Arguing Racism

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111 Responses

  1. Tod Kelly says:

    Great guest post, Still.  I am flying about the country today, so I will need to comment in more detail later, but wanted to say well done.Report

  2. At least one small example: we are lead to believe that if only (some) minorities would work harder, they’d be better off. Yet in the most prominent example imaginable of a minority working hard and ending up better off (Obama), many Conservatives denounce him implicitly (although occasionally explicitly, as with the “Where are his grades?!?” nonsense) as the beneficiary of undeserved advantages throughout his development, both academically and then politically. It’s as if they want to have it both ways. When a minority accepts government support, it is evidence of their laziness. When a minority gets ahead, it is evidence of a system benefitting undeserved minorities at the expense of white people.

    The only time this narrative stops is when the minority in question takes conservative positions politically. Which seem to suggest that there is more than race at work here. Minorities can and will be accepted when they’re willing to endorse conservative white politicians for office. Untangling the racism from the political opportunism is something more complicated than I’m capable of doing.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

      You take it as a given that the President did, in fact, work hard to get where he is.

      And I’m not trying to dispute that; I’m sure that it took far more than just showing up to end up as President of the United States.  I’m just pointing out that you’re taking as unchallengable fact something that is, in actuality, a challengeable assertion.  People certainly don’t seem to have trouble claiming that George W. Bush didn’t deserve the job, only got it because of connections, etcetera.Report

      • BSK in reply to DensityDuck says:

        I think the issue is that people assume these positions reflexively.  No one thought Bush was unddeserving because of his race.  They thought it because of actual evidence specific to him.  Whether this evidence actually supported the position is another question.  The problem becomes a racialized one when the “evidence” is his race.  Is it possible that Obama didn’t work hard and/or benefited from programs designed to aid racial minorities (it is certainly possible to both work hard AND benefit from such programs)?  Absolutely.  Is assuming this is the case solely or primarly because of his race an appropriate way to substatiate such a claim?  Hardly.Report

      • greginak in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Bush may not be the best example for you to use since he dad was also prez. That may actually have helped him get where he did.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to greginak says:

          *sigh* just like Obama had tokenism helping him along every step of the way.

          See how stupid this conversation gets?  This is why I *didn’t* want to get into a discussion of Who Deserves What.  My intent was to say “hey, this Undisputed Fact you’re pointing to is actually an assumption, be careful about basing your statements on Undisputed Facts like that”.Report

    • Isn’t that also the case when a minority is willing to embrace a substantial number of conservative policy positions? (E.g., Herman Cain, Mark Rubio.)Report

      • Is what also the case?Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

          …[W]e are lead to believe that if only (some) minorities would work harder, they’d be better off. Yet in the most prominent example imaginable of a minority working hard and ending up better off (Obama), many Conservatives denounce him implicitly (although occasionally explicitly, as with the “Where are his grades?!?” nonsense) as the beneficiary of undeserved advantages throughout his development, both academically and then politically. … [¶] The only time this narrative stops is when the minority in question takes conservative positions politically.

          Isn’t that also the case when a minority is willing to embrace a substantial number of conservative policy positions? (E.g., Herman Cain, Mark Rubio. Also, in a different way, Clarence Thomas.)

          My point is that it’s the adherence to a particular constellation of policy positions, rather than an endorsement of a particular set of politicians, which endears a public figure to conservatives. In other words — isn’t it more likely the case that conservative people like other conservative people because of a perception of a shared ideological affinity, and dislike dislike people who are liberal because of a perception of a dissonance on policy preferences?

          Isn’t that at least a significant part of the tribalism you’re criticizing?Report

          • I think I must be either interpreting badly or writing badly (OR BOTH!) because I’m still not sure I follow. What I was trying to say is that the only time the dueling narratives (either they’re lazy or they’re the beneficiary of unfairly gotten opportunities) is when that minority is also a conservative. So whereas Obama was somebody who benefitted from unfairly gotten opportunities, Clarence Thomas worked himself up from nothing to become a Supreme Court justice.

            As for their being a difference between supporting particular candidates and supporting particular positions, I tend to think those go hand-in-hand.

            So are we saying the same thing and I’m just dense?


  3. greginak says:

    Engage coincidence mode. Over at noted liberal Radley Balko’s site he has a link to this: with his exclamations being “Dear Tennessee Tea Party What the hell are you doing?”

    If you don’t want to follow the  link it says some TP dudes in Tenn are

    “Its on of a list of the five legislative priorities presented to state legislators by several Tennessee tea parties, includes a proposal to eliminate from history books references to the Founding Fathers owning slaves or encroaching on Native American lands, originally reported by a Memphis newspaper.

    We talked to Tea Party leader Hal Rounds Wednesday. He described the way slavery is taught now as race-baiting. When asked if kids are walking out of school thinking our founding fathers were evil, he said “(The kids) are being taught (the Founding Fathers) were hypocrites and slave owners and part of the teachings about slavery was that it was inherently cruel.”

    So this might be one of those things liberals see, and can find weekly if not more often, that suggest some people in this country have a wee bit of blind spot around race, tend to be less then sensitive about race or how they are perceived. I also realise this is one of those “facts” then Stillwater noted tend to be less then useful in these discussions.Report

    • BSK in reply to greginak says:

      “…noted liberal Radley Balko’s site…”  Did you mean libertarian?  Balko is hardly a liberal and is certainly not “noted” as such.  And I say this as an admirer.Report

      • Nob Akimoto in reply to BSK says:

        I think he’s being sarcastic in his use of “liberal”.Report

      • greginak in reply to BSK says:

        Indeed i was engaging in the practice of sarcasm. When liberal types point out egregious stupid things said or done that look a lot like things we would call racism conservatives often talk about liberal bias or yell at the media. Yet here is Balko, correctly, pointing out this bit of stupid.


    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to greginak says:

      “(The kids) are being taught (the Founding Fathers) were hypocrites and slave owners and part of the teachings about slavery was that it was inherently cruel.”


      Uh, yeah.  I think I’m okay with that being one of the teachings about slavery.Report

      • Will H. in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

        I would expect for you to be more discerning than that.
        From what I remember (and I don’t remember the different terms), there were three different classes of persons; the lowest of which were not Christian, the next up the rung was Christian, and the others had access to the courts. The terms of servitude (ie duration of service) was also different between those three classes.
        In fact, it was on such terms of servitude that many came to the New World, to undertake that, as a debt, willingly.

        History is not “Roots.” Those Alex Haley novels depict a sub-set of history.

        Such comments also give rise to the issues of “wage slavery,” et al.

        Before painting with so broad a brush, terms should be defined.

        And “evil” is nothing other than loaded language. To state the matter as “regressive” would be sufficient.

        As an aside (and because this is a related matter), I will say that I grew up in the State of New Mexico, which has a history much longer than the English colonies. Santa Fe was on its second Governor’s Mansion by the time the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
        Now, New Mexico is 9% Indian (registered members) by population. It is the ancient home of the Pueblo. My mother is Pueblo, though I am not a registered member (a “lone wolf”).
        For an outsider, New Mexico is probably best understood by its relation to Arizona. NM = cultured; Ariz. = wild. NM = peaceful; Ariz. = rowdy. Etc. Historically, Arizona is the place that outlaws from New Mexico would be banished to.
        Slavery was practiced there more by the raiding tribes and the Spaniards. The Spaniards changed things, and for the worse.
        There is still a lot of racism there, but it’s more about Mexicans & Indians than Blacks & Whites. I can relate to what BlaiseP was writing the other day about tribalism and prejudice. My own has different names, but it’s pretty much the same otherwise.
        What I’m getting to is that in places like Corpus Christi, you see written in ads in the newspaper: BONA, which means, “bi-lingual only need apply;” and they really don’t care if you were in French Club in high school.
        The whole issue of illegal immigration really isn’t one of racism to those people on those border states. In a place that’s 47% Hispanic and 36% White, how is it that keeping illegal immigrants out is about racism?
        In Florida, I saw a diverse Hispanic community for the first time. Up until then, “Hispanic” always meant “Mexican” to me. I can tell you that the people from Cuba, Brazil, El Salvador, and the Island nations have a fairly “conservative” view on immigration policy.

        I guess what I’m trying to say comes down to two points:
        1). Slavery, like anything else, can be quite brutal when the rules are that there are no rules; and
        2). “Racism” isn’t always about race.

        I think that people are more connected by class than race anyway.Report

        • Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

          On second reading, it appears as if that might have come across as unduly harsh.
          I apologize if so.
          Let me re-state the matter:

          I wear glasses.
          On occasion, due to the continued deterioration of my eyesight, I need to get new glasses.
          On those occasions when I do, the new glasses give my vision a much sharper focus than previously.
          However, to discount all previous experience due to the renewed sharpness of vision would be imprudent.Report

  4. DensityDuck says:

    So if I read your post correctly…

    *Liberals and conservatives both can be accused of interpreting facts (historical occurences, statements, and actions) to support their preferred view of racism/nonracism in themselves and in the other.

    *However, conservatives are wrong.

    “[I]f you aren’t inclined to believe that race is central driving force in conservative politics in American post-CRA then you won’t be inclined to believe that any particular rhetorical tool (even those that are prima facie racist!) is an appeal to racism.”

    When Tom Van Dyke does stuff like this you yell at him.Report

    • J.L. Wall in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Actually, about the quotation in the PS — did you mean to say, “race is a central driving force,” or, “race is the central driving force”?  (To avoid my own potential ambiguity, I meant this for Stillwater, not DD.)Report

    • Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Colorblind racists are wrong. because they’re lying to themselves about how racist they are.

      SOME conservatives have the opinion that any black who got some place better than them “probably got it due to affirmative action.” This is actually code for: “I don’t think that blacks and whites have equal odds of being better than me. If he’s black, he doesn’t deserve to get a better job than me, and anything that doesn’t get me that job is pure rank favoritism.”

      Now, that may be true, or it might be untrue (it’s got a lot more merit in say the rap business, which is about image, than in something like NASA).


      • Burt Likko in reply to Kim says:

        Well, what’s a conservative to do, then? Let’s say, hypothetically, that I were to believe the following things to be true (in reality, I do not believe nearly any of the following):

        • Because we cannot be sure when “personhood” begins, the morally cautious and appropriate thing to do is to restrict abortion so as to minimize the possibility of murdering human beings.
        • The Second Iraq War and the Afghanistan War were justified by our reasonable understanding of facts at the time those wars were initiated, and having started those wars and displaced the former civil governments of those nations, our subsequent prolonged pacification and nation-building exercises that followed were moral imperatives.
        • High individual and corporate income tax rates stifle economic growth by trapping money that otherwise would be invested in the economy, and lower individual and corporate income tax rates encourage by freeing that money up for investment. Therefore, a lower tax rate for the “wealthy” is ultimately beneficial for everyone because of the economic stimulus that follows from such a policy.
        • Marriage is a critical social institution to our culture, and we should be very cautious and sensitive about legally altering how it works. Alternative legal  institutions like domestic partnerships or civil unions are more than sufficient to accomodate same-sex couples who wish legal assistance in structuring their lives.
        • The Framers of the Constitution intended that, and it would today be beneficial to our society as a whole if, nearly every citizen participated in a meaningful religious institution within their respective communities, and take to heart the teachings of their religoius faiths. This is particularly true with respect to the culturally dominant religion of Christianity, because this discourages criminal behavior, becomes a cultural glue establishing a common moral ground upon which people may consider the issues of the day, encourages the building of strong communities, and minimizes the need for governmentally-provided social welfare programs because church groups will provide for their own members who fall on hard times; therefore, the government may appropriately and should encourage citizens to participate in religious activities.
        • Citizens of other nations who come to the United States without appropriate legal documentation have violated the law and should be treated the same way we treat anyone else who violates our law, with criminal punishment. Citizens of other nations who come here and engage in employment, and the employers who pay them, are also violating the criminal law and evading the payment of taxes. Public policies should be structured to discourage such behavior and punitive responses to these violations of law are appropriate.
        • Human sexual behavior contains an inherent moral dimension that is appropriately regulable by the state, and because heterosexual activity contains an inherent possibility of the creation of new human life, the state should encourage that sort of sexual behavior while discouraging other sorts of sexual behavior.
        • Social welfare programs do not eliminate poverty or other ill effects of poverty. At best, they ameliorate the worst effects of poverty, and at worst, they perpetuate them. Too many people have become dependent upon social welfare as a basic means of sustenance and survival, at a great expense to the public fisc.
        • While benevolently intended, recent health care reform legislation will produce a significant financial burden on the government, not appreciably reduce the expense of private medical insurance, not increase either the quantity or quality of health care received by our citizens, and will constrain the options available to the health care and heath insurance markets to meet demand for those services.

        Again, I don’t personally believe the bulk of those things, if any of them, but let’s say that hypothetically I did. That would put me pretty much in lock step alignment with the standard public policy positions of movement conservatives, wouldn’t it?

        And having fallen into lock step with the movement conservatives, would I then be, by definition, a racist? And worse, I believe each of those positions described above is color blind — and so now not only am I a racist, but I’ve blinded myself to my own racism. How do I escape that — because remember, I sincerely believe that I’ve adopted each of those public policy positions to be, in good faith, superior to the “liberal” alternatives.Report

        • David in reply to Burt Likko says:

          In the interest of brevity, I shall number my responses to correspond to your positions in order.

          1. It may be morally cautious, but when combined with policies that historically disadvantage the minority poor, the substandard education given to the minority poor regarding birth control methods and responsible sexual activity, and the urge to eliminate programs intended to assist those who are raising children under disadvantaged circumstances, it could be said that the overall reproductive policies of the conservatives disadvantage the minority poor.

          2. I shall leave the simple comment that you Yanks certainly have a way of making messes without any plan to clean up after yourselves.

          3. The obvious answer is that taxes must, by any measure, flow into the economy. Government assistance program money is rarely if ever saved by the recipients, because it tends to be spent upon such necessities as food, clothing, and housing in ways that the investment income is not. Further, the economic record shows that the overwhelming effect of tax cuts targeted to the wealthy travels away from minorities and concentrates wealth in the hands of the upper class, in which racial minorities are highly underrepresented. Thus your position is the perpetuation of a flawed system, and an intent to perpetuate a racially flawed system must be seen as racist.

          4. I believe you Yanks already did the “separate but equal” nonsense in regard to your racial minorities? Why would such bigotry be acceptable in dealing with your minorities of sexual preference?

          5. This would seem to be contradicted by your own constitutional document, would it not?

          6. In all countries of the world, there is a sovereign right to limit and regulate emigration. When one violates the law in this manner, one ought to expect consequences. The European states have a compact within the European Union in this regard, but the EU is much looser a confederacy than your collection of American States, who have given up their sovereignty to your national government. Personally, I do not disagree with laws to punish both those who emigrate outside of legal channels and laws that punish employers who hire persons who lack legal right of residence, but that is your own argument to have. I will say that from my observations the fervor of your argument seems to have much more to do with the general pallor of those you consider “illegal” than with their actions in your country, and that this itself is troubling.

          7. I believe that your own courts have struck down laws in this regard, have they not? I also find it humourous that your psychological association currently assigns no pathology in certain sexual acts as occurring between two homosexual males or two homosexual females, but when the same acts are performed by a male and female together, your psychological association classifies them as sexually deviant. In any event, I would perhaps counter that what I do with my wife or husband, or consenting partner(s) of legal age in the privacy of my bedroom or any other nonpublic room or place is none of the government’s damn business until someone is physically injured without consent or regard for the health of those participating, save perhaps for the late night noise complaints of persons renting nearby domiciles if the building is shared and the participants sufficiently expressive.

          8. I believe that the most appropriate response to this particular statement is [[citation needed]].

          9. As I understand it, you Yanks have been arguing this since your legislation was proposed. We here in the “green and pleasant land”, and our fellow-countrymen to your north, really can’t see what all the fuss is about. We have the system your liberals are trying to create, and it works exceedingly well with very little of the nightmare scenes your conservative party have painted. Meanwhile, there are plenty more nightmare scenes in your own country’s current system, not the least of which is the monetary bankrupting of any non-upper-class individual unfortunate enough to be afflicted with a recurrent or severe pathology.

          I invite your replies, please.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to David says:

            Yet again we see someone in this discussion confuse the pointing finger with the mountain.

            Likko’s question is whether it’s possible to believe any of these things for reasons other than racism.  He’s not asking about whether any of those specific things is truthful or reasonable.Report

            • Patrick Cahalan in reply to DensityDuck says:

              I think he sort of explicitly mentioned he doesn’t think that they’re all reasonable.

              You’re on a roll today, Duck.Report

            • David in reply to DensityDuck says:

              I apologize to Mr. Likko if offense was given. I was attempting to provide a rational counterargument to each of the points he articulated, fully aware that he states he does not personally believe them. For a few of them, I believe I can point to either racism or anti-homosexual as the most likely root cause of the belief. For others, the inanity of the belief must stand as its own counterargument.

              I will add that it is intriguing that again with the final point number 9, the policy itself that your conservatives argue for facially disadvantages only “the poor”, but it is in that demographic that your racial minorities are overwhelmingly represented, and therefore argumentation separating the intent to disadvantage “the poor” with the intent to disadvantage racial minorities must at the very least be subject to a very strict scrutiny lest it be used as a mere excuse for racially motivated behavior.Report

          • Burt Likko in reply to David says:

            I note that below, you dial back critique of the positions themselves. Density Duck correctly notes that I am asking whether such positions can originate from non-bigoted thought, rather than advocating those positions.

            Frankly, I believe that the bulk of those positions do indeed result from a thought process which I would acquit from the charge of bigotry of any sort; I do so without endorsing the positions themselves. The immigration and social welfare issues are the only ones that I can see relating to race directly. My impression is that particularly with immigration, the issue brings out a degree of racism that is indeed unpalatable; I see that less with respect to poverty and social welfare but I understand that the correlation is significant and I have opened myself to much discussion on that point recently, here on these very pages.

            Also, David, my reference to England’s green and pleasant land the other day was intended to be light-hearted. Your tone in response to that seems sour. My apologies if I gave offense. England is indeed a green and pleasant land, a nation for which I have immense respect, cultural affinity, and where I have always been pleased to visit.Report

            • David in reply to Burt Likko says:

              I believe the flaw in the logic for each of the positions is twofold.

              First, each of the points you raise fails to account for the counterargument of the other side. Once adopted, it must be maintained as a strict principle rather than a theory subject to testing and verification. None of the points that you presented for analysis save perhaps for the one concerning immigration and lawful enforcement thereby can absolve itself of countervailing data. The claimed effect of tax cuts for the richest demographic, to name an egregious example, is countermanded by at least a hundred years worth of data in your own country and by far more than that in my own nation’s dalliances with such foolery. Neighboring Ireland has also recently faced the point of economic ruin caused by allowing their tax system to be abused in such a manner by heavily monied interests, with predictable results.

              Secondly, each of your points must be arrived at and stopped at, because followed to their logical conclusion they fall apart. When one insists on a policy of restricting procreative options for the poor, and any such policy MUST be seen as targeting the poor and perhaps lower sectors of the middle class since the monied rich are amply able to fly wherever they need to or contract doctors willing to grant them services unavailable to the general public, then one must necessarily consider the point of whether this will improve or disadvantage the lives of the poor, and what “the poor” means. Likewise for taxation schemes that have the known, demonstrable effect of concentrating wealth in the hands of the monied rich; one must examine the question of who are the monied rich, and whether there is a racial disparity problem involved there.

              One can only hold these positions, and not be a racist, if one determines to be willfully ignorant and refuses to fully analyze the position. Yet willfull ignorance of the logical conclusion of the position is a form of denial at best, as there must be some mental recognition of the consequentials of the position anyways. It is not a great leap to reach from the point that a policy disadvantages the poor (which I would argue is already a form of bigotry, since even if disadvantaging the poor is somehow race-neutral it is certainly bigoted towards those who are born with less resources) to the realization that the policy disadvantages the poor and that racial minorities are overrepresented in the poor.

              Willfull ignorance is not something that can abide in logic. One can be deliberate and open, or one can be in denial.Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to David says:

                I believe we are talking past one another. The racism which you argue is inherent in conservative policies is a racism of outcome rather than a racism of intent. I propose to acquit (some) conservatives of racism of intent. It appears to me that you propose to convict (most) conservatives of racism of outcome.Report

              • David in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Follow my logic here if you will.

                Step 1: Conservatives of the past, with or without intent, created policies with a verified racist outcome.

                Step 2: Conservatives now believe in the same policies continuing.

                Step 3: Conservatives now propose, intentionally, to continue policies that are known to produce a racist outcome.

                How can step 3, the intent to produce a racist outcome, not be racist intent?Report

              • David in reply to David says:

                I can only think of one alternative which I hesitate to voice here. That is that the conservatives of the American States today are guilty perhaps not of deliberate racism, but of the insanity of somehow expecting the same behavior to produce different results.Report

              • Mark Thompson in reply to David says:

                There is another possibility, though: conservatives, whether as a group or individually, may simply view concern about disparate racial impact as a lower priority value than a given other value.

                I emphasize the word “may” because it seems both unproven and unproveable outside of taking the line of questioning I suggested to Stillwater above, and even then I’m not at all certain that it is likely to yield a definitive understanding here one way or another.Report

              • David in reply to David says:

                I sincerely despair of the answer, but what value can be so important as to displace or absolve an intent to cause disparate harm on the basis of racial identity or another quality (such as sexual preference)?Report

              • Will Truman in reply to David says:

                The “intent” is in question. We’re talking about policies that have the result of disproportionally disfavoring minorities. For some this disfavoring could be the intent, but that it has that result does not mean that was its specific intent.

                If Joe supports making cuts on food stamps because he believes in limited government, and cutting food stamps disproportionately affects minorities… then that is a result, but not the intent, of Joe’s policy preference.

                That’s what we’re talking about here.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to David says:

                David, can you at least admit that there’s a difference between accepting a disparate impact and making it a specific policy goal?Report

              • David in reply to David says:

                Mr Truman,

                If one knows that “limited government” is going to produce a disparate negative impact upon racial minorities, and yet holds that it should happen anyways, does that not necessarily mean the perpetuation of an unjust system? Does it not necessarily mean that “limited government” cannot truly be a virtue?

                The underlying premise is faulty. If one holds that limited government is a virtue despite ample evidence to the contrary, we are back to my position: that intent to perpetuate a system of injustice is intent to perpetuate injustice.

                Mr. Densityduck,

                I prefer to ask you the question of why a disparate racial impact of significant proportion sufficient to be unaccountable for by random chance should ever be an allowable effect of a policy, whether it be a “mere” side effect or the policy’s central purpose?

                Again, I assign no malice to the initial holders of a policy who can be theoretically left blameless for unintended consequences of their own bad judgement or lack of foresight, though your history is replete with persons who clearly knew and intended that their policies have disparate impact based on racial background. To perpetuate policies when the unintended consequences are revealed must however be seen as intending all known consequences to continue.

                Were we not just discussing the phrases “limited government” and “state’s rights” as a form of “dog whistle” to your racist groups a few days ago? May that not have relevance in this discussion too?Report

              • David in reply to David says:

                I may be opening up a nasty topic here, and if so I apologize, but it has come to my mind in contemplating Mr. Thompson’s comment to respond thusly:

                Were not the holdouts in South African Apartheid convinced that the “value” of their perceived orderly society was a greater value than the granting of human rights to the politically repressed members of the majority race of the country?Report

              • James Hanley in reply to David says:

                If one knows that “limited government” is going to produce a disparate negative impact upon racial minorities, and yet holds that it should happen anyways, does that not necessarily mean the perpetuation of an unjust system?

                You assume that conservatives “know” that.  That’s a false assumption.  They don’t believe it’s a true statement.  Liberals do believe it’s a true statement, but that doesn’t make it so, and it is at least arguable.

                E.g., A more limited government solution to housing for the poor is vouchers rather than housing projects.  Guess which has more of a disparate negative impact on racial minorities.

                The war on drugs is the opposite of limited government (of course the conservatives seem not to realize that, unfortunately, but occasionally I manage to get one to realize it), and it has disparate negative impact on racial minorities; limiting government would help them.

                Government monopolized schools in inner cities have disparate negative impact on racial minorities, which is why so many of them support vouchers, which is a more limited form of government.

                Now I’m not asking you to agree with the claims in each of these.  My point is only that they are plausible arguments, and as such they undermine the claim that “we,” and particularly conservatives, “know” that limited government hurts racial minorities.  So pushing policies for more limited government is not necessarily racist as you imply, even if the conservatives do turn out to be wrong.Report

              • David in reply to David says:

                I am not sure that all of your premises follow, Mr. Hanley.

                Another of your compatriots in another thread put forth a very coherent that voucher programs produce housing very similar to government-created housing, in that your “Section 8” voucher program encourages predatory housing builders to craft highly substandard housing with the purpose of attracting voucher holders as the primary residents. It would seem that neither of these programs is truly effective, because the housing issue is a part of larger problems of racial and social disparity. Is this a fair assessment?

                You admit that your government’s war on drug users is ineffective and not a representation of a limited governmental approach. It would seem that it is an approach favored by your conservative parties, however, with the intent to continue either because of or despite the disparate racial impact, correct?

                From earlier discussions, again, it would seem that the problems facing governmentally sponsored schools in your urban areas lacking for funding is as much a result of monied racial nonminorities refusing to support those schools and ensuring that their children do not need to participate. Your vouchers approach the idea of a lottery, giving only a few students the chance for placement elsewhere, rather than a solution that will change the issue of the larger school quality. Given that your private schools have the ability to reject schools on the basis of quotas, available seats, and testing scores, one wonders as well how the students disadvantaged by neglect of your public school system for years will manage to enter the schools even if they should be so lucky as to win a tuition assistance lottery.

                And even if you should give tuition vouchers to every single student, who will create schools for them? How will the quality be assessed? How many private schools must be created to make up for the closure of the public edifice, and how many seats will each have before telling the rest of the students that they must simply find a new school because there is no more room? And as proven by your country’s sad history, there will undoubtedly be those schools crafted by monied interests to ensure that their children need mingle with no racial minorities, and have access to the finest of equipment and most credentialed of teachers, whether or not your voucher programme exists. The proposed solution of vouchers is a sham, and can be nothing else.

                I cannot say that any of your proposed examples is valid. The underlying assumption of each seems quite suspect.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to David says:

                If one knows that “limited government” is going to produce a disparate negative impact upon racial minorities, and yet holds that it should happen anyways, does that not necessarily mean the perpetuation of an unjust system? Does it not necessarily mean that “limited government” cannot truly be a virtue?

                Only if one considers it unjust. Joe’s conception of justice may be that taking his money and giving it to anybody else, regardless of the race of the recipient, is unjust. That a disproportionate amount of his money will end up going to minorities may not be a part of his thinking at all (he may be a minority himself).

                We can argue that Joe’s conception of justice is wrong. We can argue that it’s counterproductive. But your line of thinking is that Joe’s conception of justice, and the policy prescriptions that match it, are inherently racist – the same as if he simply wanted to restrict minorities (and only minorities) from government benefits. That is a very different statement to make about intent.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to David says:


                By getting down into the weeds of the policies you miss the point.  The point is that the more government intensive programs are not necessarily better for racial minorities compared to the less government intensive ones.  Even if the outcome of, say, section 8 is the same as the more “big government” program of housing projects, then supporting housing vouchers does not necessarily produce a worse outcome, insofar as racial disparity goes.

                But I will mention just a couple things on housing.  One, living in a shoddily built single-family dwelling  is a helluva improvement over living in a housing project that has the atmosphere of a prison camp.  Second, much of the choice of cheaply built housing is the voucher users’, as they prefer to have cheaper housing, leaving more of their other income left over for other things, rather than to use the vouchers to improve their housing.  That is, their indirectly using the housing vouchers for food and clothing, rather than housing.  They’re being very rational, given their preferences, and most of the criticism comes from people who are imputing their own preferences to those of the voucher users.  If only higher quality housing at a higher price was available, the housing voucher user might not actually be made better off in their own subjective valuation.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to David says:

                There is no principle that merely being guided by high-level principle such as ‘limited government’ means that one cannot be implicated by racism by holding strictly to that principle in all cases.  And David’s contention was not that, in general, more government will have a a positive relative impact on minorities.  his view is that, in certain cases, holding a particular position in light of evidence that it will result in a disparate negative impact amouts to a racism of intent.  Merely because that position would follow from a preference for “limited government” does not alter this fact.  It doesn’t need to be measured on a ideology-level basis, where we try to say that, overall preference for limited government doesn’t necessarily result in racist policies.  As a result of that preference a person can hold a position the holding of which (in David’s view) would imply a racism of intent, and the mere fact of the general preference for limited government doesn’t mean the position is not racist in that way.

                This does rely not just on there being a disparate impact that, if someone were aware of it, they would have to intend for it to come about in order to hold the position, but also that the evidence for that be clear enough that a reasonable person would recognize it and ts implication.  That can be tussled over in given cases, but that seems to be the condition on which David is positing his claim, so it doesn’t appear to be a problem for his contention.

                In the event, the issue here was not the entire group of people who advocate for limited government, but rather conservatives, who frequently do.  However, generally, conservatives have not always hewed to this preference, and one of the cases in which they have not is on one of the issues given by James as one where limited government would benefit minorities: the War on Drugs.  This is a failure to even be consistent with a stated preference (and remember, the standard is that one ought to break with a general preference when being consistent will lead one to advocate a policy which there is clear evidence that suggests would have a disparate impact) in a case where there is clear evidence that doing so would actually allow them to avoid a policy which clear evidence suggests has a disparate impact.  Instead, they abandon a preference stated elsewhere here.  This seems rather damning of the kind of racism of intent that David is talking about (which I’m not sure I would subscribe to as racism as we usually understand it, but  I’m also not foreclosed against calling it racism).Report

              • David in reply to David says:

                Mr. Drew, I thank you. You have articulated the position I am taking quite well.

                I would like to add that the question of intent to cause a racist outcome is indeed relevant. The entire debate seems to revolve around the question of whether or not your conservative party’s adherents actively carry “racist intent”, or as Mr. Stillwater argues below:

                The conservative argues that demonstrating racist intent is necessary for the accusation to have merit.

                The reason the argument is cyclical is that this can manifest in a number of ways. An honest racist will tell you that they are racist. A dishonest racist will tell you that they are not racist in intent but will nevertheless support policies with a known or anticipated racist outcome. A racist in denial will also insist that they lack racist intent and may state despite evidence to the contrary that their policy is not racist in outcome, going so far as to demonstrate the willfull ignorance that I admonished against earlier.

                A final category of conservative may simply not have fully analyzed their policies or the available data. Once presented with the full analysis and data they must however be reverted at best to the final “racist in denial” column unless their views alter accordingly.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to David says:


                Intent matters. Pointing out that a policy will have a detrimental effect on minorities in large numbers is fair, regardless of whether the person that is the motivation behind the policy.

                It’s like arguing, “You realize that by opposing going to war in Iraq, you are leaving Iraqis in the hands of Saddam Hussein.”

                Versus arguing, “You are a Saddam Hussein sympathizer.”Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to David says:

                The status quo matters.  I’d have a harder time calling racist someone who opposed the establishment of welfare on the argument that it would harm incentive to work than I would someone who advocated cutting welfare on the same argument.  One is opposing an action, the other is proposing one.

                For the same reason, I’d have a hard time saying that being against an invasion and overthrow amounts to a stance for some dictator against his people, whereas one who argues for intervention to install a dictator (our old m.o.) is most certainly a sympathizer of such a dictator.

                I’d also say that the notion that a people will be benefitted by the decision to bring modern warfare to its land in the aim of deposing their oppressor must face a higher burden of proof than the notion that stopping giving people free money will actually help them more than hurting them.  In fact I’m not sure we could ever say that a reasonable person should be expected to concede that violently attacking a country is obviously in its best interests, no matter how heinous a dictator is deposed.  You never know how a war will turn out.  And I’m not saying it’s necessarily ever going to be so clear that cutting assistance to the poor will hurt minorities disproportionately that a reasonable person must concede it.  That was merely the condition on which David’s point relied, and I was simply articulating it.

                For that matter, as i said, I’m not even wedded to David’s idea that in cases where this condition is met, that the attitude this reveals would be called racism, to say nothing of racism of intent.  That’s his contention; I am undecided about that.  I think racism means something a bit different here than it does in England; it’s bad there (I assume), but I just have a feeling it’s a bit more charged here.  But I also don’t reject the idea.  but it needs to be considered in the American context, and I think we have to keep in mind that he is making it from within the British experience. (I hope you don’t regard that as an unfair consideration, David, but I think it’s undeniable that words with the same meaning have different strengths of valence in the different cultures given the history, etc.).Report

              • David in reply to David says:

                Please delete the preceding as a result of a comment not submitting correctly. Thank you.Report

              • Will H. in reply to David says:

                This is a causation argument.
                Unfortunately, it assigns culpability to prevailing conditions (as “inherently racist”) while neglecting the underlying chain of causation.

                The logical effect would be to break the chain of causation, and not to disavow the policies (unless the policies themselves can be shown to be clearly racist).

                Seriously, I could use this same line of thought to “prove” that all Jews must necessary make rock n’ roll.

                Step 1: Paul Stanley, Leslie West, and Scott Ian, with intent, created policies with a verified rock ‘n roll outcome.

                Step 2: Other Jews now listen to the same rock ‘n roll blasting.

                Step 3: Many Jews now propose, intentionally, to continue jamming that is known to produce a rock ‘n roll outcome.

                Conclusion: All Jews are therefore rock ‘n roll.Report

        • Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

          I’m not calling all that racist. seriously, I’m not.

          and little enough of that falls within normal conservative guidelines.

          1) Given the instance of prohibition, and the dramatic quality of life decrease suffered by single parents, one should take all steps possible to remove the odds of abortion. This means birth control — free easy and accessible, and the morning after pill. Also, to the extent society can be changed, it should.

          3) This implies a high tariff on sending money outside the country to invest. At least if you’re going to be chauvinistic about the economy, which is appropriate, because if you’re going to say “Yay, China having a growing economy is FAB”… I can at least make a decent argument that we ought to tax it.

          6) again, war on drugs and prohibition (also chinese exclusion act). I don’t object to finding a conservative answer to things, but is it too much to ask for conservatives to actually reference historical facts?

          8) Nu? so go with what works. Give out free moneyz to blacks and other poor folk. It worked LAST time, didn’t it? Conservative solutions to real problems! If only conservatives would try them!Report

    • Stillwater in reply to DensityDuck says:

      The second sentence you quoted is from the end-note. The sentences that are relevant are from  the last paragraph: The liberal is making an empirical and contingent claim that is justified by relevant evidence:  that movement conservatism is motivated by racial resentment. The conservative is making an a priori and necessary claim: that any and all evidence provided by the liberal only re-confirms that conservatives aren’t racists. And that fundamentally begs the question.

      The issue I’m addressing here isn’t a dispute over ‘the facts’ per se. It’s about one type of argument employed by conservatives in resolving the debate about facts, one which appears to be irrefutable. And if it is irrefutable – that is, if there is no evidence could sustain the charge of racism or racist rhetoric – then this type of response isn’t sufficient to counter the liberal’s charge of racism since it fundamentally begs the question at hand.


      • DensityDuck in reply to Stillwater says:

        I think I may have quoted the wrong sentence to get my point across. 

        My point being that one of the things I see in your post is “I’m not going to present any factual evidence that conservatives are racist, because conservatives believe that they aren’t racist and will therefore declare that my facts aren’t actually facts”.  This declaration of “you’ll just say my facts aren’t facts” is something that TVD does, and he is vilified for doing it.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Agreed about that, which is why I said it’s a pretty daunting task. And what you say here is certainly a fair criticism of what I wrote. But – and I don’t want this to sound too confrontational – I also think it misses the point I’m trying to make. I’m intentionally skipping over the empirical cases because – as I wrote in the post – doing so begs the question against my conservative interlocutor. He rejects that my evidence of racism as being question-begging. He further argues that my inclination to see racist language where none exists is evidence that I’m the racist (or racialist). So the topic in the post amounts to an answer to the following question: since both sides of the debate think their view of the ‘facts’ is legitimate and justified, but those ‘facts’ are contradictory, what could resolve the debate? My answer is that the conservative has placed a burden on the liberal which cannot in principle be met, since (for the conservative) there is in principle no evidence (no facts) which could sustain the liberals beliefs. That not only begs the empirical question of racism in conservative politics, but it presupposes that such racism is not even possible.


          • DensityDuck in reply to Stillwater says:

            It seems to me, though, that trying to start making conclusions about motives and personalities that are not based on objectively-verifiable evidence is a notion that has some nasty precedents.  I’m thinking House Un-American Activities Committee, here.Report

            • Stillwater in reply to DensityDuck says:

              Interestingly, it’s not the liberal who invokes intentions as a condition here, it’s the conservative who’s challenging the liberal’s accusations. The conservative argues that demonstrating racist intent is necessary for the accusation to have merit. The liberal, on the other hand, just looks at the prima facie evidence – the rhetoric, the policies, the history – and concludes that (some) conservatives are racist and motivated by racial resentment.

              Psychological intent only surfaces (well, usually) as a response to the liberal challenge. And the way the argument goes, it seems to me, is that attributing racist motives to conservatives is an inference to the best explanation of the rhetoric and policies (some) conservatives adopt. The conservative then denies racist motives (or more precisely, the truth of the accusation) by challenging the liberal to provide evidence that cannot in principle be met. Report

              • Still: I think you’re on to something both here and with the OP.  I’m wondering if maybe this speaks to a more effective way of addressing these types of issues in discussions with conservatives.  In other words, rather than saying “your worldview is based on race,” or even the much less personal “this policy that you support is racist,” maybe the more effective way is to instead approach it by first making arguments unlikely to be interpreted directly as accusations of racism.  In other words, start by either stating “these policies you support disproportionately hurt racial minorities,” or asking the leading question “are you aware that these policies all disproportionately hurt racial minorities?”  Typically the facts on these types of things are close to indisputable, and I think most conservatives would even go so far as acknowledging these effects, maybe with an excuse or justification, but nonetheless at least acknowledging that yes, the policy the conservative advocates will disproportionately be borne by racial minorities.  This can then be followed up with a question along the lines of “are you concerned about that effect, regardless of whether that concern is sufficient to override your preference for the policy?”

                I honestly know not how most conservatives would answer this last question.  But if the answer is a “no,” then I think at that point you can say something to the effect of “that lack of concern is why I think this policy is racist.”  If the answer is a “yes,” then obviously further inquiry is warranted, to wit: “why does that concern fail to override your preference?” or “Is there a way of addressing both the problem that your preference hopes to solve without disproportionately affecting racial minorities?” Etc., etc.Report

              • To some extent, though, every policy is going to affect different classes of people differently. I’m relatively certain that those who propose policies that will disproportionately affect minorities are aware of it (I am aware of it when I support such policies).

                “Are you concerned about the racial implications, even if not to change your policy preference?”

                “Sure I am, but we cannot discount any and all policies that would disproportionately affect minorities.”

                Well, such a response, while reasonable on its face, could easily be met with skepticism. They’re choosing the policy anyway, so their concern is apparently negligible. And, of course, that’s likely what the conservative would say even if, in their heart of hearts, their concern truly were negligible or completely non-existent.

                I find it hard to nail down any real disagreement with the OP, except that the conclusion to my mind is that it creates insurmountable obstacles to any sort of mutual understanding. On the one hand, it is not even a question to me as to whether Republicans have made plays on racial imagery and race to further their electoral goals. On the other, the “proof” I would apply in coming to that conclusion could be applied to virtually any policy preference that doesn’t favor minorities (because, if it doesn’t favor them, then it almost certainly disfavors them if it affects them at all). Whether intended or not, that can create an atmosphere where accusations of racism are summarily dismissed rather than met with any sort of introspection.

                At the end of the day, we’re trying to discern what’s happening in closed-door meetings, we’re trying to extrapolate bits that we hear (what some audience-person says, a comment by Lee Atwater) and applying it broadly or we’re simply trying to read minds. We can look at the overall body of evidence, but it’s far from clear to me that there is any universal standard of conviction that we can really apply.

                This is ultimately why I have historically ended up staying out of racial discussions. Including those that I am on the “correct” side of.Report

              • Will – just to be clear, I’m not disagreeing with Still’s OP.  To the contrary, I think I probably agree with it.  I’m just wondering whether there’s a way of trying to discuss the issue in a more constructive way that enables conservatives to better understand why liberals view conservatives the way they do (and, for that matter, vice versa).Report

              • Oh, I understand. My post from yesterday runs into the same sort of problem I mentioned with yours. Truthfully, I think both of our lines of questioning are better than a lot of what we are getting.

                The only thing I would change on your line is changing “Are you concerned about the disparate impact?” to a more open-ended “What are your thoughts about the disparate impact?” and then maybe narrowing it to “Does it bother you?” if the answer to that isn’t included in their answer.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:


                They’re choosing the policy anyway, so their concern is apparently negligible. And, of course, that’s likely what the conservative would say even if, in their heart of hearts, their concern truly were negligible or completely non-existent.

                I think that gets really close to the central issue here. If conservatives want to justify certain policy preferences by appealing to a specific value hierarchy which prioritizes income over welfare (for example), then there is substantial room for discussion. But the argument I made in the OP implies (or at least suggests) that conservatives don’t want to get called out – so to speak – on their value hierarchy. I think that’s one of the problems here, of course. Another, at least from the conservatives pov I think, is justifying that value hierarchy.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Stillwater says:

                Huh. I think we’ve just moved farther apart.

                In my view, conservatives want it to be about the hierarchy or, more cynically, the illusion of it being about the hierarchy. Bumper stickers saying “Work Harder. Millions On Welfare Depend On You” they are making, in my view, a values-based argument. When they hold up a piece of paper saying that they are the 53% (and not like that *freeloading* 47%), the same applies.

                These are cheap bumper sticker slogans, but as far as I see the Republicans make it about the hierarchy above the table, and if they are making a race-based argument do that through the whistle (imagery of the black woman on welfare, the suggestion that this is a bigger problem in some communities rather than others, and so on).

                In my view, one of the big problems here (to look at the conservative side) is that someone whose true interest is the belief that welfare keeps people from working, and someone who is mostly just resentful of his perception that his tax money is going towards some (minority) Welfare Queen, that their arguments can sound rather similar. The latter group just maintains (or tries to) a plausible deniability and hide behind work ethic and so on.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Stillwater says:


                Your last graf here states exactly what the dog whistle is, and why there doesn’t even need to be a difference in the intent behind the words in a cases in which the same words are used but one may be a dog whistle and the other isn’t.  All that is necessary (in my view) is that the speaker be aware of and accepting of the likelihood that his words will be heard and appreciated by some in the latter way of the two you give – and in my view that is not incompatible with an actual reality in which the real intent of his words was the more ideas-based argument.  The hard version of the dog-whistle argument would be that any such argument where such understandings will occur is in fact a dog whistle, completely regardless even of the speaker’s awareness of those possible understandings, and that to have an expectation to be able to be free from accusations of dog whistling, a speaker needs to take all necessary active steps to become aware of what locutions may be understood that way (or even, in the strongest case, any which any audience may suspect of will be understood that way by some other audiences or audience members), and consciously avoid them.

                This of course can result in overly restrictive policing of dialogue by those who are sensitive to these things, but this is where the rubber meets the road in terms of having the courage of your convictions.  If you believe you have some truths to tell, then you should have thick enough skin to deal with the response of people who hear the truth as a dog whistle.  After all, it is they who are responding incorrectly.  (Which is not to say it may not be a dog whistle – the truth can be a dog whistle.  But you either feel justified in saying it because it’s the truth, or you don’t.  There’s no get-outta-dog-whistle-accusations-because-it’s-true card.  Your righteousness is its own reward.)  However, if you are less convinced that it is true – if it mere theorizing or speculation or assertion about the habits of “other people,” well then it makes sense that people are disuaded from saying them because of unpleasant reactions they might receive.  And it’s not a bad thing.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Stillwater says:


                I’m quite aware that it’s dogwhistling. I’m not defending the behavior. What I am saying, though, is that the above-board language they’re using is the hierarchy that Stillwater says (or seems to be saying) that they are running away from. Rather, the hierarchy is, in my view, central to the argument. Without it, you just have a racial argument. Conservatives (of any influence) tend to avoid that, so they lean on the hierarchy (or hide behind it, if you prefer).

                That’s my point.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Stillwater says:

                Wasn’t trying to lecture you there Will, nor suggest you lacked this understanding. I was just trying to reinforce the conceptual agreement I thought we’d reached last time, largely for others’ benefit.  I thought that last thought of yours was extremely well-observed and insightful and just wanted to point out how it underlays the basic idea of what it is people are talking about when they talk about a dog whistle, and why it can’t be understood to reside in the language itself.  “We” can’t hear the dog whistle with our analytic hearing – it only exists in the particular ideas of certain possibly non-existent hearers.  It’s just not inherent in the language.  It can’t be detected without a full understanding of the context in which it is uttered and heard, by all listeners.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                Mark, speaking for myself here, I think this comment is sort of the logical conclusion of the argument presented in the OP. If the main thesis holds, then the topic of racism in politics really ought to be about the advocacy of policies which disproportionately harm minorities. And for that discussion to have any merit, or for it to lead to any interesting resolution, some shared understanding of the evidence and some agreed-upon-facts has to be brought to the table. That requires conservatives to admit that liberals have at least a prima facie case justifying their accusations of racism. It doesn’t mean that liberals have a decisive case based exclusively on the prime facie evidence.

                But part of the problem here, it seems to me, is that conservatives would be very reluctant to present an affirmative argument for prioritizing certain values which justify policies which disproportionately harm minorities, even if those arguments were compelling.Report

              • But part of the problem here, it seems to me, is that conservatives would be very reluctant to present an affirmative argument for prioritizing certain values which justify policies which disproportionately harm minorities, even if those arguments were compelling.

                At first I was going to say that I’m not so certain about this.  But on further reflection, I think this is probably correct.  That actually makes it all the more productive to take the approach I’m suggesting, though, I think.

                Why?  Because I think it puts conservatives in the position of ultimately having to ponder more seriously where their policy preferences are coming from.  In other words, it likely forces a level of self-reflection that making an outright statement about racism does not.Report

              • David in reply to Stillwater says:

                The answer is staring you in the face.

                Conservatives are about racism and disenfranchisement.

                Don’t believe me? Look at the numbers game they are now playing. Conservative asshole governments in 15 states are now all doing the same thing today: they are severely reducing their “early voting” setups and introducing blockages deliberately designed to

                Why are they doing this? Because Earlv Voting allowed for more minorities to get to the polls and vote. In almost every state in 2008, exit polls showed that early-voting attendees tended to lean Democrat (Obama specifically) AND tended to be first-time voters, a good portion of which took advantage of at-poll voter registration.

                So what are the racist Republicans up to? Why, we can’t have actual suffrage. We have to eliminate at-poll registration. We have to have triplicate forms of photo ID or you can’t vote. And we have to make sure that the early-voting days, that allowed for workers who have odd hours and can’t get off work on election day, to manage to get to the polls.

                Pfeh. It’s like the mandatory-sentencing garbage and the war on drugs nonsense, which targets blacks and hispanics for disenfranchisement by upping penalties and trying to make as many predominantly minority-used drugs into felonies while leaving Marijuana and the prescription drugs more likely to be abused by rich whites as misdemeanors.

                Conservatives have racist intent. If someone tells you otherwise, they’re selling you a truckload of horse shit.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to David says:

                David, all of that may be true. And the case for that can certainly be made (in fact, you just made it!). But I also think it’s not true of lots of people who identify as conservative, and that it hinders rather than fosters dialogue. Along those lines, Burt and Will have been arguing for a separation between racist intent and racist outcome. They’re also arguing for a distinction within racist outcome, one in which non-racist values can justify a particular a policy which disproportionately effects minorities.That’s certainly a fair counter argument to some of the issues brought up in this thread. And at a minimum it represents a good-faith gesture towards answering the racist outcome challenge. It might even lead to more than that.


  5. James Hanley says:

    Nice post, Still.  I think you’ve done a good job of framing why the debate is so difficult to engage in productively.  Not quite sure about your conclusary (pre-postscript) paragraph; that one I’ll have to chew on before I dare say anything, and unfortunately (from my perspective, at least) I won’t have time to do any chewing today. I am glad that you took Mark and me up on this; even though you didn’t actually address what I originally had in mind, I think what you did was subtler and more thoughtful, and made me think about this in a way I hadn’t before.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

      Thanks, James. I look forward to your evisceration of my argument your comments.Report

      • BSK in reply to Stillwater says:

        I’ll eviscerate it right now for you.  It stinks.

        Happy now?

        Actually, I’m still making my way through and digesting it fully.  Thought-provoking, at the very least.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

        No promises, Still.  Someone recently commented (in response to Nob Akimoto, I think) that they sometimes didn’t respond because the ideas needed to be thought about until the thread was long past.  Your point about types of arguments is a bit outside my normal range, so I’m more inclined to ruminate than comment on it.  And if I do think of something to say, I’m far too much of a non-expert to even dream of trying to eviscerate anyone on such a topic.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

          James, I meant that comment in the friendliest of ways. If there’s any eviscerating to be done, it might as well be you. At least I’m used to it by now. 🙂  (Plus, BSK thinks he can refute me by  appealing to argumentus stinkius?  I think I deserve better than that!)

          But I disagree with your claim that you’re on uncertain ground here. The argument types I’m outlining are part of our popular culture, so their part of our cultural DNA. I don’t think there’s anything conceptually challenging about what I wrote. It’s just a description of some argument types, and the problems I see with them. So I’d love to hear your take on the OP.Report

  6. David says:

    The question can be raised, but the argument repeats often. From my observation it goes approximately in the following manner.

    Step 1: Liberal side brings forth facts and statistics arguing that a conservative program or policy, when applied historically, has resulted in a discrminatory or disproportionately negative effect upon minority racial populations.

    Step 2: Conservative side argues either that liberal side is using incomplete data, or changing the data, or misrepresenting the data. Conservative side also argues that while the net effect of the policy may have had a disproportionate negative impact upon racial minorities, the “intent” of the policy was not to have such an effect.

    Step 3: Conservative nevertheless argues that since the “intent” of the policy is neutral, the policy need not be changed.

    The accusation of massaged data is something that can be argued back and forth ad infinitum. The real problem is in explaining why, in those occasions where the data is quite clear about a negative effect that is disproportionately harsh upon racial minorities, conservatives still insist that the “intent” of the policy is race-neutral. It would seem logical that once the data have shown otherwise the program must be changed, else the intent of perpetuating a known-flawed system cannot be seen as anything other than racially motivated.

    Accusations of racism or sexism are not entirely clear, nor is the argument. There are fields in which women are underrepresented in many workforces. There is something to be said for the loss of even a certain percentage of women due to maternity or the decision to take a decade or two off from the workforce in order to be full-time parents. Likewise in the American States, there are lingering effects of previous discriminatory laws and practices and cultural training that persist to the present day according to a previous discussion. At the same time it seems very clear that your racial minorities are very underrepresented in certain higher-earning portions of your society and that this is not the result of random chance.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to David says:

      Isn’t “the intent of a policy is not negated by flawed execution” as much a liberal argument as a conservative one?Report

      • David in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Refusal to fix a known flawed policy, on the basis that the “intent” was not racist even though the results are racially discriminatory in practice?

        The initial mistake, of pursuing a policy intended to be neutral without race as an intent, I can allow for. The continued insistence that a such policy should remain unchanged when the claimed unintended consequences are amply revealed? That strains the bounds of imagination to the inevitable breaking point.Report

        • Patrick Cahalan in reply to David says:

          I think you’re conflating two things here.

          Can we accept without argument that both political persuasions are inclined to believe that their policies are in fact working?

          Can we accept without argument that both political persuasions are inclined to change their metrics (or, much more common, not have any to begin with) to indicate that their program as implemented is in fact succeeding, when either (in the first case) their own original proposed metric shows the opposite or (in the second case) a fairly reasonable if debatable metric is raised ex-post and is contended to be wrong?

          If we can accept these two things as being provisionally likely (if not universally true), then it is a given that in any particular case evidence of failure is going to be disregarded by either political party on some grounds in any given policy case.

          So, when the liberal shows that the conservative policy disproportionately affects the poor (and/or members of a particular racial category), the conservative disregarding this evidence is in fact them playing the crappy public policy debate card that both parties play.  In fact, this is probably where the conservative gets his or her gun-shy and contentious response to being accused of racism: because the liberal quite often brings this particular intent question in, as begged.

          The right answer, of course, is for both political parties to accept as part of their policy proposal an agreeable set of metrics for success or failure, and agree prior to the evaluation to stick by their mofreakin’ guns.  But this, of course, would require both parties to admit that they were wrong.Report

          • David in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            If I am not mistaken, your own courts have ruled repeatedly that a metric of any public policy that can be challenged in court is the presence of a disproportionate effect on your racial minorities.

            It would seem to me that proof thereof is therefore a valid subject of discussion. There was not a few days ago a long discussion over whether or not persons in your society were behaving in a racially motivated manner while attempting to hide their intentions from doing so. If the intentions are deliberately hidden, then the proof must necessarily follow from the results. Again, I can accept an initial mistake, in which the claim is made that a policy was not intended to have a disproportionately negative effect upon societal minorities. I cannot accept, once the proof is provided, that insistence not to change the policy to account for the unintended consequence is motivated by anything other than racism or in the case of homosexuals, sexual bigotry.Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to David says:

              “…your own courts have ruled repeatedly that a metric of any public policy that can be challenged in court is the presence of a disproportionate effect on your racial minorities.”

              They’ve ruled that it’s grounds for a lawsuit, not necessarily evidence of racism.  Some might call this a small distinction; others might say it’s the difference between pulling the trigger and hitting the target.Report

  7. crash says:

    The problem is that this area involves mental causation (e.g. “Newt’s racism was the cause, or the main cause, for saying X) and intent (“Newt said X b/c he intended to stir up racial animosity.”)

    These two kinds of claims are notoriously hard to “prove.” 

    Take a case where some stupid 20-year-old kid commits, say, a gay-bashing hate crime–along with his buddies, he beats up the openly gay kid in the neighborhood.  Now, we could construct a case where the 20-year old isn’t actually a homophobe.  Maybe he beat up the kid just to join in with his friends.  Maybe he had no “intent” to beat up a gay person.  Maybe homophobia wasn’t the main cause.   

    1.  Sometimes conclusions about intent are just inferences to the best explanation.  To me, Reagan’s “states rights” speech in Mississippi was intended to race-bait, just b/c that explains the location of the speech and the content.  Could it have been innocent?  I suppose. 

    2.  After a while I don’t care what the intentions or “actual” causes are.  You could fly a confederate flag for innocent reasons, I suppose, but you’re really just being willfully ignorant. 

    3.  Conservatives sometimes act like it’s only racist if the N word is said or crosses are burnt.  But studies show people are racist in “subtle” ways (that aren’t really subtle)–loan acceptance rates, traffic stops, etc.  So the people doing these things may not have conscious racial intent–but does that really matter?Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to crash says:

      “So the people doing these things may not have conscious racial intent–but does that really matter?”

      These people might not actually be working on behalf of terrorists–but does that really matter?

      These people might not actually be in favor of leniency for child molesters–but does that really matter?Report

      • crash in reply to DensityDuck says:


        “These people might not actually be working on behalf of terrorists–but does that really matter?”

        Presumably in this case, there would be an “external” fact of the matter–an email sent, a meeting, etc.  We are talking about a case where the evidence (the only possible evidence?) of what Newt meant is internal to Newt’s mind.  I thought we were discussing a case where no additional facts were forthcoming–indeed, we could agree on all the “external” facts. 

        And yes, in some cases, I would not need proof of conscious racial intent in order to condemn someone.  If a loan officer works for me and has a long record of denying loans to minorities in circumstances where she grants them to white people–isn’t the best explanation that she has a racial bias (even if unconscious)?  What would you say about this situation?


        • DensityDuck in reply to crash says:

          “And yes, in some cases, I would not need proof of conscious racial intent in order to condemn someone.”

          Are you now, sir, or have you ever been, a member of the American Communist Party?

          “If a loan officer works for me and has a long record of denying loans to minorities in circumstances where she grants them to white people…”

          …then it would indeed raise a red flag, as would any strong pattern of behavior.  I’d look at the critera used to deny or reject the loans, and if the officer’s decisions were entirely in line with the company’s policy, then I’d say that the officer is doing what she’s supposed to do.

          If the officer takes two persons of exactly the same financial qualifications and invariably gives the white one a loan while denying the black one?  If she always gives white applicants assistance with tailoring their application to fit the acceptance criteria, assistance she doesn’t give minorities?  If she’s just straight-up denying any nonwhite applicants?  Those are problems.  But they’re also actual facts, not just “impressions” or “ideas”.Report

          • Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

            Legally liable problems, that have been consistently demonstrated in court repeatedly, I might add.

            And within the past decade.Report

          • crash in reply to DensityDuck says:

            exactly the same financial qualifications”

            “invariably gives the white one a loan while denying the black one”

            “she always gives white applicants assistance”

            “If she’s just straight-up denying any nonwhite applicants”

            You seem to have a very high standard for calling an act racially motivated.  It’s rarely this easy.  The “criteria” are never this quantifiable.  What if the criteria seem to be mostly followed, but there’s still a statistically signficant % bias?   

            Re terrorists, child molesters, and the red scare: I’m not quite sure what you’re after, since you don’t elaborate much.  Just because inference to the best explanation is incorrectly applied in some cases doesn’t mean much. 

            If Newt were on trial for his life based on his statements, I’d probably say “yeah I think they’re racially motivated, but I can’t vote for conviction.”  I’m just a person making a 51%+ judgment.  Instead of saying “And yes, in some cases, I would not need proof of conscious racial intent in order to condemn someone” would it help if I said “given what Newt said, I think conscious racial intent is the best explanation, even though there’s no way I could ever Prove it”?

            This discussion reminds me a bit of “circumstantial evidence” trials.  The so-called “facts” are agreed upon, but one person thinks the facts meet the reasonable doubt standard, another person doesn’t think so.  Are they disagreeing about how high the reasonable doubt standard is, or disagreeing about something else? 



            • DensityDuck in reply to crash says:

              Fine, then; replace “always” with “sometimes”, and “invariably” with “usually”.  It doesn’t change the fact that it’s a question for review, not an automatic signifier of racism.  The mountain, not my pointing finger.

              If you want to respond with “oooh!  OOOH!  You just admitted that she might be racist!” well, hey, I never said she wasn’t.  What I’m saying is that you are assuming, based on incomplete facts, that she is.Report

              • crash in reply to DensityDuck says:

                The question for review will almost always be based on incomplete facts.  Even if “all” the facts are in, the sides will still disagree; this is one of the points of the OP.

                Maybe another way to ask the question is “can one ITTBE be superior to another”?  I say yes.


  8. sidereal says:

    I’m not sure I understand entirely why I’m supposed to care whether Newt is actually racist or just playing one on TV or an innocent victim of the PC thought police.

    Suppose we could somehow generate hard evidence that Gingrich (or any other conservative or anyone else) was a racist — as in actually believes that his race is inherently superior to some other race(s). Now what? Is his moon colony idea any better or worse?

    Any attempt to dispute any of his policies based on it would obviously be ad hominem. Of course, ad hominem works all the time in practical politics, so maybe that’s the goal. But if he resigns in shame because of his outed racism he’ll just be replaced by some other conservative candidate who may or may not be racist.

    Is the problem with his pandering to racist votes the pandering or the existence of racist votes? If the latter, ‘proving’ he’s a racist isn’t going to do anything to the racist voting bloc. Dog whistles as a strategy aren’t going to go away because you silenced one whistle.

    The goal of race-neutral politics should be to ensure that people of every race are given an equal opportunity to vote and otherwise affect the political process. To that end, racist poll watchers and elections officials are much, much more dangerous than racist candidates and much, much less scrutinized.

    You can’t shame away candidates’ ability and desire to pander and you shouldn’t even bother trying.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to sidereal says:

      But thoughtcrime doubleplusbad!Report

    • Mumbles in reply to sidereal says:

      But let’s not forget that Gingrich is running for the presidency, and a racist president is far more dangerous than a racist poll watcher or election official. For that matter, even a president who is essentially indifferent to racism is far more dangerous. Reagan’s indifference, as one example, was disastrous for black farmers, and ended up leading to the Pigford settlements. And GWB actively attempted to bring minorities into the GOP, but he still ended up with a corrupted Civil Rights division of the DOJ.

      Now, if you were to ask me, I would say that GWB wasn’t a racist at all, but he wasn’t helpful in the fight against racism. On the other hand, I find Newt’s bigotry to be less like a dog whistle, and more like a car alarm. And yes, calling someone a racist will hurt that person’s feelings. But *my* feelings were hurt when my coworkers decided to put up a photoshop of Barack Obama shining Sarah Palin’s shoe, so I’m not sure why I should be the one to tip-toe around the issue.Report

      • sidereal in reply to Mumbles says:

        But you make the point yourself.  You don’t think GWB was a real racist in his heart of hearts, but it didn’t matter because his political coalition was beholden to racist views.  So whether you can suss our ‘real racism’ is irrelevant.  If a candidate goes on about voter IDs and vote fraud that’s really bad, whether he’s really a racist or not.

        And bringing up the DOJ reminds me of another aspect, which is that minorities currently vote for Democrats by large majorities and it’s therefore in the cold political interests (at least short-term) of Republican operatives to reduce minority voting, whether they’re racist or not.  That’s an awful thing for minority rights, and it’s much more important than what Newt Gingrich thinks about food stamps.  Trying to figure out who’s a racist and who’s just making political calculations is a waste of time.Report

        • Mumbles in reply to sidereal says:

          My point is that, if GWB, a man who tried to recruit black and Hispanic voters into the GOP, still managed to drop the ball in many crucial moments, shouldn’t I be far more vigilant about Newt Gingrich – particularly If he’s running against Barack Obama?

          I can see what you mean on one level, but it does matter to what a candidate’s thinking an motivations are, because it will shape their responses to unforeseen events that will occur while they’re in office. Granted, I really don’t care whether Gingrich is an actual racist, or merely saying racist things for political advantage. Neither one speaks well of his character. But I do respect Lester Maddox over George Wallace, since the former was at least honest about his hatred, while the latter simply pandered to hatred to advance himself.

          As to voting rights, well, if Gingrich thinks that it’s reasonable to lecture the NAACP, of all organizations, about being satisfied with food stamps, why would I even consider the idea of him protecting voter rights?Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to sidereal says:

      Suppose we could somehow generate hard evidence that Gingrich (or any other conservative or anyone else) was a racist — as in actually believes that his race is inherently superior to some other race(s). Now what? Is his moon colony idea any better or worse?

      Is it an integrated moon colony?Report

  9. Patrick Cahalan says:

    Done (this borked the threading of this comment), just because I happened to be around.Report

  10. Jeff says:

     Of course, the conservative rejects this claim and challenges me to provide evidence of a very specific type: non-question begging evidence of conservative intentions.

    Does this count?
    “And so I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”

    It’ would hard not to see some intention there, I reckon, but I leave it to the conservatives to show me how there isn’t any.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Jeff says:

      Does this count?

      For me, yes. For the conservative? I somehow doubt it.

      It’s also interesting to note that Newt’s promise to tell those black people What They Should Do is predicated on his being invited to do so. Which, given that they now know what he’s going to tell them, pretty much guarantees the invitation won’t be extended (at least not on the congenial terms which make the little fantasy so intriguing). So the whole charade, at least in my view, was an attempt to appeal to the racist resentment of white people and not out of a concern for black people.


  11. Geor says:

    Let`s argue white genocide instead:

    Africa for the Africans,Asia for the Asians,white countries for EVERYBODY!

    Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.

    The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.

    Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites.

    What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?

    How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?

    And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this?

    But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

    They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.

    Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.



  12. Rufus F. says:

    You know, I don’t think of it so much as racism as what I’d call “racist shtick”. It’s a shtick- you’re a politician and you intentionally say something that could possibly be construed as racist, but possibly not, in order to attract the usual people who’ll call for you to be driven out of politics for your bone-deep racism; then you cry about how we can’t even discuss these things honestly without the politically correct fascists persecuting us, and then everyone who’s aggrieved about having to bite their tongues around minorities rallies to your cause. It’s pretty predictable actually. I think it happens in every election.Report