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Author Topic: What do African Americans want?  (Read 11497 times)

redemption

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Re: What do African Americans want?
« Reply #60 on: January 16, 2006, 01:12:11 PM »

    As you can see in your quote above you spoke about reparations which was what I connected to the Pats.  The Pats as far as I can tell are always spouting rhetoric on the behalf of the conservatives, the religious right or whatever broad-sounding label they are choosing to apply to the sub-sect of the general population they represent.  People listen, people react but they never take it as fact that the Pats' views should be taken as the sole representation of the political aspirations of the greater group or even that sub-group itself.  Perhaps it is a luxury of being in the majority but most people realize that no one person could ever speak for that entire group.  Even during the hey-day of the Civil Rights movement there were different camps.  There were some who identified with the teaching of MLK, some who gravitated towards Malcom X and some who didn't feel either of these men spoke to them and their needs.  Reparation for slavery has never been a concept that has been widely embraced by the African-American community.  Hell, there hasn't even been a decision on the labels African-American versus Black yet.  Some people may be bigger media whores than others but it isn't a given that they are the mouthpiece of their race.  It just means they have bigger mouths.

     I am going to make a statement now and it shouldn't be taken as fact.  I believe that the majority of the race isn't interested in moving back to Africa.  They know they're not African.  In fact 75% of African-Americans have a white forebear.  The ones who thought of themselves as Africans took steps to make that a reality.  It's called Liberia.  I think most African-Americans are more interested in more than a heavily-sanitized, generic, general apology for the way their progress as a people has been hampered by the laws and practices of America until quite recently.  Most people, upon hearing a Black person refer to the hardships their people have endured, groan and say slavery has been over for centuries.  But it really hasn't.  With the exception of the years of the Reconstruction - during which the African-American race mostly flourished in their new-found freedom - slavery didn't end until desegregation ended.  There is considerable psychological damage that is inflicted by being made aware every day of your life that you are not valued, you are not welcomed and you are not respected.  There is much to be said for those who have prevailed in spite of this, but the exception does not make the rule. 

     It is 2006, only forty years removed from that tumultuous time.  The people who lived during that period did not disappear when schools got desegregated, when Blacks didn't have to have separate toilets, when it became politically incorrect to treat Blacks as if they were wayward children who must be contained and restricted for their own good.  They grew cautious.  They had children and they taught those children everything they had learnt.  They told them to never forget.  To never forget that it wasn't so long ago, to never forget that once we were subjected to LAWS that dehumanized us, that it could be easily rescinded as it was before.  To never forget when people roll their eyes and say shouldn't we be over this by now, to remember every detail because if you forget it will happen again.  Now throw this attitude against the distrust of the African-American that led to their subjugation post-slavery and you can see how we have the results we have now.  Individuals may interact, but when you speak in terms of races, the distrust remains, the bitterness reamins, the misunderstanding remains.  Other groups of immigrants have come to America, started poor and eventually pulled themselves into the middle-class.  But as a group, this reamins an elusive goal to African-Americans.  The sad part is that even the African-Americans who achieve do not seem to redeem the group as a whole but inadvertently become poster children for the opinion that African Americans who don't achieve don't deserve to. 

        In contrast to your assertion that no one but African-American civic organizations should address 3, I claim that any initiatives that are generated by and inplemented solely by these groups are doomed to failure.  This is not an issue that can be addressed and solved by the Afriacn American because it does not originate solely from that community. I've rambled considerably and although at the beginnning of this post my aim was not to address Factor 4 since it is purely subjective and therefore cannot ever be reliably ascertained but I'm sure I've failed and spilled over a little.

*Edit...indents and spaces for readability*

I see your point about the Pats and reparations. I agree with you, I think, that is is unlikely that the majority of AAs believe in reparations as a goal of public policy, although I'm not as sure as you are and I have no way of finding out. What I do believe more strongly is that people with the loudest megaphones set the policy agenda, and to the extent that the Pats have place that issue on the agenda for everyone to get hot and bothered about, other more meaningful, practical and likely more effective prespcriptions will not be seriously discussed. I think that the last 40 years of our history bears this out.

In practice, once the idea of reparations enters the bloodstream, I believe that even the people for whom that is an unworkable and misdirected proposal will spend a lot of energy rebutting it, to the exclusion of other policy debates. If I were a bewspaper editor or a television producer, for example, I would be very much tempted to feature it as THE policy debate on race. My circulation and/or ratings would surely not suffer from that decision. We will likely also begin to speak the language of reparations - as we have now, by analogy, apparently begun to speak in the language of the "war on terror", a hitherto ridiculous and incomprehensible concept.

I have no disagreement with you on the importance and effects of stigmatization by race. To say that it is overemphasized is not, I hope, to say that it should not be emphasized at all. Once again, I am aiming for balance. If we are aiming to construct public policy that is driven by the statistical evidence, we need to recognize two things: a) crime is largely a function of poverty; 2) the association between crime and poverty (plus the error term) doesn't explain all of the variation. The remainder is to some extent explained by race and isolation, in combination.

Since I have no reason to give any credit whatsoever to explanations based on genetics or whatever else that is deemed to constitute innate differences among groups, and I do have some basis for positing that there are what we, for shorthand, call "cultural" differences, I focus my inquiry and attention there. If something is to be done about changing the culture of any group, those changes must come from within that very group - it is hard to imagine it being otherwise. Nevertheless, cultural change is an organic process and a rational social response to the wider societal environment. It must be so; it cannot be otherwise. Therefore, I turn my attention principally to the wider social and economic environment (what we americans call "opportunity"; what other societies call "solidarity" or "community"), and I emphasize that as being key. It - freedom of opportunity, and equal access to enjoying the rights of citizenship and of being-in-the-world - are the prerequisite for individual responsibility. There can (conceptually) be no duty without rights, and, in the real world it has never been so. Take care of rights and duties will largely take care of themselves. It has, as I say, always been so.

Nothing fruitful can come of speaking of duties first. And the definition of "rights" must be one that the entire polity, more or less, and not just the majority, agrees on as being important. I'm no political philosopher, but I believe that this distinction is one that delineates the difference between a liberal society and a totalitarian one.

These seem to me to be reasonable and commonsensical points. And yet, we live in a society that broadly rejects these views. "Individual responsibility" is king. When we see someone who escapes a background of disadvantage, we seem to say "She did it", so anyone or everyone else from that background can also "do it" if they put their minds to it, if they have the character to do it. I can see why: it is, for one thing, perhaps a useful device that allows us to say that we - the rest of us, and the way that we have organized our society - are ok. It is, though, as if we were devising a public health strategy based on the very few people that are immune to HIV infection or to smoking-related cancer. The measurement error is not, I think, the best indicator from which to build the entire edifice of a social philosophy.

Freak

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Re: What do African Americans want?
« Reply #61 on: January 17, 2006, 11:37:13 PM »
Redemption, your intial long post was very well done. I have one point of contention but I'll address it tomorrow.
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Re: What do African Americans want?
« Reply #62 on: January 18, 2006, 09:32:11 PM »
These data [see page 3] don't help the argument that you are trying to make: they show that African-American kids are being arrested at twice the rate of their representation in the population.

A better and more accurate argument would be to suggest that African Americans are disproportionately the (direct) causes and victims of crime, and that there are, yes, structural/societal reasons for this. These reasons (or indirect "causal factors") need not be viewed as particularly complex:

1. African-Americans are disproportionately poor;

2. The African-American poor are culturally, geographically, socially and economically isolated from the remainder of society.

3. The African-American poor are cut off from the history of their pre-slavery traditions, and therefore without a strong cultural reference point that has the potential to dominate and replace the legacy of slavery and the formal institutionalised racism that came after.

4. Institutional and (nowadays mostly) unconscious racism creates an environment that - in the realm of public policy - by turns ignores the the above situation; stigmatizes this population; and devises policies and practices designed to *control* this population rather than to free it.

1 & 2 applies to all disadvantaged groups, including poor whites in Appalachia. If you check the crime stats on these poor & isolated populations you will find that they go a long way toward evening out disparities across 'groups', almost nullifying the effect of 'race';

3 & 4 are factors that are largely specific to African-Americans. Recent African immigrants to the United States, for example, do not face factor 3 and fare much better, despite the fact that they too are "black" and, when they arrive, mostly broke. And so on.

What - as Lenin would have said - is to be done? Target poverty for all groups. If we want to do it in a small-minded way, piecemeal and Clintonian, then government should remove pockets of poverty by better urban planning, by a change in the basis by which grade school education is financed, promoting small enterprise development in both the inner city and the backwoods, vocational education etc. And this for ALL groups in the situations described in 1 & 2 - whether they are "native americans", "mexicans", "whites" etc... 

Better, though, and simpler and likely more effective is to institute the idea suggested by Bruce Ackerman of Yale Law in "The Stakeholder Society" (I encourage everyone who hasn't to read it, it is highly persuasive): we should give every American who graduates from high school $80,000 in $20K installments over 4 years financed by a 2% annual tax on the wealth of the very wealthiest people in our country.

The wealthiest people hold tremendous power to avoid taxes like these. In addition, there is a study, Iíll look it up if you insist, which shows that most people given a windfall squander it. It applied to much more than $20k/yr, but the principle remains though perhaps mitigated by the relatively small amount of $20k/yr.

Quote
African-American civic organizations should address (3). No-one else can. The traditions of the "old-country", even if they could be identified (was it Hausa? Ibo? Bete?), are lost to African-Americans forever. Silliness like Kwanzaa isn't going to bring them back.  A specifically African-American cultural tradition needs to be fashioned out of the specifically African-American expeirnce that is one of hope for the future and optimism and of community with the rest of the population, not one that that is backward-looking, pessimistic and isolationist. The culture of bitches and ho's, of gangsta dress and the pimp walk, of "my-baby-daddy", of taking pride in underachievement (what Chris Rock, that great philosopher, would call the "n-word" culture) is here, there and everywhere, filling the gap between the need of youngstrs to affiliate with a culture that they can call their own and the lack of any positive strong tradition to affiliate with.

Instead, we have the call for reparations -  a ridiculous proposal by an intellectually and morally bankrupt civil rights movement, either blind to the tragedy around them or seeking to profit by it through empty rhetoric.

Not a point of contention, but high school history classes ought to address this problem as well.

Quote
(4) is the weakest - and most overemphasized - factor. Nevertheless, it is real and counteracting it is the responsibility of all of us. We need, as a community of Americans, to watch the way in which all neighbourhoods are being policed; we need to care be vigilant in detecting unconscious racism in, say, the formulation of drug policy.

These kinds of efforts, though, pale in their effectiveness in addressing the root problem, when contrasted with efforts to seriously address 1, 2 & 3. And yet, they take up most of the oxygen in this debate. Sometimes I wonder why that is so, and sometimes I think I know why.

HTH

I agree with the points I didnít address.

I do offer one other idea, home ownership. The best way to reduce crime in a neighborhood is for people to own their dwelling which gives them a greater stake in the long-term condition of the area. Itís not as difficult as one might expect to own your first home; it just takes a willingness to commit to an area for many years. There are many, many, programs to eliminate the need for a down-payment and an excellent credit-rating. Itíd also solve many of the poverty issues as home ownership provides equity while rent simply throws money away.
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redemption

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Re: What do African Americans want?
« Reply #63 on: January 18, 2006, 10:09:04 PM »
I agree with every reservation that you have expressed here. I have these reservations myself.

Ackerman's book in fact presents some of the possible objections - including the homeownership exemption and the issue of tax avoidance by the wealthy - and addresses them, usually persuasively.

High school history classes, while part of the solution cannot be as effective as living a tradition and experiencing a culture. What is wrong today is not so much what is missing from the curriculum of these kids as wht is missing and what is wrong with their lived, daily cultural experience.

FossilJ

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Re: What do African Americans want?
« Reply #64 on: January 18, 2006, 10:13:34 PM »
Curriculums (curricula?  curriculi?) are a joke, anyway.  I fully agree with the consensus here, Freak and red.
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Lionel Hutz

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Re: What do African Americans want?
« Reply #65 on: March 06, 2006, 12:47:03 AM »
REPARATIONS! WE WANT OUR REPARATIONS FOR SLAVERY!!!!

I'm with you on that. Let the payouts begin tomorrow.









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Re: What do African Americans want?
« Reply #66 on: March 17, 2006, 04:57:22 PM »
My great great grandfather died fighting for the Union during the civil war, do you think I'm entitled to reparations?  I could really use the money.  Also, my ancestors were persecuted for being Irish in New York.  I think I'm entitled to reparations for that as well. 

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Re: What do African Americans want?
« Reply #67 on: March 17, 2006, 05:02:14 PM »
My great great grandfather died fighting for the Union during the civil war, do you think I'm entitled to reparations?  I could really use the money.  Also, my ancestors were persecuted for being Irish in New York.  I think I'm entitled to reparations for that as well. 

Was your great, great grandfather PAID by the federal government for the services he rendered to the Union Army? Then he doesn't warrant reparations...

Was the persecution suffered by the Irish in New York the result of an OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT POLICY, or just plain prejudice? In that case, why would that warrant reparations from the Federal Government?

Please try again...
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redemption

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Re: What do African Americans want?
« Reply #68 on: March 17, 2006, 05:09:48 PM »
My great great grandfather died fighting for the Union during the civil war, do you think I'm entitled to reparations?  I could really use the money.  Also, my ancestors were persecuted for being Irish in New York.  I think I'm entitled to reparations for that as well. 

Honestly, do you not see how utterly lame these analogies of yours are?? Sheesh.

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Re: What do African Americans want?
« Reply #69 on: March 17, 2006, 07:41:18 PM »
I see your points and I agree.  I'm really in a financial bind and I'm trying to figure out a way I could get reparations.  What about my mormon ancestors who were persecuted by the Missouri state legislature who issued an extermination act which said it was legal to kick mormons off their land.  Do you think I'm entitled to reparations from the state of Missouri?  If you could be so kind to tell me if I have a case or not, I would appreciate it.  Please use italics to emphasize your point.  Thank you very much.