Saturday, December 22, 2007

Don't Get Distracted Now

The House Judiciary Committee held hearings on John Conyers' bill to study the issue of reparations (you can read my own several-years-old thoughts on reparations here). All the witnesses had interesting things to say, though if you're only going to read one, Eric Miller's testimony is, in my opinion, particularly interesting and insightful (particularly in how it seeks to broaden the discourse beyond stale cliches about "blaming Whitey").

At the other end of the intelligence spectrum, there's shorter Roger Clegg:
Studying reparations would be bad, because it would distract Black people from remembering that all their problems are their own fault. Also, why should the US government apologize for slavery, when it had nothing to do with it? Now, if Democrats want to apologize for racial injustice, that would be just swell.

Other common themes from the anti-reparations (or rather, anti-studying reparations, since that's all the bill would do) crowd include that there are many confusing questions to ask about reparations (which would seem to be an argument for studying the issue), some Blacks don't descend from slaves and some Whites don't descend from slave owners (which a) is meaningless, because some do and some are, and b) assumes that the fruits of the slave system only affect its direct descendants which probably isn't true), and (my personal favorite) that reparations are "radical" because Whites oppose them, even though Blacks support them. The latter, incidentally, are only supporting them because of their financial interest in the matter (the former, of course, are coming to a neutral and dispassionate conclusion the way only White citizens can).

Via Christopher Bracey.

13 comments:

PG said...

I'm skeptical of the specific framing of "reparations" for the kind of efforts I'd like to see, such as improved prenatal care, child nutrition, need-appropriate funding for public schools and scholarships for higher education -- for all poor people, not just for all African American people. Putting our problems in purely racial terms, as reparations essentially does, is the intellectual bias that made San Antonio School District v. Rodrigeuz possible: if we only care about making up for "the Legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade," who cares about a bunch of poor Mexican kids who don't qualify as a "suspect class" on the basis of history?

Clegg is undeniably an idiot, and the U.S. government's failure both to apologize for slavery and to make its citizens fully aware of the problem (how did we end up with not only a Congressionally authorized Holocaust Museum in DC, but a dozen others around the country, yet no slavery museum?) is pathetic. That still doesn't rationalize giving taxpayer funds to study the issue of reparations. All Americans of all races need to be aware of slavery and its legacy; all Americans of all races also need de facto equality of opportunity (or at least as closely as we can approximate it). I don't see a good argument for why Americans need to study the issue of reparations.

Anyway, you might find "Sins Of The Parents: The Politics Of National Apologies In The United States" to be interesting reading.

Joe said...

David, don't you think that as a pragmatic matter, pushing reparations would make it very easy for the right to appeal to the self-interests of the majority (i.e. white people) to gain political advantage and block other, more popular (dare I say politically viable?) progressive causes (enumerated by PG, above)?

Cycle Cyril said...

Where did you get the quote attributed to Clegg? It is not in the pdf file from the judiciary committee nor is anything like that quote available on Google or other search engines.

If this is based on ad hoc statements from the video, indicate the time you found it. (If you listened to the entire video clip my hat is off to you for being a true policy wonk especially on your vacation.)

If it is an aggregate of your opinion of Clegg's statements make that clear.

David Schraub said...

Cy: Marking something as "Shorter [Joe Smith]" generally refers to a snarky summary of the overall point they're making.

Joe: One of the benefits of blogging is that I don't have to be a political pragmatist, all the time. I can afford to talk about what I think is actually right, regardless of whether it will ever happen.

Cycle Cyril said...

Another meaning to an old terminology. One day my brain will overload.

In this rendition of Clegg's opinion you misrepresented his position.

For example he did not say that all of the problems of blacks are their own fault. In fact you can make an argument that the increase in out of wedlock children, a major cause of children growing up in poverty, is a result of the welfare policies instituted in the 1960's. This is a trend that was seen, to a lesser extent in the white population and even in Scandinavia when they instituted welfare changes.

When limitations were instituted in the late 1990's this trend changed to some degree, especially for teens, but not so much for women older than 25 - possibly due to the "biological clock ticking away". You may conceive of other reasons for this decline in the younger age groups but money freely given out without limits for irresponsible behavior must play a role here.

PG said...

Cycle Cyril,

Now I've seen it all: a conservative who doesn't believe in personal responsibility. I hadn't realized this was the current version of compassionate conservatism: It's not "irresponsible behavior" that's the problem, it's "money freely given out without limits" for it that's at fault. (This does explain how Karl Rove managed to blame Democrats in Congress for the rush to war in Iraq -- it's not the fault of the executive for pushing for the war and starting it, it's the fault of Congress for authorizing military action.)

For example he did not say that all of the problems of blacks are their own fault. In fact you can make an argument that ...

You can make any argument you want. Point out where Clegg made the argument you're putting forward. All I see is, "The principal hurdle facing the African American community today is the fact that 7 out of 10 African Americans are born out of wedlock. Just about any social problem you can name— crime, drugs, dropping out of school, doing poorly in school, and so forth— has a strong correlation with growing up in a home without a father. ...
"In particular, the last thing an African American needs in 2007 is an excuse to fail. As individual white people will go about their business--and Latinos and Asians and Arab Americans and American Indians--individual black people will be left with the same choice they've had for years: embrace self-reliance and responsibility, or fail and blame it on others."

Cyril may have a more advanced version of conservatism, but Clegg has the same old one.

Cycle Cyril said...

How many people will come out and say they are not for personal responsibility? Not too many and not I.

However many if not most people will take the road of least resistance and make their life easier as they see it. And for all too many if someone else pays they will take advantage of any situation. In effect this is a variation of the tragedy of the commons.

By offering money to young mothers with few or no strings attached they then had out of wedlock children in greater numbers. This occurred in black households, in white households and in Scandinavian households. It only partially reversed in the 1990's in the US due to changes in welfare laws. And then only with those most sensitive to (or you might say most needy) government subsidies.

Need a quote that Clegg doesn't blame everything on Blacks themselves?

"..no one will dispute that discrimination still exists, though only a delusional person would deny that America has made radical, dramatic, inspiring progress in the last 40 years...."

As for the argument I putting forth it is my argument that Clegg only partially alludes to it when he states that out of wedlock births increased as Jim Crow laws died. This is of course when civil rights programs including welfare rose. Why didn't he expand on it? Maybehe didn't read Sowell.

PG said...

Or maybe that's not what he thinks, and he actually thinks what he said: "the last thing an African American needs in 2007 is an excuse to fail." (I would have thought the last thing they need is discrimination, but I guess he doesn't think the discrimination is nearly so bad as what they're doing to themselves. Which is what David said in summarizing Clegg.)

It's very odd to see you accuse David of misrepresenting Clegg by summarizing him (albeit snarkily), and then watch you make up out of whole cloth arguments that Clegg never even alluded to, and attribute them to Clegg.

Cycle Cyril said...

I think, and I believe that Clegg would acknowledge, that not everything wrong with the Black population is their own fault. Some, as I noted above, has been imposed. Much has been done to rectify this, more needs to be done, but not by governmental decree.

In my opinion, what needs to be done now by Blacks is what virtually every other, now established, minority group has done and assume the reins of responsibility for themselves and sever the cords that promote irresponsible behavior which includes shifting all blame and responsibility to others.

David Schraub said...

"more needs to be done, but not by governmental decree." By whom, then? And if they don't, then what?

I have no doubt that, if pressed, Clegg would admit that some of the disadvantage Blacks face is not their fault. That's a meaningless statement, however, if it's not followed up in some form by action or policy. But instead, Clegg says that even studying how a facet of past discrimination might be disadvantaging Blacks today would be bad because it would distract Blacks from the primary issue, which is that their problems are their fault. At the point where you take that position, I think the practical impact of the concession that "discrimination is still meaningful" fades to nil.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree slavery was not a government sponsored program and should not even be considered for study. It was a social issue which was remedied by the governement by laws which we fought a war over. Is it possible the price of freedom paid for by the blood of mostly white soldiers not enough? No to reparations....I beleive the price has been paid.

Chuck Butcher said...

So, what do you think, maybe some reparations for slain and maimed Union soldiers? I think that's only right in regard to this question, let's find every decendent of the people of the Confederacy and ....

Since 'my people' were on the right side of that particular issue, I'd be due some dollars. I could pobably do even better if we went after suppliers of munitions and other tools of warfare, like railroads and ...

Anonymous said...

Hell, let's just pay reparations to all the families that lost loved ones fighting wars for our country...that would just solve everything....or better yet lets stop fighting wars and just give every US citizen the money we spend defending freedom.