26 September 2020

Response to a response 2 (Part 4 of a series on race based on emails to my family)

  After a few back and forths, the previous posts (which were originally emails to family members regarding the recent race protests and their implications), I started getting longer, more in-depth, and more nuanced responses.  This (and the last and next posts) are responses to those responses.

I'm too tired to write more but these are my initial thoughts:

I wasn't expecting you to even read it so fast!  Thank you, though, I appreciate you responding.

1. Are you saying that poor Black people are inherently more violent than the other types of people we have in this country?

Of course not!  That was one of the points in my first letter, where my stronger and earlier influences were my family and friends.  I take it that we all know that we are all in agreement about how the history has created the conditions we see today, which I explicitly acknowledged in the last letter "It was 250 years of slavery, followed by nearly a century of legal, formalized racism, followed by decades of subtle sneaky racism, that set up the conditions we see today."
Even the mildly racist white conservatives who use the phrase "one of the good ones" are acknowledging that it isn't something inherent in our genes that makes all black people act a certain way. 


That is what you seem to be saying .... If that is what you are saying, why do you think that is? And if you think it's true, what do you propose to do about it? 

I propose several big things (which I've mentioned various times, but go into more detail about in the longer essay).  The big one from "Try #3" is to stop promoting the idea that America Hates Black People, that cops are all fundamentally biased and out to get black people and are constantly killing them every chance they get, that white people have all the power and therefore are the only ones who can save black people - basically, I think the subtext and implications of the protest movement, which are heard by everyone, has such potential to affect the beliefs and mindset of individuals as to be overall counterproductive.  


Some other big things I think should be done is the ending of inheritance, especially of property (which privileges people who's parents have more wealth, which, due to the legacy of slavery and JimCrow etc is disproportionately white people), actually integrating schools and neighborhoods, making preschool and kindergarten free and mandatory and making college free. 
This is how I see it:​

We are all in total agreement that it is the red box in the upper left corner that started this all off.
We are all in agreement that the yellow box still has some degree of contribution to the green box, though we disagree on the extent.
We all agree that both the green and purple boxes are true, and that they are both a negative issue to be resolved.
It seems to me that the only factors that the left believes are relevant or wants to address is the long bumpy yellow arrow.  I do not believe it will ever be possible to eliminate the yellow arrows, so long as the orange and maroon arrows still exist.

What I propose we do is break the cycle by working to reduce or eliminate both the tan and the blue boxes.  I believe it is within the middle class direct sphere of personal influence to change those things by personal direct action: not by demanding other people change, but by actually living, being, the change.
I believe that what we are actually doing is in fact the polar opposite: we are strengthening and enhancing the blue box as much as we possibly can at every opportunity, and we either ignore or work to support the tan box items as well.


You talk a lot about how bad poor Black people are but I have not heard what solutions you propose to make things better besides holding every single poor Black person accountable for each and every bad decision and action that they make which is not the standard any other racial or economic group in this country has to deal with. 

I don't understand what you are saying.  Every person of every background is generally expected to be accountable for their own bad actions.  It isn't a group thing - I'm not proposing that individuals be held accountable for other people's actions because they share demographics, but by the same token I don't think any one gets a free pass because of their demographics either.
I don't think people should be judged based on their color.  That means not being more harshly, and not being judged more leniently either.  We as a society need to do more than make the ability to gain wealth equally accessible to all, AND all individuals are responsible for their own actions.


2. Why do Black people who were brought to the United States by force (ie in the cargo holds of slave ships) and then enslaved and tortured for hundreds of years have to act like recent immigrants (who by definition came to this country by choice) in order to get White people to treat them better?

a) There are no black people who were brought to the US as slaves.  They would have to be 213 years old.  There is no one who is the child or grandchild of anyone who was brought here as a slave.  Anyone who is here alive today is here for the same reason everyone else is: their parents live here, and they were born here.
b) The reason we need to abide by the standards of the social contract in order to be treated well is the same reason as for everyone else.  

c) The reason I bring up recent immigrants is because, while in every society people form in-groups and out-groups and outsiders are always viewed with suspicion, the success of immigrants shows it is possible to overcome mainstream society's initial natural prejudice.  Notably, the outcomes in terms of education and wealth for recent Africans and Carribeans is significantly better than for native born blacks, which means failure and success is not purely a factor of skin color or features.
c) I'm not just talking about how white people treat them.  That's part of my point, that way too much emphasis is being placed on white people.  In the absence of a truly systematic racism - i.e. legal, official, explicit, enforced - there is room to influence one's own destiny.  I think this focus on how white people treat black people implies that the outcome of every individual's life is purely a product of whether other people either privilege or oppress you, which leaves no room for anyone to have any influence of their own.


 Why do Black people have to stay "low profile" in order to succeed?

What I mean by that is just being an ordinary person, being generally polite and friendly to everyone.  There are plenty of white people who don't abide by the social contract and end up in prison too, or just fired and poor or whatever.  


Why can't the US go through what happened in Germany after the Holocaust? Why can't there be an official acknowledgement of slavery and financial reparations like there has been in Germany?

It's not quite directly equivalent: what happened after the war is the nation paid reparations to the nation of Israel, (as it did to all of the countries that won the war, which is often a mandatory part of surrender treaties.)  The cash that went to Israel no doubt had a significant contribution to the establishment of the country, and I suppose if there were a proposal that American black people should move out of the US and found a new country it would stand to reason that the US should support it,  but note the billions of marks only came out to around $2,800 (in today, US, dollars) per person. 
 Some 55 years later, they made payments to individuals who had personally survived concentration camps, or in some cases to their children if they were no longer alive. There were about 20 thousand Jews still in Germany, (in a nation of 50 million, making them 0.04% of the population.) however payments went to Jews living elsewhere as well.  Those payments came out to around $3000 per person.  https://theconversation.com/if-germany-atoned-for-the-holocaust-the-us-can-pay-reparations-for-slavery-119505 
That being said, I would not be opposed to it, were there any such proposal being made on a serious level.  If there were nationwide protests calling for figuring out some form of reparations, I would support it.  There is of course official recognition that slavery was wrong, from the civil war to things like the constitution museum we went to.  It's a fringe minority who would claim slavery was morally right, (and fewer who would claim it never happened)
However, while it isn't doled out explicitly as compensation for slavery, our country does make payments to people on the basis of poverty, and because poverty is spread unevenly by race, government assistance is disproportionate by race as well, with black people (who make up 13% of the country) recieving 25.7% of assistance  https://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-welfare-black-white-780252  which, on average, works out to roughly $20,000 per year  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2014/12/05/grothman-single-parents-welfare/ 

Granted, there would be some catharsis from the principle of the matter, however a one time payment of $3,000 when compared to $20k annually means the difference in outcomes is clearly not an issue of money.  

Another difference between the two examples is that the extreme oppression of Nazi Germany lasted a decade, and did not involve survivors being removed from their country of origin, community, and language. They were able to maintain cultural traditions - cultural traditions which (while xenophobic) placed strong emphasis on scholarship and being financially savvy.

Instead in the United States we have a president who just issued an executive order declaring how people who tear down monuments to Confederate leaders should be punished. That is like if Germany after WWII erected monuments to Hitler and then doubled down when people tried to take them down. 

Of course I agree with you 100% that our current president is a literally narcissistic, idiotic, nationalist (which, ethically, is no better than racist).  And he has an unfortunate amount of people who still support him, (though he does have the lowest average approval rating of all time, and he is starting to lose even his base) https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/09/the-trump-supporters-who-regret-their-vote
But in a market based capitalist democratic republic the top guy only has so much influence over day to day reality of most citizens.  If it weren't so, we should have expected the election of a (half) black president to fix everything. But poverty and segregation, and the results of them, don't go away just because the government makes a certain law or policy, makes a formal apology or writes a few checks.


3. I have read what you wrote several times and I don't get how you arrived at this number: "That leaves maybe 5%, give or take, of the disparity in criminal justice being caused by actual "racism" per say, the kind that is believed in and deliberate." You also say this but I have no idea where it comes from: "According to all actual data, somewhere on the order of 75 to 90% of disparities throughout the criminal justice system, from arrests to incarceration as well as police shootings, are a direct result of behavioral choices of black people." Where is this data you refer to?


"approximately 80% of prison disparity among state prisoners in 1979 was explained by differential offending by race, leaving 20% unexplained" 
"research that relies on incident reporting (i.e., self-report data rather than police data) to circumvent these potential problems [of bias in arrests]... estimated unexplained disparity to be in the range of 15-16%"
I propose that a significant portion of the bias that is found among cops, prosecutors, judges and juries, is not due purely to "media", but to an awareness on some level of the disparate crime rates, and, whether conscious or not, extrapolating that statistical knowledge onto individual cases and individual people, in the same way that the criminal justice system shows even more bias toward men relative to women, not because of media, but because the actual rate of offending is so different that we carry mental beliefs that affect how we see individuals.  I propose that if, on average, people of different races all committed violent crime at the exact same rate, a significant portion of the unconscious bias of individual cops, jurors, (teachers, employers, loan officers, etc) would go away as well, leaving a much smaller percentage of disparity left to be perpetrated by the explicit racists who find their way into positions of power.

However, I am not claiming that these numbers are exact (hence saying give or take)


4. I understand your points about taking responsibility for the things within your control and how violence committed by Black people against other Black people is a real problem that is not taken very seriously by very many people. I disagree with you completely where you veer off and seem to say that there is an inherent violence and criminality within poor Black people and that the police and White society are blameless because they are just acting on their  "implicit bias itself [which] is an indirect result of the actions of black people." 

5. I guess the summary of my viewpoint is: Bakari, stop only blaming poor Black people. And I disagree with you about the causation of the implicit bias a lot of non-Black people have about Black people.


I guess maybe one point of difference is I don't think "blame" is relevant or helpful.
If you are in a car crash, and the other person is clearly 100% at fault, it makes no sense to refuse to go to physical therapy on those grounds, and say "well, they hit me, they should have to go to physical therapy!"  That won't help you walk again. 
If you have one teacher who gives you worse grades than you deserve, you can focus all your time and effort on proving that that teacher doesn't like you and getting support to force them to give you better grades, but overall you will do better by focusing on learning the material as well as possible and turning in the best work you can, in that and all other classes.
It isn't about figuring out who to blame.  All people, as individuals, have better life outcomes if they have a view of the world and of their life that they have control of and responsibility over their own life.  Despite the bias that exists, we don't have the form of literally institutionalized or systemic racism that we had for half a millennia, and it is possible to be successful, but one has to actually believe it is possible to even try.  Outside of the context of race, this isn't that controversial an idea.

Correct me if I'm wrong, it seems like a big point of contention with what I'm saying is it isn't "fair" to put the burden of success on black people when the reasons for the initial disparity are outside of the control of any individual, when historically white people directly benefited from slavery and due to inheritance and social policy white people who's families have been in this country since those days indirectly benefit to this day.  No argument from me there.  I just don't think "fair" is a meaningful term or concept to apply on a national and half a millennium scale.  Really, I don't think it is so useful of a concept even on an individual scale.  If your sibling did or did not get cake has nothing to do with you and whether you should get cake.
Focusing on what is fair isn't productive.  What I'm interested in is the actual outcome.
So, if by changing police policy, we cut unjustified police killings by half, reducing the number from a dozen a year to just a handful, yet as an unintended consequence of reducing police to the point where gangs etc feel emboldened and the murder rate of black people increases just 5% - we will have saved 3 or 4 lives while indirectly contributing to another 450 deaths a year.
That might feel more fair, since it isn't some outside, privileged, government sanctioned person doing the killing, but the net result is 446 more deaths.


I think there is a huge problem in that people feel like the only possibilities are: 

1) acknowledge the crime rate; extrapolate from that that black people are inferior based on their genes, 


2) acknowledge the history of slavery and oppression; extrapolate from that that all disparities from wealth to incarceration are proof of continuation of oppression.

Pick a side.  

Reality isn't that simplistic.  The first half of both of those claims are correct, and the second half of both claims is false.


In regards to our talking conversation:
I find it interesting, somewhat odd, how much more we seem to agree when we speak than when we write.

The one thing I did want to address is about the feelings of police in general:  I don't especially “like” them.  1/2 the people here are in law enforcement. Many of them I'm fairly neutral about, but many of the people I don't especially care to hang out with or work with happen to be cops.  They tend to be conservative, yay 'Murica, follow the rules, respect authority just because, don't ask questions, don't be different, work for the sake of work, all mistakes are excuses... The people I tend to like best, most of them are not in law enforcement.

However, that being said, I don't think "cop" is a "type of person".  I think it is a profession.   While the concept of enforcing laws may tend to attract those who prioritize law and order as a moral value, I think the tendency to condemn them all generally falls into the standard thinking about a bipolar grouping of humanity into good and bad.  Just like the actions of a few black criminals does not reflect on all black people and the actions of a few terrorists does not condemn all Muslims, horrible examples of brutality does not condemn all cops.  The law enforcement people here also include Chief R****, L*** R*******, B****, E***** and Z******.

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