04 April 2008

A Friend Of The NAACP

For those of you not fortunate enough to be members of the NAACP (don't you care for the plight of African-Americans in this country?!), we post the following email we received this morning. It's appropriate because we want to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated 40 years ago today (and like Lincoln, left this world before he could finish his work).
Dear Friend,

Today, on the 40th anniversary of his assassination in Memphis, the NAACP honors the memory and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Forty years after his death, America has seen some progress in equality: educational opportunities have increased and workplaces and political leadership are more diverse. But when you consider these facts, it is very clear that we still have a long way to go.

- African Americans represent just 12% of the overall population, yet almost 30% of those arrested are African American. (link) And once arrested, African Americans are three times more likely to be incarcerated than whites. (link)

- The average net worth of white families is $70,000, compared to just $6,000 for African-American families. (link)

- African-American women are 10% less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than white women, but 36% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women. (link)

Dr. King's involvement with the NAACP dates back to his work in Alabama in the 1950's, and the NAACP honored Dr. King with its most prestigious prize, the Spingarn Award. We were proud to work side by side with Dr. King, and to carry on our work today on behalf of all people of color.

Dr. King pushed America to fulfill its promise of equal rights for all. Today we should all honor his life and legacy by recommitting ourselves to keeping the dream alive.

Dennis Courtland Hayes_Interim President
A couple of thoughts:

- Unlike the NAACP, when we see these statistics, we don't automatically assume the root cause is racism or that the solution is greater equality. We've said it before and we repeat it again here: we value liberty over equality.

As we first pointed out in our MLK day post, the NAACP uses "adverse impact" to explain these differences. We repost Justice Thomas' deconstruction of this flawed logic. He uses the difference between white and black results on the bar exam as his example. From his book, My Grandfather's Son (OL&L Book of the Year 2007):
In the seventies you rarely had to look very far to find a theory, or a black person on whom it was being tried out. Like every other black law student, I was uncomfortably aware that blacks failed to pass the bar exams at a much higher rate than whites, and that the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund had filed lawsuits alleging that the exams they took were racially discriminatory. Lani Guinier, one of my classmates, was involved with the Legal Defense Fund, so I asked her to supply me with information about the extent of the problem and the strategy that the Legal Defense Fund was pursuing. At first I assumed that the disproportionate black failure rate was conclusive evidence of racial discrimination, but the more closely I looked at the facts, the more apparent it became that I was wrong. At that time each question on the bar exam was graded separately by a different scorer and each completed exam identified solely by number, thus making it impossible for the graders to tell which examinees, if any, were black. Some claimed that blacks wrote in "black English" and thus could be identified from the syntax of their responses, but in addition to finding that unlikely, I didn't think it unfair to expect lawyers representing their clients in a court of law to be able to write in standard English. In any case, the inability of a black law student to write and speak English properly wasn't evidence of discrimination by the graders--it was an indictment of the quality of the education he had received. This left only one argument, the Legal Defense Fund's "adverse impact" theory, which held that if a neutral examination produced disparate results among the races, then it could be considered discriminatory. But I didn't buy that, either, knowing that no measurement of any part of our lives ever produced identical results for all racial or ethnic groups. To argue otherwise, I thought, diverted attention from the real culprits, the people who were responsible for the useless education these young people had received.

The problem with my analysis, of course, was that it was of no help to those black students who had already finished school and now found themselves unable to pass the bar exam. But the adverse impact theory had its own built-in problem, which was that its advocates appeared to be suggesting, knowingly or not, that blacks could never catch up with whites. Neither alternative was attractive to me, and I had no easy solution of my own to offer, but at least I'd thought the problem through for myself instead of jumping to a quick and easy conclusion that might be emotionally satisfying but failed to fit the facts. This, I decided, was the right way to approach any problem that excited my passions, and if it led me to disagree with the solutions that were generally accepted, or to advocate positions that would make me unpopular--especially when it came to matters of race--then so be it.
- What's really unfortunate about these African-American crime statistics is that most of these crimes are being perpetrated against African-Americans. It's not unfortunate in the sense that we'd like to see them equally spread out against whites, Asian-Americans, Mexican-Americans, etc. It's unfortunate in the sense that it represents self-destructive behavior.

We think it's a product of, like Wilson pointed out in that article we linked to but no one read, the dissolution of the black family. A dissolution that began with slavery and continued with the destructive results of liberal social policy in Johnson's Great Society. As Wilson notes, what's truly amazing is the resurgence of the African-American family despite the odds.

- 'The family' is the theme. African-American families with mother and father, according to research done by Thomas Sowell (which we are unable to locate now, but with which we will update this post later) compare favorably in terms of income, etc., to white families. The problem with this statistic is how the NAACP defines family.

*UPDATE 4:22pm MST: From Juan Williams' column in today's Wall Street Journal on Barack Obama:
He has stopped all mention of government's inability to create strong black families, while the black community accepts a 70% out-of-wedlock birth rate. Half of black and Hispanic children drop out of high school, but he no longer touches on the need for parents to convey a love of learning to their children. There is no mention in his speeches of the history of expensive but ineffective government programs that encourage dependency. He fails to point out the failures of too many poverty programs, given the 25% poverty rate in black America. (emphasis added)
Remember earlier in the column when we said "the family is the theme?"

**Update 5 April 4:26am MST: From McCain's speech honoring Dr. King:
Dr. King stirred the conscience of our nation to ensure that the self-evident truths of human freedom held true for all Americans. The power of his work and vision was not ended forty years ago in Memphis. Across the world, men and women are living Dr. King's dream as they strive to extend the blessings of human liberty and human rights to all. Today, we mark a tragic day in our nation's history while honoring the work of a man who was the voice for our nation's highest ideals.

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Morgan said...

Best. Poll. Ever. And there was zero hesitation before I cast my vote.

The Cobra said...

why is it that Barack Obama is the only person whose tag has a middle name? It's his name and perfectly legitimate to use but it makes me think this blog might not be fair and balanced

jen said...

Lybbert also lists Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The Cobra said...

That's her maiden name and she is commonly called Hillary Rodham-Clinton, Barack Obama has never gone by Barack Hussein Obama

RD said...

When I read Obama's book, I was disturbed by his views on race. I got the impression that Obama started with the assumption that all white people are very racist. When he meets a white person who isn't racist, he acts surprised. He discusses at length stereotypes that whites have of blacks, but fails to recognize that there are stereotypes going the other direction as well. He is correct to raise questions about racism in America, but his thoughts may be misguided.

My thoughts on the race issue are still fairly inchoate. I'm not sure how I feel about all of it. I believe that we must do more to help inner city children receive better educations and more opportunities, but that kind of assistance should be income based, not race based. Institutionalized discrimination (affirmative action, etc.) is not going to heal racial divides, nor is Obama's misdirected rhetoric.

buruboi said...

1. I doubt the bar examination was racist, and I agree that the variance in pass rates between blacks and whites is attributable to education. However, it’s the education that is racist. There is a large disparity in quality of education across racial lines, and its now become engrained in social economic status. Trust me, I would know this—I went to school in the Bronx.

2. The victim mentality, whether true or not, doesn’t motivate the self-initiative that leads to upward social mobility. From my limited historical insight, it seems that most if not all minority groups that have climbed from the lowest rungs of society have done so on their own accord in the face of racism. This, I think, is the best option for any minority group.

3. At the same time, the US should do its best to reduce the institutionalized racism that still exists today. For example, the difference in the length of mandatory sentences between crack-cocaine, a largely black drug, and cocaine, a largely white drug. Crack-cocaine carries a mandatory sentence of 5 years when possessing 5-grams; Cocaine only carries a mandatory sentence of that same length at 100 times the potency, i.e. 500 grams.

Matt said...


Go bite somewhere else. If you'd have spent any time reading this blog, you'd have read a post addressing the he-who-shall-not-be-middle-named.

And since when has any blog been (or claimed to be) fair and balanced?

Matt L