(Black America)--Invisible Nation

by: Paul Rosenberg

Sat Mar 15, 2008 at 20:00


I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids--and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination indeed, everything except me.
    - Invisible Man (prologue), Ralph Ellison

More than 50 years after Ralph Ellison's classic Invisible Man appeared, a black man may well be poised to become President, and yet, Black America as a whole still remains virtually invisible, describable in exactly the same terms that Ellison used:

I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination indeed, everything except me.

You make think this is an exaggeration.  If so, this diary is a challenge to think again.

Let's cut right to the chase:  This year, we can expect anti-affirmative action initiatives to placed on the ballot in certain key swing states with the intention of generating white backlash to defeat the Democratic candidate-particularly if that candidate is Barack Obama.  Yet, at the same time, it's been shown that employers, on average, will hire white ex-felons more readily than they will hire similarly-qualified blacks with no prison record.  The notion of hordes of Black workers taking jobs from more qualified Whites is sheer fantasy-the exact opposite of what happens every day of the week, all across America.

Paul Rosenberg :: (Black America)--Invisible Nation
White America's View of Black America: Ralph Ellison Meets Sigmund Freud

In the introduction to my previous diary, Two Long Recessions, I noted the existence of two hidden recessions, one a three-decae recession in the American quality of life, unmeasured by standard economic methods, such as the GDP, the other a perpetual recession afflicting black America.  Then I wrote:

Combining the two perspectives, it is obvious that Black America as a whole remains in very dire circumstances.  Yet, we can look forward to another round of anti-affirmative action initiatives this year, particularly in certain swing states, even as Barack Obama tries to run a campaign that is not about race.  This constellation of facts gives us clear warning of how necessary it is to begin establishing a more realistic foundation for discussing both race and economics.

In the diary itself, I dropped several hints of topics to be further explored in a followup diary.  Here I will take up those topics, reflecting on the enduring invisible realities of Black America, and how they may well emerge-at least partially, in the months ahead.

Before I do so, however, I want to suggest a formal framework for considering what follows that closely mirrors what Ellison described so vividly in artistic form.  This framework is that of Freudian ego defense mechanisms-as Wikipedia puts it, "psychological strategies brought into play by individuals, groups and even nations to cope with reality and to maintain self-image."  Defense mechanisms can be categorized in varous ways, one of which is in terms of levels, from the most pathological to the most healthy.  Level 1 mechanisms, Wikipedia explains,  are "common in overt psychosis".  They also aptly describe how White America sees-or rather fails to see-Black America:

Categorization of Defence Mechanisms

Level 1 Defence Mechanisms

The mechanisms on this level, when predominating, almost always are severely pathological. These three defences, in conjunction, permit one to effectively rearrange external reality and eliminate the need to cope with reality. The pathological users of these mechanisms frequently appear crazy or insane to others. These are the "psychotic" defences, common in overt psychosis. However, they are found in dreams and throughout childhood as healthy mechanisms.

They include:

  • Denial: Refusal to accept external reality because it is too threatening; arguing against an anxiety provoking stimuli by stating it doesn't exist; resolution of emotional conflict and reduce anxiety by refusing to perceive or consciously acknowledge the more unpleasant aspects of external reality.
  • Distortion: A gross reshaping of external reality to meet internal needs.
  • Delusional Projection: Grossly frank delusions about external reality, usually of a persecutory nature.

Just keep that in mind, as you read what follows.

Black America: A Few Basic Facts

Let us begin by quickly reprising certain basic facts.  First, the Black unemployment rate has been roughly double the White unemployment rate since 1972, when comparable records first started being kept (as the difference between the Black and White rates closely tracks teh Black rate itself):

Second, Black unemployment is not simply due to Blacks being less qualified.  In field tests, Whites with similar qualifications are routinely and significantly prefered over Blacks.  In fact, Whites with similar qualifications--but with a criminal record are slightly preferred over Blacks.

As noted in my previous diary, In April, 2005, Princeton University sent out a press release :

Many New York employers discriminate against minorities, ex-offenders
by Steven M. Schultz · Posted April 1, 2005; 10:56 a.m.

Black applicants without criminal records are no more likely to get a job than white applicants just out of prison, according to a Princeton University study of nearly 1,500 private employers in New York City.

The study, "Discrimination in Low Wage Labor Markets," was conducted by sociology professors Devah Pager and Bruce Western . It is the largest and most comprehensive project of its kind to date.

The study, which investigated discrimination against young male minorities and ex-offenders by employers, also showed:

    • Young white high school graduates were about twice as likely to receive positive responses from New York employers as equally qualified black job seekers;

    • Ex-offenders face serious barriers to employment; a criminal record reduced positive responses from employers by about 35 percent for white applicants and 57 percent for black applicants.

Even without criminal records, however, black applicants had low rates of positive responses, about the same as the response rate for white applicants with criminal records. Hispanics also faced discrimination by employers, but were preferred relative to blacks.

Note that these ratios--"about twice" and a reduction of 35% compared to 57%--are quite in line with blacks having twice the unemployment rate of whites.

The Criminalization of Black America

The above results are bad enough in themselves, but there's an additional level of discrimination involved, since blacks are incarcerated far more frequently than whites are, so that blacks and whites with similar behaviors are treated very differently, first by the criminal justice system, and then by employers.

In May of 2007, Harry G. Levine, of the Sociology Department of Queens College testified before the NY State Assembly [PDF] and presented graphs that vividly demonstrated the vast disparities involved in incarcerating marijuana users in New York City.  The following are some of the key charts from his presentation.

First, the rate of marijuana arrests skyrocketed out of nowhere in the last decade:

Second, the result was a much greater increase in number of arrests of Blacks and Latinos, even though the arrests of Whites increased slightly more proportionately:

Third, the arrest rates of Blacks was almost eight times that of Whites:

Fourth, the background reality is that Whites use marijuana slightly, but consistently, more than Blacks do:

In his testimony, Levine stressed the point that this policy-which obviously involves a tremendous public expenditure, as well as having a tremendous impact on populations subject to mass arrests-is not one that is readily explicable, or that proponents even want to discuss:

Why has New York City been making this enormous number of marijuana possession arrests?

The New York City Police Department does not like to talk about its marijuana arrests. The NYPD holds no press briefings and offers no press releases or documents taking credit for capturing record numbers of marijuana offenders. It would appear that the police, from the Commissioner and Mayor on down, have not wanted attention drawn to the city's extraordinary number of marijuana arrests. As a result there has effectively been no media coverage of the arrests. 2 The dramatic increase in marijuana arrests began in 1996 and 1997 with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. But marijuana arrests have continued at historically high levels under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and have remained high even after the bombing of 9-11 when one might think there were more important things for NYPD to do.

It's also worth noting that-- contrary to his own hype--Giuliani was not responsible for cleaning up New York and making it safe again.  As Joe Conasan pointed out in Salon late last year, crime plummeted across the country in the early 1990s, David Dinkins was largely responsible for the significant increase in the number of cops in New York, and Police Commissioner William Bratton-now in Los Angeles-was largely responsible for implementing the crime-tracking system, "Compstat" that played an important role in driving performance improvements, but Guiliani could not stand sharing credit with him, and thus eventually forced him out.  While marijuana arrests doubled under Bratton from 1994 to 1996, they tripled in the two years after he left. It's impossible to say if Bratton would have changed direction, but successors clearly did not.

Levine continued:

Because the NYPD is not publicly claiming credit for making record numbers of marijuana arrests, my colleague Deborah Small and I have been trying to understand who wants the arrests, or likes them, or gains from them. The most important constituency we have found has been significant sectors of the New York Police Department. From our research and interviews, we identified several major incentives within the NYPD for maintaining high levels of marijuana arrests.

Marijuana arrests are generally easy, safe, and provide overtime.
Ordinary New York police, street cops and narcotics police, like making marijuana arrests. The arrests are relatively easy. People arrested for smoking or possessing marijuana tend to be non-violent, easy to handle, and, in the words of one cop, "clean" - meaning physically clean, not smelly or dirty. This matters because the arresting officer is "married" to the arrestee through the booking process, sometimes for many hours. Because NYPD pay scales are very low, police naturally want overtime work....

Marijuana arrests generate records, facilitate supervision of police activities, and allow police at all levels to show they are being productive.
Police supervisors from the precinct level up to the police chief and perhaps even the Mayor also like the marijuana arrests. When cops are making many marijuana arrests (and other minor misdemeanor arrests such as having an open beer can in a paper bag) they are keeping busy....

Further, at a time when other crimes (and therefore arrests) are down significantly, making many misdemeanor arrests is a handy way for supervisors, from the precinct on up, to show that cops are not sloughing off. Even though all categories of reported crime have dropped significantly since 1990, by making many marijuana and other misdemeanor arrests, police at all levels can show high numbers of arrests and high productivity.

Police assigned to marijuana duties (and misdemeanor arrests in general) can easily be shifted elsewhere when needed.
Police supervisors also like having cops assigned to making marijuana arrests because if something big comes up - an emergency, fire, bombing, visiting dignitary - they can pull the police off making marijuana and other misdemeanor arrests with absolutely no effect on other crime. No ongoing investigation is affected by temporarily reducing the marijuana arrests....

Marijuana arrests provide an easy way to target and acquire information on young people.
Along with national and other local police agencies, the NYPD seeks to get as many young people as possible "into the system" - meaning getting them fingerprinted, photographed, and now increasingly DNA tested. Marijuana arrests are the best and easiest way currently available to acquire data on young people, especially Black and Latino youth, who have not previously been entered into the criminal justice databases. There is nothing else police currently can do that gets as many new people "into the system" as the wide net of marijuana arrests and other misdemeanor arrests. Black and Latino youth are disproportionally searched and arrested because it is easy and convenient to do so, and because they usually lack political and social connections that might make the arrests troublesome or embarrassing for the arresting officers or their commanders.

As a result of these factors and others, in the last ten years the NYPD has made a great many marijuana misdemeanor arrests, and many other low-level and arbitrary misdemeanor arrests as well, catching in their nets overwhelmingly poor, Black and Hispanic youth, mainly teenage boys and young men.

This collection of reasons reflects a set of bureaucrtatic priorities that would never be allowed to dictate public policy that radically impacted a powerful constituency. It is the sheer continued invisibility of Black America that allows such petty rationales to drive policies that profoundly reduce the life-chances of hundreds of thousands of black youth in New York City alone.

This is a pattern of profoundly racist impacts, but it does not require any conscious racist intent on the part of anyone.  It is a perfect example of insitutional racism in a system of what Eduardo Bonilla-Silva calls "racism without racists" (Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States).

Because individual Whites do not experience themselves as racist, and because they do not see the daily realities that I have discussed above, there is a profound disconnect between the separate realities of White and Black America-despite all of Barack Obama's rhetoric to the contrary.  Aspiring to bridge that divide is, of course, highly commendable.  But actually briding that divide is a far more important, and far more difficult task.

Instead, we are likely to face a much nastier short-term future, with racism riding high in anti-racist drag.

As Digby noted recently, ("Content Of Their Characters"), this CNN report is  a harbinger of what's to come:

Come election time in November, voters in five states might have a decision to make as big as whom to elect president.

Ballot initiatives have been proposed in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma that would give voters the chance to decide whether they want to do away with affirmative action in government-funded projects and public schools.

Ward Connerly, who heads the American Civil Rights Coalition -- a nonprofit organization working to end racial and gender preferences -- and the main backer of the ballot initiatives, says the 37 word initiative would read: "The state shall not discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting."

"It would forbid any state or local agency or special district from engaging in preferential treatment," Connerly said.Video Watch what Connerly says about the initiative »

Connerly, who is of African-American and American Indian descent, said affirmative action causes resentment. He criticized cases in which a Caucasian student might be denied a college slot in favor of a black student with a lower grade-point average.

"It's foolish not to think that the kid who is turned away is not going to ... resent that," Connerly said.

But, of course, as we've just seen, Connerly is just peddling myths and outright lies.  It's black kids who lose out to white kids thousands of times every day, while whites remain utterly oblivious, because the collective experience of Black America remains invisible to them.  Connerly is, quite simply, an inciter of racial hatred pretending to be the exact opposite.  And this is increasingly central to the GOP's evolving strategy of deep deception.  The Iraq War lies were child's play by comparison.

Digly notes:

Arizona, Colorado and Missouri. Hmmm. Why do you suppose they chose those states? I'm sure this has nothing to do with the fact they are big swing states with large minority populations aren't you?

I wrote earlier about how the Republicans are going take advantage of the zeitgeist to position Maverick McCain as the real post-partisan. (The Democrats you see, are playing the same old tired identity politics of the past, while the rich, white, war hero Republican has risen above all that to reach across the aisle many times --- often angering his own party --- to put his country before petty partisan concerns.) By urging equality for all people instead of just the favored minorities, the conservatives are ones who are truly transformational. They don't believe in divisive racist and sexist policies like affirmative action. As the great conservative hero Martin Luther King always said, they want Americans to be judged by the content of their characters. And nobody has more character than the straight talking, war hero, John McCain.

It would be wrong for anyone to say that they are trying to boost turnout among their racist, sexist, xenophobic base in major swing states. In fact it's the opposite. By putting such issues on the ballot, they are giving people of good character a way to move past all these phony racial and partisan divisions and transform our politics. Yes they can.

Remember the reality:  (1) Through good times and bad, blacks persistently have roughly twice the unemployment rate of whites.  (2) When it comes to hiring, whites with criminal records are marginally prefered over Blacks with similar qualifications and no criminal record. (3) Far more Blacks than Whites have criminal records, because of institutional racism in the practice of law enforcement.  (4) Once Blacks have criminal records, they do dramatically even worse in comparison to whites.

In contrast to these facts, here is what the General Social Survey tells us about recent attitudes (2000-2006) towards Black's lower economic status and affirmative action:

Attributed Causes For Blacks'
Lower Economic Status
CauseView EXT
LIB
LIBMod
Lib
ModMod
Con
ConExt
Con
TOT
Inborn disabilityYES11.78.47.511.19.98.817.910.0
NO88.391.692.589.090.191.282.690.0

Precise wording:  

266. On the average (negroes/blacks/African-Americans) have worse jobs, income, and housing than white people. Do you think these differences are: b. Because most  (negroes/blacks/African-Americans) have less in-born ability to learn?

This is a classic racist view of Blacks.  It is still promoted as respectable by the rightwing establishment (see, for example, The Bell Curve), but even most extreme conservatrives no longer believe this.  Like the man said, "racism without racists."

Attributed Causes For Blacks'
Lower Economic Status
CauseView EXT
LIB
LIBMod
Lib
ModMod
Con
ConExt
Con
TOT
DiscriminationYES51.048.743.236.227.924.924.435.4
NO48.451.356.863.872.175.175.664.6

Precise wording:  

266. On the average (negroes/blacks/African-Americans) have worse jobs, income, and housing than white people. Do you think
these differences are: a. Mainly due to discrimination?

Three out of four conservatives say "no." Even almost half of "extreme liberals" say "no."  They are not just mistaken.  As the information above shows, they are downright delusional.

Attributed Causes For Blacks'
Lower Economic Status
CauseView EXT
LIB
LIBMod
Lib
ModMod
Con
ConExt
Con
TOT
EducationYES54.159.752.442.242.738.428.144.7
NO45.940.347.457.857.461.671.955.3

Precise wording:  

266. On the average (negroes/blacks/African-Americans) have worse jobs, income, and housing than white people. Do you think these differences are: c. Because most (negroes/blacks/African-Americans) don't have the chance for education that it takes to rise out of poverty?

In the real world, education is a major factor holding Blacks back.  More than half a century after Brown v. Board of Education, "separate, but (not really) equal" remains the general rule for education in America.  But it's not even on the radar for almost three out of four extreme conservatives, and a majority of moderates.  They simply cannot see the reality of Black America today.  It remains invisible to them.

Attributed Causes For Blacks'
Lower Economic Status
CauseView EXT
LIB
LIBMod
Lib
ModMod
Con
ConExt
Con
TOT
Lack of WillYES36.637.041.151.150.357.065.449.2
NO63.463.058.948.949.542.934.650.8

Precise wording:  

266. On the average (negroes/blacks/African-Americans) have worse jobs, income, and housing than white people. Do you think these differences are: d. Because most (negroes/blacks/African-Americans) just don't have the motivation or willpower to pull themselves up out of poverty?

Lack of will!  That's what almost two out of three extreme conservatives say the problem is, and more than half of all moderates agree!  Lack of will is why those employeers choose white convicts over blacks with a clean record.  Yesirree!

Delusional.  There is no other word for it.

Finally:

Whites Hurt By Affirmative Action?
Likely? EXT
LIB
LIBMod
Lib
ModMod
Con
ConExt
Con
TOT
Very Likely18.914.515.218.018.721.535.118.7
Somewhat Likely32.943.549.750.248.550.540.048.3
Not Very Likely48.242.035.131.832.728.024.933.1

Precise wording:  

414. What do you think the chances are these days that a white person won't get a job or promotion while an equally or less qualified black person gets one instead?

So, by 3-1, extreme conservatives think it's "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that whites will be hurt by affirmative action, but discrimination is not the main problem confronting blacks.  And by roughly 2-1, moderates agree!

  • Delusional Projection: Grossly frank delusions about external reality, usually of a persecutory nature.

No one with the most elementary knowledge of Black America today could entertain any such notions for even a millisecond.  Yet, they represent the common sense of White America.

Make no mistake, Connerly/McSame will be running this year to make sure that Black America remains an Invisible Nation.

And the question remains: What will Obama do?

What will any of us do?


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Well done and sobering (0.00 / 0)
We have already learned in the last few years that:

1. America will start an unprovoked war.

2. America will torture.

3. America will spy on it's citizens.

Are a majority of Americans willing to vote for someone running on the platform of restoring America's ideals?

I want to think so.

John McCain doesn't care about Vets.



Thank You Paul (0.00 / 0)


"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra

Not bad (4.00 / 2)
Of course, with this short of an article, it barely scratches the surface, but it's a nice start.

For readers, I'd recommend:

http://www.pageflakes.com/bron... (a link to a large number of black blogs, some of which are political in nature)

http://afrospear.wordpress.com/ (an online Black think tank)

http://www.blackagendareport.com/ (News with a Black Historical perspective)

http://www.colorofchange.org/ (a web-based Civil Rights group)

For you, I'd recommend reading:

http://francislholland.blogspo...
http://afrospear.wordpress.com...

(two of several articles on suggesting that what is commonly termed "racism" is, and should be treated as, a psychological disorder, which the author proposes naming "Extreme Color-Aroused Emotions, Ideation and Behavior Disorder" or "Extreme Color Arousal" for short).

http://francislholland.blogspo...

(Arguably, part of the genesis of the Afrosphere/Afrospear)

If you want my recommendation for the best thing that a site like this (or its members) could do, it's realizing that a vibrant, left-of center Black-oriented large group of websites actually exists. Occasionally looking at or linking to it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, either.


Glen Ford Is One Of My Favorites (4.00 / 1)
I was working on a post a while back, spinning off from his debate with Michael Eric Dyson on Democracy Now!  But folks were already thinking I was a Hillary clone or something, so I set it aside.

Thanks for the prodding. It's worth going back to--or picking up on something more recent from him.  

"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 ]
Paul, Solid post on reality of (0.00 / 0)
Black America today after 30 years of movement conservatism. These issues are not unknown to anybody who has been paying attention.  

That is not to defend the status quo, but whose fault is this? It has to do with the mean, nasty nature of conservatism, especially movement conservatives. The war on drugs has affected us far longer than the war in Iraq, and has also cost us a ton of money for nothing. And I admit, has fallen unfairly on the black community.

BUT, what is your point on the primary election, that we should make race the, or one of the central issues of the campaign? Lets pick on the party who has brought the nasty, meanness of Gingrich, and kick their ass.  Lets bring an end to the "gilded age" that we seem to be living.  Our fight should be about economic re-alignment, a new "new deal", to steal directly from Krugman's new book.

I think this problem gets  better with either of our candidates, and deserves debate, but with Latinos becoming a larger part of the melting pot, won't good progressive politics help solve this in a better way without making it about black America, but a fight for a fair society for all Americans? Shouldn't our direction focus on making all minorities lives better through Progressive politics, rather than focus on just one minority?

These issues will take us decades to fix, and we should fix it for all minorities.

If you can, explain where you see this debate going, as a way to help Obama?? Could it not backfire, or is what is going on already backfiring?


Confusion (4.00 / 2)
I'll assume that your comments are intended to be constructive, so I'll note that I'm very confused.

How will progressive policies address issues for any particular minority (not just Blacks) if large percentages of "extreme liberals" are delusional as to the existence of those problems, and presumably, what they are, or how to solve them?

It's not like (taking three groups as an example) Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans have exactly the same major issues, exactly the same history, or exactly the same current problems.


[ Parent ]
I Don't Have A Simple Point Here (4.00 / 1)
But one point I do have is that you can't escape race by pretending it's not there, and all of Obama's attempts to run a non-racial campaign are going to have to confront that, sooner or later.

So it's best for us to start wrestling with these suppressed truths now, rather than after we've been stung once again.

"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 ]
Comes Back To Dignity (0.00 / 0)
You wind up coming back to the "Dignitarian" argument, if the social system is robbing people of their dignity, you have to fix that from the bottom up.

People have built up a resistance to guilt arguments.  If you tell them that social injustice is the product of their hidden racism and "privilege", they tune you out.  I can't rid myself of "male privilege" without extensive surgery I have no desire to undergo.  And I am resistant to being told I don't deserve any of my accomplishments because of that privilege.  It's not my fault that people will defer to me in person in a way they wouldn't defer to a woman with the same positions and demeanor.

People are open to "equality of opportunity" arguments, but not "equality of outcome".


[ Parent ]
Except... (4.00 / 1)
If there's one thing my diary makes clear, it's that after 50 years, "equality of opportunity" is as far from being realized as it ever was.

"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 ]
Hence the dilemna (0.00 / 0)
As your own statistics show, people are no longer willing to accept guilt based arguments.  Even extreme liberals have worn out their white guilt.  Trying to change that directly is just going to generate more pushback.

[ Parent ]
That's A Ludicrous Assertion (4.00 / 1)
You're assuming the existence of "guilt-based arguments" when what we've actually had is pretty much just decades of silence and rightwing lies.

"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 ]
His answer is a classic response (4.00 / 2)
It conflates his emotions with what it being said. It's what makes race so difficult to talk about. I will say well blacks are hurt because banks are more likely to push subprime lending on them, and they will say "but that's not my fault." I am left just looking at them, and thinking'' I don't remember saying it was personally yoour fault, and at that point the conversation is already tainted because they become increasingly defensive.

[ Parent ]
This Is The Real Place For A Dignitarian Discourse To Intervene (0.00 / 0)
While apologists will want to hijack dignitarianism as yet another dodge for avoiding confronting race, its proper function should be as a way to help folks step back a bit, and begin a different kind of conversation, one that explicitly creates the sort of critical distance that's necessary if we're really going to make significant progress.

One facet of this is simply that far too many people are incapable of disentangling themselves from unconscious identification with the social & institutional system in which they are embeded.  Part of this is cognitive developmental, as I have discussed before.  But even that factor does not operate in a vacuum, and the common deficit that a dignitarian approach can address is people's lack of sufficient self-respect to rely on their own independent judgement, their own status as an independent, autonomous moral agent--something that flows quite directly from their own sense of individual dignity.

I don't have a magical formula of how to translate this potentiality into reality.  But it's definitely on my to-do list to work on developing some strategies.

"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 ]
The bottom line is that to change things you have to (0.00 / 0)
want to want to change things rather than turn it into "how does it make me feel." So long as the conversation is "how it makes me feel" nothing changes.  In many ways, this is the lasting element of the me-generation in full effect even s people claim Obama is a change from that direction. Ironically, everything they say and do is very much in accord with me, me, me. If you response to a social dynamics is to discuss yourself, that's not someone interested in anything other than themselves. To me, more than race, that's the dynamic which makes conversation impossible. You have to be more than self referential to get these things. I admit- I have the same problems. But at least I've disagnosed it for what it is.

[ Parent ]
Isolation Or Connection? (0.00 / 0)
If the conversation remains mired in  "How does it make me feel?" then it's going nowhere, fast, at best--if not covering for retrograde motion.

But if  "How does it make me feel?" is embedded in a larger framework--"How does it make you feel?  How, does it make falsely-imprisoned black teenagers feel?  How do these feelings get in the way of seeing the big picture? Etc., etc., etc."--then it could actually create some new opennings.

I'm reminded of a surprise best-seller that helped promote the growth of the Nuclear Freeze movment in the early 80s: "Nuclear War--What's In It For You."

"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 ]
It won't work (0.00 / 0)
I am in my mid 30s. I work in mostly white corporate professional environments. I've went to two top schools -- mostly white-- both for undergrad and law school. I am not saying this without having actually dealt with it. The problem really is indifference. To get to empathy you must first move beyond indifferent. To make this non personalized, they did a study a few years back on how doctors treat patients for healthcare.  I believe it was Harvard or some such Ivy league school. The doctors consistently under prescribed medication to people of color when pain was involved because they consistently under diagosed the patients threshhold for pain. They always assumed the patient could handle more. These are trained professionals who are taught to think empirically about their work. They are tried to be empathetic (well at least in theory), and it still didn't affect their bias. This is how deep this goes.

[ Parent ]
I Don't Seem To Be Communicating Too Clearly Here (0.00 / 0)
I have no dispute with anything you've said.  What I was trying to address was an issue of narrative possibility, for lack of a better term, which may seem hopelessly abstract to the point of total irrelevance.

But that's only because I take it for granted that some other factors need to be brought to bear, precisely because of the depth of the gap you point to.  What those factors might be is a whole different can of worms.

"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 ]
Not completely (0.00 / 0)
If I have a gender-equity discussion with a Womens Studies major, I'm going to find that discussion bogging down on the question of "Male Privilege".  I have to accept guilt for having been born with testicles and having been selfish enough to keep them before the conversation can move on.

I've had those discussions.  They're rather pointless.


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So is defensive posturing that has nothingn to do with what someone said (4.00 / 1)


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Systematic Failure of Education (0.00 / 0)
What we're not willing to face is that we have a systematic failure of the educational system, one that is getting worse rather than better.

The most important thing one can learn is how to think.  We've been getting successively worse and worse about accomplishing that in public schools.  Private schools are getting divided between elite academies that do teach it, and religious schools that teach exactly the opposite.  And the performance of public schools on the same front is closely tied to number of students per teacher, which is tied to funding, which is tied to...the demographics of the school district.  IOW, to race.

It's invisible to whites because in our social dealings, we still segregate by race on both sides of the color line.  "Some of my best friends" may be black, but that doesn't mean we invite each other to weddings, birthday parties, etc.


No (4.00 / 7)
Yes, we should make education better. No, Education doesn't have much to do with what Paul is saying.  

Let's face it, inner city blacks are never going to be able to compete with suburban whites for jobs.  The suburban whites will make sure of this.

Education Does Not Create Jobs!  Say this ten times fast!  And the number of well-paying middle-class jobs is not rising that fast.  Who do you think is going to win this competition for jobs?

Education is a scapegoat.  Education should and must be better.  And some individuals will benefit from this change in terms of increased success. But most won't.  This is a pretty clear fact based on the job numbers.

Empowerment for those on the bottom is a collective issue, not an individual issue,not the way society is currently set up. Inner city kids are mostly not going to "escape" the inner city.  Decades of work on the school system has not significantly changed that.  See Mary Patillo's Black Picket Fences and Jean Anyon's Radical Possibilities for a detailed discussion of issues related to this.

I go into this argument in (too) agonizing detail in "Home is a Prison in the Global City."  

The "education is the solution" argument is a fantasy.  Education tracks with class, it doesn't significantly change class.  Now critical education that could teach people how to fight oppression, that might make a difference . . .  .

We need to fight to change the social systems that oppress, not try to educate people so they can escape these systems.  As brief as it is, Paul's presentation here and in the earlier post should make that pretty clear.

--Aaron Schutz (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)


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Thanks for this (4.00 / 1)
Adding this to the response from liberals on Rev Wright and it's clear we're really not ready as a nation for a black leader.

If Anything the Situation is Worse than You Lay Out Here (4.00 / 3)
Unless I missed it, you don't mention the "joblessness" numbers, which are even more incredible. In my city around 70% of black males are jobless.  Just think about that number.  It's a holocaust, going on all around us. And the streets are mostly quiet.  

--Aaron Schutz (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)

Beautiful, Mr. Rosenberg, well done! (0.00 / 0)
You're one of the reasons why I come to Open Left! By the way, have you read the works of Stephen Steinberg and Adolph Reed, Jr.? Your analysis on race reminds me of their best stuff, notably Steinberg's "The Ethnic Myth" and "Turning Back"; Reed's "Class Notes" and "Stirrings in the Jug."

Yes To Reed, No To Steinberg (0.00 / 0)
I'll have to check him out.

"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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Steinberg has written some great articles that's posted online. (0.00 / 0)
His latest book "Race Relations" is a great read as well along with the other two books I mentioned. I have to say as a black man that studies African American history and sociology, Steinberg is by far one of the best scholars I've read on issues of race and class. Here are a few articles that I'm sure you'll find interesting.

The Liberal Retreat From Race

Science and Politics in the Work of William Julius Wilson

Bayard Rustin and the Rise and Decline of the Black Protest Movement

Nathan Glazer and the Assassination of Affirmative Action

Confronting The Misuse of Class-Based Affirmative Action


[ Parent ]
Thanks! (0.00 / 0)
I'll check them out.

"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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What will any of us do? (4.00 / 1)
Right question. Like many in California, I confronted that question in 1995 when Connerly first kicked this "civil rights" initiative into the public sphere. What we did was organize, first and foremost in the communities most under attack, not only in the Black community, but also in all the communities of color in the state. Sure, we got buried by the white electorate (for the attitudinal reasons Paul outlines) -- the California electorate in 1996 was still over 75 percent white. Demographic change is slow to be felt; today it is probably 72 percent white.

A little known fact of that campaign is that exit poll data showed that the rapidly increasing Latino segment of the electorate voted even more heavily against Connerly's initiative than African Americans!

Out of that campaign came a litter of ongoing organizations that are still toiling away, out of media view, in the still under-represented communities of California. Some include: Scope-Agenda, Californians for Justice and numerous others. A UC journalist, Lydia Chavez, chronicled that campaign close up in The Color Bind.

But the history is also the present. I spent yesterday in Riverside at a convening of the successor organizations of that fight, gathered as the California Alliance, still coming together trying to make their constituencies heard in the electoral arena. They've accumulated some heft. The incoming speaker of the Assembly, Karen Bass, addressed the meeting.

But the answer, now as when Connerly first proposed to pull the ladder up after him, is to organize.

Can it happen here?


Right, it's about power. (0.00 / 0)
Broadly defined.  That's more than just organizing. But organizing is a key part.  

I also like the study circles approach, which is an interesting way to attempt to recreate the kind of micro-public spaces (a lot of them) that can force people to think beyond sound bites (studycircles.org).  

--Aaron Schutz (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)


[ Parent ]
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