Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Some more ways that racism is hurting black Americans

Jonathan Chait has a long essay about race and the Obama presidency. I think he goes way too easy on conservatives, who seem to believe that the 1964 Civil Rights Act represented the end of American racism, and that the personal dislike and distrust of black people that is still fairly common in America somehow doesn't count as "racism". To me, it seems clear that this widespread "personal racism" has serious negative effects on the well-being of American black people.

How, you ask? Well of course there are the obvious and much-repeated examples of hiring discrimination, housing discrimination, and legal discrimination. People go back and forth on how much of these exist. I think that they're probably substantial, but I won't rehash those old arguments here. Instead, I want to suggest some additional ways that racism may be hurting black people.

1. Business networking. In the world of jobs and work and business, human networks are incredibly important. There's a huge amount of research on this, so much that it's almost too much effort to decide which links to post - see here, or here, or here or here, or anywhere. It's a well-known fact: friends and acquaintances are hugely important for getting a job, getting a promotion, getting a raise, and starting a successful business. The value of these connections is called "network capital" or "social capital".

And racism, of course, inhibits black people from forming human networks. When white (or Asian, or Hispanic) people don't see black people as worthy of friendship, trust, and frequent socialization, it makes it much harder for black people to succeed in the business world, legal discrimination or no.

This is different from the problem of workplace discrimination. That problem could, in theory, be solved if whites made a big effort to treat blacks fairly in hiring, salary, and promotion decisions. But the network capital problem will not be solved merely by fairness. It can only be solved by actual friendships between individual black and white people.

2. Neighborhood isolation. In an excellent article in Slate, Jamelle Bouie recently explained how many American black people, even after escaping poor neighborhoods, are pulled back to these neighborhoods, causing all kinds of negative outcomes. Why does this happen? Well, housing discrimination is one reason, but it's obviously more than that - the NFL player that Bouie describes could hardly have found it impossible to get a house in a rich white neighborhood. There must be other forces that make black people reluctant to leave poor, violent neighborhoods behind.

One obvious force is personal racism on the part of white people (and Asians, Hispancs, etc. - I'm going to stop writing this caveat now, and just say "white people"). If I were a black person who grew up poor or lower-middle-class, and I were contemplating becoming an upper-middle-class person, I would probably think twice. Why? Because I'd worry that an undercurrent of subtle, tacit, and unstated disdain, distrust, and dislike would permeate my new social set. I wouldn't want to give up my family and friends to hang out with a bunch of people who looked down on me because of my race. I'd choose to live around people who accepted me at a basic level, even if that entailed big risks and costs.

Look, in real life I'm Jewish, and if I lived in a country where half the upper middle class people were anti-Semitic, I'd think twice before hanging out with the upper middle class. I just would.

3. Personal violence. It's a fact that black communities in America are exceptionally violent, even after accounting for the effects of poverty. Why? One reason that strikes me as extremely likely to be a piece of the puzzle is police discrimination. Racist police - or even just the specter of racist police! - can be a powerful disincentive to use the police for protection, and motivate black people to rely on personal violence for their own defense.

It's pretty simple. If a guy in my neighborhood were threatening me, the first thing I'd do would be to pick up the phone and call the cops. I believe the cops would help me. But if I were black, I think I'd be very worried that the cops would just arrest me, or would simply fail to do anything about the problem because they just don't care about keeping black people safe. So I would not call the police. I would instead try to scare away the people who were threatening me. I'd get a gun. I'd get a gang of friends to watch my back. Maybe I'd even spray a few bullets into the guy's house, to teach him I meant business and was not a person to be f***ed with.

Yes, I really would do this, especially if I was poor and could not simply move away. It's not a "culture of violence", it's just plain old rationality. When I lived in Japan, many college-educated white people - who would call the cops in a second if threatened in Canada or Australia or the UK or wherever they came from - would just laugh if someone suggested calling the cops. They assumed that Japanese cops would discriminate against them, or would simply throw them in jail, if called.

(Note that violence in black communities declined a lot in the 1990s. If my theory is right, then "community policing" strategies, and the increasing racial diversity of the police in black neighborhoods, might have had a lot to do with that.)

What all of these problems add up to is this: To really help black Americans (and other minorities that are hurt by racism), it is not enough to make them nominally equal under the law. And it is not even enough for white people to act in a fair and unbiased manner toward black people. Respect is important, but mere distant, cold respect is not going to be enough. What needs to happen is for white and black people to actually be friends and hang out with each other on a regular basis. "Black America" can no longer continue to exist as a separate, foreign mini-nation within the American nation, because separate is inherently unequal. Real integration is the only real answer. Fortunately, I think attitudes are changing among the younger generation of Americans, but powerful people - political leaders, the media, churches, etc. - need to do their part.


  1. Anonymous12:53 PM

    It sure would be nice if folks just got along with other folks. Friendships are so much more constructive than hostilities, why don't we just have the former?

    1. Autonomous Coward1:48 PM

      Not him, but I assume it's a bit like the free trade thing: while (theoretically, and I do stress that word) benefiting everyone a little it hurts a few a lot, and those people are the most likely to complain about it.

      Racial friendship would help everyone a little but hurt a few (Rush Limbaughs of the world, for starters) greatly. And they're *already* the ones with the bloviation platform.

  2. Anonymous1:28 PM

    @Noahpinion: "Look, in real life I'm Jewish, and if I lived in a country where half the upper middle class people were anti-Semitic, I'd think twice before hanging out with the upper middle class. I just would."

    This is probably just you, Noah. 20% of the Judges in Berlin were of Ashkenazi right before Hitler arose to power. German elites weren't famous for toleration and “jewphilia” in those days, I think. But Noah wouldn't be a Judge in Berlin, right? He would prefer – given the chance – to stay in the ghetto. So much cozier!

    C’mon, you guys! Stop putting your fingers in your ears, and behaving as if you won the Bell Curve wars from the nineties. You keep saying that black people would be as rich as any other minority, only the White Devil weren't so bad. This theory is refutated by: the jews, the asians, the hindus and a lot of other “model minorities” that do a lot better than the white majority. A lot of minorities CAN make it in America – better, even, than people of European ascendency: this is fact. This is unquestionable.

    These model minorities seem to have something in common that black people do not seem to have, and you know perfectly well what it is. That's okay if you ask people to be polite and do not talk about it every time and everywhere – I’ll be polite and not talk about it. But it would also be fair that you did stop "fabricating" more fictional excuses for bad police (v.g.: affirmative action), bad social science ("white people have the evil eye that blight black people lives, but mysteriously has no effect against slanted eyed people and brownish ones") and whining (lots of it: as a mulatto from a third world country, I cannot stand liberal white guilt based on conventional, comforting, lies).

    1. Anonymous2:04 PM

      2 posts before a Godwin. You trolls are slipping.

    2. Anonymous2:16 PM

      @Anonymous: "2 posts before a Godwin. You trolls are slipping."

      I didn't mention NAZI GERMANY. Godwin would require an invocation of Hitler, the Beast himself, to apply. I didn’t need it: pre-Nazi Germany was anti-Semitic enough for my purposes.

      And don't you agree that Noah's specific point -- people are poor because they friends are poor and they miss them so much! -- was greatly weakened by this HISTORIC and actual EMPIRIC example of a hated minority FLOURISHING against the odds, because they had that factor that we agreed not to mention on polite discussion?

    3. Anonymous2:19 PM

      It's probably stupid to even engage in a discussion with someone like you, but the Bell Curve wars were in fact won, and easily so, by the side of non-racists. If you are implying in your last paragraph that there is some measurable differences in intelligence (across whatever misguided "racial" boundaries you draw in your head), you almost certainly have no compelling evidence therefor.

      Also, I think you have misread Noah's piece, which is understandable because it is not as clearly argued as some of his other posts.

      The thing is, "blame" (as useless a concept as that usually is) almost always lies on both sides, and here it does as well, especially with regard to black-white integration. Noah does not emphasize that enough, in my opinion.

      Noah unfortunately only describes white racists, which is somewhat understandable given the obvious and overt racial segregation employed by white majorities in this country but is less helpful now that a good deal of that (at least de jure) has been eradicated.

      An avenue for better exploration, in my opinion, is that blacks have self-segregated in a way different than the "model minorities". My experience has been that second and third generation immigrants from those groups, even if they give a ritualistic nod to their parents and the culture of their ancestors, want "to be white." They want to assimilate.

      African-Americans (and I even hate that term, because so many of who we describe that way have a good deal of European blood in them) seem to have fought so hard against white oppressors (and it was indeed an ugly, ugly fight) that a yearning for assimilation has never been adopted by the culture. That is why there are the self-destructive tendencies I saw as a youth, such as mocking black children who liked to read as "Oreos". You still see it. Often a "black" person who likes "white" things is denigrated, because "black" culture is always and ever superior and cooler.

      Tell me how many Hindus and Jews think their culture is "cooler." Sure, some, but please. It's just not the same.

      I do have many friends who self-identify as black. What we have in common is that we are liberal intellectuals, sophists maybe. We are not racist ideologues like Coates, but simply love books and movies and talking about how stupid the Tea Party is. These men are indeed finely attuned to white racism, but also are shut out from the community of people with similar skin color because they are not religious or strident or homophobic or any of the other large categories that many African Americans fall into. They are definitely *not* lacking in intelligence.

      Anyway, long story short, it's a complicated issue, and it has nothing to do with intelligence, and my two cents is it has less to do with white racism than Noah implies, and is instead a deep cultural resistance to assimilation.

    4. Anonymous2:50 PM

      @ Anonymous: "Tell me how many Hindus and Jews think their culture is "cooler." Sure, some, but please. It's just not the same."

      The only thing they do have in common is that they do seem to have a high dose of "unmentionable". Hindu Americans are even more full of "unmentionable", and they are richer than ashkenazi jew not only in USA, but also in the United Kingdom. An amazing coincidence, don't you think?

      Asian Americans are almost 40% of Caltech. They are only 20% in the Ivy Leagues, though, because these ones seem to like "more rounded" students, which included less Jews on the 1920s, and less slanted-eyed people since the 1990s. Amazingly, all the Ivy Leagues just admit 20% of east-asians as students, which seems really funny (and coincidental), I think.

      Anyway, I agree with almost everything else that you said:

      (i) Coates sucks! (Yeah!);

      (ii) I too have many friends who are black (actually, I would be considered black in your country, but here I'm just "marrrom-bombom" ;-)

      (iii) blacks have self-segregated in a way different than the "model minorities" (Sure! I think this is because they are -- on average -- a little... different... from these other "model minorities");

      (iv) "the Bell Curve wars were in fact won, and easily so, by the side of non-racists." (Yes, they lost it among the media and liberal types from the media and the humanities; but among people that ACTUALLY MATTER, like people that study biology for a living, it is know accepted as fact ("It is known" -- as the sexy Dothraki lady would say) that "intelligence is highly heritable and polygenic" and that there are consistent and persistent differences in "unmentionable" among groups; and that a lot of "unmentionable" is genetic in origin. See this cool, really recent, news:

    5. Anonymous3:14 PM

      @Anonymous: "African-Americans (and I even hate that term, because so many of who we describe that way have a good deal of European blood in them)"

      Actually, it is not that much: 20% of European blood on average. My lusitanian ancestors were more like your founding father Thomas Jefferson in this respect, and people here are a lot more mixed than this. Maybe one day you'll be as us, but you've still a lot of practicing to do... Not that I want to discourage you from trying: mixed women look really great, hehe ;-)

    6. @2:19 Anonymous - very small quibble - Noah's not only talking about white racism; as he noted: "One obvious force is personal racism on the part of white people (and Asians, Hispancs, etc. - I'm going to stop writing this caveat now, and just say "white people")."

  3. Anonymous2:09 PM

    @Noahopion: "Look, in real life I'm Jewish, and if I lived in a country where half the upper middle class people were anti-Semitic,"

    Way more than half the upper middle class of the early 20th century Germany was anti-Semitic, yet:
    “The Jews living in Germany at the time of Hitler’s control of the country were less than 1 % of total population ( about 500,000); [J]ews strove for higher education: in 1906, 25 % of the law and medical students were Jewish.; [B]etween 1905-1931, 10 of 32 Germans who received Nobel Prizes were Jewish. [J]ews were visibly part of German society as artists, actors and directors in theatre and film, and in journalism: For a period of time, 50 % of 234 theater directors in Germany were Jewish.”

    Let me announce the bottom-line for Reality-denying liberals: Jews were solidly middle class in early 20th century Germany, even though they were hated by the majority of the middle class of that country, which was slightly (lately, murderously) anti-Semitic.

    1. But I bet that Jews probably stuck to Jewish neighborhoods and social circles in those days.

    2. Yes, Noah, tribal roots go so far back in the evolutionary history of life that it usually pays to stick with what you know.

      In my humble view, this is the challenge humans face and there are only two countries that offer promise to get there: USA and India, may be?

    3. Anonymous3:34 PM

      @Noah Smith: "But I bet that Jews probably stuck to Jewish neighborhoods and social circles in those days."

      Maybe they stook to Jewish neighborhood; maybe the did like the Wittgensteins in Vienna, and just rennounced their religion and became a family of higly disfunctionaly overachivers (haha: Wittgenstein were like the Belle Époque Royal Tenenbaums!

      Well, like I said, it doesn't matter, because their social circles would have to be heavily goyish anyway: did you saw those 30% of jewish judges? They had to hang on with those 70% of german ones. And those 10 Jewish-German nobelists had to talk to the other 22 pure blood Ones on -- Vernissages or the like? Same to the 25% of jewish students. How many of them sucked like Portnoy for hot shiksas? How many lost to the faith?


    4. Anonymous8:47 PM

      Yes, Noah, tribal roots go back and forth in the evolutionary history of life, human or not, let's see we have entire tribes of ants and wild dogs, and you see that it usually pays to stick with what you know.

    5. Anonymous11:40 PM

      @Anonymous: it usually pays to stick with what you know.

      This is bullshit. We live in very big and complex multi ethnic mostly Pacific societies - at least, NOW. We can have the cake and eat it too: a mixed, poliethnic society, with lots of minorities that choose to mix, lots that don't, and no genocides. We can do it: USA is living proof that this is possible.


    6. Who is to say Jews couldn't have been even more successful if the were not hated ? One thing is for sure the charterer of their success would have been different. Different avenues would have been open to them.

  4. I think it's rather lazy thinking to blame racism on conservatives. We all know there's plenty of racist liberals (whether they want to admit it or not) and there's plenty of conservatives who could care less about the color of anyone's skin.

    It's a problem that plagues all corners of political spectrum...not just the right.

    1. I agree...that's related to my point. Liberals who decry racism but then avoid black people in real life are contributing to the problem by doing so.

    2. Life comes in degrees. Noah (or Chait in the linked piece) surely isn't arguing that only conservatives are racist but, statistically speaking, conservatives are more likely to hold explicitly and implicitly racist views. Not surprisingly, this shows up in their policy choices.

      Further, as Noah noted, the Republican party stands in opposition to all efforts to reduce the impact of racism that go beyond the most simplistic standard of formal equality before the law.

    3. @Marcus: "simplistic standard of formal equality before the law."

      I'm not a Republican, but let me defend the Laissez-faire attitude on social policy against your more hands on approach. Sometimes it isn't racism, really (do not presume bad faith). We paleoliberals and some Republicans adopt the proven and tested motto: "First, do no harm." You liberals from today seem to love the "politician's fallacy", which can be enunciated as follows :

      A: Something must be done.
      B: This**** is something.
      C: Therefore, we must do this.

      **** busing, affirmative quotas, war on (mostly consumed by blacks) drugs, $15 minimum wages, etc.

  5. "It's a fact that black communities in America are exceptionally violent, even after accounting for the effects of poverty."

    But the very survey you cite as proving the great persistence of prejudice took associating the word "violence" more with blacks to be a sign of prejudice!

    1. Good point, race hustling at its best.

  6. It seems to me that neighborhood isolation can exacerbate the networking problem. Something like this may be in play: When considering moving to a new area the greater the perceived and actual discrimination in your new environment the more unlikely you will be to move and thus the less likely you will be able to improve your business network.

    I don't know what actions we could or should take that would break this pattern outside of broad steps to discourage racial bias.

  7. Kolya2:36 PM

    What evidence is there for your number 3- that violence for personal self-protection is common amongst otherwise law-abiding black Americans? Would law-abiding black people really be so reluctant to contact the police if they were threatened with violence? Most police departments seem to have invested a lot in 'community outreach' in recent years. And police forces are increasingly black or minority - about 1 in 4 nationwide, and *majority* black police forces aren't uncommon in heavily black cities. Camden NJ's police is 80% black. Washington DC's police is majority black. NYC has a police that is 47% minority. Color me skeptical.

    1. Actually, I think that community policing and the hiring of more black police officers is one big reason behind the staggering decline in violence in black communities observed during the 1990s.

    2. Anonymous10:32 PM

      Yet, in communities where the police force and judicial system are overwhelmingly represented by African Americans, there still exists violent crime rates in those communities at rates unseen in any other Western society/community.

      Here is the link to the 2011 FBI Uniform Crime reports:

      I don't get how your police discrimination account can explain the disproportionate representation of blacks in virtually every violent crime category. So wait, a black male doesn't trust calling the police, so he goes out and is disproportionately likely to commit rape, rob a store, etc.? Interestingly, the only crimes included in the report where blacks are represented at a rate that mirrors their overall representation in the country, are the crimes where arguably police racial bias could most play a factor (i.e., driving under the influence and other liquor laws). That is, a racist cop could see a car swerving but let the driver go once the cop sees the driver is white.

      Also, you don't mention any of the research that has looked at the National Crime Victimization Survey. This data is based on survey responses about crime victimization (regardless of whether the crime was reported or not). If the judicial system was biased against blacks, we would expect these surveys to show that blacks are less likely to commit violent crime than the observed incarceration rates suggest. Yet, as studies have found, the breakdown of offenses by race in victimization surveys closely parallel observed crime statistics.

      Of course, there is always the issue that the patterns of violent crime rates seen in the United States are not confined to this nation. They are observed in other multiracial societies, as well as observed when cross-national comparisons are made.

  8. Kolya3:14 PM

    Also, how likely is it that African-Americans feel a disinclination to join the upper-middle class? It seems more likely that poor African-Americans dream of becoming 'buppies' who spend their time hanging out with other 'buppies' - Think Like a Man opened at number 1 in the box office, beating The Hunger Games, The Best Man Holiday opened at number 1 to beat Thor.

  9. If there is anything holding back blacks, it is liberal policies.

    First, we isolate blacks by placing them in public housing projects, where all they see is people with the same socioeconomic and racial background. This way, we deprive them of social capital. Exclusionary zoning laws also help keep them out of the "good" neighborhoods.

    Second, we force them to send their kids to failing public schools, where not only they learn very little but also interact exclusively with other kids from similar socioeconomic background. This way, we further deprive them of social capital and, of course, of human capital.

    Third, if and when they graduate, with little human and social capital, we implement a minimum wage that makes them unemployable so that white middle-class kids can get a few more dollars per hour at their part-time work.

    So it seems to me that it is liberals who have given racist conservatives the excuse to argue that blacks are beyond help. The truth of course is that the problem lies not with blacks, but with the liberal policies that were supposed to help them, but have only made things worse. Both are guilty!

    Libertarian economists, particularly Friedman, have offered, however, a third alternative: Replace the minimum wage with a generous Earned Income Tax Credit, and allow school choice (for example with the use of vouchers). Maybe liberals should be paying more attention.

    1. Third, if and when they graduate, with little human and social capital, we implement a minimum wage that makes them unemployable so that white middle-class kids can get a few more dollars per hour at their part-time work.

      Probably not a big deal.

      But the others you mention seem like big problems.

    2. By the way, don't know if your radar caught this:

      Having a half-black president must be giving them nightmares over at Fox News.

    3. CA...Your libertarian prescription will fail, ironically because of market dynamics.

      Any EITC will be captured by Employers over time by simply by not giving their employees raises that keep up with inflation. (just like has been happening) And why wouldn't they capture all the EITC they can ? It is a good business decision to have the government pay your employees. An employer would be negligent not to capture the EITC.

      The only thing that would prevent this from happening is a minimum wage that is pegged to inflation.

      You can't get around it...the EITC and the minimum wage are Complements, not alternatives.

    4. Winston, this does not make economic sense!

      Most jobs pay above minimum wage, and have kept up with the rate of inflation. Why do you think that is? Because they cannot pay less and still find workers. This is the concept of the market equilibrium. A falling real wage (wage relative to price level) gives an incentive to employers to expand by hiring more low-skilled workers. But the pool of low-skilled workers is not unlimited. After a while, finding enough workers will be so difficult for any single employer that they will not be able to afford to offer less, or they won't find anyone to do the job. The problem is that the minimum wage has been set above the rate that would convince companies to hire those unemployed unskilled workers. Once this is not the case, there is no reason for the real wage to fall further.

  10. Anonymous6:16 PM

    Now I feel good I grew up in Canada, but to be honest I grew up in Saskatchewan and early on there was some struggle with multiculturalism as the mayor wanted to strengthen "Christian" values. But now Saskatoon is a multicultural city, Canadians are a little racist in some areas to first nations (native americans) sometimes worse than America as its more visible and even to their faces as there are more of them.

  11. Anonymous8:26 PM

    And racism, of course, inhibits black people from forming human networks.

    Maybe, but then why are, say, Vietnamese immigrants able to adapt so well to American society within a generation or two? Less racism? Are we sure that's it? I'm not saying racism's a non-zero factor, but I suspect you are assigning it too much explanatory power.

    I wouldn't want to give up my family and friends to hang out with a bunch of people who looked down on me because of my race.

    I don't think this is it. I think it's more that people generally like to associate with people like themselves along cultural lines. It's not that they think white people hate or dislike them, but rather simply a desire to be around people and a culture more like what they are accustomed to. This helps account for the development of ethnic enclaves in cities as people desire to be around people like themselves. Also, I'll note that in my experience that many African immigrants to the US have little to do with US-born blacks and prefer to associate with other Africans as well. Plainly that's not a result of straight-up racism based on skin color, but rather a desire to be around people more like themselves with similar interests (e.g. soccer instead of American football). (I'll also add that the success of African immigrants to the US would seem to undermine the explanatory power of racism in the underperformance of US-born blacks)

    Furthermore, this desire to be around similar people isn't even a race thing -- also note how people are increasingly assorting themselves geographically by political orientation as well.

    It's pretty simple. If a guy in my neighborhood were threatening me, the first thing I'd do would be to pick up the phone and call the cops.

    I don't buy this at all. The thing is, for most people, how often are they threatened and forced to call the cops? How many times did you have to call the cops growing up? Seems to me that the bigger problem is that in black neighborhoods that there are so many threats of violence in the first place. If these threats weren't being made, the racism of cops would be irrelevant. I don't think it's a situation at all where both whites and blacks are being threatened with violence in equal numbers but only the white people feel comfortable getting the cops involved to sort matters out before things get ugly.

  12. I find the argument that reacting with violence is not a result of a "culture of violence" to be suspicious. Why are there so many people threatening violence in that community to start with? Is it because the aggressors have been raised in a violent environment their whole lives? If so, that starts to sound a lot like a culture of violence to me.

    Or are you proposing that any community would immediately regress to a similar state of violence if police suddenly quit policing them?

  13. In any case, I would bet all the money I'm ever going to make on the proposition that the drug war and (to a lesser extent) zoning regulations harm blacks more than anything you've listed in an order of magnitude more.

  14. This is all by and large very silly. The solution is not to avoid prejudice. It's just nonsense. There's always going to be prejudice. That's part of the human condition, but prejudice is not necessarily a big problem.

    Despite all the business networking among white people, Asians are doing quite well. Despite the racist police, black immigrants from the Caribbean do quite well until their kids and especially grandkids get acculturated to the local culture.

    And so on and so forth.

    Jews, Asians, Italians, the Irish dealt with prejudice to a different degree for a long time too, yet many of them are thriving.

    The solution is not to live in the past forever and not to look for racism everywhere you can. Racism will always be with us, but it does not mean it matters.

    1. This offhand dismissal of "ugh, everyone deals with it, get over it" frustrates me.

      I'm firmly in Coates' camp when I say that racism is at the core of the American project. It shaped the writing of the Constitution, it drove the policies of the New Deal and of Reconstruction, and even today it lingers today where African American children are significantly more likely to be punished in and/or drop out of in school, get shot, or go to jail than other groups. Is this a failure of liberal policies? Maybe. Is this a result of what Coates/Chait have been arguing about? Perhaps. But there's something going on, and throwing your hands up and declaring "Racism will always be with us, but it does not mean it matters" is definitely not the correct response to these discussions and statistics.

      "Jews, Asians, Italians, the Irish dealt with prejudice to a different degree for a long time too, yet many of them are thriving" -- go reread what you wrote. The key phrase is "different degree." I'll start off easy: slavery.

    2. @Bulldog: The key phrase is "different degree." I'll start off easy: slavery

      Oh, please. Do you really think there is any causal, not magical (this writes offs "evil eye" mechanism that could link Afro American underachievement to slavery, or even Jim Crow after so many lustres or decades of their respective revogation? If so, why our host's minority, who is victim of prejudice for centuries too, and suffered an aggression even more cruel than slavery in recent times, have proven so much more resistent to the Evil Eye of Prejudice. Please, do take the bull by the horns on this one or stop bullshiting like mad arouques : people are starting to notice, even people on your side. I thought Conservatives were supposed to be the stupid and reality denying side, not you science and truth lovers liberals. Do not disappoint me.


    3. My last comment there was somewhat flippant, to be sure. I was upset. but being upset doesn't change the host of research suggesting that African Americans indeed have a particularly difficult time in America, be it hiring discrimination, housing discrimination, living in deeply impoverished neighborhoods and being in contact with levels of poverty and violence most of white America fails to even conceptualize (see Anonymous above).

      We're still only a generation or two from a time when red lining dominated urban housing policy, and when two of the most important factors for determining a child's success in school are family home equity and parent education, it becomes fairly plausible that Jim Crow-era housing and credit policies shaped the conditions many African Americans face (and still exist to some weaker, but significant, effect today).

      Again, I don't know how to attribute the blame, but there's something amiss and I hope we can agree that it's in America's interest to figure this out and not wave our hands while telling ourselves, no, INSISTING to ourselves, we live in a "post-racial society" or whatever.

    4. Again, every minority or even group has their sob story. I am an immigrant from a country where 20% of population got wiped out 60 years ago, quickly followed by a murderous dictatorship. Parts of my family got totally wiped out too. Should we continue in this vein? Do you think it's useful or illuminating in any way?

      Your history is what you make of it. The question is opportunity and not ghosts of prejudice. Prejudice will be always with us, the question is how open the system is and what opportunities it offers you. Reeducation camps are not the answer.

      It's interesting you mention education of parents as a determinant child's success drivers. Doesn't it make incumbent on the parents to invest in their education the way poor Asians, Caribbean blacks and so on tend to do? Or the poor immigrant jews did in the 20's when they faced so much more informal and formal exclusion than blacks face now?

      Yes, there's clearly something amiss with the situation of the American underclass and history can be a heavy burden. The way out is to escape it, not to wallow in it. Look at Europe, as an example where history has been simply rejected in order to stop constant score settling and overcome the burden. This is how you learn from history.

    5. @Bulldog: "African Americans indeed have a particularly difficult time in America"

      When you control for IQ, black Americans aren't really discriminated in America: at least not in the thirty years or so. A black engineer that has the same IQ of a white engineer will have an income slightly higher. Please, do research this. You must keep up with us. How do you want to find answers to social problems if you don't even WANT to know what is the problem in the first place? When I said up thread that you've not already recouped from the "Bell Curve" wars from the nineties, I wasn't joking. Liberal's/progressive self-imposed ignorance on this issue is becoming not only an embarrassment, but an actual impediment in finding real solution that would address real problems.

      Low IQ is a real problem; rampant racism -- at least in contemporaneous America -- isn't. C'mon guys! Keep up or shut up! Discussing policy with "liberal creationists" is becoming a little tiring nowadays. And a say this a inhabitant from a third world country were our elites buy a lot of bullshit from yours. If only your elites could put their shit together, it would help ours to put theirs too. We're adopting quotas in public universities three decades later than you, as if it was The Solution For Our Blacks Underachievement Problem Too. (I kid you not).

      People actually think it will amount for something (really!). Stop exporting bad thinking to the world, you guys!


    6. Low IQ is the problem? That's why we have white supremacy instead of Asian supremacy? I don't think IQ determinism is of any more help in explaining the problem.

    7. @Krys: "That's why we have white supremacy instead of Asian supremacy?"

      I don't understand your point. East Asians are not a model minority in the USA? Last time I checked, they composed 40% of the students of Caltech, and 20% of the Ivy Leagues. Here in my country, people of Japanese ancestry are 2% of the population of the most rich state, but they are 15% of the students of our best university, and they are overrepresented on elite professions (lawyers, doctors, engineers). My country is culturally very acommodative: people of Japanese ancestry here are Japanese in ancestry only: most of them are assimilated in the local culture by now.

      Is it really different in the USA? Really? I thought you were a little more reality-based than the rest of the bunch, ;-)

    8. And, mind you: I'm not defending anyone's "supremacy". I don't think a slightly (or not so slightly) higher average IQ is reason to discriminate against anybody. I'm not a "dumb"-ophobe or a snob. Lots of people who like to argue on the internet are unusually intelligent and so define their indentities by this trait, I don't think we should predicate rights (even immigration rights) on intelligence (or height, ou beauty, or capacity to digest lactose). Do you?


    9. The point is that despite the Asian IQ superiority, white societies vaulted way ahead. The list of noble prize winners is so...very white. This should tell you something about the usefulness of IQ as an explanatory variable. On top of that, various minorities have a variety of problems and there's no easy way to reduce it to even just income dimension, not to mention the slight mystery of why one 10 point difference gives you some small differences in middle class, why another opens up a chasm into a ghetto.

    10. Another point, if you take IQ differences as a rigid explanatory variable, this is actually an argument for extensive welfare state on basic decency grounds.

    11. @Krzys: "this is actually an argument for extensive welfare state on basic decency grounds."

      You are right. I'm kind of a "bleeding heart libertarian". I would approve a Friedmaninte Negative Income Tax or Universal Basic Income (is that what you call it nowadays?). But there are unintended consequences: bad behavioral incentives have particularly strong impact on low IQ people, who tend to be more present-oriented (see literature on hyperbolic discounting). Departures from the standard rational actor model tend to be more pronounced on low IQ people. See this article to find references on the relevant literature:

      @Krzys: “The list of noble prize winners is so...very white.”
      Do you think so? It is so Jewish, actually. One third of the American Nobelists, I think. Remember: there was a time Jews weren’t really “white” – quite the contrary. Give time to time. China only abandoned its Malthusian trap on the last 40 years or so. Before that, it was as miserable as any other European society pre-1800s. Americans could put their Ashkenazi to great use: thanks to them we have: This is Spinal Tap, Family Guy, Portnoy’s Complaint, Synecdoche, Renormalization, Zelig and Natalie Portman. Europe was much more stupid with its treasure of Jews. I think China is becoming a lot less stupid since Deng “To Get Rich is Glorious” Xiaoping. Do you agree with me?


    12. Obviously, the fact that jews have roughly the same IQ as (south east) asians and yet their share of noble prizes is roughly infinitely greater, tells you something about culture and circumstances. The very examples you cite prove my point.

      Not to mention, that if you exclude jews from the list and stick to the stupid goyim, you still get an infinitely greater representation over south asians. All of that despite the inferior IQ.

    13. Krzys: "jews have roughly the same IQ as (south east) asians"

      This is not quite right: East Asians have an average IQ of a third or half of a standard deviation above the European; Ashkenazi Jews (i.e.; Jews whose ancestry can be traced to East Europe, who came from the Rhine valley -- like the ancestries of our intelligent host, Noah) have an average IQ that is two thirds or a whole standard deviation above the European average. Only the Hindus do better than this.

      What this means? Ashkenazi Jews are only 5% or so of America's population, but between a third and a quarter of all people with IQs higher than 145 are Ashkenazi Jews. Do you find that surprising that a third of your Supreme Court, or of your Nobelists or a half or your chess master is Jewish? If you don't discriminate excessively against them, they'll thrive. This is simple fact. It happens even in stupid, populist Argentina, a tragicomically neighbor country from mine, which have the largest Ashkenazi community in Latin America. The ones who didn’t escape there on the seventies, “thrive” (i.e.: do better than the general population) there too.


    14. So, why again , the stupid goyim so thoroughly dominate east asians on noble prize lists? Even in the last 30 years?

    15. Krzys: "So, why again , the stupid goyim so thoroughly dominate east asians on noble prize lists? Even in the last 30 years?"

      Firstly, goym are not "stupid". The differences are not that great, really. We are very similar genetically, what is an accident of destiny: as early as 100,000 thousands years we had hominidae that diverged from us hundrends of thousands of years ago.

      Secondly, I've already answered: before the 1970s, China were you can see most of the East Asians, were a hellish place, where life was short, bruttish and poor. They lived with less than ten dollars a day for each person.

      Since then, they've thrived. See the skyline of Shanghai (the late, great writer Gore Vidal said very moved when he saw it, a little before his death: "I thought to myself, well, the mandate of heaven has passed from us and come home.")

      Did you know that the best mathematician -- by a long shot -- alive today is East asian?

    16. You still miss the point. Did they get more intelligent? You keep showing examples in which intelligence did not explain anything. Why did they make all those stupid choices before?

    17. @Krys: "Why did they make all those stupid choices before?"

      Short answer: bad ideology (think Mao / communism / the greatest famine in Humanity's History caused by bad management and viruses of the mind).

      Long answer: You can find my position (and also of a very intelligent -- though not very educated -- antagonist) here:

    18. Anônimo, I can't say I can agree with your initial response (sorry for being late to the party, got to make that money). Before I go on though, I can't find whatever research your claiming controls for IQ. I would very much appreciate a link. As much as I take offense to being told to "research this," as though I haven't given this any thought or research, I'm always willing to learn more.

      But back to my concerns: Controlling for IQ is problematic because (let's frame this in hiring, for example) your IQ isn't on your resume. Your name is. This has shown to be problematic for African American applicants (see: When you apply for an apartment, you aren't asked for your IQ. I don't see how this addresses many of the points I made -- you say low IQ is the issue; I would argue that, given studies suggesting IQ can improve with education, especially early childhood education, and given the educational disparities that exist today (which, you guessed it, I partially attribute to the legacy of redlining and racism in America), that controlling for IQ is in part controlling away much of the problem I'm talking about. Is this far-fetched, probably. But somewhere in between us lies the proper consideration of America's history that is too often manipulated, embellished, or straight-up forgotten to meet political or personal satisfaction.

      @Krzys: I would like to think I'm not wallowing in history so much as insisting that people don't forget it. Certainly some of the impetus lies on the African American community to help themselves (parent education, per your example, sure I can go along with that), but that doesn't mean white America gets off easy. I will still insist that on average, African Americans face a powerfully different experience than the rest of Americans (see: But I would also like to think I'm hopeful that one day we won't have to deal with racist voting laws and won't have aspiring presidential candidates who oppose the Civil Rights Act in the name of "States' Rights" and the virtues of private property.

    19. No, sorry to say that, but history can incapacitate. Your very concern about white America getting off easy or not is an indication of the problem, as is your concern about state rights dog whistles and the like. Ask yourself: the racist voting laws somehow are not stopping blacks from having as high or higher voting participation rates. In other words, you are spending a lot of time on marginal issue.

      In general, forget white America, the question is: is there enough opening in the system to let you advance/ grasp opportunities? i know your answer will be not really, but it forces you to look for ever more marginal impediments. If you want to see a way out, look at poor Asians or black Caribbeans.

      I have lived in Western and eastern Europe, and the US is by far the least prejudiced, the most open society out there.

    20. @Bulldog

      I do own you an apology: I'm sorry for asking you to research, when I should have provided a link to back my contentious argument.

      Which was:

      "When you control for IQ, black Americans aren't really discriminated in America: at least not in the thirty years or so."
      Which is backed by:

      "Among men who scored between the 30th and 49th percentiles nationally, black earnings rose from 62 to 84 percent of the white average. Among men who scored above the 50th percentile, black earnings rose from 65 to 96 percent of the white average."

      This is from the most prominent leftish scholar on the black - white achievement gap, the great Christopher Jencks.

      Now that I've dutifully apologized for my bad, trollish manners, can you please tell Will Wilkins, Zack Beauchamp, Stephen Colbert and the whole platoon of liberal Lynch mob Corps who witch hunted the poor Jason Richwine last year (Jencks approved his Harvard P. h. D. thesis and even praised it)?


    21. Krzys: respectfully, we will disagree on the role of history. Even some of the most contemporary research shows that Black America faces exceptional difficulties in trying to escape the legacy of racist housing and financial policies (See Stuck in Place, published last year: The high concentration of poor black neighborhoods in our cities did not occur by chance -- how do you design policy to solve problems lackluster or perverse policy created in the first place? The answer doesn't involve denying political history. Comparisons to poor Asians or Caribbean Immigrants for "a way out" are futile in the sense that these parties don't have these legacies to overcome in the same way. Also, framing our argument in comparison to whatever European countries you have in mind is hardly convincing - cross-country comparisons that say "it's better here than there" doesn't have any impact on my argument of "it should be better, we need to improve and remain aware." These problems that America created, and these are problems that all of America owes to itself to fix, and not just dump the responsibility for doing so on its victims.

      Anônimo: This is interested but dated research and fails to address my main concerns with controlling for IQ. Thanks for sharing, though, I will certainly be thinking about this moving forward.

      I feel no pressure to apologize for a "liberal lynch mob" I have no association with.

    22. Anonymous2:51 PM

      @Bulldog: fails to address my main concerns with controlling for IQ.

      No it doesn't fail to address you main concert (reading comprehension fail). Read it slowly: when you take only the Blacks who scored above the 50th percentile in the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT), the black earnings is black earnings are "65 to 96 percent of the white average."

      The AFQT is a test of intelligence. You could easilly substitute it for an IQ test if it was politically feasible. Or an LSAT, it doesn't really matter. Read about it here: and here:

      Got it?

      And you don't need to apologize for the liberal lynch mob, of course. I was just saying you to "tell them": you liberal friends (it was a speech figure). People who believe in validity of IQ and in cognitive differences between ethnic groups aren't (all of them) a bunch of racists. There are people like me, or Richwine, or Murray: reasonable people, who saw the evidence and derived some conclusions from it. I don't agree with Richwine (I'm an open borders kind of guy) but I don't like to see people being witch hunted for saying the truth (on average, hispanics immigrants do have lower IQs than European immigrants).


    23. Anonymous3:53 PM

      @Bulldog: "This is interested but dated research (...)"

      Fair enough. But the most influential article about this issue – the one that probably was in Jencks’s mind when he said that we need to address the achievement gap through by reducing the test scores gap – is “Basic Skills and the Black-White Earnings Gap”, by Neal & Johnson (1996), which is cited to this day, because its basic finding – i.e. the black-white differential is dramatically reduced by controlling for performance on the Armed Forces Qualifications Test (AFQT) – have not been refuted since, or changed.

      If you find anything saying otherwise, I would like to know. People are making caveats to this basic finding (like, adjustments based on theories of statistical discrimination and the like). Nobody DARE to say that the basic finding (control for an IQ like test, like LSAT or AFQT, that the gap is dramatically reduced, or even reversed in some cases) is false.


    24. Anonymous4:39 PM

      I think you've heard about economist James Heckman, a Nobel laureate, who likes to promote early education as a nostrum for "curing" the achievement gaps between whites and some minorities (blacks and Hispanics, since east Asians and Hindus are the ones Whites need to reach for). The reasoning is: these gaps begin to arise very, very early, so we need to intervene very, very early (Logic Win!)

      Anyway, see how Heckman – a most capable scholar, of course -- synthesized the evidence about market discrimination available in the nineties:

      “A careful reading of the entire body of available evidence confirms that most of the disparity in earnings between blacks and whites in the labor market of the 1990s is due to the differences in skills they bring to the market, and not to discrimination within the labor market.”
      “Ability as it crystallizes at an early age accounts for most of the measured gap in black and white labor market outcomes. Stricter enforcement of cid rights laws is a tenuous way to improve early childhood skills and ability. The weight of the evidence***** suggests that this ability and early motivation is most easily influenced by enriching family and preschool learning environments and by improving the quality of the early years of schooling.”

      I don’t think it would be intellectually honest to say that people suddenly became more racist in the aughties and market discrimination suffered a spike since Heckman wrote the quote above. Do you?


      ***** Dirty cheap genetic sequencing in the aughties and twin studies have weakened the case for environmental influences – at least if we are talking about First World Country conditions (most of these studies are conduced in countries like USA and Sweden). If you want to learn something about the surprisingly small effect of parenting and shared environment in IQ you read “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids”, by Bryan Caplan. It is not an academic book, but it does a very good précis of the “State of the Art” on this field.

    25. When I said that the research "doesn't address my concerns," I went on to explain the fact that given IQ can be generally malleable given improved education and social conditions, controlling for test scores controls away many of the determinants of the education urban African Americans versus rich white suburbanites receive. So sure, when you look at equal IQs between African Americans and Caucasians, you see improved income equality over time (I'd be curious to see what is now, as the data in the book is somewhat dated -- hopefully it's improved and I can rest easier), but there's the deeper issue that there is still a wide disparity in test scores that is laying in wait underneath the surface of these statistics.

      I largely agree with your third post. Targeted early childhood education would be super helpful here! Providing subsidized day care for single mothers would be helpful! Higher wages for single mothers who would be enabled to spend more time reading to their kids every day would be super helpful!

      But that doesn't change the fact there are structural issues that were at play not too long ago and still have lasting impacts on our cities and our populations to this day. Poverty is inherited, and its damages compounds over time; and with poverty becoming increasingly concentrated since the early 1990s (see: there is some concern in my mind that we are starting to slip away from the progress we made since the 1960s; the book I cited earlier contains a lot of compelling evidence that we are indeed regressing. When even some of the most affluent African American families live in neighborhoods and raise their kids in environment that virtually none of even the poorest white families in America experience, that has repercussions, and that isn't on accident.

      So no, everyone didn't all of a sudden become explicitly more racist, but maybe we stopped caring as much and for that we're losing the gains we made, and we're not ready to accept that yet. Which is why being aware of these questions still matters.

    26. @Bulldog: "we're losing the gains we made, and we're not ready to accept that yet. Which is why being aware of these questions still matters."

      I partially agree with this. We're not losing ground, but we're stagnant and we need more research to know why this is so, and how to remedy it. I know of two easy solutions, that would work immediately : we could stop arresting one eighth of adult urban blacks between 30 and 40 years old.


    27. (Cont.) The other solution was was exposed by Karl Smith, an American black intelectual who understands that land restrictions are pernicious better than most of you liberals:

      Irreproducibility and inheritance are the essential features of land in classical economics. Thus, the story here isn’t so much about capital, but about land in the 21st century


    28. This comment has been removed by the author.

    29. Indeed. I think that considering these problems from a perspective of property rights, zoning, mortgage regulations, etc. would be more productive at this point in time. I honestly don't have much more to add, just wanted to mostly thank you for the link.

      Also, I deleted the above for grammar reasons, only when I realized I couldn't edit my comment. Weird.

    30. I love to discuss with you American liberals because you are so open minded and "neoliberal" and reasonable.


      Here in Brazil people would be calling me names and shouting "racist" or worse. I love you guys and think you are a - maybe the only "big", multicultural one - lmodel of a an Open Society. I hope your country continue to be this model of Popperian evolution that it has proven to be since 1776.

      Keep doing the good work and learning, and teaching! We are watching - and hoping to be as successful as - you!



  15. Unanimous11:26 PM

    Why does it matter if some portion of disadvantaged black people swap places with advantaged white people - you still end up with the same number of disadvantaged and advantaged people. If you do manage to instigate a program to address black disadvantage, once there are no statistical racial differences between advantaged and disadvantaged people, we'll probably then notice that disadvantaged people are disproportionally of meek character, or short, or ugly, or something, and we'll realise that we haven't actually achieved anything in terms of overall improvement in wellbeing. The fact that there is such an enormous difference between people's opportunities and outcomes in life is the problem. Fix that and there'll be an enormous improvement in overall well being particularly for black people. Anything else is just adjusting who gets the winning lotto tickets.

  16. The long term solution is interacial marriage. Note I said long term. Everyone knows Obama is the first "black" president. In reality, he's half white and was raised by white folks. It takes a critical mass to start breaking down the barriers. States like Hawaii will arrive there first.

    1. Blacks and whites have long inter-mated in the US, even if interracial marriage was not legal. The 1850 census instructions:

      "Be particularly careful to distinguish between blacks, mulattoes, quadroons, and octoroons. The word “black” should be used to describe those persons who have three-fourths or more black blood; “mulatto,” those persons who have from three-eighths to five-eighths black blood; “quadroon,” those persons who have one-fourth black blood; and “octoroon,” those persons who have one-eighth or any trace of black blood."

      By the 1850 definition, Obama is technically a "mulllato" yet his children are "black". If you, think this is nuts, that's because it is.

      Clearly the races were mixing and for 3 or more generations. "Octoroons" might be visually indistinguishable from whites, but they would need to hide their ancestory for marriages to whites to be accepted as legal, and not challenged in cases of inheritance, pensions, &c. The same issues that are argued against gay marriage were once argued against interracial marriage. Gay marriage issues are a good model for how miscegenation laws affected marriages until the Supremes unconstitutionalized them little more than a generation ago.

      There is an economic component: the desire by the wealthy to create a permanent underclass of cheap labor. That class warfare contiues today and the oligarchs are winning.

    2. @bakho: "Gay marriage issues are a good model for how miscegenation laws affected marriages until the Supremes unconstitutionalized them little more than a generation ago."

      In what world do you live man? These laws weren't enforced for decades! You people don't like to intermarriage a lot because of... culture. Don't put the fault of it on your laws. This is not fair. You should learn with us: you talk a lot, but you don' practice it very much.

      Milton Friedman's solution (end the war on drugs and less land using restrictions) would be way more effective than your stupid forced integration, affirmative action and busing and whatever. Progressive rent control regulation in New York probably hurt more black people than “racism” and other “evil eye” ineffable causes that progressives love so much. You should learn to live with this fact: Hispanics and blacks who migrate seem to prefer republican-racist Texas to liberal San Francisco and New York. Houston is now, by far, your MOST DIVERSE metropolis:

      Obviously, lax land zoning laws PWNs progressive rhetoric in actually delivering the goods, I think… Last talking and less whining, you guys! It should be way better if you actually adopted policies that made your states more diverse and open to the people you like to say you favor. Texas, in this respect, is WAY BETTER THAN California or New York. Put your money and laws where your mouth really years, and stop whining about intermarriage prohibitions that weren’t enforced for decades, at least. This attitude is just: LAME!


    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. 1) It is undeniable that there is less racism in the US than 60 or 70 years ago. Back then it was common to hear politicians express belief in white supremacy. Today, no one advocates white supremacy. Is there still some residual racism, still some belief in the superiority of white people? I suppose so, since people aren't saints. But most people know that such prejudice is wrong and that is a big change from America in the 1950s.

    2) In light of the reduction in racism in America over the past several decades, what is Noah's explanation for the persistence - indeed, the growth - of the black underclass? He doesn't really offer any explanation except to say that racism is the cause of the problems of the black underclass. Now correlation may not imply causation, but surely lack of correlation calls into question a claim of causation. Anyway, this seems to be the fundamental flaw in Noah's analysis.

    1. It's like with communism: heightening of contradictions. The less visible racism is, the more pervasive and widespread and ever more dangerous it is. Now, that racism is so much harder to see, we need ever more thought police and vigilance. The enemy is us!

      Racism used to be responsible for some problems, now, as Coates clearly shows, it is responsible for ALL problems.

      Marx was so right. First time as tragedy, second time as farce.

  18. I notice some folks are comparing crime stats by race without understanding that crime stats by race are not comparable...
    Black people use drugs at about the same rate as white people, Black folks are incarcerated at a rate 7 times that of white folks for the same offences. (you probably knew that) But did you realize that similar patterns exist for other crimes ?

    This is a great read... "I Got Myself Arrested So I Could Look Inside the Justice System"

    Excerpt..." I found myself spending most of my time prosecuting people of color for things we white kids did with impunity growing up in the suburbs. As our office handed down arrest records and probation terms for riding dirt bikes in the street, cutting through a neighbor’s yard, hosting loud parties, fighting, or smoking weed – shenanigans that had rarely earned my own classmates anything more than raised eyebrows and scoldings – I often wondered if there was a side of the justice system that we never saw in the suburbs. Last year, I got myself arrested in New York City and found out."

    1. Homicide rates are not comparable?

    2. Krzys...In the south often what is self defence for a white person is murder for a black person.

    3. Quite apart from how real those statements about the South are, you should look at the relative homicide rates in the north, west, wherever. The pattern is still the same.

      The harsh treatment of people in some minority neighborhoods does not have necessarily anything to do with prejudice, but with broken window theory and concentrated policing. It is debatable whether those techniques work as advertised, not to mention if the costs of alienating young minority males are worth it, but this is quite a different issue.

  19. Conservative politicians can't talk about black unemployment and poverty without blaming "inner city culture"...But no Conservative ever balmes culture when they talk about poor white people in West Virginia.
    When it comes to chronic unemployment and poverty in mostly white rural areas No conservative would EVER ever imply it is because of "rural cultural problems". Insulting their most loyal voting block like that would be political suicide.

    But they can't have it both ways...unless we keep letting them.
    We need to start asking Conservatives who make the "cultural = poverty" argument if they think that also applies to the chronically-unemployed-rural-white-poor folks too.

    They can't have a good answer. They will be forced to either insult poor white communities all over America ...or say that Black unemployment problems are caused by culture, while white unemployment problems aren't.

    Rock meets hard place.

    I am very liberal person... But let me also take my fellow liberals to task on this too...
    How come when we talk about poverty, we almost never talk about addressing the special problems of the rural white poor ? Even when we do help them (medicaid expansion in Kentucky) we seem afraid to take credit for it.

    Stupid, stupid liberals be we.

    When it comes Chronic Generational white poverty ...The repubs pretend it does not exist...while at the same time blaming big government for it. (as always with the cons doublethink is in play.)

    While the dems act like they don't care very much about it.

    And we wonder why poor white Americans don't vote in their best interests.

    1. I do think that we Should be talking about culture. I do think that culture can contribute to the relative "success" of a culture. (Success narrowly defined as power in a greater society.)

      But culture is only one component. How big a component it is must be measured against other factors and weighed in comparison.

      Which culture is more encumbered by outside pressures--- The "Inner City" culture, or the "Rural, Poor White" culture ?

      One thing is for sure...the pressure is on both of them because they are manipulated or forced into accommodating the interests elite.

      So culture does not really seem to be the big problem in either case.

    2. I think it's more illuminating to think about poverty in terms of privilege rather than culture. When we think about successful, cultures, I usually see a progression like this: good luck --> initial success --> privilege --> sustained success.

      Privilege can't go back indefinitely--it had to start some time. And I find Jared Diamond type explanations that look at the natural distribution of resources to be a pretty plausible explanation of where it comes in the first place. If you live in a place with lots of high-yield crops and animals that can be domesticated and timber and iron and tin and so on, you will likely become wealthier than your neighbors. And once that initial wealth is attained privilege becomes a birthright of the culture.

    3. @ Andy Parrott: "I think it's more illuminating to think about poverty in terms of privilege rather than culture."

      It is not, because a change in culture can cause growth. To see this, you should compare the reforms introduced in Japan by the Meiji* on the late 19th century with the "reforms" introduced by empress dowager Cixi** in China at the same time.

      China had been always the richer, bigger, more civilized country. A fast change in ideology (occidentalization) and all that changed: Japan gained the upper hand and used it really bad (atrociously, murderously, infamously) in the early 20th century against China and other countries in the Pacific rim – including yours (Pearl Harbour).

      Changes in economic destiny caused by ideological turns can be really fast. See what happened to Argentina when it adopted Peronism (a kind of socialistic populism) in the 1940s:


      * “Reforms” introduced by empress dowager Cixi* in the late 19th century in China

      "Scholars sometimes attribute the failure of China's foreign programs to Cixi's conservative attitude and old methods of thinking, and contend that Cixi would learn only so much from the foreigners, provided it did not infringe upon her own power. Under the pretext that a railway was too loud and would "disturb the Emperor's tombs," Cixi forbade its construction. When construction went ahead anyway in 1877 under Li Hongzhang's recommendation, Cixi asked that they be pulled by horse-drawn carts. Cixi was especially alarmed at the liberal thinking of people who had studied abroad, and saw that it posed a new threat to her power. In 1881, Cixi put a halt to sending children abroad to study, and withdrew her formerly open attitude towards foreigners."

      * Reforms introduced in Japan by the Meiji* on the late 19th century in Japan

      "The rapid industrialization and modernization of Japan both allowed and required a massive increase in production and infrastructure. Japan built industries such as shipyards, iron smelters, and spinning mills, which were then sold to well-connected entrepreneurs. Consequently, domestic companies became consumers of Western technology and applied it to produce items that would be sold cheaply in the international market. With this, industrial zones grew enormously, and there was massive migration to industrializing centers from the countryside. Industrialization additionally went hand in hand with the development of a national railway system and modern communications."


      Size of the merchant fleet

      Year Number of steamships
      1873 26
      1894 169
      1904 797
      1913 1514


      Length of train track

      Year Track
      (mi) (km)
      1872 18 29
      1883 240 390
      1887 640 1,030
      1894 2,100 3,400
      1904 4,700 7,600
      1914 7,100 11,400

    4. @ Andy Parrott: "And once that initial wealth is attained privilege becomes a birthright of the culture."

      This is false. Europe's (without Russia) steel production in 1700 a.D. was smaller than China's steel production by the time of the Song Dinasty ~1080 a.D (see Pomeranz, K,, 2000). Chinese were using steam engines to power blast furnace bellows some hundreds of years before European dimwits.

      Yet, they stagnated. Yet they fell. Yet their initial privilege amount to very little in the end, and only now they are putting their shit together, by immitating us and becoming bourgeois.


    5. Winston,
      You should read Kevin Williamson's article in National Review about poverty in Appalachia before you start making generalizations about conservatives.

    6. "I am very liberal person... But let me also take my fellow liberals to task on this too...
      How come when we talk about poverty, we almost never talk about addressing the special problems of the rural white poor ? "

      Since when is this?

    7. Anonymous7:03 PM

      But they do both come from the same place, The Welfare State enforcing poverty culture. Poor whites - and blacks - who vote Democrat are the ones voting against their own interests.

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  21. Great post, thanks. Now I have more material to link to when people get upset that I'm pulling the race card.

  22. topic...
    I can only post as "Winston Smith" (a handle I have not used in years) through my google account.
    What happened to the other options? Have the options changed or is the problem on my end ?
    Anyone having a similar experience ?

  23. William Wilberfang7:26 AM

    I thought this post was going to be about ways that racism hurts black americans instead of ways that black americans happen to have problems that others do not.

  24. Nice article. You should read Elizabeth Anderson's book The Imperative of Integration. She is exploring similar terrain.

    Also, take a look at Kevin Drum's work on environmental lead and its decline as a key part of the explanation of declining crime rates. It may sound crazy, but the statistical correlation is uncanny, and worth exploring.

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  26. Anonymous6:47 PM

    It's the "Welfare" State, not racism, that's been hurting Black Americans for fifty years now. It isn't designed to help, it is intended to create poverty and dependency, in the guise of "compassion" all the while convincing the exploited that they are being helped, and increasing the State. LBJ knew exactly what he was doing.