The power of optimism

Blacks from immigrant families outperform native-born blacks in school, notes Clarence Page, a black columnist, somewhat belatedly. Why? Page says it doesn’t take a Harvard study to figure out the answer:

Immigrant kids work harder.

They work harder, in part, because their parents work harder – and their parents work harder because of their relentless optimism: Where others see a dead-end job, immigrants of all colors see an entry-level opportunity.

Where others may see inequities, immigrants tend to see a ladder to be climbed. With a hyper-optimism, they move ahead, upward and outward, undeterred by discrimination, short-term poverty, substandard housing, lack of financial capital or any other barriers that fate throws in the way of their hopes and dreams.

And they pass this spirit of enterprise on to their children. A University of Chicago study in 1995, for example, found children from a variety of minority groups whose mothers are immigrants outperform students from their same ethnic group whose mothers were born in the United States. “Family optimism” about the future played a crucially important role in determining school success, according to sociology Prof. Marta Tienda.

In the 20th century, optimistic blacks moved from the rural south to the industrial north, Page writes. But that spirit has been lost and needs to be revived.

About Joanne


  1. theAmericanist says:

    Y’see, it’s not race: it’s the legacy of slavery. (Tienda wrote a paper for the Jordan Commission, back in the day.)

  2. Richard Nieporent says:

    If this were anyone else posting, I would assume that this was an attempt at humor.

    This is the new Lysenkoism. I guess blacks carry the memory of slavery in their genes. If that is the case, I wonder why immigrant blacks coming from countries where there was also slavery don’t have this same problem.

  3. theAmericanist says:

    I didn’t say it was hereditary. Why did you leap to that mistaken conclusion?

    Old habit? Do you generally think of people as “blacks”, whether they are from Nigeria or New York City?

    The legacy of slavery denotes that those who are descended from folks brought to what’s now the U.S. directly as captives do not share the Ellis Island “Americans by choice” model. (The Northern Migration folks don’t either, in a distinct way: the whole point of the Civil War is that we have national citizenship, after all.)

    Knowing you are not connected to any Americans by choice in the land of immigrants can be alienating, don’t ya think?

    When Congress enacted the Diversity Visa in 1990, one of the arguments made for it was to allow for the first time a significant number of voluntary immigrants directly from Africa. (This has proven to work, about which I feel justified in a little pride.)

    Likewise (for other reasons and in a different way) immigration of those who were also children of the Middle Passage, but to the Caribbean, allows them to also choose to be Americans — and, oddly enough, as Marta Tienda and many others have pointed out for years, you can see this demographic pattern everywhere you look.

    But there is ANOTHER pattern among Middle Passage descendents brought directly to the U.S., and that is the one we’ve neglected, rejected and infected. (so shoot me: I haven’t had coffee) Neglected, cuz it doesn’t fit our myths of self-identifcation. Rejected, cuz it doesn’t make money the way foundation grants do, much less Time Warner profits off rap to white suburban kids. And infected, because — well, because ‘conservatives’ think the truth is patronizing or “Lysenkoism”: Lord, what WERE you thinking?

    That’s what I’m talking about, when I note that (if you want to talk this way in the scale of things) African Americans are the MOST American ethnicity.

    We owe the meaning of U.S. citizenshp to their presence, the way we owe Saint Patrick’s Day to the Irish. African Americans provided the energy and lift to our music, our language, the distinctiveness of our whole culture. (Bonus trivia question: Wht was the scene about, which Ernest Hemingway considered the beginning of a truly American literature?)

    That’s not just a more truthful analysis, a ‘better and broader vision of ourselves’, it it also the way to counter alienation: to recognize just who the “we” is, in “We, the People.”

  4. Americanist,

    Interesting post. I understand the distinction between choosing America and forced immigration (slavery), but you lost me with the Hemingway reference and I am a huge fan.

    So specifically, what do you suggest African Americans (born in the USA) do to lift themselves out of poverty and educate themselves?

  5. theAmericanist says:

    FWIW, the Hemingway reference has a context. Forgive the long post:

    Before Twain, there were a couple major contenders for the origin of “American” literature (I’d argue for Melville) but most scholars tended to gab about James Fenimore Cooper. Twain’s attack on Cooper is one of the most hilarious and sensible — AMERICAN — bits of literary criticism ever written: he points out how Cooper’s Indians are uniformly stupid and savage, and has great fun with it. Twain applies a practical sort of moral intelligence to literature (including his own) that I find very American, particularly because it is NOT like his foreign contemporaries, e.g., Hugo, or Henry James.

    So I’m inclined to agree with Hemingway’s specific anecdote: in Huckelberry Finn, Huck is after all a child of a rather heirarchical slave society, in which the only humans lower than him are blacks, and they only because of race. Being an outcast, he can’t abide “civilization” (partly cuz as an outcast he hasn’t learned how to be a hypocrite), but he HAS absorbed a basic morality of right and wrong, salvation or damnation (which is why Twain took such pains that folks attempting to find a moral in his plot should be shot). So when Huck realizes that he alone can help Jim escape, he also knows that it is WRONG. He’s been taught that his whole life.

    The scene Hemingway says is the foundation of all subsequent American literature is the moment when Huck decides that he is going to help Jim escape, anyway: “Alright, then, I’ll GO to hell!”

    Moral intelligence — and pretty fair storytelling, being as how Jim had already been manumitted but Tom Sawyer thought it would be funnier if nobody knew until a Big Moment, the ‘stard.

    On your question, there’s a couple things to say: For one thing, I think it’s too late for the suggestions I made about government policy in another thread, that affirmative action be reserved for those born in the U.S. before 1965, so we could parse the now hopelessly jumbled, but wholly distinct efforts to prosecutive discrimination, provide affirmative action, AND (separately) promote diversity. If we’d done that before 1970, we’d be better off, but that and $4 will get you a cafe con leche.

    In the end, I think much of what we consider to be a ‘racial’ divide in America is cultural and commercial. The former is pretty obvious, as the person quoted in Page’s piece who says that lots of kids have to choose between getting good grades and having friends, and they choose friends.

    But the commercial side is related, and more insidious. It fascinates me how many of the worst afflictions of our culture reverberate back and forth, bruising “white America” while — a little later — nearly crippling chunks of “black America”. Cocaine is a good example: even 80 years ago, scholars like Musto have pointed out that the mild punishments for coke addicts who had some means (and thus, were mostly white) rapidly became long jail sentences for those who did not have means (and thus, were often black). Look at Bush, Jr and his niece: it’s not hard to imagine similar youthful indiscretions by less-well off and less well-connected folks resulting in jail time that would NOT have been pleasant, nor easy to recover from.

    Something similar goes on with things like rap: it is a famously “black” cultural thing, but its profitable audience is actually white kids with means. That strikes me as the same sort of debilitating and unfair echo chamber.

    FWIW (which can’t be much) I think perhaps the best thing would be a distinctively black and AMERICAN hero, e.g., an African-American President. (I’m one of the folks who used to talk to the late Stephen Ambrose about trying to get Colin Powell to run; I had a memorable conversation once with Armitage while I was carrying, of all things, a display of toy dinosaurs on my shoulder that I had just bought for my son, when I happened to almost literally run into Armitage — which would have been like banging into Ray Nitszchke — in downtown DC.) Because of the corporate feedback loop that tends to earn profits off white markets by debilitating black ones, I don’t think it’s likely to be a cultural thing: look at Michael Jordan, or Charles Barkley, or, hell Jimi Hendrix: I don’t think those models can do the job, cuz they promote the wrong answers.

    It’s sorta on a different level, but I also think we should add dozens of seats to the House of Representatives, which is the only way I can see to undo the damage REPUBLICANS did in the 80s, when they helped to force Congressional districts to be drawn to maximize the size of the Congressional Black Caucus AND thus was the principal method by which the Republicans took over the House in 1994.

    A mite more than you wanted, perhaps, but: you asked.

  6. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Why not just hand the government over to blacks, with individual representation based on Duffy’s gene?
    Or why not stop whining and get on with life?

  7. Mad Scientist says:

    Affirmative action should be reserved for African-Americans born in the US before 1865.

    Otherwise it is just discrimination wearing another suit.

  8. Richard Nieporent says:

    First of all what’s with this folksy talk?

    Y’see, it’s not race

    don’t ya think?

    Neglected, cuz it doesn’t fit our myths?

    Do you think as an “intellectual” Leftist, you have to talk down to those stupid conservatives so that they can understand you? I would suggest that you cut it out because it is one of your less endearing traits.

    I didn’t say it was hereditary. Why did you leap to that mistaken conclusion?

    Secondly, neither did I. I was making fun of your post, but I guess it went over your head.

    Third, what this really is, is the legacy of Liberalism. The welfare state and polices like affirmative action have succeeded in re-enslaving Blacks. Why would a Black assume that he could succeed on his own when he is constantly being told by Liberals that he needs to be given special privileges. The funny thing is, it is Liberals who feel that Blacks are inferior and therefore need these special privileges to compete with Whites.

  9. theAmericanist says:

    As a rule, if you’re going to sneer at people for being intellectual, you want to avoid humor that depends on using words like “Lysenkoism”.

  10. I teach 7th grade whites and lack of work ethic transends race! Most of my students can learn but no one AT HOME has impressed upon them the importance of education. Changing the thinking at home is the key!

  11. theAmericanist says:

    And — just to be cruel and quote somebody being oblivious to his own bigotry: “I wonder why immigrant blacks coming from countries where there was also slavery don’t have this same problem….”

    So I asked this guy the obvious question, and explained what I meant — which had gone over his pointy head, the first time: “Do you generally think of people as “blacks”, whether they are from Nigeria or New York City?

    The legacy of slavery denotes that those who are descended from folks brought to what’s now the U.S. directly as captives do not share the Ellis Island “Americans by choice” model. ”

    The lad then denies that he thinks of all this as hereditary (not that he gets the original point anyway), but three times in a paragraph he refers to “Blacks” regarding policies that mostly benefit poor whites (welfare) and women (affirmative action).


  12. Americanist,

    Esoteric conversations can be interesting and somewhat enlightening, but really how about answering the question?

    What can African Americans do to lift themselves up out of poverty and educate themselves? Please be specific.

    You seem to have rather lengthy and strong opinions, but they are without any concrete suggestions.

  13. Richard Nieporent says:

    As a rule, if you’re going to sneer at people for being intellectual, you want to avoid humor that depends on using words like “Lysenkoism”.

    God, you are so full of yourself that you can’t even read what is written. Did you not see that I put intellectual in quotes? I was making fun of you again!

    And — just to be cruel and quote somebody being oblivious to his own bigotry

    Well, it didn’t take long did it? All it takes is a few posts disagreeing with your ideas and you call me a bigot. I guess that is the level of “intellectual” debate we can expect from the Left.

  14. I generally think of people as “black” whether they come from Nigeria or NYC when they appear to be black. This maybe a poor assumption, but it works most of the time.

    Educate me, do Nigerians not think of themselves as “black”? Do African Americans from NYC not think of themselves as “black”?

  15. My Nigerian, Sudanese and Jamaican neighbors went out of their way to make sure I did not confuse them with black Americans. They think the native African Americans are barbaric. I do not know how wide spread this view is among all the black imigrants in my neighborhood.

  16. Ross (The Heartless Conservative) says:

    I attended a Historically Black University and the Africans going to school there did not care for the American Blacks for the most part. Their views were along the lines of what George suggests.

  17. theAmericanist says:

    It’s hardly scientific, but my experience with cab drivers (whom I always ask where they are frm, etc.) tracks George and Ross. And what IS scientific, is the experience of several score thousand Ethiopians, settled in the U.S. as refugees (often starting in, of all places, Fargo), and who had to be taught to check the box “black” on standard government forms, cuz they used to drive the demographers nuts when they checked the box “other”, and wrote in “Ethiopian.”

    So much for folks who sorta provincially think the world defines itself by their own narrowmindedness.

    I don’t think for the most part the keys to success for African Americans are any different than for anybody else: work hard, save money by making a bit more than you spend, early to bed and early to rise, etc.

    Perhaps foolishly in light of the rest of what passes for discussion around here, I took that for granted.

  18. Richard Aubrey says:

    Well. Americanist dodges another one.
    We know the keys.
    The problem is why so many American blacks are avoiding them.
    What’s your solution to that, which was the real question.
    My solution is for all of us to give up going along with the victim thing. To the extent that you can screw yourself up and blame somebody else, no lesson is learned.
    Laughing loudly at claims of victimhood won’t convince everybody, but it’s a start.
    See Ellis Cose in “The Rage of The Privileged Class”. He wrote that so fast he missed the fact that he actually said that claiming racism is a better excuse than admitting one’s inadequacy. He also missed the point that in any hierarchy there are fewer slots at higher altitudes. But that’s another issue.
    Once the legitimacy of victimization-by-racism is questioned, perhaps some of the marginal folks will go a different way.
    I am of the opinion that few of us are immune to the cumulative effect of the cumulative effect. It remains to put that to productive uses. Instead of the other way around.
    Instead of harping on the injustices in, say, “Roots” or “Glory”, point out the facts of victory through individual effort in SPITE of obstacles.
    Maybe we could object more strongly to the demonization of blacks who actually make it.

  19. theAmericanist says:

    (smiling sadly) Proposing to radically restructure the way we apportion representation in Congress isn’t a concrete suggestion? Restoring the original purpose of 1) prosecution for racial discrimination, 2) affirmative action itself, and 3) programs to promote diversity — these aren’t real proposals?

    It’s my experience that most folks’ political opinions “run the gamut from A to B”. Blog threads like this prove it. When ya say something that isn’t a vending machine “conservative/liberal opinion”, folks literally don’t recognize it. Not premasticated sufficiently, I ‘spose.

    In most African-American History courses, what Aubrey ignorantly huffs about is generally summed up as Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. DuBois. I’ve cited that in these threads. Since it doesn’t appear on the mindlessly pro-Bush, reflexively anti-“liberal” continuum, it’s as if it never happened.

    But it did.

    That is, Washington argued that the important thing for African Americans to do was to educate themselves and the rest would follow. DuBois had a different take, and he organized the NAACP to follow it. We don’t know what would have happened if Washington had prevailed, so to speak.

    But it was the latter which killed Jim Crow — nothing to disregard, particularly since the entire structure of modern conservatism (e.g., the just retired William F. Buckley, the just deceased Ronald Reagan, the sadly still a Senator Trent Lott) all opposed it and sought to sustain Jim Crow. (Puh-leeze, don’t try to excuse the modern Republican party cuz the moderate wing of the pre-Goldwater Republican party was for civil rights: cuz that’s the wing that has since been eradicated by the neo-conservatives.)

    I’ve noted that the great victories of the NAACP, like Brown vs. Board of Education, were primarily conditioned on the political impossibility for blacks to win elections, since Jim Crow denied ’em the vote. That’s the root of much of this mess, ya know — as I’ve written in these threads: letterheads with foundation grants are a model for politics without the accountability of elections.

    (grin) I’m hardly orthodox, nor really very predictable. But Lord knows, most of you guys are.

    It remains one of the great modern sins of the Republican Party that it spent much of the late 1980s forcing Congressional districts to be drawn as ‘majority minority’ districts, following the rule (written by Bob Dole in the 1986 Voting Rights extension) that if a majority minority district COULD be drawn, it must be drawn. That tripled the size of the Congressional Black Caucus, and nearly eliminated the moderate Southern wing of the Democratic Party. It was excellent partisan politics (the principal meanas by which the GOP took the House in 1994) cuz it gave 22 seats in the South to Republicans, but it was bad for America.

    (grin) But no, I never say anything substantive in these posts, now do I?

    It is in fact a smaller proportion of the overall African-American population that has the social pathologies we’re talking about. They can be fixed — and one way to do that, is to dilute the primarily racial characteristics of their social incidence. Immigrants of color do that.

    I played a small role in THAT, in the aforementioned priming the pump for volutnary immigration directly from Africa through the diversity visa: rigged for tht purpose after 1994.

    (grin) But I guess that’s another issue I duck, huh, Aubrey?

  20. Richard Nieporent says:

    Americanist, you do realize that you are having a conversation with yourself, don’t you? Actually, it is quite interesting to see someone go over the edge as you clearly have (smiling sadly, grin). However, during you delusional ranting you have managed to insult everyone on this website. Way to go!

    the entire structure of modern conservatism (e.g., the just retired William F. Buckley, the just deceased Ronald Reagan, the sadly still a Senator Trent Lott) all opposed it and sought to sustain Jim Crow

    Well I guess we can’t fool you anymore, so we will let you in on a secret. The secret agenda of the Republican Party is to bring back slavery. But first we are planning to repeal the Nineteenth Amendment.

    It remains one of the great modern sins of the Republican Party … That tripled the size of the Congressional Black Caucus

    So, according to you increasing the number of Black representatives is a sin. I guess I was wrong about you. You are one of us. Welcome brother racist.

    I played a small role in THAT, in the aforementioned priming the pump for volutnary immigration directly from Africa through the diversity visa: rigged for tht purpose after 1994.

    Of course you did. No you are not having delusions of grandeur. It was all your doing. I hear Kerry calling you right now. He wants to apologize for not picking you for his vice presidential candidate. Quick run along, and don’t slam the door on the way out.

  21. theAmericanist says:

    (grin) You’re not used to reality checks, huh?

    Just to explain the apportionment thing (my resume ain’t relevant: if anybody really wants to check it out, ask JJ: I’m tired of the subject), it works like this: In 1986, Dole was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and thus in a position to determine what would be in the Voting Rights Extension. The Republican Congressional Campaign Committee pointed out to him that if it was written (as it was) so that IF a majority minority district could be drawn, it MUST be so drawn, that would concentrate reliably Democratic votes in African American districts.

    I take it RN isn’t actually familiar with politics, despite evidently having opinions on the subject.

    It’s arithmetic, really: if you scatter, say, 5 million reliably Democratic votes across 55 Congressional districts, you may wind up with 40 or so Democratic representatives. But — as the RCCC pointed out to Dole in the spring of 1986 — if you write the law so the 5 million votes must be concentrated in the minimum # of districts, you wind up with just 18 reliably Democratic districts.

    Republicans pick up 22 seats — by discrimination based on race.

    I’m sorry you doubt me, RN. But your opinions ain’t worth much. I commend the use of facts to you: check out anything I’ve said.

  22. Mad Scientist says:

    And ever since, the Democrats, and especially the CBC, have been vigorously defending the law as it is written. Even to the point of going to court to make sure that minorities have sufficient representation in congress.

    What do you call that?

  23. theAmericanist says:

    Dumb — but very understandable and even laudable politics.

    I’ve said it: I think we should add representation. That’s the way out of this mess.

    But more to the point, I’ve noted that it wasn’t the Democrats who wrote this into the law — that was Bob Dole, on the advice of the Republican campaign.

    Arguably, this nonsense doesn’t violate ‘Democratic” paarty values, although it plainly hurt their interests. While I think LBJ signing the Civil Rights Act is a better example, I think it is generally a good thing when a politician or a poliical party does what it considers the right thing, even though it is against their political interests.

    What I find a bit more disturbing, is when a political party acts against what it likes to identify with as it’s ‘ideals’, in order to serve its interests.

    How many of you guys even noticed when this was happening? It’s how the GOP got its majority in the House.

    (grin) How many of y’all protested at the time? I did — but I sure never heard any self-proclaimed conservatives speaking up against it when it counted, in the late 1980s.

    (smile) But now, it’s SO easy to pretend that it was somebody ELSE who built this house, with some OTHER architecture.


  24. Mad Scientist says:

    So the Democrats were dumb enough to fall for this, even though they had a majority in the House and could have blocked it.

    I call that brilliant politics by Dole and the Republicans, proposing something that the Democrats could not afford to be seen blocking.

    Pure genius.

  25. I get a little woozy just trying to read theA’s comments. In fact, I’m beginning to find that I can’t even get through them. I’d like to argue with him, but it all gets a little fuzzy after the first couple of lines. He seems to have a political philosophy that is similar to the unified field theory of physics, but more complicated.

    But I do know that by the time we get to the end, somebody will be called a racist or a bigot.

    I haven’t got a clue how this is relevant to the post. In fact, I’m beginning to have trouble understanding how one of theA’s sentence is relevant to the next one.

    So, I’ll just skip to the chase and say “I agree” to the proposition that family optimism seems to do the trick. Oddly, in the black community in which I actually live (in fact a mixed white, Asian black community) success seems to go hand in hand with church membership. Odd, huh?

  26. theAmericanist says:

    Mad, ya ready? You’re right.

    It was genius.

    It just wasn’t principled, and (like some other issues) it essentially ends any claim to moral superiority the Republican Party or conservatives can make on race.

  27. Mad Scientist says:

    What? The Republicans put more African-Americans in congress, promoting the largest minority in the political arena, allowing them to be heard louder than ever, and that “ends any claim to moral superiority”?

    What about all the programs the Democrats use to keep them down? You would call that morally superior?

    It’s hard to imagine you could ever be on a bipartisan anything.

  28. Americanist –

    I haven’t been on this blog very long, but I am still trying to figure you out. I’m curious what you think about what Bill Cosby had to say to the Black community at large.

  29. theAmericanist says:

    I think Cosby was spot-on.

    Mad — reality check time: an individual is not “represented” necessarily by someone who happens to look like him. You’ve obviously bought into a racist concept. (grin) What a surprise.

    What WOULD be a surprise is if you actually applied your oft-claimed principles when that would COST you.

    As I said at the time, for African-Americans or any other more or less reliable voting bloc, it is better to be decisive in many districts rather than dominant in a few. (Whether that can be extended that it would be best to be merely influential in nearly all districts, than decisive in merely many, is a bigger subject.)

    That said, obviously it made sense for the CBC to maximize its specific membership, rather than the influence of the communities that (to a degree — a large degree, to be sure, but ONLY to a degree) its members ostensibly represent. Hell, the funeral director’s caucus surely wants more members, too.

    You’re right, of course, that part of the brilliance of the Republican strategy on this back in the day, was that it lost nothing (because folks like you were either ignorant or unprincipled) by advocating precisely the kind of race-based program that in other situations Republicans oppose “on principle”.

    Of course, the ‘majority minority district’ mandate put Democrats (notably Martin Frost, who was DCCC chair at the time) into a real bind. But don’t confuse a smart political strategy with principle. Compare it to LBJ signing the law that abolished Jim Crow, saying that Democrats had “lost the South for a generation”, which was true: Trent Lott, for one, promptly became a Republican.

    I think the Democrats are better off without segregationists, and I’m glad that Republicans were happy to take ’em. (smile) I think of this less in political terms, and more simply as: right, and wrong.

    But since the Voting Rights Extension Act was used to re-draw districts in time for the 1994 GOP takeover, the Supremes have been trimming at this strategy without overturning it, in a rather odd way. Congressional districts can be drawn and re-drawn for various reasons — to protect incumbents, for example, and for purely partison reasons, e.g., within the Law of Equal Proportions a partisan legislture can re-draw a state’s districts to concentrate all Democratic votes in the minimum # of districts, to ensure the maximum # of Republican reps. (This was not true until quite recently, btw: it was the Rehnquist court that held this — with predictably pro-GOP results.)

    The only category for re-drawing districts that SCOTUS has NOT held up, is to preserve a majority African-American district, and only in states where losing a majority African-American district has ALSO meant losing a Democratic rep.

    How conveeenient.

    MLK was right: we ought to judge people by the content of their character. We ought also to seek solutions that WORK — and judge folks’ ‘principles’ by whether they keep ’em in practice, noting in particular under what circumstances they abandon ’em.

    I think Cosby would agree with that. Don’t you agree, Jill?

  30. FWIW, I found this Malcolm Gladwell article on the differing perceptions of West Indies immigrants and descended-from-slaves American blacks to be an interesting read. Gladwell is a son of Jamaican immigrants who grew up in Toronto. I recommend reading to the end, because his final conclusions are different from what you might think from reading only the first part of the article.

  31. Robin Roberts says:

    The real question is how did the african-americans who came here from the Carribean ( and demonstrate the higher success rate thereof ) forget that they too were the descendants of slaves? Must be that anti-Lysenkoism spray at the Immigration desk.

  32. Once again, am I the only one who is beginning to find theA’s comments both incoherent and unreadable? I just skip all the flim-flammery, which is designed to prove that his is a god-like intellect, so that I can get to the point where he calls somebody a racist or a bigot.

    There is no other point to his presence here. He is here solely to blather at length, then to pronounce somebody a racist or a bigot. I am not exactly sure how he got appointed to this mission.

    If every last person who reads or posts to this site is indeed either a racist or bigot, then Mr. theA, what in the hell are you doing here? You must be very fond of wasting your time. Or do you imagine that this behavior is going to rid the world of racists and bigots?

    This is not political debate. It is mental illness.

  33. So, I will engage in the favorite of theA’s tactics: pscyhoanalysis of my opponent at a distance. My question for myself in this self-appointed task. Why the obsession with calling others bigots and racists?

    I think that the reason is both personal and political. I’ll start with the political. This tactic is a form of political thuggery, but not for the purpose you might expect. A coalition of women, gays and blacks has kept the Democratic party in the game for 40 years. Any cracks, and what do the Dems have left? So, the first purpose of this type of rhetoric is to attempt to intimidate blacks who might leave the Democratic party. There is good reason for this panicked strategy. Most blacks are traditionally religious, and the gay activist demands on the Dems are already beginning to drive blacks away. Unstated, but close to the surface, theA is employing the usual method of taunting blacks who might defect from the Dems as “Uncle Toms.”

    From a personal standpoint, one must turn first to the well-known psychological process known as “projection.” In other words, theA is atoning for his own racism and bigotry, and knows that he is guilty of both. He’s attempting to cast these demons from himself by attributing them to others. Best to go to confession and purge one of one’s own sins, rather than to scream at others.

    Your sins will not be erased by these attempts to pin them on others.

  34. And, for the record, I plan never to respond to, nor read, anything this man writes again.

  35. Richard Aubrey says:

    Gladwell’s article is interesting but he misses the significance of the primary issue: Some people’s attitudes are more congenial to making it in this society. These attitudes are not evenly or randomly spread among groups.
    It would be strange if nobody noticed it.
    The pathologies in Toronto are interesting but there is no indication if there really are differences in behavior. It’s as if that is too dangerous an issue to explore, given the thesis at the end of the article.

  36. Interesting article, Combustible Boy (?!). Thanks.

    There’s stuff there about not only the immigrant/native born issue, but also what happens in communities where the race balance tips one way or the other.

    I live in a city that’s more than 60% black. There are all kinds of little storefront businesses run by and for black people: dress shops, beauty supplies, hardware stores, and so on. I drive past them and think that behind each one is an American grabbing his or her piece of the dream. I’ve seen discrimination in the workplace, at least I’ve seen it attempted, but you can’t screen out potential employees due to their race when almost everyone who sends in their resume is black; and no business can afford to keep down employees who have the drive and ability to get ahead. The schools here are spotty; some turn out a good product and some are abysmal. And crime is pretty bad. But I think the good life is here for anybody willing to go after it.

  37. theAmericanist says:

    I agree with Laura. (And Stephen, well: small loss. I never really expected him to apologize, anyway, but it WOULD have shown some integrity — so I was shooting foul shots from the pitcher’s mound.)

    The thing is, there really are identifiable group behaviors of various sorts. My favorite analogy is simply commerce — I did a “Devil’s Dictionary” entry once: “Multiculturalism: n. Something understood by commerce that baffles politics.”

    I know a Florida company that specializes in ethnic marketing. Whenever there is a significant new population in the U.S. — Soviet Jews, Ethiopian Copts, etc. — they get hired to try to figure out how to sell ’em mainstream products, like toothpaste and mouthwash. They reveal fascinating patterns — some groups buy for price, so if you want sell ’em somethng, you emphasize that it’s cheap. Others buy for prestige — so you DON’T try t market to them based on price, because they will tend to think a cheaper product is lower class. They tend to buy their toothpaste, etc., on the image of quality nd the perception tht this is really the good stuff.

    (The real money, btw, is not in selling a mainstream product to a niche, but in finding a niche product that can be taken mainstream, like soy sauce was taken 40 years ago.)

    Leaving personal attacks by the delusional aside, I thought the theme of this thread — and of JJ’s post of Page’s column that started it — had to do with what sort of identifiable behaviors cause folks who might look alike to bigots actually act differently — and what we can do about.

    I think voluntary immigration by more people from the Caribbean and Africa is one way. (I dunno how I could communicate much better than “The legacy of slavery denotes that those who are descended from folks brought to what’s now the U.S. directly as captives do not share the Ellis Island “Americans by choice” model, so they can be understandably alienated in this ‘land of immigrants.’ Those who may have been children of the Middle Passage to the Caribbean, but then voluntary immigrants to the U.S., share the Ellis Island model.” If Robin R. can’t get the distinction between that and Lysenkoism after that, well: sounds like a personal problem.)

    I also think Cosby’s outspoken-ness is another. But I’d rather hear it from guys who win elections, frankly.

  38. Mad Scientist says:

    an individual is not “represented” necessarily by someone who happens to look like him. You’ve obviously bought into a racist concept“.

    So, if somebody is not represented by someone who happens to look like them, then why do African-Americans typically vote for African-Americans? No matter how stupid the candidate (Carolyn Mosley-Braun comes to mind)?

    Seems like they have bought into the same racist concept as you accuse me of buying into. Or are they so blinded by loyalty to the Democratic party that they will vote for any doofus who has a (D) next to his name?

    J.C Watts got elected in a white district because he was the best man for the job. He also happened to be Republican. And African-American. He was excluded from the CBC because he was not “Black” (i.e., Democratic) enough.

    Sounds like you are the pot calling the kettle black.

  39. theAmericanist says:

    (grin) Mad, ALL politics is identity politics — it’s only a question who (or what) you identify with. If you’re so fond of J.C. Watts, perhaps you’d like to quote in this forum what he said about African Americans and the Republican Party when he left the House?


    For two generations, ethnic “ticket balancing” was a fine art, and it’s most famous practitioner was the late and legendary John M. Bailey of Connecticut, the Chair of the Democratic Naitonal Committee under JFK. He used to ensure that every Democratic ticket at every level had an identifiably Irish, Italian, Polish and Jewish name — so this is hardly something unique to African Americans.

    (shaking head) Mark Twain had a line about guys like you, offering your political opinions doggedly despite all manner of contradictions and confusion: “It is better to keep one’s mouth closed and appear ignorant, than open it and remove doubt.”

  40. Laura – Gladwell was the other of that Tipping Point book (which grew out of a New Yorker piece that he published just after the “Black Like Me” one), and he has had a tendency to fit his Tipping Point way of looking at things into a lot of the articles he’s written. He’s done a great job of getting the Tipping Point paradigm over in the chattering classes.

  41. The World's Greatest Genius says:

    theAmericanist is a racist.

    He hates black people. He thinks that they are a sub-human life form.

  42. What does it say about the nature of racism that another group of blacks, who have the same legacy of slavery as their American counterparts and are physically indistinguishable from them, can come here and succeed as well as the Chinese and the Koreans do? Is overcoming racism as simple as doing what Noel does, which is to dismiss it, to hold himself above it, to brave it and move on?


    He ends his article by saying “somebody has to be the nigger.”

    That’s a colorful way of saying that society is inevitably stratified–it has always been that way and always will be. People come in different styles and colors. Sometimes inequalities of one quality are associated with inequalities of other qualities. Acknowledging that correlation makes one a racist, so it would be best to pretend it isn’t true.

  43. Roger Sweeny says:

    theAmericanist is absolutely right that in 1986 Bob Dole pushed for a requirment to make many “majority-minority” districts. He is right that this both increased the number of black congressmen and increased the number of Republicans (because all those black and hispanic Democrats were concentrated into single districts). However, he is wrong to imply that this is something Dole pulled out of thin air, or got from a campaign aide.

    For years, academics, liberals, and Democrats had been arguing that blacks and hispanics would not be truly represented unless legislatures had the same ethnic make-up as the population as a whole, and that this would not happen unless blacks and hispanics were concentrated in districts where they would “elect one of their own.” Dole, being a cynical bastard, saw that this could also be in the Republicans’ short-term political interest. So he went along. (which I suppose makes him another “me-too Republican” 🙂 )

    I, for one, complained about it at the time. So did a lot of “neo-conservatives,” like the people who write for Commentary. Perhaps it was a slip of the fingers when in the July 11, 2:51 PM comment, theAmericanist said that the neo-conservatives eradicated the pre-Goldwater pro-civil rights wing of the Republican Party.

    The Supreme Court jurisprudence on this has been tangled and dishonest. As I read it, it now says, “You can’t make an all-black district. That would be unconstitutional racial discrimination. However (wink, wink), you can make an all-Democrat district. And if all those Democrats happen to be black, we’re not going to let it bother us.”

    It reminds me of last term’s diversity cases, which effectively held, “A university can’t discriminate in favor of someone on the basis of their race. However, in the pursuit of diversity, you can look at the whole person. And if one aspect of the whole person is his race, then you can (wink, wink) ‘take that into account’ as long as you do it behind closed doors.”

  44. I’m not at all sure I should weigh in here, but, I wasn’t raised to be racist. After living in Jackson, Mississippi for 30 years, however, I am well aware of the behaviors about which Cosby has been speaking and it is hard for me to not make generalizations about black culture even though I know plenty of black people who don’t fit that mold at all. In Jackson, almost every murder is committed by blacks (usually, but not always, against other blacks) and most of the crime is committed by blacks. I know two families who were victims of home invasions and had black male teenagers hold guns to their heads while debating whether or not to kill them. My street is now more black than white and two of the houses are occupied by ghetto blacks. Drug dealing, fights, animal abuse, etc. Anyway, I’ve taken a few of the kids on the street under my wing. Their mom is in jail, no fathers to speak of, and they are being raised by their elderly grandparents. Since they don’t have much money, I take them to the movies and restaurants on weekends, buy them books and magazines and pizzas. I try to talk to them about the importance of reading and making good grades but they tell me that the smart kids get beat up at school. I helped one of the kids with a science project but her lack of intellectual curiosity was incredibly frustrating. Anyway, I guess I’m a racist in that I think the black culture in America is really good at raising criminals. However, I don’t want it to be that way. A lot of my friends feel the same way and we used to be extremely liberal.

  45. Mad Scientist says:

    I think it is more telling what Watts had to say about the members of the CBC who did not want him because he was a Republican.

    Face it, you’re just pissed that Dole put the Dems in a position that made them cut their own throats. If the Dems had any backbone to speak of, they would have fought against it.

    But I guess the Dems were just too dumb.

  46. theAmericanist says:

    I am sorta baffled at, er, “contributions” like the one from Genius. Huh?

    I think something important happens when a discussion like this gets to this point — it becomes increasingly clear that “black” no longer means skin color, but something more amorphously related to culture and economics. I think we’d all do better to figger out some way to talk about this stuff that doesn’t contradict itself — it’s hard to talk plainly about race if the language itself isn’t plain. (“No, I didn’t mean black like African black I meant black like Santana’s mulatta, but not J-Lo.., and don’t even get me started on Tiger, named for a Vietnamese warrior…”)

    Roger is right — I remember a Commentary piece from way back, although I can’t remember who wrote it. (And Dole certainly is a cynic.) I suppose whether what I said was fair depends on what “neo-conservative” means. (I interviewed Podhoretz at about this time, regarding a Vietnamese-American who refused to support the contras because he didn’t know anything about Nicaragua. Norm told me: “So what? I didn’t know anything about Vietnam, and that never stopped me.”) I was talking about how the pro-civil rights wing of the Republican was folks like Dirksen and Rockefeller, who were all buried by the Goldwater crowd. The best you can say for neo-conservatives in that sense is that during the push for the civil rights act, they were Democrats. But that isn’t what made ’em Republicans — hell, it’s what held ’em back for several years.

    What I meant is pretty straightforward: it wasn’t anti-Communism which made Republicans the majority party, it was Nixon’s southern strategy. He realized that the likes of Trent Lott no longer had a home in the Democratic Party after the Civil Rights Act, and that appeals for ‘law and order’ to what was later called “Reagan Democrats” were a very effective persuader.

    Democrats played into this, sort of as an echo of the NAACP success. They had made huge strides in civil rights when they were denied the ballot, and naturally goofy (and un-American) ideas like proportional representation, etc., came to dominate the party. It was a mistake.

    But that was NOT what made majority minority districts the law. The 22 or so moderate Southern Democrats would never have allowed it to happen, but Dole rolled ’em. It wouldn’t have happened with a Democratic President, either — cuz one thing having your guy in the White House does for Congress, is give you room that you can’t get, if the other two pieces in the triangle belong to the other side.

    Cosby was right: so, now what?

  47. theAmericanist says:

    We all know you think it’s more telling that the CBC told J.C. Watts to take a hike, as well as a guy from Connecticut: both short-timers.

    But (smiling sweetly) do you even KNOW what Watts said about African Americans in the Republican party when he bailed on the House?

    C’mon, Mad: ‘fess up.

  48. stolypin says:

    The Ten Commandments contain 297 words. The Bill of Rights is stated in 463 words. The Lord’s prayer has only 67. The story of creation in the Bible uses only 200 words. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address contains 271 words.

    Wih all due respect for your viewpoint Americanist your 4 longest posts average about 560 words. Less just might be more if you actually want your point to get across. Of course if you are just concerned about the onanistic valuue of seeing your words in print – by all means – type on. And purely for heatlh reasons, dropping the pretentious self-important faux-Gomer Pyle style of writing might stem the high incidence of irritable bowel syndrome suffered by readers of your comments. It really doesn’t work and is far from convincing.

    Just a thought.

  49. Mad Scientist says:

    Frankly, it’s a case of mind over matter. I don’t mind, so it don’t matter. (flipping you the bird)

    The fact remains the House was controlled by the Democrats in 1986; they cold have stopped it if they wanted to.

  50. Roger Sweeny says:


    I must disagree that “majority-minority” districts would not have become the law with a Democratic president. Just about the entire civil rights movement, Congressional Black Caucus, New York Times, etc. were calling for them. The idea had originated on what is generally regarded as the “left” and was being pushed hard by the left.

    Now Dole may have done a B’rer Rabbit–“please don’t throw me in the briar patch”–but Republicans who didn’t support majority-minority districts were being assailed as racists and opponents of civil rights. Dole pretended to be a statesman and go along with the idea.

    It was good for his image, good for his Party, and bad for the country.

  51. Mad Scientist says:

    Please remind us just who was calling for them?

    Once again, the Law of Unintended Consequences rears it’s ugly head. Just goes to show that ideas originating from the left tend to sub-optimal.

  52. John Doe says:

    It seems reasonable to exclude immigrants and their immediate offspring from affirmitive action. If I recall correctly, New York already excludes Puerto Ricans actually born on the island from affirmitive action for “latinos.”

  53. Chris Haynes says:

    Count me among the growing body who will no longer respond to the Americanist. His post are long and wandering with vague points buried somewhere. Go somewhere where chips on your shoulders don’t throw you off balance.

  54. theAmericanist says:

    John Doe: really? How do they do that — I mean, Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. How CAN they do that, legally?

  55. theAmericanist says:

    (grin) Since Mad lacks the knowledge (or the integrity) to ‘fess up to what JC Watts said when he bailed on his Republican leadership post, here is a representative quote:

    “We surely didn’t help our efforts during the Republican presidential primaries when we had about a 45-day debate on the word compassion. I thought that was the craziest thing I’d ever seen. If diversity is O.K. for God, it ought to be O.K. for Republicans….

    it’s pretty tough to listen to Rosa Parks tell you, “We need you to stay.” …the Republican Party has said, [African-Americans are] the most loyal constituency Democrats have. They’re not going anywhere. We’ve got to win without them.” …. But if the 2000 trend continues and we’re still getting 8% of the black vote and under 35% of the Hispanic vote, excuse my vernacular, but that ain’t good for the party. We just can’t sit back and say, “Let everybody fend for themselves.”

    From a political point of view, Watts nails it: one of the great Republican advantages is that the GOP is full of contradictions. It is generally the pro-life party, but there are pro-choice Republicans, etc. It’s deeply split on immigration. And yet, far more than Democrats, conservative Republicans brag of being the party of ideas, which fosters a kind of ideological intolerance. One reason Watts left an enormously promising political career, after all, is that he’d reached the point where he realized that what HE wanted to do as a legislator was simply not where the Republican Party wanted to go.

    But I’m curious what folks think of Watts’ “We just can’t sit back and say, “Let everybody fend for themselves.”

    Does that contradict Cosby?

  56. “We just can’t sit back and say, “Let everybody fend for themselves.”

    But that’s what the Republican party is all about. Don’t you remember that once Republicans had the White House and majorities in both houses of Congress, all welfare programs were immediately abolished? (Hint: of course you don’t, because it didn’t happen. I think my preacher thought it would; he was in a funk for days.)

    Did Watts mean that Republicans had to buy black votes with social programs above and beyond those already in place? Surely not. I’d have to see all of that in context.

  57. theAmericanist says:

    Those are the full quotes: the ellipses are the questions, which were pretty straightforward boilerplate, e.g., “Why are you leaving Congress?”

    So just to sharpen this by challenging a premise (y’all take WAY too much for granted, particularly about what I think), was it also “buying” veterans votes when the GI Bill provided free college education?

    Was it “buying” the votes of unions, truckers, farmers, grocers, hotels, etc., to build the interstate highway system?

    Hell, isn’t it “buying” the votes of rich people when the government offers ’em aircraft carriers and the rule of law for a reduced price in lowered taxes?

    If not, why not?

    And if so, is that a bad thing?

    Either way — why would it be a bad thing for Republicans to seek African American support, as Watts urged?

    Watts made a point his whole career about the self-starter, work hard to get ahead thing, so I dunno as it’s fair to decide that because he said THIS, that necessarily contradicts everything he was. I think a more accurate (hell, obvious) reading of it is that he concluded 1) Republicans aren’t interested in African-American support, and 2) don’t know how to get it, and 3) don’t actually have an alternative to the ‘throw money at it’ approach Democrats offer (or more precisely, what he’d said Democrats offer), anyway.

    Which sets up what Cosby said — unresolved by what Watts had already said.


  58. Re: Republicans courting the black vote. Last year a friend of mine ran for D.A. as a Republican. The incumbent is a black female Democrat. She can’t indict a ham sandwich much less convict a murderer. Even the notoriously politically correct local paper (Gannett-owned) endorsed my friend despite the fact he has limited criminal experience. My friend assiduously courted the black vote. After all, blacks are disproportionately the victims of crime in Jackson, Mississippi (as in a lot of places). He went door to door, got lots of positive feedback. His signs were all over the black community as well as in my (black) neighbor’s yard. I asked my neighbor why he was voting for Wilson. He told me he wasn’t necessarily voting for Wilson, someone had asked him to put the sign in his yard. This was a sign of things to come. I poll watched for Wilson at an all black (and poor) precinct. He got very few votes. The people came in and, overwhelmingly, voted straight Democrat. I was talking to a poll worker. She didn’t even know who the candidates were despite the fact her husband worked for the Democratic party. A candidate’s color would have been irrelevant. From the conversations I overheard, voting for Democrats and getting Democrats in office was like getting to the promised land. A black friend of mine told me that black people he knew who planned to vote for Wilson caved at the last minute. The compulsion (or whatever you call it) to vote Democrat was too strong. From this experience, and discovering that the government gives HUD homes to drug dealers (nothing is worse than finding out that your own tax dollars are what ruined your neighborhood) have turned me, at least temporarily, into a fascist. I used to be on the board of the ACLU.

  59. theAmericanist says:

    But curiously, Republicans and Democrats pretty much split the votes of urban blacks until the 1960 election. Jackie Robinson, for example, was a very active Republican. The legendary turning point was Harris Wofford persuading JFK to call Coretta Scott King (ever notice she is always Coretta SCOTT King, of the Atlanta Scotts? Never misses a chance to remind those in the know that MLK married UP) when her husband was jailed shortly before the election. Many folks think that’s what swung it to JFK — Nixon had considered calling King, but decided that it would alienate white votes in the South.

    No guts, no glory.

    Then, of course, the incident I keep citing: LBJ saying that signing the Civil Rights Act in 1965 “gave away the South for a generation”, for the same reasons Nixon knew in 1960, and made the cornerstone of his own politics throughout his Presidency from ’69-74:the Southern Strategy, including the northern white ethnics later called “Reagan Democrats”.

    JC Watts and Cosby aren’t that dissimilar on this: it would be a good thing if Republicans competed for African American votes.

    But I don’t hear anybody here suggesting HOW.

  60. Robin Roberts says:


    Let’s delete some material and join two paragraphs here:
    “Leaving personal attacks by the delusional aside,
    If Robin R. can’t get the distinction between that and Lysenkoism after that, well: sounds like a personal problem.)”

    When one finishes wading through the manure about Republicans being racist for adopting a redistricting requirement advocated by civil rights advocates, all that’s left is the above hypocrisy.

  61. theAmericanist says:

    LOL — c’mon, RR, you can do better than THAT.

    I didn’t say that Dole, f’r instance, was racist. Somebody noted he was cynical, and I agreed — but my primary point about that it was was Republicans who enacted majority minority districting is simply that this is contrary to what lots of folks — yourself included, if I’m not mistaken — like to point to as a PRINCIPLE.

    You could argue, I suppose, as some have above without me challenging ’em, that Democrats really wanted this anyway. But that would hardly make it right for Republicans to advocate it — and, in fact, as a exercise of principl in politics (as I did note), it is MUCH more impressive when a political party sticks with principle against its interests (as LBJ did with abolishing Jim Crow) than when a political party abandons principle to serve its interests (as, perhaps, you think Dole and the GOP did with majority minority districting).

    But as it happens, this was never a “Democratic” position.

    I don’t accept that “civil rights advocates” called for majority minority districts to be drawn WHEREVER POSSIBLE, cuz for one thing that ain’t so. (Those who challenge this, besides derailing the thread, oughta be able to show proof, between quotation marks. Now that it’s been said three times, I’m calling the bluff, folks. ‘Taint so.)

    But more to the point, this is a delusional approach to representation. Like I said above (and said at the time) it’s better to be decisive in many districts than dominant in just a few.

    LOL — and as for your personal problem, kindly note that I’ve said, what, four times now? that the legacy of slavery denotes those who are descended from captives brought directly to the United States, and who are thus literally alienated from the ethos of “America, the land of immigrants”. This is precisely the distinction noted in Marta Tienda’s work, cited by Page, cited in JJ’s post.

    You’ve repeated the notion that the ONLY thing I could have meant by this was genetics — which isn’t what I said, nor does it reflect the thought behind it. Since you don’t seem to get that — well, it speaks for itself.

    (grin) DO tell us, what’s left of your, um, insights?

  62. There’s a difference between having welfare programs because they’re good for the country, and having them to try to get black people to vote R. That’s what I mean about trying to buy votes with welfare programs. Nothing should be done for no other reason than to get votes. Somebody’s got to be looking out for the U.S.A. I have observed a huge divide here in the philosophies I see expressed by Rs and Ds so I won’t be surprised if theAmericanists chimes in to tell me how naive I am. Consider it all said.

    As to how Rs can try to get black votes – there’s an easy answer: They can’t. I know I’ve posted this before, please forgive me. But I had a black coworker who used to gripe about people on welfare and about the taxes she had to pay, until one day I jokingly told her that if she kept all that up she’d have to start voting Republican. She was actually shocked at the idea: “Oh, no! It’s just that if people want something I think they ought to work for it, and I think people ought to be able to keep what they earn.” Well, duh. But I think she was afraid that if she voted Republican she’d turn white or something. There’s nothing the R party could do to get her vote, or the votes of people like her.

  63. Countdown to absolutely gatuitous allegation of racism and bigotry begins now:


    Don’t hold your breath.

    In my experience, when people go completely whacky and use a message board for the complete exposition of their mental problems, one of the following has recently occurred to said wacko:

    1. Recently lost job
    2. Recently dumped by wife or girlfriend
    3. Death in family

    Which do you suppose it was?

  64. At this point, Republicans attempting to court the black vote are wasting their time. Democrats take the black vote for granted because they can. They pay “gas money” to local black “leaders” to round black people up to vote. Nobody quizzes the potential voters on party loyalty. Nobody has to.

  65. The state (Mississippi) party Democrats just elected a new chairman, former congressman Wayne Dowdy. Everybody interprets this as the state Dems’ way of reaching out to whites.

  66. ‘The legacy of slavery denotes that those who are descended from folks brought to what’s now the U.S. directly as captives do not share the Ellis Island “Americans by choice” model, so they can be understandably alienated in this ‘land of immigrants.’

    How about the legacy of those who came here ‘direct’ (pre Ellis Island?) Or, How about those who came via the land bridge?

    Both these groups had to ‘fight’ to survive. There was nothing here to support them. They should be every bit as traumatized as the ‘slave’ group………(also, many of these early settlers were escaping severe religious/economic/physical persecution.

  67. theAmericanist says:

    Bill, you’re confused.

    Referring to the legacy of slavery as I do, doesn’t refer to how hard the life of slaves was, as such. My great great grandfather escaped the Potato Famine — but his becoming an American didn’t necessarily make his life easier. (If fact, it DID, but that wasn’t a given.) It’s a crass comparison, but I’d bet that Condoleeza Rice’s great great grandparents probably had more creature comforts as house servants in the slave South (which they were) than my ancestor Cornelius did, as a laborer in the North.

    But I wouldn’t have had ’em swap places for the world, because they were slaves, and he was not. Would you?

    What great great grandad’s becoming an American DID denote, however, was that he had CHOSEN to come here. This is something none of his descendants failed to learn.

    Just so with many, if not all African Americans who are descended from captives brought directly here as slaves. Their ancestors did NOT choose to come here.

    Tienda’s work (and others) illustrates that much of what we talk about as a ‘racial’ dynamic in the U.S. is not, strictly speaking, racial in character at all, but rather the legacy of slavery, because the determining characteristic is NOT race but rather other factors — and one of the primary ones is whether the family is descended from those brought directly here as captives, or if instead the family is ultimately an immigrant by choice family.

  68. Roger Sweeny says:


    I don’t accept that “civil rights advocates” called for majority minority districts to be drawn WHEREVER POSSIBLE, cuz for one thing that ain’t so.

    I’m not sure exactly what you mean but I think it is undeniably true that “civil rights advocates” were pretty unanimous that majority-minority districts should be drawn whenever the percentage of minorities in a legislature fell below the percentage in the general population (which was the case in every state at that point, I think). A google search of “majority-minority” district will bring back numerous pages (unfortunately, all from the last ten years or so since the internet is pretty new) where civil rights groups call for them and/or speak of them favorably.

    They were not some Republican plot. They were an idea from parts of the Democratic coalition: left academics, “New York Times liberals,” black and hispanic organizations. They were pushed–hard–by these elements. They were part of the conventional wisdom of the Democratic Party.

    Republicans like Dole betrayed their stated principles and went along, because they saw that the idea would have unanticipated consequences that would decrease the number of Democratic legislators.

  69. theAmericanist says:

    Not so. You made the charge, now you have to prove it. I’m calling the bluff.

    It’s not good enough to say it was part of the “conventional wisdom of the Democratic Party” — certainly not for me, because I WAS part of the, er, conventional Democratic Party throughout this time.


    There’s a more sophisticated take that is more accurate than “Democrats were stupid and naive so Republicans were unprincipled and brilliant”.

    It’s that this was (gasp!) POLITICS. You want to maximize your individual advantage and minimize your individual risks.

    Pick a state – -South Carolina, say. It’s 30% African-American, has 6 Reps. By the “logic” you cite, it ought to have at least 2 African American Reps. It has one. That should prove the case, no?

    But it doesn’t.

    Think about partisanship, instead. The state went 57-41 for Bush over Gore, and 50-44 for Dole over Clinton. So there is a solid half million Democratic votes in the state (which is still one of the most Republican in the nation), in which 100,000 votes wins you a Congressional election.

    With a certain amount of license to prove the point, you know I can draw two, maybe three more districts to put enough reliably Democratic votes in to ensure that HALF the SC delegation will be Democratic. I can divide 500,000 reliably Democratic votes into 6 Congressional districts (with 200,000 votes each) and get majorities in at least three. Let me work with the actual personalities and communities involved, I might be able to get more.

    What I can’t do, is ensure that the 2 extra Democratic Reps will be black. There simply aren’t enough black voters in a 30% black state (which is 2.5 times the national proportion) to guarantee Democratic reps on their votes alone. So the SOLE Democrat in SC’s delegation has a district that goes 63-36 for Gore, in a state that goes 57-41 the other way. It’s not so much that he has more than half of the black votes (cuz he doesn’t, quite) as that he has 25% of the Democrats.

    Throw in truly local factors (like Cynthia McKinney’s Dad in the Georgia legislature drawing his daughter a district, or for that matter my old Boss the late Barbara Jordan in the Texas Senate, drawing HERSELF a Congressional district in 1971) and you realize that something else is going on here that isn’t explained by the naive liberals of the NYT editorial pages or Ivy League faculties.

    (grin) But it DOES eliminate the moral high ground of Republicans standing on the principle of color=blind politics, now doesn’t it?

    Which is all I said about in the first place, OCD folks like Stephen notwithstanding.

  70. Do any of you remember the character in “The Color Purple” who demanded that Celie return to working for her as a maid and driver? Played by Cloris Leachman, I believe.

    One of the stranger manifestations of racism is the “I have a mission to save blacks” version. As demonstrated in the movie, individuals who have a weak ego often turn to the mission of saving blacks as a way to salvage their wounded ego. The emotional reasoning tends to go like this: “Well, I may be a basket case, but at least blacks are beneath me and need my help.”

    This is a much more common type of racism than you might think. My wife is black/Filipino, and when she first moved to Woodstock, the leftists were thrilled to have her in their midst… until they learned that she was a professional woman who made more money than any of them. When they discovered this, they went ballistic. My wife’s job, you see, was to be poor and helpless so that they could salvage their egos by saving her.

    This type of racist exists to imagine that he/she is about to be martyred because of his/her incredibly sensitive feelings and ideals about race. Individuals of the race targeted for salvation are not allowed to be capable of taking care of themselves, because this would put the racist/martyr out of business.

  71. Roger Sweeny says:


    One thing I was able to find on the Web: a May, 1985 Public Policy Alert from the ACLU. An excerpt:

    “The reality is that race-conscious districting works and is the single most effective means of remediating the terrible legacy of discrimination against minorities. Districts with predominantly minority populations increase minority voter participation, lead to the election of minority officials and force government to pay attention to the needs of previously ignored communities.

    “But minorities are not the only beneficiaries of such districts. In the long run, this remedial strategy has been shown to break down racial boundaries, foster diversity in government, benefit communities of all colors and strengthen our democracy. The bottom line is that, without these districts, the nation would beat a hasty retreat back to the days of all-white government.”

    Sounds like the ACLU was “pushing hard” for majority-minority districts before Bob Dole and the Republican campaign staff had their epiphany.

  72. Mad Scientist says:

    But why confuse the issue with facts? Bloviating is so much more fun.

  73. theAmericanist says:

    It helps to read, ya know: “I don’t accept that “civil rights advocates” called for majority minority districts to be drawn WHEREVER POSSIBLE, cuz for one thing that ain’t so.”

    “the reality is race-conscious districting works”

    Those ain’t the same. One is, whenever you can have a meal of raw roughage, you MUST; the other is, you should be conscious of getting enough roughage in your diet.

    See the difference? It makes sense to draw districts with all sorts of things in mind — gee, if the 5th gets the neighborhood between the bridge and the river, tht means we have to divide the remarkably homogenous area (full of Catholics, say) between the park and the highway into the 4th and the 3rd — how can we do that? It’s a COMMUNITY, fercryingoutloud. But if the 5th doesn’t get the bridge-to-river neighborhood, it’s short 60,000 people, and you can only make that by tipping the 3rd to the other party….

    I ain’t bloviating, Mad. You are. See the difference?

    Look, I used to live in a state rep district in Connecticut known as “the Roberti finger”. Roberti was a state rep who was unpopular with his colleagues. But incumbents win even more often in state rep races than in Congress, so when the time came to re-draw districts, to get rid of this unpopular incumbent his distinguished colleagues literally drew a line six blocks long and one house wide (which included the house I grew up in) to include Roberti’s own house, and thus make him run against a popular incumbent in (mostly) the incumbent’s own district, which he had represented for 20 years.

    That might be accurately described as “Roberti conscious” districting. It was legal.

    I noted above that the Supremes have held that there are all kinds of things it is legit to be “conscious of” when you re-draw districts: protecting incumbents, partisanship (more reps than dems), even stiffing reps you don’t like (like Roberti). It is even legit to be “race conscious”, it’s just not legit (sayeth the Supremes) that this should be the SOLE criteria for drawing districts — making it an exception from the other categories of protecting incumbents, partisanship, and stiffing guys you don’t like, all of which can be the SOLE criteria. Curious why THAT is somehow distinct from the others, but I’m not a Constitutional scholar.

    At the risk of lurching back to the original subject, I think this is all important precisely for the reason why immigrants tend to perform differently: it’s a sense of commitment to the community as a whole. It’s far better when voters pick their representatives, than when representatives pick their voters.

    Now, THAT’s a principle: and it requires expanding the House of Representatives, which was my suggestion on this in the first place, back before the likes of Stephen and Mad demonstrated they can’t hang with actual ideas.

  74. I have some comments here on the issue of historical guilt raised by the role of Republicans in legitimizing racial gerrymandering, aka “majority/minority districts.”

  75. Mad Scientist says:

    I used 13 words. You used 13,000.

    See the difference?

  76. theAmericanist says:

    (grin) I do. Alas, you don’t. Everything Mad ever says in these posts boils down to: “Yay!” or “Yuck!” He has no facts, no reasons — simply what he likes, and what he doesn’t.

    So y’see, Mad, when you post 13 words, you’ve actually wasted a dozen of ’em. It ain’t the # of words you post, but the efficiency and effectiveness with which they convey what (and if) you think.

    I don’t believe in “historical guilt”. What’s more, I doubt anybody else does, either. It’s sorta like Paoli said in Boswell’s Life of Johnson, that most folks arent’ really afraid of death — if they say they are, when you push ’em you find that they’re actually thinking of something else — of pain, of loss, of what they’ll miss when they’re gone; fear of judgment, of heaven or hell, but not of death itself, said the old soldier on his own deathbed.

    When folks talk about ‘historical guilt’, I think they’re mostly looking for money (e.g., reparations) or political advantage (e.g., Dole and the CBC). Or else they’re simply fooled.

    I noted above that the lawful reasons for drawing Congressional districts (of which there ain’t no distinction between and “gerrymandering”) include pretty much everything imaginable, with the only consideration NOT allowed to be decisive being to maximize minority representation by elections. It’s an odd thing, that this of all considerations is the one not allowed — I mean, why does the Constitution allow the protection of incumbents? Why maximimizing partisan results? And then — why NOT majority minority districts?

    But that wasn’t why I raised it. I raised it first, cuz it is a REAL practical set of facts affecting the theme of the thread. Somebody pointed out that the great tragedy of science is that beautiful theories are murdered by ugly facts — and this is a f’r instance. I also noted that the fact that this set up Republican control of the House in 1994 pretty much eliminates any claim to moral high ground on such stuff for conservatives.

    Conservatives (like Mad or Stephen or… well, most of y’all) like to pose to themselves as opposed, on principle, to “racial discrimination”. When folks talk of practical things — like how immigration from Africa or the Caribbean can erode the legacy of slavery — for most of you, the best you can come up with is lame (and ill-conceived) notions of “Lysenkoism”.

    Most of you seem in a kind of denial — understandable about the Dole role in the Voting Rights Extension, but sorta harder to understand when you look at the practical character of this sorta thing. What works?

    There’s nothing “guilty”, historical or otherwise, about recognizing that a considerable chunk of our population is literally alienated from our national myth (the land of immigrants — which happens to be TRUE, as well as mythical). There’s nothing guilty about recognizing the zillion ways to apportion representation.

    The PRACTICAL thing is — what’re the best, the most effective ways to do something effective about things like this?

    Laura and others have already showed how Watts was right: Republicans don’t want to appeal to African Americans, don’t know how, anyway; and most importantly: have nothing whatever to offer as an alternative.

    The rest is just “yay” or “yuck”, elaborated. (And given what y’all hallucinate is the state of “black America”, I’d worry about how often you say “yay”.)

  77. Roger Sweeny says:


    It helps to read, ya know: “I don’t accept that “civil rights advocates” called for majority minority districts to be drawn WHEREVER POSSIBLE, cuz for one thing that ain’t so.”

    “the reality is race-conscious districting works”,/i>

    Those ain’t the same. One is, whenever you can have a meal of raw roughage, you MUST; the other is, you should be conscious of getting enough roughage in your diet.

    Obviously, I was not clear. “WHENEVER POSSIBLE” is not a precise, obvious standard. It is almost always possible to do something if you are willing to stretch hard enough. You can create a majority-minority district if you take minority areas and connect them by narrow bits of land. Or why connect them at all? It is possible to take the last census results, find 635,000 citizens of a certain ethnicity and declare their dwellings a census district (and with modern information technology, it can even be done fairly easily).

    Yet no one thinks that the 1986 Voting Rights Amendments require this. There is an implied “not when it’s unreasonable” there. I assert that this is exactly what the ACLU is saying (and I encourage people to go to the full Pubic Policy Alert to get a feel for where the ACLU is coming from). They are saying a lot of majority-minority districts are necessary for justice. They are saying majority-minority districts do a lot of good things. They are saying that without them “the nation would beat a hasty retreat back to the days of all-white government”–a truly ridiculous claim but one that certainly paints opponents as vicious racists.

    I assert that it is the difference between “You should get a large amount of roughage every day” and “Roughage is a fabulous thing. It is absolutely necessary. Without it, your life will be awful. Anyone who opposes roughage is trying to mess up your life.” For practical purposes, there is no difference.

  78. Roger Sweeny says:


    You ask why it is constitutional to use all sorts of not-very-fair considerations when coming up with legislative districts but not to use race. The answer is fairly simple.

    It goes back more than five decades, though most people are familiar with its use in Brown v. Board of Education. The 14th Amendment prohibits any American government to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The Court in Brown said that if a government wanted to treat a member of one race differently than a member of another, it had to have very, very, very, very good reasons. The Court was quite clear that this would almost never be the case.

    Most “good government” people thought this was a good idea and that Brown was properly decided. When its 50 year anniversary came up recently, it was celebrated.

    The same logic applies to drawing district lines. A government can’t say, “Joe is black; he goes to the black school. Jane is white; she goes to the white school.” Nor can it say, “Joe is black; he goes into the black district. Jane is white; she goes into the white district.”

  79. theAmericanist says:

    “Or why connect them at all?”

    Cuz the law requires that Congressional districts be contiguous, just like the Voting Rights Extension REQUIRED that, within the other requirements of the law, whenever a majority minority district COULD be drawn, it MUST be drawn.

    LOL — wiggle all you want, but the fact is, Dole did something that none of your favorite chimerae called for. And not only did most conservatives happily watch him abandon what they still rationalize as ‘principle’, most now have forgotten all about that it was Republicans — conservatives — who did this in the first place.

    (grin) Face it, y’all have absolutely no moral claim to the high ground of “colorblindness”. None. Zero. Stop pretending you do.

    LOL — and so far as I can tell from this thread, conservatives don’t have much to say about any other approach to 12% or so of the American public: Watts was right. It was a Democratic initiative to provide 55,000 more visas a year to places like Africa and the Caribbean, to dilute the racial character of the legacy of slavery and to illustrate that the Ellis Island model does so apply to African-Americans. It was Democrats who proposed to parse affirmative action from prosecuting discrimination and promoting diversity, by limiting it to those born in the U.S. before 1965. Even the vaunted welfare reform was financed (through a Republican initiative, part of the Contract with America) by debasing citizenship, making naturalization the route to welfare.

    (shaking head) Pretty sad, huh? No principles, no memory, no ideas but bad ones.

    (In case anybody cares, the basic rules for Congressional representation work like this: Each state must have to least one rep in Congress, e.g., Wyoming. No district can cross a state line. The remaining districts are allocated according to the ‘law of equal proportions’ in contiguous geographical areas determined by population, and the rules discussed above: protecting incumbents, partisanship, etc. That means within the limits of one to a state, and none across state lines, each district within a state must be as close to equal in population as any other. Curiously, this is NOT nut-cutting politics, but the nearly automatic application of a formula that has for 75 years taken votes from places like NY and Mass, and given it to California and Arizona. It produces some anomalies rooted in the Constitution — Wyoming’s 400,000 or so people get the same single vote in the House as the million people in Delaware, just because that’s how the math works out: SOME state will always have the fewest people, and thus be overrepresented in the House, and some state will be second yet still only get one, and thus be seriously under-represented. But the contradiction that a district with 215,000 voters in it (like NY or Massachusetts) will lose a rep, while one is created with only 90,000 voters in it (in AZ or California) is not Constitutionally-required: it’s cuz we no longer expand representation along with our population. IMNSHO, if we started doing that again, we’d do wonders to help everybody — including the worst ghettoes in the country — feel more like communities.)

  80. JC Kappner says:

    Well, Mr Americanist et al,

    of course that’s all pretty interesting. But how, pray tell, is the question whether Bob Dole is perhaps a trifle more cynical than Mr Sweeny might like connected to the question whether Harvard ought to admit more “homegrown” blacks instead of immigrants? And, moreover, how could Harvard achieve this?

  81. It never ceases to amaze me that defenders of racial preferences — whether in college admissions, hiring, drawing legislative districts, whatever — are so willing, even eager, to sacrifice the principle holding that discrimination on the basis of race is wrong. Indeed, they don’t even seem to comprehend the principle. How else can you explain the confusion, acknowledged by tA above, that “the only consideration NOT allowed to be decisive” in drawing voting districts is race?

    Racial discrimination, in this new (lack of ) understanding, is thus indistinguishable from every other kind of discrimination. If the government can discriminate, say, for or against tobacco or peanut farmers in it farm policies, then it can also discriminate for against classes of voters or job applicants based on race.

    Among the many ironies involved in dumping the principle against racial discrimination is that if there is nothing inherently wrong with the government distributing burdens or benefits based on race, then there’s nothing inherently wrong with minorities being “underrepresented” anywhere, and hence no problem to be solved.

  82. Roger Sweeny says:


    I resent the fact that you lump me in with those who support going out of your way to draw legislative districts by race. I don’t, and I never have. Though not being a public figure, I haven’t left any paper trail.

    My point was that WHEREVER POSSIBLE is logically just about anywhere. Of course, the law can also set limits on what’s legally possible. For example, it can say–as it does–that districts have to be “contiguous.” It could also say–but it doesn’t–that districts have to be “compact and contiguous,” i.e. they can’t have funny shapes. That would condemn some of the more artificial majority-minority districts.

    To say that the Republican Party has made compromises on color-blindness is undoubtedly true. To say that the Republican Party has been hypocritical on color-blindness is undoubtedly true. To say that I have is not true–though not being a public figure, I’ve never had to resist the temptation.

    I’m not sure who my “favorite chimerae” are, but just about all civil rights organizations, prominent Democrats, and left-of-center public intellectuals wanted an aggressive use of majority-minority districts in the mid-1980s.

  83. theAmericanist says:

    Kappner asks the question that shows Rosenberg is wrong: as noted (again!) this isn’t about race, but the legacy of slavery. (Or Jim Crow, if that’s too simple.)

    Prior to 1965, contra Rosenberg, discrimination based on race was LEGAL. The 14th amendment notwithstanding, it was not only lawful, it was REQUIRED throughout much of the country to prevent African Americans (and others) from certain kinds of employment, hotel accomodations, education, and even voting. Marriage between blacks and whites was illegal, also, until well after 1965.

    Why are people so eager forget something so livid, within living memory? What, do you guys forget your parents that easily?

    After 1965, it became illegal to discriminate based on race. (It is worth noting that every single significant “conservative” in the country opposed killing Jim Crow — from Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan to William F. Buckley. Perhaps there are REASONS you don’t want to remember, hm?)

    An argument ensued, and a muddle resulted: as a policy matter, much less politically, we don’t have clear lines between prosecution for discrimination (‘we don’t hire white people here’), affirmative action, and efforts to promote diversity (ya know, we’ve never had anybody on the staff who was from Hoboken: is that in NYC?).

    A friend and mentor of mine proposed in 1994 that the way to parse affirmative action from prosecuting discrmination (on the one hand) and promoting diversity (on the other) was to limit it to it’s original purpose: if Harvard wants to say that it is doing x or y about ‘affirmative action’, it could only do that by refering to individuals born in the U.S. before 1965.

    Remember, the original rationale for affirmative action (leaving aside the union origins of the phrase in the Wagner Act, which had nothing whatever to do with race) was the sensible idea that if you’re talking about giving an individual an equal chance at the starting line, it’s kinda fake not to notice that he’s dragging all the baggage of bad schooling, no network or support, etc. with him.

    LOL — that’s one reason why the principal beneficiaries of affirmative action aren’t African Americans, but WOMEN. It used to be quite common for folks to hire only people who looked like them, simply because there was no special effort required NOT to. And it is very difficult to prove a discrimintion suit in such circumstances, cuz they’re not actually discriminating: there was no way for a black or a woman to get on the list, because, well, there never HAD been any blacks or women in the list.

    This is the Colin Powell example — when Alexander was Secretary of the Army reviewing lists for promotion, he said: I’m only gonna pick qualified candidates, but there damned well better be some qualified BLACK candidates on that list, and not just guys who look like the guys on the list 50 years ago.. A better example of affirmative action would be hard to find.

    The trouble is, all this is a bit too late. Like I said before, it’d be better if we’d done this in 1970.

    Which is why, in a counterintuitive but very practical way, it proves my point about it not being race, but the legacy of slavery: Supposing (not such a stretch) that top schools have programs set up to help those who were afflicted by Jim Crow in perpetuity, and now they find that they are primarily helping folks who were NEVER affected by Jim Crow, in the slightest — but who qualify, simply because of the color of their skin.

    (smile) ‘Course, that doesn’t fit into the worldview of the Mads and Stephens, but that shouldn’t be a surprise.

    I think Harvard should (gasp!) be honest. It’s built the wrong tool to solve the wrong problem: and it should start by identifying the right problem (say, that it would better serve diveristy to have qualified kids from Anacostia rather than Ethiopia sitting next to the kids from New Canaan) and THEN figure out the tools to fix it.

  84. theAmericanist says:

    Roger: It was not my intent to bait you. Others in this thread deserve that, but not you. (Besides, after last night’s all-star game, baiting guys named Roger would be just TOO easy.)

    But you’re still missing the point. The “civil rights organizations, prominent Democrats, and left-of-center public intellectuals wanted an aggressive use of majority-minority districts” in the ’80s wanted to maximize their own clout, in exactly the way pretty much any set of interests would want to draw legislative districts.

    That’s not what Dole did.

    In fact, the only utterly non-partisan crafting of legislative districts I know of was done by (of all people) Robert Bork, when he drew Connecticut’s state legislative districts (and got rid of the Roberti finger) a generation ago, thereby eliminating a peculiar icon to the messiness of modern democracy.

    What the folks you name did NOT want (excepting the Congressional Black Caucus) was to have ONLY the maximum # of districts with an African American majority. That’s why I cited South Carolina.

    The CBC, naturally, wanted the most CBC members (Democratic ones, anyway). But if you think they drove Dole’s bill to Reagan’s desk, you can’t count: there weren’t enough, at the time. And even now, Mel Watt is not a candidate for speaker anytime soon.

    So the point is that the distinction between what Dole’s Voting Rights Extension law (crafted and supported by Republicans, including RNC-funded amicus briefs throughout the South, knocking off moderate Democrats) required LEGALLY, and the political compromises you’re confusing with the language of the law, is pretty important.

    The real deal here is that this is essentially a fake exercise: people are not ‘represented’ by a district drawn so that the politicians choose their voters, that bears no relationship whatsoever to a ‘community’. I agree with you there — and I have a paper trail: the Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Hartford Courant, etc.

    Hell, I’d even throw in a requirement (beyond adding “compact” to “contiguous”) to consider media markets, which are a far more important factor in making a modern political ‘community’ than anybody drawing a district will allow for.

    But I’m categorically against the idea (not that anybody asked) of a parliamentary approach, where you have multiple candidates and multiple winners: I think the Founders were right: zero sum elections, plus sum politics.

    Personally, I think these are really important, resonant issues that could go a long way toward restoring the connection between an individual’s identity and the larger community in a positive, empowering way. (to use the jargon)

    But kindly spare me how conservatives have the moral high ground of colorblindness. Fair enough?

  85. tA: As you said so eloquently to me in a post on another thread: (clearing throat) GMAFB!!

    Mad: Miracles can happen. It is possible for tA to be short, not-so-sweet, and to the point (if he has one).

  86. Mad Scientist says:

    Geez, Dole and Republicans gave the Democrats and other lefties exactly what they wanted and this somehow makes the Republicans either sinister, evil, or both?

    Give me a break.

  87. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

  88. Roger Sweeny says:


    Thanks for the clarification 🙂 I fear we may be talking past each other so let me set out what I mean and what I’m hearing you say. I’m saying:

    Back in the 1980s, there was an aggressive campaign from prominent Democrats, civil rights organizations, and assorted good government types to go out of the way to create districts that contained mostly blacks or hispanics. They would then presumably elect a black or hispanic representative and this would be a very good thing. Anyone who opposed this, it was charged, was trying to keep blacks and hispanics from having adequate political representation, was opposed to their advancement, and basically was a racist asshole.

    Bob Dole, aided by Republican campaign people, saw that aggressive drawing of majority-minority districts would have an unintended consequence. By concentrating black and hispanic voters (who mostly voted Democratic) in a few districts, it would make the other districts less Democratic and easier for Republicans to win. The official position of the Republican Party was color-blindness, so Dole had a moral conundrum. He could oppose the aggressive use of majority-minority districts, which would result in fewer seats for his party and get him called an insensitive racist by most of the people who matter, but which would be consistent with color-blind rhetoric. Or he could be “flexible” and a “statesman”and sell out the principle. He did the latter.

    What I think you are saying is different. Some civil rights people, some Democratic politicians (especially the Congressional Black Caucus, which saw a chance to greatly increase its numbers), some opinion leaders on the left supported the aggressive drawing of majority-minority districts. But most didn’t. The Democratic Party in general opposed it. Had there been a Democratic president, he never would have allowed it. Dole had to push it through; he “rolled” the Democrats (“roll” – slang for a robbery, to knock someone out and take their money. “The drunken sailors were rolled and left in the alley.”).

    Now, it may well be true that some people in the Democratic Party saw the unintended consequence. And there may have been Democrats who truly wanted to have it both ways here: to give speeches in favor (thus looking like a champion of black and hispanic empowerment and moving America in a progressive direction) but never get strong majority-minority requirments written into law. But Dole called their bluff.

    Most of the members of the Democratic coalition vocally believed that majority-minority districts were very good things and that there should be many more of them. So they got more–and also got fewer Democratic representatives.

  89. Mark Odell says:

    Laura wrote: There’s a difference between having welfare programs because they’re good for the country, and having them to try to get black people to vote R.

    Indeed there is, the difference being that each of those statements is based on a different false premise: “welfare” programs are good for “the country” (as opposed to their being good for the state), vs. “welfare” programs are good for the Republican party (as opposed to not engaging in a vote-buying scheme to enable a given political party’s desire to wield state power).

  90. “After 1965, it became illegal to discriminate based on race. (It is worth noting that every single significant “conservative” in the country opposed killing Jim Crow — from Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan to William F. Buckley. Perhaps there are REASONS you don’t want to remember, hm?)”

    They did not oppose killing Jim Crow. They opposed outlawing private discrimination. Which was and is a dumb idea. Plenty of conservatives thought that ditching Jim Crow was an excellent idea.

    The 14th Amendment empowers the Feds to forbid state discrimination, and only state discrimination.

    “Remember, the original rationale for affirmative action (leaving aside the union origins of the phrase in the Wagner Act, which had nothing whatever to do with race) was the sensible idea that if you’re talking about giving an individual an equal chance at the starting line, it’s kinda fake not to notice that he’s dragging all the baggage of bad schooling, no network or support, etc. with him.”

    But that reflects a fundamental mistake of supposing that people who buy and sell things with their own money have any sort of obligation to give people chances, equal or otherwise.

    How would you like to be called to account in court for your choice of one doctor over another, one plumber over another, one carpenter over another?

    And why in the world would anyone think it sensible for an employer to answer to a jury, who is not making or losing money on any employee, as to whether he has or has not chosen the best people for the job? What you end up with is people wasting huge amounts of time going to college so they can get documentary evidence that will satisfy a jury, rather than simply having to convince the guy that signs the checks and risks his money on the deal. So now you end up with people that really should be given a chance, and who profit-seeking employers will freely give a chance to, finding themselves SOL.

  91. theAmericanist says:

    Sort of. In that sense, I’m even more cynical that we’re giving Dole credit for being.

    It has been a long time since an openly bigoted candidate for public office has won at almost any level in the U.S. — the Bilbo’s are gone, thank God. That doesn’t mean, for example, that Thurmond wasn’t a profoundly evil man, it just means that — being a practical politician — he stopped openly race baiting somewhere around the time of the Voting Rights Act.

    Nixon’s Southern Strategy made the GOP into something close to a majority party: the old segregationists in the South, plus younger ones (like Lott), plus the Wallace voters, the “Reagan Democrats”, etc.

    LOL — it wasn’t the dozens of people who read Commentary.

    But (as Lott’s collapse shows ) Republicans generally understand that it isn’t just necessary to have ‘moved on’ from the Jim Crow past of th Thurmonds and Lotts of the world, it is also required that some sign be made of being ‘openminded’ and ‘supporting diversity’ etc.

    That’s basically where the GOP is now, ya know. Bush has abandoned all hope of getting the support nationally from minorities that he did in Texas: he simply understands that the way to hold onto soccer moms and Nascar dads is ALSO to look like he’s tolerant and progressive on such things.

    LOL — while his minions eagerly scour black churches looking for anti-gay preachers. Some “uniter, not a divider”.

  92. Anybody want to bet on the ultimate number of posts?

    Anybody still reading this crap?

    I vote for 110. And, of course, this insanity cannot stop until the other participants simply let theA have the last word.

    It won’t end until you stop replying to theA, boys. If you don’t stop answering him, you may ultimately use up all the hard disk space left on every server in the universe.

  93. Anonymous says:

    ROFL — sorry to inflict the facts on you, Ken.

    You wrote: “They did not oppose killing Jim Crow. They opposed outlawing private discrimination. Which was and is a dumb idea. Plenty of conservatives thought that ditching Jim Crow was an excellent idea…”

    Yeah? Name two. Between quotation marks. Here, I’ll help:

    Here is Bill Buckley on voting rights:

    National Review lead editorial August 24, 1957, “Why the South Must Prevail.”

    “The central question that emerges . . . is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not prevail numerically? The sobering answer is Yes – the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is a fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists….

    “National Review believes that the South’s premises are correct. . . . It is more important for the community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority.”
    “The South confronts one grave moral challenge. It must not exploit the fact of Negro backwardness to preserve the Negro as a servile class. . . . Let the South never permit itself to do this. So long as it is merely asserting the right to impose superior mores for whatever period it takes to effect a genuine cultural equality between the races, and so long as it does so by humane and charitable means, the South is in step with civilization, as is the Congress that permits it to function.”

    Asserting the right to impose white supremacy for ‘whatever period it takes’ did not mean mere opposition to outlawing private discrimination, Ken.

    It meant poll taxes. The back of the bus. Lynching. The “whatever period it takes” was ALREADY NINETY-SEVEN YEARS past emancipation.

    This was consisently the National Review’s position, ya know. Richard Weaver (or Buckley himself) titled a book review by Carl Rowan “Integration is Communization”.

    That’s what conservatives thought of PUBLIC discrimination, e.g., municipal bus systems.

    How about public education?

    On the 10th anniversary of Brown in June 1964, Buckley wrote: “But whatever the exact net result in the restricted field of school desegregation, what a price we are paying for Brown! It would be ridiculous to hold the Supreme Court solely to blame for the ludicrously named ‘civil rights movement’ – that is, the Negro revolt . . . . But the Court carries its share of the blame. Its decrees, beginning with Brown, have on the one hand encouraged the least responsible of the Negro leaders in the course of extra-legal and illegal struggle that we now witness around us. . .

    “Brown, as National Review declared many years ago, was bad law and bad sociology. We are now tasting its bitter fruits. Race relations in the country are ten times worse than in 1954.”

    Speak up, Ken: cite your conservatives who wanted to kill Jim Crow. Barry Goldwater? Ronald Reagan? James Kilpatrick? Tell us what they did, what legislation they supported, what they opposed. Use quotes.

    Or — better yet, apologize for your public ignorance.

    (smile) Stephen, you’ve promised to stop reading and go away: puh-leeze?

  94. At this point, I’m just counting, not reading.


    Place your bets, gentlemen. This testament to foolishness still has some staying power. I still bet on 110.

    Anybody got anything better to do today?

  95. I bet on 95, and I win! Because I’m about to close the comments. The comments section is for discussion, not flame wars. And please, in future, don’t (smile) or (grin) or (ROFL) or (stick out tongue and wiggle ears) at each other. It’s patronizing.


  1. Historical Guilt

    Historical guilt is an interesting phenomenon, as is the related question of how long — and how much and what kinds of penance — it takes for it to wear off. This reflection on historical guilt is induced by a