Monday, March 24, 2014

Where there's smoke...there can't be fire.

Driving home after a late day at work one evening, you turn into your housing development, ease around the next corner into your cul-de-sac...and you slam on the brakes... For down at the end of the block, where your house is, you see an explosion; immediately your beautiful home is engulfed in flames. What's your first thought? Is it "Oh, wait, I know what this is about... It must be that guy I met at that party last year, the CGI* expert. He's pranking me..." Or is it likely to be more along the lines of Oh my God, my family's in there, what the hell is going on...??

It has not escaped your attention of late, nor mine, that SHAMblog is mutating into RACEblog. Apologies. It's just that hardly a day goes by that we don't have more one-sided, politically correct reporting and/or analysis served up in the guise of an "open dialog on race." For my part, I grow weary of seeing/hearing nary a rebuttal. To be clear, I grow weary not on white-person racial grounds, but on logical/scientific grounds. Those should apply to all people, regardless of color.

Last last week, for example, we had this story. We were informed that black pre-schoolers are suspended at three time the rates of their white classmates—and naturally, of course, this ipso facto demonstrates that the system is rigged against black kids from the very first.

After all, what other interpretation could there possibly be?

I quote from a key passage in MSNBC's coverage of the study:

A staggering new report released by the Department of Education and the Justice Department on Friday highlights a troubling pattern of zero-tolerance school discipline policies that disproportionately impact minority students in general, but also trickle down to the nation’s youngest students...
So the disciplinary policies "disproportionately impact minority students"? Does it disproportionately impact minority students who are models of impeccable behavior? Or could it be that the impacted minority students are, just perhaps, a wee bit more unruly than their white peers? If the latter, then isn't MSNBC's argument a little bit like saying that laws against drunk driving disproportionately impact people who drive drunk? I agree that zero-tolerance policies on just about anything are problematic and should be rethought, but if we're saying that zero-tolerance policies disproportionately affect black students, are we not also saying that black students are more apt than white students to exhibit the intolerable behaviors?

In other words, if you have tough standards in the area of behavior, a good percentage of the kids who are unable to meet those standards will be black. OK, so maybe that is indeed saying something about the unworkability of the standards. But it's also saying something about the black kids...and yet we don't hear what it says aloud. It simply isn't permissible.

The same report notes that teachers in minority neighborhoods tend to be less experienced than those in other neighborhoods—thus, supposedly more evidence of society's educational bias against blacks. But this point about the quality of education is a wholly separate argument that, to my mind, militates against the larger point about suspensions and discipline. While it may be true that inexperienced teachers aren't as good at teaching, the inexperienced teachers also happen to be the idealists, the ones who went into education in order to shape young minds, inspire children and "give back." (Until such idealism gets beaten out of them by the system.) I believe that in most cases young teachers sincerely want to help kids they regard as disadvantaged or at-risk. If anything, such teachers are more understanding and lenient than the hard-bitten veterans, the Joe Clark types. Even in a zero-tolerance setting, I suspect that young teachers tolerate more.

I won't kill you, but I can't blame you for worrying.
Now let's move on to the most controversial possibility here, which is to say, the one you'll never hear broached in mainstream television (or just about anywhere else): If poor impulse control and general disciplinary problems are present in children that young, why isn't that an even stronger case for the innateness of those characteristics? In short, is there something inherently different about black kids? Something that makes them more disruptive, unruly and/or combative? Something that, years later, is also responsible for the abysmal incarceration rate among black America?

In dealing with almost any other topic we'd be permitted to ask that question: no, not as a rhetorical, not as if to imply that we already know the answer, but as an honest expression of interest in scientific inquiry. If a particular brand of toaster is always incinerating consumers who attempt to make toast, if the ignition switch on a particular brand of car is resulting in deadly malfunctions (the very crisis new GM CEO Mary Barra has on her hands), if a breed of dog seems correlated with deadly attacks (i.e. pit bulls, like my son's beloved Benny, shown), our first inclination is to assume the problem is the toaster, the car, the breed. We may later reject those hypotheses in favor of less obvious factors, but we're at least allowed to consider the prima facie possibility first.

Not in our open dialog on race, however. This is the one case where the smoke can never be a result of fire.
* computer-generated imagery 


Jenny said...

The word racism itself has a troubling history. (See link.)

Anonymous said...

I just read your tweet and now this blog. You claim to be a Democrat but you're not fooling anyone. It's just a cover. Your writing is some of the most openly racist material I've seen anywhere in recent years, I don't know how you get away with it and they let you TEACH? "Maybe there's something amiss in blacks"?

I should write to them, I think I will. You should be ashamed.

Steve Salerno said...

I work in a college, Anon. College is supposed to be about learning and critical thinking and discovery. Are you implying that certain things should be "off the table" in terms of our learning and thinking and discovery? I'm not making pointed allegations about blacks, I'm simply noting that there are certain (obvious) questions we're not even permitted to ask. "Don't go there."

I stand by this post, and the several that led to it. We should be free to seek truth, regardless of where that truth leads. Especially in a college setting.

RevRon's Rants said...

There is an ex-crack dealer turned "community activist" in Houston by the name of Quannel Evans nee Quannel X who very publicly rushes to the side of any black person who is arrested for a hi-visibility crime. The only caveats are that 1) the accused be black, and 2) that Quannel is paid for his "activism." His standard line is that the accused is a victim of systemic racism.

He is virtually never seen supporting someone who isn't black, which is understandable, given his publicly-stated agenda. For example, In 1995, he was quoted in the New York Daily News, "I say to Jewish America: Get ready … knuckle up, put your boots on, because we're ready and the war is going down. … The real deal is this: Black youth do not want a relationship with the Jewish community or the mainstream white community or the foot shuffling, head-bowing, knee bobbing black community. … All you Jews can go straight to hell."

Ironically, the media never addresses the fact that Quannel himself is more exemplary of racism than virtually anyone he accuses. Perhaps anon would like to call me a racist as well, simply for pointing out the blatant hypocrisy - and yes, racism - that people like Quannel represent.

IMO, the "shame" that should be felt is that to which people like Quannel X and others like him, who would stifle the pursuit of truth in favor of promoting their own racist agendas are so deserving. And yes, I would list our harrumphing anon among their number.

Steve Salerno said...

Thank you for bringing that to the fore, Ron.

I tell you honestly, I am getting increasingly fed up with the climate of political correctness that now surrounds (and seemingly excuses or absolves) all black failure and/or malfeasance. In the university setting (and I'm not talking specifically about Lehigh, where I now teach) things are as bad as, if not worse than, they ever were during the height of the "hate speech" movement of the early 1990s. And that's not even the worst of it.

There are any number of collegiate programs that seem to exist for the express purpose of enabling blacks to sail through without assimilating, as it were--which is to say, by merely joining in a mass celebration of black living, including such elements as (the most virulent, anti-white) rap music and street life (which in its more extreme manifestations encompasses gang culture).

Indeed, even though the original ebonics was officially scotched by administrators, it lives on in programs run by professors in black/Africana Studies, who encourage students to express themselves in their "shared/"common" tongue, rather than in the formal college English that would be expected of other students (including ethnic students from Hispanic regions and Asia).

One is moved to ask, what are we doing here?

RevRon's Rants said...

"One is moved to ask, what are we doing here?"

In my opinion, by not even addressing what is essentially the new millennium version of segregation, we are enabling and even reinforcing the very obstacles that prevent minorities from improving their lot. The only way to rise above stereotyping is to refuse to perpetuate those very stereotypes, and until we can at least acknowledge that such stereotypes exist when they are right in front of us, there is no hope of overcoming them.

I don't consider myself a racist, but I fully acknowledge being a stereotypist. Whether the strawman we create is that of a white redneck, a bleeding heart liberal, or a narcissistic conservative, the stereotypes we so willingly perpetuate hide the real person and all the important things that are common to us all, focusing instead upon organic bumper stickers that have little meaning beyond defining the minuscule areas in which we are different. As long as we dwell so obsessively upon our differences, we will continue to be at war with each other. And as anyone who has experienced war knows, there are no real winners.

Steve Salerno said...

Thanks, Ron. I do realize that in my increasing vituperation I sometimes go over the top and say things that are...unhelpful. It's just that I can't get past the disinclination to "call a spade a spade," and please, I apologize for the racial overtones of that phrase, but in its classic idiomatic sense, it is the perfect phrase for what's going on. Today's uber-PC climate insists that we deny what we can plainly see before our eyes. It's maddening, Ron. All the more so when you're part of an institution that has, well, institutionalized it.

Jenny said...

Steve, I get what you are trying to say and do in this new series dubbed RACEblog, too. I am married to an Arab American (RevRon and Cosmic Connie have met him) and there are things about him that are just different from anyone I've ever met. There is an intensity about him that some people consider harsh but which I happen to know is just who he is and it's based on his experience growing up in a "third world" (let's explore that term while we're at it, shall we?) country. He's hardened in ways I'll never be and yet I love him dearly; we'll celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in May. So, you see I'm not criticizing him by saying something is "amiss" (as Anonymous says in pointing out your alleged racism). I'm only saying we are shaped by our backgrounds and ought to be able to talk about those ways openly and without fear of being attacked for being racist.

The history of the word racism is troubling, as I said above. Just check out that link imbedded in my first comment. This isn't as black and white (pun intended) as some people might imagine.