Interview, Must Reads

Anatomist of Racial Inequality: An Interview with Glenn Loury

Glenn Loury has the ability, occasionally displayed by great writers, of articulating his opponents’ arguments fairly while simultaneously exaggerating their claims ever so slightly in order to hint at their fundamental unsoundness. In our interview, he provides an example. Asked whether he believes African Americans should be encouraged to take pride in being citizens of the United States, he offers this characterization of the view espoused by many on the anti-racist Left:

America’s overrated. America is a bandit, a gangster nation. America is run by war criminals. American capitalism is rapacious. America is nothing but hypocrites. They dropped the bomb on Hiroshima; they exterminated the Native Americans and they enslaved the Africans. White supremacy rules here. Why should I want to fight and die for such a country? I don’t want to fight and die for it; I don’t even want to stand while the anthem is being played for it!

Such a view, dominant though it may be in America’s discourse on racial inequality, is for Loury nothing more than a “posture,” or at best a “pout.” It is neither productive nor reflective of the reality of African American life in 2019, Loury argues, and it functions more as a rhetorical trick than as a coherent plan of action for improving blacks’ prospects. Against any sort of reflexive anti-Americanism, Loury is unafraid to urge “a kind of patriotism aimed at African Americans.” He knows, though, that such urgings are probably futile, especially given his social environment: Loury has taught at Brown University for over a decade, an institution where pleas for American patriotism are likely to be summarily dismissed. So why does he insist on making them?

Part of it, he says, is a matter of personal integrity; he believes that adopting a pro-American attitude is the right thing to do. And what does having integrity mean if not saying what one believes to be correct? But another reason why Loury extols the virtue of a benign kind of nationalism can be discerned in a question he frequently asks himself: What are his duties as an African American intellectual? He reflects on this question often in his podcast, The Glenn Show, as well as in his writing (he has written four books on race), and he seems to have reached the following conclusions. As an intellectual, his duties, at least in theory, are spelled out in the very definition of that term: Following careful study, he must publicly express himself with clarity, purpose, and authority. But as a black intellectual, his duty is to discuss unpalatable truths about the black experience—and perhaps chief among these unpalatable truths is that white supremacy, however grotesque it may have been in past eras, is no longer the primary obstacle to black advancement.

The claim that racism is not the main cause of black underachievement is not usually received well by educated Americans. For the most part they regard this argument as an ideological tool used to legitimate racial inequality—as a way to “blame the victim” by condemning black failure rather than white oppression. To deny the devastating and long-lasting consequences of racism, the progressive argument goes, is at best to betray a lack of empathy, and is at worst prima facie evidence of racism. This may be true of some people who take contrarian stances on race; but it is not true of Glenn Loury, whose utterances on the topic are invariably informed by deep compassion and analytical rigor. It ought to be immediately apparent to anyone who hears him discuss the condition of black Americans that it pains him to reckon with these issues—with the crime in his native Chicago, with the paucity of blacks at the engineering departments of elite colleges, with the educated elite’s unwillingness to confront these matters honestly.

At least once in each public appearance, Loury will unleash an extemporaneous barrage of perfectly constructed sentences that reveal the frustration, passion, and empathy that motivate his work on race. It would be unfair to call these outbursts “rants”; they are neither rambling nor incoherent. They tend to leave the listener silent, and Loury fuming. A couple of representative examples can be seen in the podcast Loury recorded with neuroscientist Sam Harris in August of 2016.

In his conversation with Harris, Loury turned his attention to Ta-Nehisi Coates—the most celebrated anti-racist intellectual on the Left and a writer to whom many white progressives defer on all matters race-related. Specifically, Loury took aim at Coates’s Between the World and Me, a short memoir framed as an open letter to Coates’s son, which Loury characterized as follows:

[Coates] advises his son that America is so thoroughly contemptuous of your value as a human being, that you must not ever—ever—relax. You must not trust these people, or turn your back on them. They will rip you to shreds. There’s nothing more American than taking a guy like you, hanging you from a post, and tearing your limbs off one by one. Don’t believe in the American dream. We are up against an implacable force. That force erases your humanity. It’s always been so, and it will always be so.

Before offering his rejoinder to this line of thinking, Loury related an anecdote about Coates. In 2015, Coates and Mitch Landrieu, former Democratic mayor of New Orleans, appeared on a panel at the Aspen Ideas Festival to discuss what might be done to end racial inequality. Landrieu attempted to point out that many of the problems faced by blacks in New Orleans were caused not by whites but by criminals in the black community. Coates was indifferent to Landrieu’s appeal, countering that whatever problems exist in the black community originate, in the final analysis, in white supremacy.

Coates’ argument infuriated Loury, who argued that Landrieu might have responded by saying:

What an absurdity! You’re telling me that people have to run up and down the street, firing guns out of windows and killing their brethren because we didn’t get reparations for slavery handed over to you yet? Because somebody who was mayor of this city ten years ago happened to be a racist? Because the police department has somebody who’s affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan in it? And you’re telling me that that explains or somehow excuses or cancels out the moral judgment that I would otherwise bring to bear against any other community in which I saw this happening? You’re telling me that the history of slavery and Jim Crow, now a century in the past, is pertinent to our reaction to this lived experience on the daily basis of African-Americans in my American city?

That’s not what Landrieu said to Coates. But, Loury concluded, “it’s what I would have said.”

Loury often speaks about Coates’s thought, albeit usually self-consciously, always insisting that “it’s not about Coates”—in other words, that it’s not personal. It does appear, however, to be at least somewhat personal: Loury is evidently irritated by the elite praise Coates enjoys. But it certainly isn’t mainly personal. What really seems to irk him is what Coates represents more broadly: namely, a refusal, in Loury’s view, on the part of educated America to grapple with race in a serious manner.

*     *     *

Glenn Loury’s calls for personal responsibility in the black community, his defense of patriotism—even his disposition—indicate that he is a conservative. Yet he remains hesitant to adopt the “conservative” label, and especially the “black conservative” label. When I ask him about this reluctance, he replies with characteristic sense of humor. Social pressure, he answers, makes it difficult for professors to come out as conservatives. “When they get finished with you on Twitter for being a black conservative,” he laments, “there’s not very much left of your reputation.”

Notwithstanding such stigmas, one can hear echoes of William F. Buckley in Loury’s political thought, as he embraces the three pillars of American conservatism: anti-communism, capitalist economics, and cultural traditionalism. Socialist faith in the efficiency of command economies, he argues, is “refuted by history; the twentieth century proved it wrong. Command economies, centralized control, undermining private property, killing incentives, allowing every political fad to get its hands on the means of production through the monopoly that the state has on the legitimate use of force—these are not good things.” Capitalism—by which he means the (relatively) free exchange of goods and services—is by contrast “the foundation of our prosperity in the modern world.”

Loury also tends to lean right on issues of public policy. During our exchange, he expresses great admiration for conservative economist Thomas Sowell, describing him as a “towering figure.” But Loury is not a libertarian, like Sowell. When I ask him, for instance, whether he agrees with Sowell’s view that ending racial inequality is beyond the power of government policy, he demurs, arguing that government can play a useful role in improving the quality of education and healthcare. Doing so, he says, will “have the effect of reducing the disadvantage of people at the bottom of the social hierarchy. [And] disproportionately those will be people of color.” (But he is careful to emphasize that “the reasons for doing these things in my mind ought not primarily be construed in terms of trying to redress a racial claim…these are all issues that need not—ought not—be framed primarily in racial terms.”)

Somewhat surprisingly, considering his background in the social sciences rather than in philosophy or literature, it is arguably in his traditionalism where Loury speaks most passionately and most compellingly. Loury tells me he has been reading Roger Scruton, the conservative British philosopher, and the influence shows. Loury prefers, as all good traditionalists do, gradual to revolutionary change. The latest political enthusiasm, he says, is unlikely to prove itself superior to the “congealed wisdom” we “inherit from previous generations.” Society cannot be perfected overnight. Thousands of years of history cannot be rapidly undone without considerable danger; humans aren’t as clever as we would like to think. “There are mysteries,” Loury insists, his voice conveying a sense of wonder. “There are unfathomables.”

And yet, Loury has not always been a man of the Right. In the 1980s, he was a Reaganite conservative, but by the mid-1990s he had begun to reconsider some of his right-leaning positions. A few episodes from that decade help explain Loury’s leftward drift. First, in 1994 came the publication of Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve, a book about IQ and social policy that contained an extremely controversial chapter on the implications of IQ disparities between racial groups. Loury was highly critical of the book, publishing an essay in National Review that closed with the following reflection on The Bell Curve’s arguments: “I shudder at the prospect that [Herrnstein’s and Murray’s] could be the animating vision of a governing conservative coalition in this country. But I take comfort in the certainty that, should conservatives be unwise enough to embrace it, the American people will be decent enough to reject it.”

Then, in 1995 conservative provocateur Dinesh D’Souza published an inflammatory polemic titled The End of Racism, a book Loury describes as “execrable.” D’Souza, Loury argues, “was playing fast and loose with some stuff that I thought was really very serious and needed to be treated more seriously.” (It’s hard to disagree, not least when one encounters sentences in The End of Racism like “the criminal and irresponsible black underclass represents a revival of barbarism in the midst of Western civilization.”) Incensed by The End of Racism, Loury resigned his position on the academic advisory board of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a flagship conservative think tank, after the AEI’s president stood behind D’Souza’s work.

Increasingly at odds with American conservatism’s positions on racial issues, Loury slowly began to revise his own. And in 2002, he published The Anatomy of Racial Inequality, a short book that confirmed his evolution from Right to Left on race. In its pages, he set out to make three arguments: one about racial stereotypes, one about racial stigma, and one about racial justice.

First, he argued that people formed stereotypes about others’ behavioral patterns based on race, age, gender, and other visible features on human bodies. Stereotype formation is inevitable, he claimed, given the type of social creatures that we humans are—and it is in itself neither good nor bad. In some circumstances, however, stereotypes could “work to the detriment of a disadvantaged population like African Americans and could feed into a kind of reputational dead end where, in a self-fulfilling way, people had negative beliefs that would come to be fulfilled because the incentives that those set of beliefs created.” For instance, if a banker refuses to extend a mortgage loan to a black family on the basis of a racial stereotype, that family would thereby lose out on a good housing opportunity, which might affect the quality of the education their children receive. By such mechanisms the negative stereotypes associated with blacks could potentially create and/or reinforce social disadvantages. Loury stands by this argument today.

Second, Loury argued that the existence of slavery in a country that affirmed the principles of equality and freedom necessarily carried the implication that people of African descent “were not fully human—that there was something deficient about them that legitimated and justified their being held in bondage.” The creation of this stigma, moreover, had consequences that reverberated down the centuries and helped largely to account for persistent disparities in social outcomes between whites and blacks. This is a view that Loury has since moderated. The Loury of 2019 would, he tells me, “put much less emphasis on the determinative consequences of this legacy of racial stigma” in accounting for black disadvantage. And he would add that people’s perceptions of blacks today are not determined solely by slavery, but also by “the ongoing achievements and failures and deficiencies and conduct of African Americans in contemporary life…I say that with trepidation, but it’s what I actually think.”

Third, in 2002 Loury offered a critique of colorblindness and endorsed the practice of affirmative action. Loury had come to believe that colorblindness as a philosophical approach to public policy was inadequate; it alone could not live up to the task of redressing racial injustice. Loury thus distanced himself from affirmative action’s most vociferous conservative critics in the ‘90s, including Ward Connerly, Clarence Thomas, and Shelby Steele. But this, too, is a view he has reconsidered. He recently signed his name on to a lawsuit against Harvard University which claims that the college has illegally discriminated against Asian-Americans in its efforts to boost the enrollment of blacks and Latinos.

Indeed, Loury’s opposition to affirmative action today is profound. He is unimpressed by the fact that many of the America’s top colleges have reached population proportionality in their student bodies. At what cost, he asks, has this proportionality come? Loury cites the case of Harvard, where “two percent of blacks are scoring in the top 20 percentile of academic preparation and more than half of blacks are in the bottom 20 percentile of academic preparation.” How then, he wonders, “is it that blacks are so poorly represented at the top of the applicant pool in terms of academic qualifications and so over-represented at the bottom, and nevertheless you get population proportionality amongst the students?” Loury hereby raises some truly difficult questions. How far are admissions standards being relaxed? And what will happen to those under-prepared students who have to come in and compete with more advanced students? Will they cluster at the bottom of the grade distribution? Will professors be willing to give out grades that differ drastically by race? Or, if they prove unwilling to do so, will the “very integrity of the assessment of student performances” be undermined?

In sum, Loury has walked back most of what he wrote in The Anatomy of Racial Inequality. Yet he remains proud of having written it. After all, in that book he brought rigorous analysis to a matter of great social concern, and that alone is worth celebrating.

*     *     *

Glenn Loury has spent much of his life in the academy. In 1976, he received his PhD in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1982, he became Harvard’s first black tenured professor of economics. In the early ’90s he moved to Boston University, where he stayed until 2005, the year he moved to Brown.

In his conservative phases, his views have not been welcomed by his academic peers—and that’s putting it mildly. He now jokes that part of the reason he moved Left in the early 2000s is because he “likes getting invited to dinner parties.” On a more serious note, though, he says that there does undeniably exist social pressure to toe a particular line. This pressure has existed for a long time, of course. In a 2002 New York Times profile of Loury, one anonymous scholar was quoted as saying that when Loury moved to the Left, it was finally possible for him to enter “a room full of black people who don’t all hate him.” Such academic titans as Cornel West, Orlando Patterson, and Henry Louis Gates were hostile to or suspicious of Loury when he was on the Right, but happy to embrace him when he turned Left.

But there is perhaps one thing he still shares with American racial progressivism: a severe pessimism about the future of blacks in the United States. Naturally enough, there is a significant difference between his pessimism and that of, say, Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates considers white supremacy to be so thoroughly baked into the American polity that the odds of black advancement are next to nonexistent. So where does Loury’s pessimism come from? And is it warranted? Our interview ends on a despondent note: 

I see the same absurd, self-evidently infantile arguments being pushed over and over and over again. I see a lot of bullies, a lot of people who think a megaphone is a substitute for reason. I see a lot of lying and dishonesty in the way in which we approach these issues. I’m talking about racial inequality; I’m talking about what’s going with African Americans. I see a lot of bluffing. People think that the relative paucity of African Americans at the top of various fields like medicine or the sciences is the same thing as Jim Crow. They don’t engage with the problems of developing the intellectual potential of the African American population and the extent to which that’s not happening. And how the fact that it’s not happening is reflected in the paucity of our numbers in places like Cal Tech and MIT. And they talk about diversity and inclusion and they don’t have anything to say about what the processes are that facilitate or impede the acquisition of these intellectual skills which characterize success in these venues where African Americans are under-represented. That’s a reflection of the fact that we’re not acquiring these skills. Anyway, I could go on. But the excuse-making, the avoidance and denial, the dishonesty, the bluffing and bluster, the intimidation and bullying and so on. So. I’m not all that optimistic. Sorry.

 

Christian Gonzalez is a political science student at Columbia University and a Research Assistant at Heterodox Academy. His work has appeared in National Review, the American Conservative, Areo and elsewhere. You can follow him on Twitter @xchrisgonz

87 Comments

  1. Stoic Realist says

    Christian,

    While overall your piece seems fine and informative I have to take issue with your initial lines. You begin your piece with a negative assertion and then provide no evidence for it.

    “Glenn Loury has the ability, occasionally displayed by great writers, of articulating his opponents’ arguments fairly while simultaneously exaggerating their claims ever so slightly in order to hint at their fundamental unsoundness.”

    Whether you intend it to or not the implication from this line is that Loury is being deceitful in his argument. It is a statement to impeach his credibility for which you offer no support and it unfairly taints the narrative. If you intend to make such assertions then you either need to prove them or clarify your meaning of that wasn’t your intention.

    A good editor should have noticed this issue.

    • Christian Gonzalez says

      Hi– I certainly didn’t intend to make him sound deceitful; he’s no such thing. I meant it as a form of praise.

      • Stoic Realist says

        @Christian

        I was not sure. That was the problem in the sentence. It left itself too open to interpretation by your audience. I couldn’t tell if you were trying to say that he had the skill to use a fair representation of the opposing argument to demonstrate the weakness of their position or you were trying to imply that he used exaggeration on a seemingly fair example.

        I like the phrase and think you wrote a very good piece. It is just a term you have to be careful with. As the author you know what you are trying to say so sometimes it is tough to get the distance to consider how people could honestly misinterpret what you are saying. All that said it is a very interesting piece and I hope to see more of your work appearing here. Good luck.

        • I took it as praise of his ability to subtlety straw man his opponents arguments. It’s praise, but not for something good.

      • I took it as a form of praise. When I listen to Dr Loury, he often makes the a case more solidly than it’s proponents, only to pull the rug out from under you stating why he doesn’t buy the argument.

        He usually states it as “some might say…” and not as his belief.

        It’s intellectually thrilling. Congrats Mr. Gonzalez for conveying that.

    • Morgan Foster says

      @Stoic Realist

      You write: “You begin your piece with a negative assertion and then provide no evidence for it.”

      Interesting that you then cut off the author’s quote the way you did. Immediately following, the author writes:

      “In our interview, he (Loury) provides an example.”

      And then Loury provides an example in support of the author’s assertion, although you state that he didn’t.

      Perhaps you missed it.

      • Stoic Realist says

        @Morgan

        I didn’t miss it. The point is that the example could be read to back up either view of the sentence. A reader could take that passage as an example of exaggerating the position in a negative way just as easily as in a revelatory one. In nonfiction you want to avoid leaving too much to audience interpretation.

        • TugBugly says

          I like how you went, in no time flat, from the demonstrative & concrete — “the implication from this line *is** that Loury is being deceitful in his argument” — to a wavering “could be” this and “could take” that. Even *you* seem to be wilting in the face of your overboard claim of “deceit.” There was no deceit; if there was anything, it was flattery.

    • maxwell says

      Stoic Realist,

      This one is one you. You’re overthinking a clearly laudatory sentence.

      If the sentence itself wasn’t clear, check the context. This site generally likes people like Loury.

      • As a fond, regular listener of Loury’s podcasts, I thought this opening characterization spot-on. Loury does a wicked Devil’s advocate.

  2. Denis Leonard says

    I agree with Stoic that the initial statement was misplaced and probably should have been edited out. The piece as a whole, however, did make me aware of an intellect that I had previously overlooked. Thanks for that.

    • Constantin says

      I thought the same! And also that a person unafraid to speak the truth and evolve in his thinking is a good model for the unfortunate stubbornness of opinion that I am often very guilty of. It is indeed unfortunate that strong and smart role models feel isolated and embattled instead of being embraced and valued. It is very encouraging to see some cracks in the Orthodoxy of thought that was so uniformly plagued black America. Not all shackles are made of steel! 🙂

  3. Michael Huang says

    black racial hypocrisy will continue to enslave and shackle blacks as a race. we ust also contend with the possibility that blacks are genetically and culturally inferior when it comes to intelligence, logic, and abstract thinking.

    • Fortunately there is little materially meaningful difference between the “races” that explains the majority of differences of outcome (read coming apart) but even if there is some on macro level that truly move the needle who cares as we are and should be a polity of individuals not identity groups… No matter what any statistical averages might suggest look at people like Ben Watson of the NFL he is certainly far more intellectually gifted and unquestionably physically superior and likely wiser then the likes of me and probably you and everyone reading this… What do any debatable macro trends matter then anyway….

    • @Michael
      “the possibility that blacks are genetically and culturally inferior when it comes to intelligence, logic, and abstract thinking.”

      This is poorly put at best…and looking people like George Washington Carver, W.E.B Dubois, Thomas Sowell, Glenn Loury, Walter Williams, etc…the statement kind of falls apart. Have blacks been performing ON AVERAGE lower than other groups in various intellectual pursuits? Well, yes.

      And culturally inferior? Also rather loaded. Yes, we know what you mean, but this can be put a lot better. Glenn puts it better in his last “pessimistic” paragraph.

    • david of Kirkland says

      Liberty and equal protection under the law care not about your analysis (likely wrong based on much of what I’ve read about IQ and “inherent traits” vs. those acquired by dedicated effort). People with lower IQs, for example, are not maltreated under the law unless it’s so deficient that they cannot care for themselves. And brilliant terrorists, brilliant criminals, brilliant manipulators are all high IQ that nobody thinks better of. IQ measures something, but it has nothing to do with your hatred.

      • Farris says

        @david of Kirkland

        I agree with your comment in response. I would point out that the unknown commodity is the intelligence of the original poster. However judging from the quality of the post, I believed we can draw some reasonable inferences.

    • jimhaz says

      You need to place this is the context of a shifted bell curve.

      Black folk have evolved to fit in with the environment of a black society, where emotional expression and physical skills are more paramount, as opposed to the often robotic needs of modern business.

      The western world is fragile due to its complexity. If the shit hits the fan, we may find black folk suddenly becoming more genetically and culturally superior to such circumstances, than others.

  4. Aaron says

    When on the general topic of race, Loury often ends up discussing affirmative action, especially on his podcasts. His argument seems to hinge on the impact of affirmative action on the black men and women who benefit from it, as well as those judged by it. He emphasizes the personal pain for beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries alike of knowing that other people at the institution in question may doubt their qualifications. What irks me a bit about this claim is that, for a scholar who puts such a premium on quantitative data, it relies entirely on anecdotal evidence (perhaps largely his own experience). Might Loury be more sensitive to this dynamic than the majority? Is this psychic obstacle course sufficiently traumatic for the majority of blacks to warrant its abolition?

    A second general criticism (as a fan of his work, even if I find his podcasts a bit repetitive). It is obvious that there is something wrong with poor / lower-income black culture, but I don’t understand why Loury is so dismissive of the role of white supremacy (for lack of a better term) in these unfortunate developments. Would any sociologist argue that a minority culture is not in large measure a response to the dominate culture? I have no interest in blaming one group or another, it just seems to me that to understanding the self- and community-destructive behavior he laments, he would have to investigate the interrelation between minority and majority cultures, and not fixate on what may be a fairly “rational” response by the former.

    • Stoic Realist says

      @Aaron

      While I agree that anecdotal evidence on the psychological impacts of alternative action is insufficient (though a not insignificant amount of it exists) it may be hard to do any better than that right now. Given how the whole subject has become a mix of shibboleth and taboo in the current climate it is hard to see where we will get an objective study about time soon.

      As far as the second point that you make I don’t know about Loury’s reasoning, but something I read from Coleman Hughes (I think) added a lot of doubt to the ‘White Supremacy’ scenario. He pointed out that recent black immigrants who attend the same schools as their native born peers achieve superior results. If that is the case the idea that some systemic bias is at the root of the problem becomes difficult to support. If you add in some of Thomas Sowell’s points about the black middle class in the 20th Century the doubt only grows.

      Personally I think that if we truly wish to address these problems we are going to have to set egos and feelings aside in order to have an honest evaluation of the facts. It is unfortunate that certain bad actors seem intent on preventing that discussion.

      • Steve says

        Is it not also true that all broad claims of racism are also anecdotal?

    • Dave Larsen says

      This makes no sense: “Would any sociologist argue that a minority culture is not in large measure a response to the dominate culture?”
      If true, no mono-culture could ever develop from hunter-gathers, lacking a dominant culture to react against. And if cultures can develop under certain circumstances driven by internal factors, then why should internal factors not be important even when we are talking about a subculture?
      Another way it makes no sense – a mixed culture has many subcultures. Why do they go in different directions? Why are Asian or Jewish sub-cultures different, even though not dominant? Yes, the dominant culture is a big influence. Yes, there are very obvious and dramatic differences in the relationship between African American sub-cultures and these others in relation to the dominant culture, but that by no leads to the conclusion that ” a minority culture is … in large measure a response to the dominate culture”

    • Shredder says

      I don’t know if any sociologists would argue that a minority culture is not, in large measure, a response to a dominant culture and I suspect that you don’t either. The question is interesting because it evinces a belief that minority cultures are constructed in part based on conscious choices made by historic, if unidentifiable, individuals propagated through time such that they become ingrained to the point of no longer being necessarily classifiable as choices. But the implication that choices have been/are being made, which are bad, would seem to place substantial onus on the choosers to remedy the problem and/or accept the consequences.

    • Robin says

      Racial appeasement has more to do with the profligacy of poor black communities than racial hatred. Institutions and policies which were set up to ‘shelter’ black people also distort the incentives which bias their actions and outcomes.

      For example, the DoE once tried to reduce the amount of suspensions given to black students by stopping schools from suspending or calling the police on them. The result was that the minority of students (of any race) who accounted for the majority of suspensions were no longer discouraged from acting disruptively. They could no longer be removed from the premises and so were able to assault and otherwise prevent other students from learning.

      Even seemingly unrelated issues like rent-control are racialised – have you ever heard/read that gentrification is racist – with the upshot that such destructive policies become implicit to “helping black people”.

      Sometimes social mores such as distrust of law enforcement – exacerbated by sensationalism about police brutality – prevent those institutions from operating properly, create fertile ground for malfeasance and criminal behaviour.

  5. northernobserver says

    I think this will be the next big cultural shift in America, the shift of the African American Intelligentsia and the African American commentariat from the left to the center right. This may coincide with a left wing swing in America itself and Democratic Party dominance, but cultural change is not without paradox.

    • I (Glenn Loury) have done precisely this (connecting lower class black culture to the dominant cultural climate in America) in a forthcoming piece, a draft of which I’d be happy to share…

      • Morgan Foster says

        @ Glenn Loury

        Can you ever live down the shame of not covering every single, blessed thing in that one interview?

      • Would you share drafts with me? Then I could track your final publication choices, which would help my study of the evolution and relationship of writing and thought. Thanks!
        P.S. I so appreciate your sharing of your hard-wrought coherence and integrality (hey, i just googled that word and they say it exists : ) )

    • Woah…if this really Glenn, then thanks for stopping by! Love your podcast!

  6. Sackerson says

    Fair but stronger policing and a hard line on drugs in some urban areas would be anti-racist. The poor have as much right to a safe and orderly community as the better-off.

  7. Aaron says

    Would love to read it. As a professor at an HBCU, it’s something that’s frequently on my mind, even though it’s hard to get one’s mind around. aehanna1@gmail.com

    • @Aaron

      I don’t really know much about HBCUs. Does the teaching faculty generally reflect the student body? IE they most black too? So mostly black faculty in STEM? If so, that sounds like something that should be promoted.

  8. Affirmative action does have a problematic side. In India, quotas for ‘Scheduled Castes’ is built into the Constitution. In that case, there is at least 2000 years of considering them inferior and contaminated. Gandhi believed they needed a leg up. However, 70 years on, this leads to resentment and I believe it one of the factors that reinforces the persistence of the Caste system. Here in Canada, when both husband and wife manage to get academic jobs in the same university, the spouse who was not the primary target hire suffers from subtle discrimination by other staff believing that he or she is not really up to standards; only there as the price of the one they wanted.

    • Saw file says

      Caste system in India. Understood.
      Still a problem. Yes.
      Changing. Yes.
      Relation to academic spouses working together in CDN, at the same educational institution. Huh?
      That’s nonsense, unless the spouse truly isn’t ‘up to snuff’.
      In the working world, if a senior journeyman has a junior journeyman spouse working with them, they are both only judged by the end product.
      Seems that you may be saying that academia is not a part of the real world?

      • georgopolis says

        @Saw file
        In your journeyman example both work together (or the same department). It is not uncommon for a spouse from another field to negotiate a position in department y, when the initial hire was actually sought by department x. In this case the spouse in department y may face subtle or unsubtle discrimination on the basis that they were only hired because their spouse is an academic rockstar (whether true or not). How does this point suggest academia is not the real world?

  9. Absolutely fascinating article. And Mr Loury here in the comments? I am grateful for quillette everyday.

  10. Farris says

    “To deny the devastating and long-lasting consequences of racism, the progressive argument goes, is at best to betray a lack of empathy, and is at worst prima facie evidence of racism.”

    This statement lies at the heart of Progressive thinking on race, as well as gender, sexual orientation, ect… In other words to disagree or put forth counter evidence is racism.

    The greatest barriers to wealth creation are out of wedlock births, drug or alcohol abuse and criminal activity. There are a plethora of examples of minority groups and sub groups within minority communities eschewing the above listed pathologies and becoming upwardly mobile. The point not being to assess blame but rather to denote the issues which must be addressed both from within the community and from without the community.

  11. Itzik Basman says

    This is a superb piece, though all too short.

    It’s a terrific way of doing an interview with a substantive person. Not that it need displace the traditional question and answer format. But the clearly written iteration of what’s been said, incisively and accessibly woven into a synthesis structured by certain themes and with some intellectual context added makes for compelling and informative reading.

    As it happens, I agree with the Loury of today on most points and sometimes when listening to him have been moved to awe by his combination of deep thought, eloquence and passion.

    In a nutshell, this iterated and synthesized interview was a pleasure to read

    I’m telling people, “Try it, you’ll like it.”

  12. Morgan Foster says

    I agree with Glenn Loury’s take on Ta-Nehisi Coates, above.

    Coates is someone I have stopped listening to. I will occasionally read something of his if given an opportunity to comment or respond online, but in the sense of listening – as in hearing (do you hear me?), as in feeling (do you feel me?) – no. I have become indifferent to his story, his history and his thoughts. And it’s entirely on him.

    • Morgan, in the past Coates was protected by the Atlantic, which allowed no comments on his articles. Now the site allows no comments at all. They didn’t like what they were hearing from we the people.

  13. IainC of The Ponds says

    Excellent article.
    1. After 6 million Jews had been racially imprisoned and murdered by 1945, 10 years later they had created a fully functioning country with a vibrant economy. What or who exactly is stopping a black kid from becoming an engineer in the USA? (details please)
    2. Here in Australia, one of the highest earning immigrant groups is from the sub-continent (India/Sri Lanka), with a high proportion of doctors and PhDs, and they are black last time I looked. I believe they do pretty well in the US as well. How exactly does having black skin stop you from high achievement again? (details please)
    3. Isn’t group success or lack of success a matter of internal cultural drivers, preferences and attitudes rather than skin colour? (or color)

    • Morgan Foster says

      @Iain

      There are some black engineers. Not a lot, but some. There is not a single good reason why there aren’t more.

      As for Indians and Sri Lankans in the US, I had occasion to attend a joint graduation ceremony for Engineering (Masters and PhD) and Medical students at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore a few years ago. There were a lot of Indian names and faces, and some of them could have been Sri Lankan. (There were precious few white faces among the engineers, in fact. Most were Indian and Asian.) A large number of the new physicians were Indian, as well.

      The fact is, engineering firms and hospital groups in the US hire lots of Indian immigrants with dark skin. But what they are really crying for are African Americans with PhDs and MDs. They’re under a lot of political pressure to keep their numbers up (but don’t ever call it a quota!) An African American with a medical degree, even from a foreign medical school, will not go hungry in the US.

      My previous primary care physician was a Sikh, with dark skin. (She was great. I was sorry to lose her when I moved across country.) Her husband, also a Sikh, is a physician. Her father, too. You get the idea.

      As to your third point, you are absolutely right.

    • E. Olson says

      Iain – nobody ever seems to be very interested in how or why cultures and racial stereotypes are the way they are. Would a cultural or racial group ever be widely seen as “lazy” or “stupid” or “not educationally oriented” or “violent” or “dishonest” if dominant majorities of those so labelled groups proved to be hard-working, intelligent, well educated, peaceful, and honest? On the opposite side, how can 70+% of NBA and NFL players be black and earning millions per year in a “racist” white privilege USA? Could it be that black culture has focused on athletic success because they have natural genetic advantages developed over thousands of years that give them superior speed and strength to survive and thrive in the wilds of Africa, and which provide them with athletic advantages over other racial groups? Could it be that black culture does not promote educational success because no matter how hard they study the average black is going to be academically behind the average Jew, Caucasian, or Asian? In other words, do cultures develop in a way that reflects the genetic and geographic strengths and weaknesses associated with the group, and stereotypes prove to be pretty accurate because they reflect the general reality (with individual positive and negative exceptions)?

      • Charles Griffin says

        In brief..with exception I believe every commentator on this forum has approached the topic with unsubstantiated, but obviously premeditated conclusions and bias. The dismissal of historical context, and consensus of superiority I found truly disturbing. Coupled with the defensive posture of claiming to be victims of reverse discrimination, without making accusations, let’s just saying it revealing. Guns Germs and Steele should be required reading. Concepts like the ‘Fertile Crescent’ and ‘spread on the east/west axis’ offer far more credible theories to the diverging evolutionary developments of pockets of populations than the egotistical musings of Book smart individuals. In terms of quantifying human intelligence, to think that a test on any subject matter defines capacity is so myopic it’s not worth dispelling the notion. The majority of commentators could not and would not survive, let alone thrive, in the environments of the disparaged populations they so eloquently indict as intellectually inferior. Surmising genetics as an idicator gives credence to the debate on predilection to ‘run fast and jump high’, or my favorite, ‘criminality’- is just a slick arguement to justify a racist perspective. The real and only determining factor is socioeconomic. It’s a plight that contemporary societies have failed to address and will forever fuel this pathetic monkey in a barrel conversation. The smart monkeys keep crawling over the remedial monkeys and feel superior. Perhaps target income inequality with same vigor and I’ll be impressed with your humanity. What this thread lacked was intellectual integrtiy.

    • Softclocks says

      The Sri Lankans have an excellent cultural attitude towards learning and hard work. I have a few in my class and they’re all brilliant.

    • DTCMD says

      If you called any of those subcontinent immigrants “black” to their face they would loudly and angrily decry it, and possibly even spit in your face.

      -DTCMD
      Brown ’76

  14. Saw file says

    Thanks for the introduction.
    I will check out this book.

  15. Stewie Griffith says

    An inspiring story of a true intellectual, but I just paused for a moment when I read this line:

    “How then, he wonders, “is it that blacks are so poorly represented at the top of the applicant pool in terms of academic qualifications and so over-represented at the bottom, and nevertheless you get population proportionality amongst the students?”

    Perhaps the reason he has never found the answer to this question is because he has already dismissed the most likely reason by rejecting the simple assertions made in Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve?

    The simplest explanation is usually the most correct – different population groups have different attributes, and this includes the most important attribute that defines our humanity.

  16. Jezza says

    An honest man is like rain in the desert – welcome, but it leaves you thirsting for more. An honest intellectual who radiates an absence of hate – yippee! We’ve won the lottery! I look forward to reading more of this man’s work.

  17. Great piece actually, I was unaware of Mr Loury. I agree with the sentiment “that adopting a pro-American attitude is the right thing to do”. It doesn’t mean you dismiss the county’s shortcomings and ra ra ra all the way to Independence Day. America has it’s problems, and yes entrenched race problems are on top of the list. Whatever the situation we are all part of the American family.

    If your family member happens to be an addict, stuck in a terrible place you don’t kick ’em and degrade him over and over in order to help him recover/reform. How will smearing whitey continuously and the house he lives in help anyone? Mark Lamont and Michael Eric Dyson strike me as the type of black intellectual that does just that. Are they making anything better?

    Glenn Loury seems thoughtful and reflective, willing to work to make a difference without resorting to simply spreading hate.

    • @Craig

      I was too until a few months ago, when during (I think one of the Coleman Hughes articles), someone name dropped Loury’s podcast and Coleman being a guest.

    • Benben says

      Michael Eric Dyson fumbles with embedding his scrabble word of the day into his repertoire. He is a pseudo-intellectual and paid shill of the left, like Reverend Sharpton, regurgitating the manifesto of identity politics. The left has no incentive in watching the socioeconomically impoverished minority classes rise up. Doing so would fragment democratic voting blacks as more and more minorities would begin to make money and prefer not paying taxes then paying into the federal ‘dole’ system that seems to have done nothing but oppress the oppressed. Business school 101, it is far more expensive to gain a new customer than it is to keep an old one. IE there is no incentive in seeing blacks thrive, millions have been invested to keep the racial narrative of oppression alive. It must have killed Hilary Clinton when black across the nation, especially in Broward County florida failed to turn out to vote for her but managed to make it to the polls to vote for proposition 8 against gay marriage in california. This is why the left has abandoned the racial narrative and gone with the oppressed woman, anti-patriarchy campaign. “I have a dream of white women, showing up to my orgies with gifts of cocaine to bestow unto yours truly.”

      • @Benben

        RE MED: Yes. An insidious postmodernist trying to beguile us with sophistry.

  18. BenBen says

    IQ test scores for black and latinos are some 30 percent lower than that of whites, this is indisputable.The question is why?

    • Stewie Griffith says

      The largest determinant of an individuals life success is their IQ. Yet the moment it comes to the examination of differences in life outcomes across different population groups, suddenly everyone must adhere to the ‘Blank Slate’ ideology.

      Refusing to consider the role of biology and genetics in IQ, is like trying to explain the motion of the planets without looking to the sky.

      • TarsTarkas says

        IQ does not measure intelligence, it measures what a person has learned before taking the test. If the person came from a crap neighborhood dominated by a crap culture and went to a crap school, then their SATs are going to suck. The claim that certain races are innately less intelligent breaks down when confronted with the success of Caribbean blacks in this country, who have a higher percentage African genetics than USA blacks. Two hundred years ago the stupid race were the Irish, a hundred years ago it was the Italians and Slavs and Greeks. Look at them now. It’s the culture, not the nature. Past immigrants and Asian Indian and West African and Caribbean immigrants bought into American culture and have gotten ahead. Ghetto blacks and now Central American immigrants haven’t, and look where they are.

        • Stewie Griffith says

          IQ as a measurement is one of the best indicators as to an individuals ability to perform a task both successfully and with a minimum level of supervision. IQ is one of the most measurable and replicatable of all human attributes studied by psychology and the social sciences. If IQ doesn’t exist then quite simply every study ever performed in the social sciences must be viewed with suspicion.

          Knowledge (learning) is quite separate from IQ and it is unsurprising that you attempt to muddle the two in order advance you outdated views. Your example of SATs is flawed, because knowledge is not connected with innate raw intellectual potential. A high IQ individual attending a low SAT school will still achieve a better result than a fellow low IQ student attending that same school.

          Attempting to refute the existence of IQ based around prejudicial and flawed science from 200 years ago is a fallacy of false equivalence. The science behind IQ has advanced significantly from 200 years ago.

          Without a doubt culture and biology (nutrition) play some role in IQ, however they cannot fully explain all the gaps. Median IQ in Ethiopia is around 62, while median IQ of Ethiopian Jews in Israel is around 65. The enormous cultural differences between these two nations suggests that IQ explains around 8% of the gap to other population groups in Israel. Similarly the median IQ for sub-Saharan Africa is around 70, while for African Americans it is around 86, thus culture here explains around 50% of the variance. Interestingly this is pretty much exactly what Frances Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA’s Helix structure, postulated in the letter for which he has been practically excommunicated for by both the progressive media and blank slate zealots within the Scientific community.

          Finally you assert that blacks in the Caribbean are more successful than blacks in the US, despite a higher level of African genetics. This is just a value judgement with no evidence provided.

          IQ’s in the Caribbean range from 67 (Haiti) to 80 (Trinidad and Tobago), which are broadly in line with Africa, while median IQ’s of African Americans are assessed at around 86. Life expectancy in Haiti is around 63.3 years while for an African American it is 74.6 years, broadly correlating with IQ. Similarly a range of other health and social quality of life indexes also track in line with IQ between those two African population groups.

          IQ is real, it exists and it is measurable. It DOES NOT explain all the difference in life outcomes between population groups, but it does explain a significant portion. Deliberately choosing to ignore its role in influencing life outcomes, is in fact a racist and bigoted choice, as by default, the only acceptable explanation remaining for the gap is the prejudice and moral failings of more successful population groups.

          • Stewie Griffith says

            Correction: The enormous cultural differences between these two nations suggests that Culture only explains around 8% of the gap to other population groups in Israel..

          • @Stewie, I find your presentation here well-constructed and persuasive with one important exception. You write, “You assert that blacks in the Caribbean are more successful than blacks in the U.S. . . .” In fact, TarsTarkas seemed to be pointing to Caribbean blacks’ success IN THE U.S. compared to that of African-Americans.

            This is an important distinction. Indeed, Coleman Hughes has noted in interviews that Caribbean blacks significantly outperform American blacks across many measures. In fact Hughes presents this phenomenon as evidence against structural racism (e.g. since racists presumably make no distinction between the two, it can’t simply be racism holding blacks down).

            Based on considerable personal anecdotal evidence living in NYC and teaching at a community college here, it’s quite evident to me that Caribbean blacks (and blacks from Africa) demonstrate, on the whole, behaviors that are more conducive to academic and economic success than blacks with American ancestry.

            Some of that distinction may be also explained by self-selection processes vis-a-vis immigration.

            My general point is that economic outcome disparities between blacks and whites in America may indeed be caused in part by genetic factors (I.Q.), but also owe considerably to cultural factors. I used to believe it was all culturally-determined before I was exposed to the research on I.Q. The distinction in outcomes between whites and Asians in America is another complex mix of I.Q. and culture. I would be interested in finding a robust statistical analysis that sorted out the relative significance of these factors–and which also made allowances for the effects of discrimination, which I (again, based on my experience teaching at a highly diverse urban community college) believe to be small.

          • Stewie Griffith says

            @Mike – thank you for clarifying that point re Caribbean populations in the US. It is an interesting observation that would certainly be worthy of additional research and investigation. The potential for self-selection vis-a-vis immigration, or more pertinently skills based immigration, could be a relevant fact.

            Interestingly I have read of the same phenomena (but in reverse) in regards to lower differences in median income between the UK’s indigenous white folk and Nigerians who’ve recently migrated there under skills based visas, versus the much larger income differences between UK and Caribbeans descended populations who form a significant percentage of the UK’s total population of people with African ancestry.

            This issue of self selection also raises an interesting question as to the morality of such skilled base migration programs targeting many of these developing nations. In the information age such immigration programs based around enticing the best and brightest of these needy nations is akin to 19th century robber barons strip mining these nations of their gold, diamonds and oil.

            In such circumstances is it any wonder that many of these nations fail to launch, when we have policies to strip mine them of their best and brightest and positive agents of change?

            Regardless, I do accept that Culture and cultural differences do play a part in the differences of life outcomes between population groups, however I also stand by the assertion that genetic differences also play a significant part. The question is how much?

            Given the advances in knowledge as to IQ and genetics, combined with the outbreak of anti-white racism that is becoming increasingly apparent (and which I believe lies at the core of the recent Coverington Catholic boy’s school incident), I believe it is vitally important that thought leaders, such as Glenn Loury, reconsider their approach to this topic.

            In my honest opinion the current narrative falsely places all the blame for differences in life outcomes between population groups at the feet of white people due to their supposed moral failings and prejudice – which quite frankly, I find to be an increasingly racist and bigoted assertion and one which is responsible for spreading much hatred and division.

            Thanks for your thoughts and comments.

  19. Angry from Australia says

    Great article. Really enjoyed it, liked the interesting style you chose to present the interview in. Will go and read more from this fine fellow. Ta-Nehisi Coates is a disturbing character. It worries me anyone listens to his paranoid, original sin ramblings.

    • They gave him the National Book Award. I read the book, and I do think that he likely suffers from some degree of paranoid personality disorder. Yet there is no doubt an opportunist element to his person as well. But the awarding of the NBA to Coates seems to me the most profound evidence of which I am aware that our cultural establishment has become blinkered by moral dogma to a degree not seen since perhaps the Victorian Era.

    • @Angry

      Ditto Michael Eric Dyson. They both seem to me to be insidious post-modernists using sophistry.

  20. rick g. says

    Dr. Loury has a podcast on blogginheads.tv which is usually outstanding.

  21. I think it true that current black underachievement cannot be understood without considering its relationship to white attitudes. By white attitudes, I mean in particular white liberal attitudes.

    Virtually every one of my white liberal friends supports double standard social policies for blacks as a group (and other minority groups). Such patronizing double standards would never be tolerated if applied to themselves personally or to themselves as a group.

    Moreover, adding to this psychological confusion, my white liberal friends almost always treat black individuals as individuals, as they would themselves like to be treated.

    In short, white liberals are usually not racist in the concrete, but they are often racist in the abstract.

    • TarsTarkas says

      Before the Southern Rebellion Northern abolitionists tended to dislike blacks individually, but loved them collectively. Lincoln himself originally was in favor of sending them to Africa after they were freed. I guess it was same sort of abstraction.

  22. Chris Martin says

    Theory: black culture, broadly speaking, believes that education, income, and wealth are a means to an end (the end being a good life). White American culture believes that education, income, and wealth are ends in and of themselves. I would love to see polling on this.

  23. James Laker says

    Americans are obsessed with race. It’s SO BORING!

  24. One is really stuck if one is a black intellectual. You have three planks you can take.

    1) Blacks held down by whites (Coates).

    If you take this plank you can get AA, set asides, and lots of other goodies from guilty whites. It also helps that the biggest beneficiaries of this stuff are upper level blacks (ghetto thugs aren’t getting minority set asides at Harvard).

    2) Backs held down by themselves.

    If you push this you can at least deal with things inside your control that might feasibly be improved. So this holds out the most hope for real gains, especially at the bottom of black society.

    However, it undermines the case for #1. It’s also a painful thing to admit.

    Finally, since #3 below is true, there are major demoralizing limits to what can be accomplish even if one does ones best.

    3) IQ differences that are nobody’s fault

    This is probably the real driver. On the good side accepting it means we can stop either blaming whites or blaming blacks for continued poor performance. It’s also necessary to understand if you want to implement any successful program that is more than a zero sum set aside.

    However, it basically means admitting the racists were right, that your people will never be much, and it cuts at #1 giveaway goodies. I can’t see anyone swallowing this option even if its true.

    So what happens is people oscillate between #1 and #2, can’t acknowledge #3, and it ends up being rather confused when it isn’t just a performance.

    • @asdf

      “However, it basically means admitting the racists were right, that your people will never be much, and it cuts at #1 giveaway goodies.”

      Really? Why would they NEVER be much? Are there any statistics out there that before/after for Jewish populations in America for when they were poor and downtrodden years ago vs the modern age? Why couldn’t a similar culture shift happen which would improve the overall average for Blacks? IQ might be the best predictor, but still isn’t relatively strong (0.4 I’ve heard?)…conscientiousness being a somewhat close second. Why wouldn’t a cultural shift help out a lot? Even considering the overall average, what really is “success”? Why couldn’t maximizing/emphasizing conscientiousness and other traits bring financial success…maximizing one’s potential – success in the trades, sales, and even STEM fields but maybe in less technical positions? There seems to be way too much emphasis the lack of representation in extremes and not helping out the overall population.

  25. Johan says

    Listen to Glenn Loury and John McWorther…Youtube: blogginheads. To smart and critical black guys.

  26. Robert Franklin says

    Amazing. Not one word from either the writer or Loury about the 72% of black children born to single mothers or the high percentage of them who grow up in fatherless homes. That alone explains a huge amount of the deficits demonstrated by the data on black Americans, and yet it rates not a single mention by either.

  27. codadmin says

    Why has Quilette allowed the author to call Coates an ‘anti-racist’?

    Coates is a racist, not an ‘anti-racist’.

    • Morgan Foster says

      Easy, there. Loury is one of the good guys. And we don’t want Quilette to make a habit of censoring its contributors, do we.

      • codadmin says

        This piece wasn’t written by Lowry.

        But, calling Coates an anti-racist in an article that is critical of him, makes the author, and even Quilette, seem racist.

        If you critique an ‘anti-race’, then you must be racist yourself.

        That’s why hate filled racists like Coates must always be called racist. Otherwise, you find yourself defending the indefensible and also open to attack by opponents.

  28. A great piece, I had no idea of this mans existence. The sad part is I know who Ta-Nehisi Coates is from C-span Book TV. Like most black Americans I have encountered, he despises white Americans. Although I do share the pessimism of both when it comes to improving race relations. I had more optimism pre-Barack Obama, not so much post-Barack Obama. I lay the blame for the accelerated the decline in race relations squarely at his feet. Heck he did nothing for black Americans.

  29. Cohyn says

    We are going to keep having stupid societal issues as long as we continue the absurd practice of identifying as a color as if you were a 5-yeard old. I think we can all agree that it was dangerously ignorant of people in the past to identify as a color and it led to some insanely dangerous attitudes and policies — so why are we embracing the stupidity of it once more? Let it go, already. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is. It never did and it never will. That is just something people convinced other people so they could own and control them. Unfortunately, that is essentially the main reason it still persists today. Except now the ownership is under the guise of protection.

  30. DTCMD says

    I’m going to be praying for a number of the commenters herein – you are in desperate need of it.

    DTCMD
    Brown ’76

  31. Geary Johansen says

    I have watched your conversations with Heather MacDonald with keen interest and have been looking into knife crime as a layman and as a concerned UK citizen. In particular, I wonder whether you would agree with me that, since the early 2000’s, the groundbreaking work done by the epidemiologist Gary Slutkin, in treating violence like a disease outbreak that clusters, working in tandem with proactive policing, as a sort of coupled system, is nothing short of miraculous. I would cite Glasgow as just one such example.

    As a heterodox, and in a (by now) truly depressingly familiar fashion, I believe that the complacency that comes from seeing trends in crime reduction as a social phenomena, rather than as a product of good policing and good local social policy, along with effects of austerity as a very bad idea (Mark Blythe :)) have combined to create the perfect storm in London, with it’s surge in knife crime.

    I have come to believe that political polarization, and the confirmation bias that all human beings bring to wicked problems, means that regardless of which particular party holds political power- this fusion of core values from both the left and the right, this coupled system, will either function sub-optimally or be eroded over time, whenever race is thrown into the mix.

    It is worth noting that in Glasgow (where 99% of both victims and offenders were white) there were no complaints about proactive policing or narratives of racist calumny directed towards police over SQF’s. There was no cynical attempt by the media to hide crime statistics by race in the interests of portraying policing as systemically racist or mention of the fact that gangs (the principal contagious agent of violence) are not equal opportunities employers.

    It is also worth noting that in Glasgow, where race was not an issue, everything bar the kitchen sink seems to have been thrown at the problem. As well as violence interrupters, local and social services were enlisted to offer housing, education and employment. Community centres became the hub of diversionary strategy. No doubt the doors of boxing and martial arts clubs, as well as sports facilities, were thrown open, as a means of channeling male aggression into healthier pursuits.

    I wonder how long it will take the government in London to ask the Scottish regional Parliament for their advice, which will no doubt entail BOTH that proactive policing is necessary and that violence needs to be treated as a public health issue, with criminal justice efforts necessarily reform-led when offences are low-level. For the more conservative-minded reader or voter, any public expenditure could be sold as a cost-saving, given the expense of incarceration as an alternative- which would no doubt come as a welcome relief given the normal tendency of the left towards regulatory and rent-seeking local bureaucracies or to provide inefficient services in the public sector, rather than in the private sector where they belong.

    In relation to America, I have recently been watching with interest some content relating to Mike Rowe and Dirty Jobs, and was wondering whether you thought that there might be, with appropriate publicly funded training, for at risk, young, poor black and brown men to steal a march on their more complacent, white, educated, middle-class peers. Given that they would be walking into better paid jobs as welders, builders, etc, such a program could be partially funded as a system of very low interest loans, operating an a ‘no win, no fee’ basis, like the much better British Student Loans system (check out Martin Lewis), as well as go fund me’s and business sponsorships. This system would also by its very nature appeal to the more conservative-minded as it would necessary entail working with male role model instructors.

    Finally, I would like to ask your advice on further viewing and reading material. It’s hard enough to find what you want online, even when you know what you’re looking for. On a personal note, what began to shift me from a the standard white, liberal, supposedly ‘colour-blind’ position, to a more nuanced version was Trevor Philips excellent Channel 4 documentary Things We Won’t Say About Race (That Are True). It seems almost prescient now, both in relation to Trump and Brexit, that he was right about a great deal.

    Geary Johansen,
    carol_in_norfolk@tiscali.co.uk

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