City Journal Autumn 2014

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Autumn 2014
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By Heather Mac Donald, Victor Davis Hanson and Steven Malanga

The Immigration Solution.

By Heather Mac Donald

Are Cops Racist?

Eye on the News

Heather Mac Donald
Nation of Cowards?
So says Eric Holder, but what’s really cowardly is racial dishonesty.
19 February 2009

Selected Responses:

Sent by Jaime Jorquez on 02-24-2009:

I am a retired Mexican-American social worker with much experience in corrections, community work, and drug abuse treatment. Most of my work was in the Los Angeles and Phoenix areas.

I agree completely with your article and with the comments of Sell Mendoza. I am no coward on race issues and have been "carefully" preaching some of the points you make in your article for years to Latinos and Blacks under appropriate professional circumstances. Many street-wise minority people have become well versed in pulling the race card and intimidating people into silence based on learned mantras of victimhood (they do not work on me).

No truly professional social and behavioral scientist grounded in reality concerning gangs, drugs, schools, and minority neighborhoods would deny the truth of your words. However, many "aware" professionals are most definitely "coward" by their silence out of fear for their physical safety, careers, and livelihoods. Sometimes it is so frustrating attending conferences dealing with minority issues in which professionals parrot the litany of victim- hood theories and solutions based on them. Of course, nothing works based on such theories and false assumptions ... things have only gotten progressively worse in America.

Eric Holder has done us a great favor by calling me a "coward" and now maybe we can engage him in discussing minority-minority violence, crime, dysfunctional families, and students "honestly."

I would love to participate in a conference where he invited you and minority scholars to "tell it like it is." Maybe, with your connections, this could be done someday soon. Thank you for your courage in "telling it like it is."

Sent by Monique Charles on 02-22-2009:

I just wanted to say thank you very much for your article. I am a conservative black, and unlike the "angry black [fe]male," I have other things to say about racial issues in America. I agree 100 percent with you. If I were to sit with someone (of any race) and have an open conversation about race, I would probably go on a rant about the black community being stuck in a vicious cycle with no hope of getting out unless individuals start to take personal responsibility. I know for a fact that we do not need to talk more about race. People (namely blacks) are so hung up on it, it's inhibiting.

The real cowards are those that continue to hide behind the stigma of slavery and segregation of the past, and continue to perpetuate separation in an attempt to lift up the supposed underdog to "equal" status. We have Black History Month, historically black colleges, and other things that are exclusively African-American. If we are all equal, why are we being forced to recognize blacks above all others?

Sent by Mark Bugbee on 02-21-2009:

Chris Perrius, in response to this article, wrote that the "acting white myth" relative to the attitude of African-Americans towards academic achievement has been largely "debunked." I would love to see the research on this nonsense.

I spent over three years as a school psychologist working in Baltimore City Schools. I also joined Big Brothers/Big Sisters over 10 years ago and have maintained a relationship with my African-American "little brother" and Baltimore City high school graduate during this whole time. My personal experience, and his experience as a student, both confirm that a big piece of the problem is that academics is not held in high regard by many black students. Doing well in school is in fact "acting white" to many of these students, which sends a very powerful, negative message to the others.

Again, I'd love to see the research Perrius speaks of.

Sent by John Rudzinskas on 02-20-2009:

Excellent piece. So true. One has to acknowledge the problem before it is fixed, and the problem is NOT racism.

Sent by Carol Pearce on 02-20-2009:

Blacks should exercise their power to achieve and give up on demanding special considerations, exceptions to the rules, etc. Bill Cosby is brave. I bet a lot of blacks in the middle class agree with him, but they are afraid to speak out. When they do, then America can have an honest discussion about race.

Sent by Cara Dempsey on 02-20-2009:

Well, you certainly aren't a coward. Good for you, for citing facts that many are afraid to bring up for fear of being called a "racist."

Sent by Jack Hall on 02-20-2009:

You raise some good points and some bad ones. But my question to you is, "Why all the anger?" Holder's point is that many Americans are reticent to talk about race and that it would be good if we did so more often. Do you disagree with that? Is that really controversial?

Sent by Ira Kalish on 02-20-2009:

Ms MacDonald,

All that you say is true. However, your article is simply part of the conversation on race that Mr. Holder is suggesting. Perhaps his suggestion wasn't so bad?

Also, as a white man married to a black woman and with two mixed-race children, I can say from 20 years of experience that there remains far more racism than you might imagine in our society -- and it's not simply older people. My wife routinely gets followed around stores by security guards. White business associates of mine, who are not aware that my wife is black, routinely make derogatory remarks or jokes about blacks. When I encounter working- class whites, the remarks are even worse. My black nephews are often targeted by police for harassment, even though they are perfectly decent and law abiding and don't wear gang-type clothing. So, we still have a long way to go.

Black society also has a long way to go. One of my black nieces was routinely called "white" by classmates in high school because she was diligent about her studies. This attitude has to go. I must say, though, that the election of Obama has had a stirring impact on the attitudes of my wife's relatives. They seem to feel that they're now part of a society from which they had previously felt alienated. I'm hopeful that this pride will, in the long run, pay dividends.

Sent by sell mendoza on 02-20-2009:

As a school teacher of 11 years let me say - Bravo, Bravo, Bravo. I have heard every excuse of self-pity and victimhood imaginable. The work ethic is dying in America. The dysfunctional nature of the culture of poverty is like a tsunami wiping out a large chunk of African-American and Hispanic children. Schools are becoming de facto parenting operations - its horrible to be a teacher today. Liberals lock up Election Day votes by preaching drivel to fulfill their own political self-interest.

Sent by Roger Johnson on 02-20-2009:

The only thing that involves cowardice is the Main Stream media's failure to print the facts presented in this article.

Sent by bev on 02-20-2009:

Ms Mac Donald's response to Eric Holder's remarks is a breath of fresh air. I agree with the points she makes and admire her courage. For most Americans, Mr Holder's comments will be considered a worrisome indication of prosecutorial themes. For example, to have the attorney general chide Americans for segregating their private life is stunning. Is Mr. Holder going to require the Justice Department to moniter integration of our home life? In a truly post-racial society, aren't we free to socialize with friends of any race, at our own choosing? Mr. Holder's comments about the need for more affirmative action were an indication of the cure he has in mind for what ails us. However, his playing the racial-guilt card to justify the imposition of more hiring and admission advantages seems out of place in 2009.

Sent by Javan Dyer on 02-20-2009:

I can safely say that what you say is accurate. I am a black, politically independent man; however, I agree with you. But the systematic failure of blacks is firmly in black people's hands. I hate to say this, but it comes down to the breakdown of the family structure. Where whites, along with our Asian brothers and sisters, have a sound family structure, our black family structure is lacking because of several reasons: one being poverty, two being lack of discipline and God in the community, three being residual effects from the destruction of the family unit during slavery (it is not an excuse, but it is true and can be traced back that far). However, as a black man, I realize that we have choices, and there is a choice to do right and a choice to do wrong. We need to realize that we can't blame anyone anymore. We cannot cling to that stigma. We need to help ourselves. This applies to our brown brothers also.

Thank you for the article, and I hope that we can further explore the truth about race, even from the white side and its negatives.

Sent by Chris Perrius on 02-20-2009:

In the education section of this article, you write: "Perhaps Holder could confront the stigma against academic achievement among many black youth, who deride studying ... as 'acting white.'" This is the only explanation for racial achievement gaps that you know of or care to mention? There is solid research that shows that black students on the whole actually hold academic success in higher esteem than white students do; the "acting white" myth is largely debunked. The evidence of teacher and school bias toward black students is much more solid, but neglected because it makes people uncomfortable -- which is to say, they are afraid to discuss it. Liberal talk about racism rarely goes beyond abstractions and historical legacies, but active racism is alive and well (e.g., peer-reviewed studies that show hiring and housing bias, psychological studies that reveal bias against black faces). So perhaps it is understandable that conservatives think this talk is empty, but you're not better than they are if you don't look into the facts.

Sent by Dennis Rowan on 02-19-2009:

A very well-put column. We need more such columns to call the race-baiters for what they are. We have had enough conversations that lay blame at whites. If we have any more race conversations (which I don't want), then let's talk about the responsibility of blacks to aspire to greatness without looking for a handout, or some other preferential treatment.

Attorney General Eric Holder, a Clinton administration retread, wants to revive Bill Clinton’s National Conversation on Race. (What’s next? Hillarycare?) Holder recently told his Justice Department employees that the United States was a “nation of cowards” for not talking more about race. “It is an issue we have never been at ease with and, given our nation’s history, this is in some ways understandable,” Holder said. “If we are to make progress in this area, we must feel comfortable enough with one another and tolerant enough of each other to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us.”

Is he nuts? Leave aside for a moment Holder’s purely decorative call for a “frank” conversation about race. The Clinton-era Conversation also purported to be frank, and we know what that meant: a one-sided litany of white injustices. Please raise your hand if you haven’t heard the following bromides about “the racial matters that continue to divide us” more times than you can count: Police stop and arrest blacks at disproportionate rates because of racism; blacks are disproportionately in prison because of racism; blacks are failing in school because of racist inequities in school funding; the black poverty rate is the highest in the country because of racism; blacks were given mortgages that they couldn’t afford because of racism. I will stop there.

Not only do colleges, law schools, almost all of the nation’s elite public and private high schools, and the mainstream media, among others, have “conversations about . . . racial matters”; they never stop talking about them. Any student who graduates from a moderately selective college without hearing that its black students are victims of institutional racism—notwithstanding the fact that the vast majority of black students there will have been deliberately admitted with radically lower SAT scores than their white and Asian comrades—has been in a coma throughout his time there.

Education bureaucrats maintain an incessant harangue on white racism because they see the writing on the wall: most students are indifferent to race and just want to get along. If left to themselves, they would go about their business perfectly happily and color-blindly, and the race industry would wither on the vine. Thus the institutional imperative to remind black students constantly about their victimization and the white students about their guilt. Last month, the elite Phillips Academy at Andover proudly announced a student presentation on White Privilege: A History and Its Role in Education. Would the student have come up with such a topic on her own without the school’s educators deliberately immersing her in such trivial matters? Of course not.

But if Attorney General Holder is really sincere about wanting a “frank” conversation about race, he should put the following items on the agenda:

The American electorate. The country just elected its first black president. And it actually didn’t talk a lot about Barack Obama’s race during the election, thank heavens, because most Americans were more interested in the candidate’s ideas than in his skin color. There were undoubtedly hundreds of thousands of people who wouldn’t vote for Obama because of his race. I would guess that their average age was 75. There is no question that a great many geriatric Americans continue to harbor the rankest racism for blacks, but guess what? They’re not going to be around for much longer. Young people growing up in the last 30 years live on a different planet when it comes to racial attitudes—until the educrats start playing with their minds.

We might also talk about those legions of older, black Americans who have held on to their love of country and belief in its ideals, despite having been subjected to America at its worst. I have had the privilege to speak to many such individuals for my work, and they have broken my heart with their dignity and nobility. Rather than reflexively consulting professional race activists for insights into race in America, the media and politicians might for once seek some voices that contradict the mandatory “angry black male” trope.

Crime. Holder told his Justice Department employees that they had a special responsibility to advance racial understanding, according to the Associated Press. Uh-oh. Before and during Holder’s first stint at Justice, when he served as Clinton’s deputy attorney general, the department’s civil rights division specialized in slapping onerous federal consent decrees on police departments. Its assumption was that racial disparities in cops’ stop-and-arrest rates reflected police racism, not racial disparities in crime rates.

Before Holder and his attorneys revive that practice, they should study certain facts that remain taboo in the mainstream media. For instance, the homicide rate for black men between the ages of 18 and 24 is well over ten times that of whites. And disparities in other violent-crime rates are just as startling. In New York City, one of the nation’s safest large cities, 83 percent of all gun assailants were black during the first six months of 2008, according to victims and witnesses, though blacks make up only 24 percent of the city’s population. Add Hispanic perps, and you account for 98 percent of all shootings in New York City. The face of violent crime in cities is almost exclusively black or brown. That explains why someone might feel a sense of trepidation when approached by a group of black youths. That’s not racism; it’s the reality of crime. And it’s that reality that determines whom the police stop, frisk, and arrest.

Education. Commentators on NPR’s “black” show, News and Notes, recently groused about the lack of black policy experts on the Sunday talk shows but ignored the possibility that the education gap might have something to do with it. Blacks, they said, need to be twice as qualified as whites to get a job. Let’s look at the evidence. The black high school drop-out rate approaches 50 percent. On the 2006 SAT, the average score in the critical-reading section was 434 for blacks, 527 for whites, and 510 for Asians; in the math section, 429 for blacks, 536 for whites, and 587 for Asians; and in the writing section, 428 for blacks, 519 for whites, and 512 for Asians. America’s lousy showing in international math, science, and reading tests compared with Japan and Western Europe is influenced in large part by the low scores of blacks and Hispanics. If blacks and Hispanics performed at the level that whites do, the U.S. would lead all industrialized nations in reading and would lead Europe in math and science, according to a study published in the Phi Delta Kappan in 2005.

Likewise, after their first year of legal education, 51 percent of blacks labor in the bottom tenth of their class; two-thirds reside in the bottom fifth. Blacks are four times as likely as whites to fail the bar exam on the first try. Until such achievement disparities are eliminated, any allegations of racial discrimination in the absence of proportional numbers of black policy wonks—or law partners, chemists, engineers, or investment bankers—is absurd, especially when the nation’s elite institutions are doing everything they can to recruit black students, professors, and employees. Perhaps Holder could confront the stigma against academic achievement among many black youth, who deride studying and staying out of trouble as “acting white.”

The family. Closing the educational achievement gap will be difficult as long as the black illegitimacy rate is nearly 71 percent, compared with a white rate of 26 percent. Taxpayers foot the bill for this family breakdown—when fatherless children who never learned self-control and self-discipline disrupt classrooms and prevent other children from learning, and when the same fatherless children get sucked up into gang life and fail to connect with the world of work and responsibility. Many poor single mothers work heroically to raise law-abiding sons, but the odds are against them.

When communities resist an influx of Section 8 housing-voucher holders from the inner city, say, they are reacting overwhelmingly to behavior. Skin color is a proxy for that behavior. If inner-city blacks behaved like Asians—cramming as much knowledge into their kids as they can possibly fit into their skulls—the lingering wariness towards lower-income blacks that many Americans unquestionably harbor would disappear. Are there irredeemable racists among Americans? To be sure. They come in all colors, and we should deplore all of them. But the issue of race in the United States is more complex than polite company is usually allowed to express. If Eric Holder wants to crank up our racial preoccupations even further, let him at least do so with a full airing of the facts.

Heather Mac Donald is a contributing editor of City Journal and the John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

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