own efforts.

This was not, of course, true of African Americans.  During most of our history from colonial times to the present, they were predominantly slaves, and after that they were predominantly locked into a system of sharecropping that kept them tied to the land, and subject to legal and economic restrictions that kept them from advancing, while new immigrants quickly advanced over them.

With the end of legal segregation in the South, and legal discrimination throughout the nation, it was assumed by many that this unique dynamic would end, and blacks would advance similarly to other low-income groups.  The following two charts clearly indicate one reason why this did not happen.  As can be seen, the very well-balanced economic income growth from 1947 through 1979 was replaced by a pattern of income growth highly concentrated at the top. As a result, even those blacks that did substantially increase their skill levels over that of their parents did not receive the full benefit that others had received before them. They received a skill bonus, but only a very meager generational bonus.  The escalator no longer took everyone up at a nearly equal rate.  Instead, it virtually stopped for those at or near the bottom, it slowed significantly for those in the middle, and it only really kept working for those at or near the very top.


The result of this altered dynamic was quite clear: those who had been kept off the escalator in the past, and thus were toward the bottom, would not benefit as much as those who got on the escalator before them, or new immigrants who entered at a higher level to begin with.

While America had always valued both individual effort and community cooperation, only liberals had routinely embraced both values.  Of course, conservatives gave lip service to community, they poured just as much energy, if not more, into lambasting liberals as threats to community.  This was particularly true of the era initiated by Nixon's election in 1968. The inertia of several decades continued for a few years with broad income gains before the oil shocks of the 1970s gave rise to a new political dynamic, and business increasing took a hard line against workers--a stance that toughened dramatically once Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980.

Such was the politics behind the dramatic difference between the two charts above.  But that politics also included a very specifically racist subtext as well: Demonizing blacks by identifying them with an impoverished urban underclass, and demonizing liberals for supposedly coddling the underclass and favoring blacks generally with unfair "reverse racism" in the form of "quotas"--which had actually been explicitly outlawed by the Supreme Court in 1977.

Thus, the interactions between race, class, and the emergence of a new, one-way, top-down class war were all key to the rise of a conservative hegemony that stymied broad economic growth, and dramatically lowered expectations across the board, defining a new era of American politics.

The following chart presents another view of the same divide illustrated above.  It does not break out the different quintiles.  Rather, if shows the divergence of family incomes as a whole from the growing productivity, whose benefits increasinhly went to capital alone.

And Injury To Injury--Helping The Affluent Gain Even More

As if it weren't bad enough that income growth slowed to a crawl for the bottom 60-80% of the population, the government made matters even worse by targeting the substantial majority of it's help for income mobility--money that helps people grow richer, rather than simply making up for lack of adequate income--on the most affluent members of society.  "The State of the Dream" discusses this in some detail, but it relies on data from a report issued last year by the Urban Institute and the Pew Trusts, "How Much Does the Federal Government Spend to Promote Economic Mobility - and for Whom?"  This was a typically impressive product of liberal think tanks that was totally unsupported by the sort of media blitz that the right routinely mounts on behalf of totally garbage reports.  So if you never heard of it, join the club.

I had no idea that anyone had done this sort of analysis.  What the study did was look at programs designed to build wealth or wealth-generating capacity, as opposed to programs that merely maintain or supplement income.  Such programs can be generally regarded as enhancing income mobility.  While income maintenance programs tend to be skewed toward lower income Americans, income mobility programs have precisely the opposite skew, they are dramatically skewed toward the more affluent.  This is, quite naturally, the exact opposite of what conservatives have forever claimed that liberal big government does.  Surprise, surprise!  Once again, conservatives have been lying to us!

In the introductory section, the authors wrote:

Our findings are as follows:
  • A considerable slice of federal funds has been aimed toward programs  promoting mobility at some level. In 2006 alone, about $212 billion or 1.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in direct spending and another $534 billion or 4.1 percent of GDP in tax  subsidies went to programs aimed at promoting mobility, for a rough total of $746 billion. (The measure itself is rough because of the inevitable issues of categorization, and because one cannot strictly sum tax expenditures together.)
  • Roughly 72 percent of this $746 billion in mobility expenditures, or $540 billion, is delivered mainly through employer-provided work subsidies, aids in asset accumulation, and savings incentives. This spending flows mainly to middle- and higher-income households and often excludes lower-income households or provides them comparably little in benefits.
  • The remaining 28 percent, or $205 billion, of the mobility budget is channeled through programs that favor lower- to moderate-income individuals.

Got that?  Roughly 72 percent of mobility expenditures--or $540 billion--"flows mainly to middle- and higher-income households and often excludes lower-income households", while a measly 28 percent--or $205 billion--is channeled through programs  that favor lower- to moderate-income individuals.

Here's what that breakdown looks like in chart form:

At the end of the report, the authors conclude:

Conclusion

The federal government plays the economic mobility game in spades. Or at least, it so appears, absent effectiveness studies by the federal government on its own  programs. We estimate that approximately $212 billion in direct spending and $534 billion in tax subsidies, or more than $6,000 per household, was invested in 2006 toward federal programs aimed, at least in part, at promoting mobility....

Although the federal government attempts to promote absolute mobility among the middle and upper classes, the poor are often excluded. In addition, those with higher incomes are granted the lion's share of benefits in many programs, including pension subsidies, incentives to acquire employee benefits, and most homeownership subsidies. Of the $746 billion roughly estimated to be spent on programs that, at some level, aim to enhance mobility, well above $500 billion goes to enhancing the mobility of those in the top two quintiles of income-people who already possess substantial private command of financial and human capital. The only major categories of mobility spending that reach or target the poor-those who might benefit most from mobility-enhancing programs-are education programs like Pell grants, child health and well-being programs like SCHIP and children's Medicaid, and the work support portion of TANF.

Here's what the mobility spending looks like in comparison with income maintenance and general spending on public goods:

Naturally, the "entitlements" that have Peter Peterson and other "non-partisan" elites' panties all in a twist don't have anything to do with income mobility.  Those parts of the budget are sacrosanct.

And here's a further breakdown which shows how dramatically the distributional patterns vary with the realm of income mobility expenditures.  Some of it--the Earned Income Tax Credit, for example--is actually targeted to those who really need it. Other stuff--the preferential tax rates on capital gains and dividends, for example, not so much.

Conclusion

What all the above shows quite clearly is that black economic development since the Civil Rights Era has been effectively thwarted by conservative political dominance, which has disproportionately favored affluent white populations that previously benefitted from "universalist" programs that blacks were effectively excluded from--notably, various New Deal programs, including mortgage support, and labor laws that excluded domestics and agricultural workers, as well as the GI Bill, which blacks were technically eligible for, but could not readily utilize--and that benefited from an era of broadly-shared economic gains that came to an end just as blacks finally began gaining much broader access to the workplace.

At the same time, blacks have demonized throughout this period for supposedly gaining unfair advantages, and grabbing the lion's share of federal benefits, when, in fact, the benefits they have received are disproportionately not those that help to build capital over time, but rather those that simply allow one to keep treading water.


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Tragedies (4.00 / 7)
There isn't much comfort in discovering, when we finally do get some reliable numbers, that they confirm the tragedy we've watched unfold since Rev. King was assassinated, and which no one seemed to be interested in, even our old allies.

A worse tragedy still is how little it would have actually taken to fulfill our obligations as a society, how miserably we failed, and how amazingly little honor we pay to the legacy of giants like Frederick Douglass, A. Phillip Randolph, and Rev. King himself.

Honestly, I still can't believe it, even though I've lived through it. Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Malcolm X. I actually thought we were listening, and that we were learning something as we did. Maybe the time's come 'round again. I'd like to hope so, but after the past thirty years, hope feels like a corrosive fluid. Anger, which actually is a corrosive fluid, seems more appropriate.



Well, It Remains To Be Seen (4.00 / 3)
In a way, I think we're finally getting the sort of democratic discursive space we always needed to pull this off.  That alone won't be enough by itself.  But it's a big boost to whatever else we can bring.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Under Clinton (0.00 / 0)
lower quintiles also made gains, not just the upper quintiles. Nate Silver posted on this a week or so ago:

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com...

Ignoring the developments of 1993-2001 makes the argument of a 1975 conservative break much easier, and makes it easier to take a gloomy view that nothing can be done with the economic effects of racism in the US. Fortunately it seems that reality does have some available solutions if we choose leaders who'll actually use them or help create them.


Very True (4.00 / 5)
But there's more to the story, unfortunately.  If you break things down even further, you discover that Clinton was very good indeed to those at the tippy-top--see the purple squares going up, up up?  That's related to a combination of the tech bubble and financial deregulation.  It took a hit when the bubble burst, and took several years to recover thereafter:

That was basically an indication that Clinton's broad prosperity was not sustainable over the long run, even without the Bush disaster following him--though it probably could have been sustainable, if new policies had been introduced to help sustain it.

Here's another view of the above data, using the top 1% share as the basis for comparison:

What this shows is that the only times the top 1% has lost ground is during recessions, when their more fragile, speculative financial gains have taken more of a hit than everyone else's.

Another thing that's not shown by the data Silver sites is how costs increased as well.  Clinton's one really significant economic initiative was significantly beefing up the Earned Income Tax Credit--and he deserves real credit for that.  But the costs of education remained astronomical compared to what they were in first quarter century after WWII.  And that's a huge barrier to income mobility in the lower ranks, not over the course of a brief few years so much as over an entire lifetime.

Again, none of this negates the point you're making.  Clinton did show that things could be better than Reagan & the Bush family made us believe.  But this does indicate the limitations.  What Clinton did was encouraging, but it wasn't, by itself, a solution to what's ailed us over the past 30 years.  It was more of a respite.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
But... (4.00 / 1)
college enrollment for AA's went from 1.35 million in 1991 to about 1.85 million in 2001, with Hispanics rising from about 850,000 to 1.45 million (DofEdu via ACE report).

From Black Enterprise 2004:

The American Council on Education released its 20th annual Minorities in Higher Education Annual Status Report, which revealed that minority college enrollment has surged 122% over the last two decades. According to the report, the high school completion rate riot African Americans has increased from 68% to 76%, while the rate for Hispanics rose more slowly--from 55% to 59%. College participation rates increased 14% for whites, 11% for African Americans, and 5% for Hispanics. Moreover, African American women remain much more likely than their male counterparts to pursue higher learning--42% compared to 37%. Overall, the college enrollment rate for African Americans has risen 56% in 20 years. The college graduation rate for African Americans in 2001 was 41%, up 8% from 1991. Historically Black Colleges and Universities accounted for more than 20% of all bachelor's degrees earned by African Americans. The report also showed that the number of minorities who obtain professional degrees and doctorates has risen substantially over the past 20 years, with many pursuing advanced degrees in education and the social sciences.

----------------------------------------------
Unfortunately the same article shows a dip in pay for recent college grads as of 2004, and in general I think we can blame a whole swatch of problems on the Bush administration abandoning goals as well as dragging on the effects of the 2001 recession through its financial mismanagement. What a horrible waste and retrenchment during those 8 years.

[ Parent ]
And I don't see why (0.00 / 0)
the conclusion that Clinton's boom couldn't be sustained. Even with the clusterfuck of Bush's tax cuts and the Iraq War, the economy to a small degree came back. Imagine if Gore in 2001 had introduced a real stimulus package that helped working class people and IT-field people recover and continued to encourage a strong export-led dollar rather than a weak dollar that depleted our savings? Sure, there was a downtick, but Bush explicitly cheerleaded the economy into recession in late 2000 just to give himself the benefits of low expectations. Cisco and Apple came back even if a lot of vapor IT companies disappeared, and Google and Paypal rose out of nowhere in the meantime - creative destruction worked quite fine and to our advantage in IT. In banking and financing, well, a few had their thumbs on the scale and we see the results.

[ Parent ]
Nailed it. (0.00 / 0)
But I think the data would be even more dramatic if the states are included; property taxes, education, etc.

Blacks have been under assault but instead of defending themselves, they seem to have joined in the assault. I am hoping for a lasting Obama effect where young black men exchange the baggy pants, backwards base ball caps, and epithet strewn lingo for suits and ties and eloquence.

Where for every hour of basket ball, dating, substance abuse, rap, or XBox360 they spend an equal amount of time studying differential calculus, economics, chemistry, biology, and computers.

As a person from one of those immigrant families who come here ahead of the power curve, that mysterious substance we bring (it wasn't money or wealth) was intellectual commitment; thus in both my and my wife's family we have per capita incomes that exceed any native group simply because we work harder and study more.

I suggest the same for blacks, latinos, and whites.


Oh, For GOD'S SAKE, Man! (4.00 / 2)
Which is it?

Either/or:

I am hoping for a lasting Obama effect where young black men exchange the baggy pants, backwards base ball caps, and epithet strewn lingo for suits and ties and eloquence.

Or Both/And:

Where for every hour of basket ball, dating, substance abuse, rap, or XBox360 they spend an equal amount of time studying differential calculus, economics, chemistry, biology, and computers.

You can't even recognize the internal contradictions of your own rap from one paragraph to the next.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
Mr. Goodman, I Know You Mean Well (4.00 / 3)
And in a sense I agree with you: the petite black bourgeoisie have been just as guilty attacking poor blacks as white elites (if that's what you were implying when you said, "Blacks have been under assault but instead of defending themselves, they seem to have joined in the assault.") but I have to take issue with some of the things you said in your post. You seem to buy into the conservative argument that the reason that blacks suffer such disparities that Mr. Rosenberg listed in his excellent piece because of their behavior and culture (i.e. lack of good manners and hard work, anti-intellectualism, etc.) It reminds me of what sociologist Stephen Steinberg said in an article taking Nathan Glazer to task for Glazer's assault on Affirmative Action that rings true here:

Glazer has backed himself into a corner. Logically, he could have argued that affirmative action is justifiable for blacks alone (which he now argues). Instead, he avoided these nettlesome realities by taking refuge behind abstractions: color-consciousness is proscribed by the Constitution, and the whole purpose of the civil rights movement was to institute the ideal of a color-blind society. How then deal with the fact that blacks have suffered "a group deprivation" in patent violation of hallowed Constitutional norms, and as a consequence, still languish at the bottom of the class system? For Glazer, the way out of this conundrum is to shift the blame away from racist structures (the target of affirmative action policy) to blacks themselves. Here Glazer reiterates a position that he first enunciated in Beyond the Melting Pot: that because of the terrible ravages of the past, blacks are incapacitated to follow in the footsteps of other ethnic groups who were able to overcome barriers of prejudice and discrimination in a successful pursuit of the American Dream. In other words, it is the damaged and defective culture of blacks that needs to be repaired, and this, regrettably, is "beyond the limits of social policy." Instead of social action, we get moral exhortation about what blacks need to do to raise themselves from the depths.

Glazer's position is barely distinguishable from the one enunciated, though without liberal gloss, by Dinesh D'Souza in The End of Racism: that the crux of the problem of race is the cultural pathology that riddles the black community, and the responsibility for repairing the problem rests with blacks themselves. According to Glazer's rendering of history, during the 1960s discrimination was declining and blacks were making progress in terms of jobs and incomes. Mysteriously, "there was simultaneously a great increase in female-headed families among blacks, of youth unemployment, and of crime among blacks. No one has given a very convincing explanation of this tangle of pathology in the ghetto, but it is hard to believe it is anything as simple as lack of jobs or discrimination in available jobs." Like D'Souza, Glazer blames "family breakup and social disorder among blacks" for white resistance to integration in jobs, schools, and housing. The remedy: blacks need to do what white ethnic groups did -- namely, establish a social order consisting of "stable neighborhoods, with children succeeding parents in the same area, strong organizations centered around the church, formal ethnic associations or patterns of informal ethnic association, the local political organization, the trade union, the local small businesses of members of the group, which serve as much for socialization as for ordinary business." In effect, blacks need to morph themselves into Jews -- or Italians, or Poles, or whatever other group represents "the old ethnic pattern." This is rather like trying to pound a rectangle into a slot shaped like a circle. To accomplish this, Glazer has to mutilate race history and twist concepts to make blacks fit into a paradigm that does not represent their experience.

Blacks have a history in this country of trying "the old ethnic pattern" and it simply doesn't work. The Old Ethnic Pattern asks blacks to discard part of themselves, a culture that gives them livelihood -- a culture that was recreated here on the good ole soil of America because the culture that their ancestors brought with them was forbidden and ripped completely away from them during slavery -- just for the sake of assimilation. Also, I'm a black guy who listens to Hip Hop, wears the attire that represents that culture, speak the slang, etc., but like other young black men, I know when to turn that off when the situation calls for me to do so. But even the wisest person knows that putting on a business suit and emulating elites does not hide ones race, regardless of how well-mannered and articulate one appears to be. I simply don't accept the argument that the solution for young black men to reach upper mobility is to abandon a subculture that some elites find "intolerable" in order to seek acceptance. Just like Obama, many young black men know how to walk the walk and talk the talk in certain situations. That's not uncommon among black folks.


[ Parent ]
Oh, By The Way... (4.00 / 2)
It's kind of hard to follow "the old ethnic pattern" when for generations blacks have been denied many opportunities in this country to perfect such pattern.

[ Parent ]
Essentially his argument rejects culture, period. (4.00 / 4)
As a white creative person, I resent the either/or Paul Goodman sets up between conformity and intellectual discipline. The whole Creative Class conception certainly rejects this notion. Take it up with Richard Florida.

     And Goodman, of course, handily ignores the absolute fortune made in white co-opting of precisely that black culture he maligns.


[ Parent ]
Exactly (4.00 / 2)
And Goodman, of course, handily ignores the absolute fortune made in white co-opting of precisely that black culture he maligns.

Could not have said it better myself!


[ Parent ]
You know (4.00 / 2)
it's easier just to dismiss a lot of these theories by noting that blacks actually did gain a lot of jobs and increased education during the 90's despite hundreds of years of repression. We really don't need a lot of these theories, we just need to help create opportunity and lower unnecessary hurdles. The black literacy rate went from 41% in the 1890s to 81% in the 1930s. It's not like there was a big program in the 1930's saying, "learn to read" or in the 90's saying, "get a job". The jobs and opportunities along with the desire presented themselves. Conversely, in the 1970's, structural conditions for blacks worsened. There is room to argue over how much of this was self-inflicted, but more importantly, the decline was reversible - not permanent as ascribed by racist designations of genetic or ethnic behavioral and social limitations or backwardness. And it's hard to say that 80% of blacks by the 1930's had "discarded" part of themselves to learn how to read.

[ Parent ]
Agreed. Very Well Said! (4.00 / 1)
That's one of the reasons why I loathe "cultural pathology" arguments made by both liberal and conservative elites because it confuses cause and effect as to why such "pathologies" was created in the first place. It's interesting that in a column written by David Brooks last year suggested that:

In this recession, maybe even more than other ones, the last ones to join the middle class will be the first ones out. And it won't only be material deprivations that bites. It will be the loss of a social identity, the loss of social networks, the loss of the little status symbols that suggest an elevated place in the social order. These reversals are bound to produce alienation and a political response. If you want to know where the next big social movements will come from, I'd say the formerly middle class.
[...]

In the months ahead, the members of the formerly middle class will suffer career reversals....They will suffer lifestyle reversals....The members of the formerly middle class will suffer housing reversals...Finally, they will suffer a drop in social capital.

Yet scholars on race have been saying this forever that so-called "pathologies" of people of color were created due to economic conditions. However, such arguments were either derided or ignored because it was simple to say that people of color, due to innate cultural defects, causes their own demise at the bottom. The message was clear: middle-class and poor minorities suffer because of some cultural and genetic defects; middle-class and poor whites suffer because of outside forces, which in return, produces social disarray and "alienation" in their communities.

Conservatives have dominated this argument for so long that even some liberals accept cultural pathology as the sole answer to why people of color suffer.  


[ Parent ]
Cultural pathologies (4.00 / 2)
It's been so long since I first heard this that I don't remember where, or who from, but here's the cultural pathology we need to be concerned about:

If you're black, get back
If you're brown, stick around
If you're white, you're all right.



[ Parent ]
Very Funny! (0.00 / 0)
It's a shame Rev. Lowery created a firestorm with those remarks because many weren't aware that this was an old rap that those from the old school use to say back in the day.

[ Parent ]
This Is Really A Complicated Issue (4.00 / 4)
First off, it's quite clear that material deprivation limits people's options.  This, in turn, alters behavior.  If you really have no chance whatsoever to work your way out of poverty, then the only rational thing to do is reorient your goals--either toward coping with poverty, or toward escaping poverty through some other means--such as criminal activity.  This is a fundamental logic that any human being will follow, and has nothing to do with their race, ethnicity, religion or whatever.

But there's a second factor, which is highlighted by Social Dominance Theory, known as behavioral asymmetry. What this means is that subordinate groups tend to engage in more self-destructive behavior than dominant groups do.  Again, this is not innate, since subordinate group membership is entirely arbitrary.  It's a function of power relationships in society.  This does mean, however, that there is some truth to claims of cultural pathology.  But it also means that we have to understand it as coming from outside the culture that's regarded as pathologized, and we have to look at ways of turning it around based on this recognition. This is something that identity-based resistance movements have often focused their energies on.

The "natural approach" that one will hear pushed by the dominant culture is simply to "straighten up and fly right," but this advice does not take account of the actual causes implicated.  Rather than conforming to standards of the dominant culture, the subordinate groups needs to develop it's own positive culture--adopting aspects of the dominant culture as it sees fit (self-invention, as I discuss in another diary), but not being dominated by them.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
Or assimilation/acclimation/adaptation (0.00 / 0)
Looking at the waves of blacks moving to the big cities at the end of the 19th century while a number of other minorities were immigrating in waves gives some comparison of survival tactics. In part I think the issue of blacks as internal immigrants with economic/employment conditions and threats is largely ignored in evaluating ethnic bias of the period, with skin color highlighting the ethnic difference, but Irish, Polish, Italian, Chinese and Mexican immigrants had significant issues, with accents, facial features and skin color that couldn't be covered up. In some ways, each community had to find its mojo, a complicated dance of finding an American identity that would fit in while still stand out.

Goodman's comments above tend to underscore one basic issue, which is that we can take basic appearances or fashion and draw hugely undeserved conclusions from them, such as like every white person that wears a cowboy hat now and then has to be a cowboy rather than a banker, engineer, bartender, car salesman, and every black person that wears a baseball cap and baggy pants here and there must be a gangbanger rather than a lawyer, doctor, accountant, secretary, or whatever. Of course music TV tends to reinforce the silliness more than in the 1890's, but we should know very well that our personal impressions and convictions can easily be disputed by facts.  


[ Parent ]
I Want To Thank You For Introducing Social Dominance Theory To Me. (0.00 / 0)
Man, it's amazing that I learn more reading your posts than the two semesters I spent taking sociology in college! By the way, thanks for introducing that theory to me. I checked out the origins of this theory came from the book "Social Dominance: An Intergroup Theory of Social Hierarchy and Oppression" by Jim Sidanius and Felicia Pratto, and I'm purchasing it to learn more about it.  

[ Parent ]
Yes, I've Mentioned The Book Several Times. (4.00 / 1)
They've also published some very interesting journal articles after publication of the book.  Not much need to go back to the papers written before they pulled everything together for the book, but after you've digested the book you might want to look into some of their more recent journal articles.  My printouts are deeply buried at the moment, or I'd give you a few titles.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Deprivation is absolutely key (4.00 / 1)
In Britain, the most problematic underperforming group in education is actually poor white males not from an immigrant background and located in sink estates.

They have appalling rates of exam passes and university attendance, a huge unemployment rate and a high chance of being incarcerated. Exactly the same as the situation that used to (and largely still does) affect young males of African or Caribbean descent.

Why did this occur? Mostly because in the 1980s good blue collar jobs were destroyed by the Thatcher government, those made unemployed spent years out of work and their offspring never really had any realistic expectation of bettering themselves, so they dropped out of the educational mainstream.

Culture can occasionally have some effect, generally a positive one, on educational attainment. But I know plenty of defiantly anti-intellectual middle-class white kids who are going on to good middle-class white-collar jobs (at least once this recession is over). Culture only dooms you if you were probably doomed by economics anyway.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog


[ Parent ]
This Is Really Central (4.00 / 3)
The barrier that subordinate groups face is very much implicated in the work of their cultural producers, because what is healthy for a subordinate group cannot be simply to imitate the dominant group that has oppressed it.  There has to be a transformation of the tools that have been used to oppress in order for them to comfortably be used by those who have been oppressed.

It is no accident, therefore, that African Americans have been such prolific cultural producers, particularly in the performative arts. They are constantly taking in elements of the dominant culture and reworking them in various ways.  This is what a healthy subordinate culture does.  But, of course, a healthy subordinate culture is just one piece of what's need for then entire community to move forward.  

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


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