African Americans

“The New Jim Crow” As Seen from the Right.

Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness is a text I’ve come across many times over the years. In fact, I don’t know if there is a single time I have walked into a major bookstore and have not seen the book displayed in prominence on an end cap or center aisle table. I’ve encountered all the arguments made within the text over the years in articles, during debates, and in university classrooms as an undergraduate. Perhaps the significance of Alexander’s work is best assessed in the foreword by Cornel West: “The New Jim Crow is the secular bible for a new social movement in the early twenty-first-century America.” Although the data and arguments found within have been seen both before and after Alexander’s work, this is perhaps the most definitive and comprehensive work on the topic of Black crime and mass incarceration in America, as seen from the left.

The overarching premise is that mass incarceration, Jim Crow laws, and slavery have been the three primary measures adopted as public policy in the U.S. as a means to control the Black population. Several of Alexander’s contentions jumped off the page at me from the very beginning of the introduction, where she states that an essential goal of the Founding Fathers was to ensure citizenship to Blacks would be denied. In a way, I was thoroughly impressed, aghast even. I hear noxious phrases like “we are a nation of immigrants,” “America is for everybody,” and “this is a homeland for all,” almost daily, be it on social media, from politicians, the press, or in the media. And to see an author who has declared her goal is an “egalitarian democracy,” to be so honest, so frank, and so correct, is in many ways to be welcomed. Alexander displays from page one that she has a grasp of historical racialism as it pertains to the foundation of the U.S. and the Founders’ intentions. She finds this to be an unacceptable position, of course, but her admission that the U.S. was founded as a White nation is exceedingly rare nonetheless. Read more

Who Commits Murder in America?

Most Americans suspect that Blacks commit the majority of crime in this country. They are, in a word, correct. However, the government takes great strides to cover this up. From the federal on down to the city level, our rulers are loathe to release data on crime that includes racial breakdowns. Such data disrupts the preferred narratives about race in this country.

However, there are a handful of cities that do let the public see the numbers, and, no matter the city, it is Blacks who are running riot. Philadelphia is one those few forthright cities, so we will start there. To begin, here are the demographics for the city in 2016, according to the US Census:
44.2% Black
34.9% White
14.4% Hispanic
7.4% Asian
2.6% mixed
0.9% American Indian
0.2% Hawaiian/Pacific Islander

Here is the demographic makeup of arrestees for shootings, both fatal and non-fatal, that same year in Philadelphia:

For shootings, Blacks were just shy of doubling their share of the general population, with 80.3% of arrests. Whites were the opposite — just shy of halving their population share at 18.5% of arrests. Asians arrest rates, at 0.6%, are about one twelfth their share of the population. Read more

Fiftieth Anniversary of the Detroit Riot: Personal Observations and Evolutionary Analysis

Fifty years ago, a deadly urban riot began one hot summer night in my hometown of Detroit. It ignited around 3:30 a.m., when police arrested 85 patrons of an illegal after-hours bar in the midst of an all-Black neighborhood that had been all-White 15 or 20 years before.

When the mayhem ended six nights later, 43 people had been killed, 1,189 injured, 7,231 arrested, 2,509 stores had been looted or burned, 690 buildings were destroyed or had to be demolished, and 388 families were displaced.

Detroit’s Mayor at the time was Jerome Cavanagh, a young, bright and ambitious liberal. Elected with near-unanimous support of Black voters, he had aggressively launched anti-poverty programs to make the nation’s fifth largest municipality a model of the Great Society’s War on Poverty. (1).

The rapid migration of American Blacks between 1940 and 1965 from the mostly rural South to the big cities of the North, very quickly increased the Black population from less than 10% to over 30% at the time of the riot. That meant that Detroit, which had about 150,000 Black residents before World War II, had about 600,000 a generation later. In the 1960’s Detroit was dealing with a larger influx of Southern Blacks than all but Chicago and New York.

Conditions of Detroit’s Black Community Before the Riot

Politically correct revisionist historians and sociologists (many of whom are Black) like to portray Detroit’s riot of 1967 as the inevitable rebellion of a people victimized by White racism.  However to maintain this typical liberal view one must dismiss many well established facts that contradict the narrative. Read more

Heart of Darkness: Hip Hop, Existentialist Theology, and the WASP Cult of the Other

Introduction

Hip-hop is another cultural artefact attracting the attention of Christians working with young people.  Back in January, at the five-day intensive university course for Youth Culture and Ministry, Andrew Root, a professor of youth ministry from Luther Seminary in Minneapolis, devoted an afternoon session to the subject.  His very effective audio-visual presentation reflected what I now recognize as the received understanding of hip-hop among progressive Black academics teaching at leading American universities.

Root left unexplored the ethno-political dimension of the hip-hop phenomenon.  My subsequent journey through the proudly ethnocentric work of several prominent Black hip-hop scholars took me to the front line of the contemporary cultural war on White America.  These Black writers describe hip-hop as a primary means by which Americans talk about race.  Debates about hip-hop, according to Tricia Rose, “stand in for discussion of significant social issues related to race, class, sexism, and Black culture.”  Commercial hip-hop provides “the fuel that propels public criticism of young Black people.”[2]  Strangely, however, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Americans such as Andrew Root never ask themselves whether “the hip-hop community” (inclusive of rappers, fans, record companies, and well-connected professors) is friendly or hostile to young White people. 

Is Hip-Hop Good for Black People?

While properly repulsed by the violent and crudely sexist lyrics in contemporary commercial hip hop, Black scholars emphasize “the importance of craft, innovation, media literacy, and other practices that have made hip-hop such an enduring and inspiring force in the lives of young people, especially Black youth.”[3]  Some emphasize the ways in which the gangstas and guns, hustlers and pimps, the bitches and the hoes featured in hip-hop lyrics both reflect and contribute to “the socially and culturally toxic environment” of urban Black and Latino ghettoes.  Orlando Patterson, for example, laments “the fact that instead of artistically representing and transcending the realities of ghetto life, under the pressure of corporate packaging, elements of the street and prison culture have now been morphed into hip-hop, so much so that it is often difficult to differentiate the two.”[4]  Others celebrate the creativity of Black youth, from the “compelling aesthetic innovations of hip-hop’s founding figures” to the “countless variations” which they inspired “in the ensuing decades.”[5] Read more

“I love myself. So I must be good”

If you read the links on previous posts you’ll find  ‘a lack of self-esteem’ adduced as one of the main explanations for low Black SAT scores. This is ridiculous on any number of counts, most obviously by avoiding the IQ elephant in the room. But where do they get the idea that Blacks have low self-esteem? In fact the contrary is the case, especially for the younger cohort for whom a preening swaggering bravado, totally unrelated to actual capabilities, is standard behaviour. And that’s not just my impression.

Bernadette Gray-Little, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, performed a complex review of every piece of research available on black self-esteem.’There have been inconsistencies in the results of the studies on this topic over time,’ says Gray-Little. ‘I wanted to see if I could find any basis for a firm conclusion. And if inconsistencies occurred, I wanted to know when and why.’ …

She found that before the age of 10, whites slightly surpass blacks in self-esteem. Everyone’s self-esteem dips in the later years of school. After that, blacks narrowly but consistently surpass whites, up to the age of 21, the upper limit of the study.

The self-esteem gap seems to depend on wealth. Low-income blacks show higher self-esteem than low-income whites. But the gap disap pears at higher income levels. The study also shows that black self-esteem has not risen over time. The theory of many psychologists was that as blacks gained in civil liberties, their self-esteem would rise. But the study shows it has never been low.

The report will confound black activists who have seen raising black self-esteem as the key to overcoming social disadvantage. At the all-black Paul Robeson Academy in Detroit, students start the day by standing up and proclaiming: ‘I feel like somebody. I act like somebody. Nobody can make me feel like a nobody!’

In Britain, many companies now have mentoring schemes to help people from ethnic minorities. The Millennium Commission is funding a three-year programme to expand such schemes.

Read more

The Dark Side of the Civil Rights Movement

The dominant narrative of the civil rights movement is a story about selfless Whites fighting Southern injustice. Usually the movement is presented as made up of devout Christians and freedom fighters, struggling against the prejudices of ignorant Southern Whites. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is the civil rights movement was plagued by the same forces that plague any setting where Whites and Blacks intermingle: violence, theft, criminality, resentment, and sexual dominance.

White civil rights workers who left the North to organize resistance to Southern segregation approached their jobs with religious fervor. One White woman captures this spirit: “There is no doubt in my mind this is worth dying for. … This love is growing every day and will continue to expand and expand until it defeats all hate all over the world” (Rothschild, 1982, p. 133). Please note the woman’s messianic mentality: she wants to defeat hate “all over the world.”

White civil rights workers were shocked to discover that local Blacks in Mississippi resented and resisted White domination of the civil rights movement. Grassroots Blacks wanted local, Black control of civil right organizations and sought to ensure White men and women were in a subordinated, powerless position (Rothschild, 1982, p. 132). Blacks believed Whites were smug and acted superior to Blacks (Watson, 2010, p. 267). On the other hand, White civil rights workers came to view Blacks as essentially lazy and stupid (Watson, 2010, p. 267). White volunteers were greeted with suspicion and mistrust. Read more

Dealing with Dysfunction: A Review of “What It Is Like to Teach in Failing Schools,” Part 2

Part 1 of “Dealing with Dysfunction”

Another of Mr. Teacher’s idiosyncrasies is his view on race. Although he does not explicitly identify his ethnicity, apparently he is a White man. And despite having plenty of real-world experience dealing with Blacks and Browns he does not address race as a biological concept. When discussing the Program in International Student Assessment (PISA) that compares student academic achievement across national borders the author notes that “American educators produce similar outcomes as Finland and Korea when looking only at White and Asian students” (99). Okay, that is to be expected. But then he goes on to state that the PISA “results help to show that biology is not the leading or most significant cause for assessment differences between subgroups (eduspeak for races) because largely non-white United States Hispanics significantly outscore biologically ‘White’ Uruguayans” (101).

The above is pretty slim evidence to base a conclusion regarding the role of race in educational achievement. A closer look shows that AT’s comparison is not apt. While Uruguay is 88 percent White, that is within a Latin American context. In addition, Uruguay has a far smaller per capita income than the US, and spends a significant smaller percent of its GDP on education.[1] As a result the South American country has a shorter school day, larger class sizes, and more basic educational facilities.

Strangely, later in the book the author gives evidence that race is a significant factor in educational outcomes.

Black Canadians are just 2.5 percent of the Canadian population. Black Canadian students in Toronto — the largest concentration of Blacks in any Canadian location — have a dropout rate of 40 percent — a much higher dropout rate than their Canadian peers. There is also a large scholastic achievement gap between Black Canadians and other Canadians (212).

In addition, AT notes that Black Canadian students have disproportionately high rates of absenteeism, suspension, and expulsion. So here you have two different countries with two different educational systems with the same racial disparities. This seem to be more convincing than the author’s Uruguay example. Mr. Teacher describes himself as an Orthodox Christian, and he affirms “God’s sovereign Will in human affairs” (213). He might not believe in biological evolution, which could explain his ambivalence on race. Read more