Saturday, July 8, 2006

The Racism of Low Expectations

LaShawn Barber is outraged that so many people think blacks are ignorant and helpless which is about the only conclusion one can draw from the recent objections to a Georgia law requiring voters to have an ID card:

Even if I lived a thousand lifetimes, I don't think I'll ever understand why there aren't more black people outraged by the implication that blacks are ignorant and helpless. Every time I hear or read about some white liberal arguing for lower academic standards for black children, supporting set-aside programs for black-owned businesses, and blaming "racism" for crime and other pathologies, I want to vomit.

But I retch alone.

As I'm sure most of you know, Georgia legislators recently passed a "controversial" law requiring voters to show state-issued identification before voting. When I first read about this "news," I was confused. Of course people must show ID before voting. I thought that was standard practice. Showing ID is a basic and common sense requirement. Yes, the unscrupulous will always get their hands on fake IDs; some states even issue driver's licenses to illegal aliens. But requiring ID is at least a step in the right direction, right?

Wrong. According to white liberals, requiring voters in Georgia to present state-issued identification is discriminatory to "elderly, low-income and minority voters." That's code for black people, and, thanks to lax immigration enforcement, illegal aliens. (The "elderly" can get out to vote, but they can't go to the DMV to get ID?)

Last year, a group of black politicians in Georgia walked out of the Capitol building after the law was passed. Walked out because their colleagues passed a law to protect the integrity of the voting process and to make sure those eligible to vote are voting. And they invoked Jim Crow, that repugnant system of government-mandated segregation based on skin color.

They fought the law, and the law won. For now. Last month the Department of Justice approved the law, but black liberals and their white enablers are still fighting it. What a noble cause!

Such silliness conjures up images of the poor ignorant darky caricature, too unrightously indignant to realize he sounds like a shameless fool, too ignorant to understand simple instructions or ask for help, too lazy to get up and go down to the DMV to get a FREE state-issued ID, too ingratiating and bent low to see all the white folks laughing at his sorry, indignant, ignorant, lazy, unmotivated butt.

Angry. Insulted. Disgusted. These words are too weak to convey how I feel about people (especially whites) who think blacks are too stupid to follow the rules like everybody else.

Of course she's right. The worst form of racism in today's America is the kind that says that blacks just can't be expected to do what everybody else is required to do. It's a form of racism endemic to liberalism.

Making the Most of College

If you're a college student, about to be a college student, or a parent of a college student you might be interested in this essay by Greg Veltman. Veltman talks about college life and weaving the themes of Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons and a book titled My Freshman Year together with lyrics from Dave Matthews, among others, to paint a portrait of the joys as well as the emptiness and alienation that can accompany college life. He writes:

For me, college was marked by the experience of dissolving relationships, by family's scattering about the globe, and by home-packing-up and relocating hundreds of miles away. I have rarely returned to a place. Everything seems different where I used to belong. I am a stranger. But that reality is not just in the past, it is with me in the present. And this tangled life makes me remember that a heart can hurt. But it has also given me courage to take risks, to know that the way of real redemption means taking off an old self, and being made anew. The solution cannot be to turn life into an abstraction. As we tell our stories in community, we see our entanglement, and our vulnerabilities become connections with who we are, together.

There's much of value in Veltman's essay and I commend it to our readers. I also recommend this article in Rolling Stone for a disturbing look at the seamy side of modern college life. It's not just about drinking anymore. If you're a parent you might want to consider sending your daughters to a convent.


Ann Coulter sometimes steps over the line of civil discourse, but she is always provocative and never, ever concerned about being politically correct. Here are some quotes, courtesy of Human Events (no link available), from her new book Godless to illustrate the point:

Coulter on the Supreme Court: In 1992, the Court ruled it "unconstitutional" for a Reform rabbi to give a nonsectarian invocation at a high school graduation ceremony on the perfectly plausible grounds that Rhode Island was trying to establish Reform Judaism as the official state religion. (Opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy.) Yes, those scheming Jews have had their eyes on the Ocean State for as long as I can remember.

On crime: Whether it is building prisons, mandatory sentencing, three-strikes laws, or the death penalty, if it has to do with punishing criminals, Democrats are against it. Liberals prefer treatment, rehabilitation, alternatives to prison, even creative alternatives to prison -- but not prison! That would be "blaming the perpetrator."

On prisons: Between 1995 and 2005, the prison population grew by 30 percent, meaning an additional half million criminals were behind bars, rather than lurking in dark alleys with switchblades. You can well imagine liberals' surprise when the crime rate went down as more criminals were put in prison. The New York Times was reduced to running querulous articles with headlines like "Number in Prison Grows Despite Crime Reduction" and "As Crime Rate Drops, the Prison Rate Rises and the Debate Rages."

On public schools: Public schools are forbidden from mentioning religion not because of the Constitution, but because public schools are the Left's madrassas... At least the crazy Muslims get funding from Saudi Arabia for their madrassas. Liberals force normal Americans to pay for their religious schools.

On the media's ignorance of religion: In another interview, [the Rev. Richard John] Neuhaus told a reporter that political corruption had "been around ever since that unfortunate afternoon in the garden." The reporter mulled it over before asking, "What garden was that?" In defense of the American educational system, every single one of these reporters knew how to put on a condom.

On abortion: No matter what else they pretend to care about from time to time - undermining national security, aiding terrorists, oppressing the middle class, freeing violent criminals - the single most important item on the Democrats' agenda is abortion. Indeed, abortion is the one issue the Democratic Party is willing to go to war over - except in the Muslim world, which is jam-packed with prohibitions on abortion, because going to war against a Muslim nation might also serve America's national security objectives.

On liberals' obsession with Fox News: Fox News isn't even particularly conservative, though it is recognizably American. I believe the one verified atrocity committed by Fox News was the wearing of American flag lapel pins after 9/11. Assuming - against all evidence - that Fox News is every bit as conservative as CBS is liberal, it is still just a small beachhead in a universe of liberal-speak. But the mere existence of one solitary network that doesn't toe the party line has driven the Left insane.

On Cindy Sheehan: Call me old-fashioned, but a grief-stricken war mother shouldn't have her own full-time PR flack. After your third profile on Entertainment Tonight, you're no longer a grieving mom; you're a C-list celebrity trolling for a book deal or a reality show. At that point, you're no longer mourning, you're "branding."

On public school teachers: We are simultaneously supposed to gasp in awe at teachers' raw dedication and be forced to listen to their incessant caterwauling about how they don't make enough money. Well, which is it? Are they dedicated to teaching or are they in it for the money? After all the carping about how little teachers are paid, if someone enters the teaching profession for the big bucks, aren't they too stupid to be teaching our kids?

On Darwinism: Liberals creation myth is Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which is about one notch above Scientology in scientific rigor. It's a make-believe story, based on a theory that is a tautology, with no proof in the scientist's laboratory or the fossil record - and that's after 150 years of very determined looking. We wouldn't still be talking about it but for the fact that liberals think evolution disproves God.

On the fossil record: The preposterous conceit that the fossil record has produced a mosaic of organisms consistent with evolution except for the occasional "gap" is absurd. Evolution is nothing but a gap. It's a conjecture about how species might have arisen that is contradicted by the fossil record and by nearly everything we have learned about molecular biology since Darwin's day.

On religion "vs." evolution: The only religious belief driving opinions about evolution is atheism. God can do anything, including evolution. But the value of Darwinism for atheists is that it is the only way they can explain why we are here. (It's an accident!) If evolution doesn't work out for them, they'll have to expand on theories about extraterrestrials or comets bringing life to earth.

On Darwinism and Nazism: Hitler's embrace of Darwinism is not a random fact, unrelated to the reason we know his name. It is impossible to understand Hitler's monstrous views apart from his belief in natural selection applied to races. He believed Darwin's theory of natural selection showed that "science" justified the extermination of the Jews.

On Darwinism's appeal to liberals: Liberals subscribe to Darwinism not because it's "science," which they hate, but out of wishful thinking. Darwinism lets them off the hook morally. Do whatever you feel like doing - screw your secretary, kill Grandma, abort your defective child - Darwin says it will benefit humanity! Nothing is ever wrong as long as you follow your instincts. Just do it - and let Mother Earth sort out the winners and losers.

I haven't read her book, but people I've talked to who have say that, aside from one or two instances where she is needlessly offensive, it's difficult to disagree with much of what she writes.

By's Reply

Byron continues our discussion on last month's post titled Perky Economy. His initial response to that post, with my replies, is here. His reaction to what I wrote there follows below in indented quotes:

I think your reply to my concern about your post [where you suggested that some will find fault with the economy and that you surmise they are so partisan that they would enjoy the suffering of the poor that a bad ecomomy brings] needs a rebuttle. I thank you, again, for taking the time to reply and clarify your views with me and your other readers.

1. You suggest that it isn't wrong to be critical of a generic group of people but less proper to name names. I suppose this gets you off the hook on this one, but I still worry about what it appears to be--forgive me if I overstate it a bit--a growing mean-spiritedness, in your willingness to do this. You follow your hunch about this and it comes out nasty, I think, presuming the worst about nearly everyone on the left. Such critique I don't think stands up to experience and simply isn't a helpful contribution.

Here's perhaps a distinction. You can choose if it is one that makes a difference: to say that there are Dems that hope the President fails is patently true, and so self-evident that I wonder why it bothers you. (Is this not the nature of partisan politics? Is there not an equally common hope, among Republicans, say, when a Democrat holds office, that he or she will flub up and be dislodged? I know politics ought not be reduced to a game---which is one reason I favor proportional representation, to get away from this "winner takes all" win/lose mentality---but can you imagine a fan not hoping his team's opponant loses? Duh.)

I think there's a vast difference between hoping the president fails in some matter which opponents think would be bad for the country (say a tax plan or an immigration bill) and hoping that the president fails in something like reviving the economy or winning the war in Iraq. Honest people can disagree over whether a tax plan would be wise and good, but no one disagrees that reviving the economy or winning the war in Iraq are essential to human well-being, both ours and that of others. To recognize the overriding importance and good of these things but to nevertheless hope that the president fails so that one's party will benefit is contemptible and there are some, I believe, who do exactly this. I would not be surprised if there were Republicans who did it when Clinton was in office, and I think it obvious that there are some who are doing it now that Bush is president. They know that success in either the economic or foreign policy sphere will spell political failure for their party and themselves. For such people political success and power are everything and securing these ends justifies almost anything. This is especially true today, in my opinion, of the secular left.

But you go further, saying that the left will be happy about the sorrow and disorder, gleeful for the suffering caused, implying that they are heartless. I believe you've implied this about the war, too, not only that Dems hope Bush fails (an obviously common situation) but that they will be happy if America is defeated, if terrorists win, if our soldiers are killed. Such a desire---to see increased suffering just for partisan victory--does not follow from those who have strongly held partisan ideals.

It certainly does. A Bush failure in the war or in the economy would entail the suffering of millions. To hope for the former, as By admits some do, demands that one be willing to accept the latter. By the way, I never said that Bush's opponents would be either "happy" or "gleeful" at the misery of others, only that they would prefer that unfortunate state of affairs to having Bush succeed. The sentence that has elicited Byron's criticism and concern was this:

"The Bush economy continues to chug along like the little engine that could despite the woeful prognostications of those who, perhaps for political purposes, seem to prefer to see it bogged down in the mire of recession."

So, again, I think it is inaccurate and unhelpful to say these negative things about the general groups of left-wingers or anti-Bush activists as you do. Of course, the vile and vicious haters on the left (who do exist, and are to be repudiated at every turn, or ignored, if that works better) do not stand for most of those who disagree with the current Administration. You can argue robustly against the views of the left without accusing them of such dark motivations or heartless desires.

Byron takes a sentence critical of the behavior of some of Bush's critics, a segment of the political population whose existence he acknowledges, and from it concludes that I am unfairly criticizing almost everyone who disagrees with the Bush administration. This is simply fallacious. It's like arguing that because some men are bad that therefore they all are.

2. That you would suggest that a growing homeless underclass does not indicate something broken in the economy is a matter that I must protest. If there is a growing number of unemployed and poverty-striken people, there is something very wrong. The Bible plainly teaches this and I think it stands to reason. If you've ever worked in a soup kitchen for more than 10 minutes, or met a recipient of a Habitat House, you know full well that many, many of those who have to go to soup kitchens are, in fact, the working poor. Or they are the children of the working poor. Of course some are irresponsible bums and some might better themselves if they had character and skills taught to them by someone who cared. But it simply is untrue that those who get food stamps, go to the soup kitchen or take WIC milk and cheese are unwilling to work; many work hard, wait for buses to get to odd jobs, and show extraordinary effort for little pay.

Nothing in the post to which Byron responds says that people in need are unwilling to work. I wrote that "their problem is not that they are unemployed but that they are unemployable." They may be unemployable for many different reasons and an unwillingness to work is only one. Many of them are mentally troubled, or they have an addiction, or they are poorly educated and unskilled, or they're single mothers who can't leave their children. The point is that the plight of these people would be the same no matter what the economy is doing. Imagine we were at full employment which we almost are. Imagine that everyone who could work was working for at least a subsistence wage. Would the predicament of these people be any different? I don't think so. They're not unemployed because there are no jobs for them but rather because they are unable or unwilling to do the jobs there are.

To cite the problems of the underclass as reason to think the economy is not doing well is misleading.

(Oddly, you suggest that they could take the jobs the immigrants are so willing to take. That presumes they live in a part of the country where there are many undocumented workers; poor moms with children in an urban city school---I'm thinking of our own town of York--can't just go off to be a migrant worker, you know, even if some immigrant families seem willing to take up that nomatic lifestyle.

Byron seems to think that illegal immigrants are mostly California farm laborers. This of course is hardly the case as New York City Mayor Bloomberg's remark the other day shows. Bloomberg said that without illegal aliens working in the city the economy of New York would collapse. I doubt that Bloomberg had migrant workers in mind.

It surely isn't fair to expect a slightly emotionally disturbed guy I know, fired from a job at a convenience store, unable to pay his rent, needing to get economic assistance, to move to LA and become a nanny, like some Central American illegal immigrants do. That is just a nutty suggestion and serves to dismiss the realities of the un or underemployed in our community.) So, I believe you too easily dismiss my claim that an economy with many poor people is not healthy. I do not suggest you don't care about the poor, but I would ask that such charitable care show up in your analysis of what constitutes a perky economy.

Byron implies that I made the "nutty suggestion" that an emotionally disturbed person out of work should travel across the country to get a job. Not only is there nothing in what I said even remotely close to this, it is completely off the point. What we should remain focussed on is that no matter how good the economy is this unfortunate individual is probably going to be perpetually in and out of work and in need of some kind of assistance. His problem is due to his mental condition, not to the state of the economy.

3. I am glad you will not mock the motivations of those who will testify about the nutritional needs of the poor at the upcoming hearing. I did not, of course, say you did.

Perhaps not, but then why did he close his piece with this gratuitous line: "There are hearings in mid-July about these various things [the plight of the poor] at the Farm Show arena here in Central PA where the government hopes to get better insight about the needs of the poor .... I hope you don't suggest that these saints [advocates on behalf of the poor], who will surely cry out to any who will hear, that their people are hurting, will be happy about it."

Why even say this unless one wishes to imply that I might indeed be so unkind as to make such a terrible suggestion?

But, be clear: most of the social workers and church observers and anti-poverty activists that will testify at such a hearing will be those who have sad, sad stories of increasing poverty and who are deeply burdened by it all. They will denounce the economy and they may hold the policies of the current administration to blame. They will be, I am afraid, much like the people who you started out to criticize in your post; those whose care and rage against injustice you take to be motivated by such partisan agendas as to render their voices insincere.

What does this have to do with the fact that there are some people who, for political reasons, are not happy with a Bush success? People who think that the government should be doing more to help the poor have no quarrel, or should have no quarrel, with the state of the economy. Their fight is over social policy which is a different issue. How the economy is doing is a separate matter from what the government should be doing to relieve the suffering of the poor. To conflate them is a confusion.

If you hold to the position you do in your post---that many who are critical of the economy just delight in the bad news---then it only follows that if you went to that hearing and heard the chorus of those who find the ecomony hurtful, you could say of them what you said in your post. I didn't mean to accuse you of putting down the servants of the poor; I just connected the dots of your generic accusation of the disaffected and applied it in my mind to these same attitudes that are expressed almost uniformly by those who work among the poor.

Again, the concern of these people is over how the government disburses its resources among the poor. It really has little to do with whether the economy is doing well or not. A robust economy at full employment and good job growth is simply not going to help the underclass very much except insofar as it stimulates charitable giving and increases tax revenues which may go to programs for the poor.

4. You didn't reply at all to my very real questions about the link to the story that started it all, a story that in my perception documented very negative facts about the economy, a very negative story, despite the one perky sentence that I guess you took to be the highlight. Your "read" of that story reminded me of the kid at Christmas who was overjoyed by a gift of horse manure. She happily exclaimed, "Wow, this means that there has to be a horse around here somewhere."

I didn't reply to this because my response was to the e-mail that Byron sent to our Feedback page. The questions he mentions in the preceding paragraph were raised by him in a private correspondence and were not part of the argument he sent to Viewpoint.

Perhaps it isn't always the left whose views are not fully aligned with the facts and whose partisanship has clouded their judgement.


I agree with that, but if it's intended to imply partisanship on my part then I must demur. A political partisan puts party above policy. I don't. I am critical of the left because I believe their policies, and in some cases their behavior, are dreadful. I am less critical of conservatives because generally, though not always, I think their policies are good for the country. It just so happens that currently the secular left is in control of the Democratic party and the extremist left comprises a big part of their political base. Likewise, the principles and ideas I find appealing are being advocated, to the extent that they're advocated at all, mostly by Republicans. I would happily vote for any Democratic candidate that held the views that I do, especially if his/her Republican opponent did not. That's not partisanship.