Tuesday, March 9, 2010

More Proof that Daniel Patrick Moynihan was Correct: Behold the Beauty of The Ghetto Kamasutra

There are times when one sees a thing that truly gets the neurons firing and jumping from vine to vine across that grand old bibliography in the old noggin.

I was disgusted when I saw this video. Once more the black superpublic is proven true as both concept and fact--the line between private and public is blurring more and more each day. In short, our triumphs, foibles, and disgraces do indeed walk down the street when school let's out. Or they choose to display themselves on Youtube (see the obligatory prison inspired, homosocial, sequel to the video where said knucklehead chooses to perform shirtless with his "boy").

Ultimately, in the Age of Obama the ign'ts win again. Question: where is mom? Where is dad? Where is some authority figure to talk sense into these two fools? Random question: who the hell furnished this space? A mattress, a mirror, and a chair? Talk about low rent.

If you want to be further appalled read the comments section for this video on Youtube. There you will find an odd display of pidgin English, 'hood speak, and text abbreviated language that might as well be from another world.

Coming full circle, The Ghetto Kamasutra reminded me of Orlando Patterson's NY Times piece on the ghetto underclass, the cool pose, and how social scientists and others often misread (and by extension misunderstand) the "culture," life choices, and decision-making processes of the urban poor. Patterson's piece is a new classic worthy of being (re)read in its entirety:

A Poverty of the Mind

SEVERAL recent studies have garnered wide attention for reconfirming the tragic disconnection of millions of black youths from the American mainstream. But they also highlighted another crisis: the failure of social scientists to adequately explain the problem, and their inability to come up with any effective strategy to deal with it.

The main cause for this shortcoming is a deep-seated dogma that has prevailed in social science and policy circles since the mid-1960's: the rejection of any explanation that invokes a group's cultural attributes — its distinctive attitudes, values and predispositions, and the resulting behavior of its members — and the relentless preference for relying on structural factors like low incomes, joblessness, poor schools and bad housing.

Harry Holzer, an economist at Georgetown University and a co-author of one of the recent studies, typifies this attitude. Joblessness, he feels, is due to largely weak schooling, a lack of reading and math skills at a time when such skills are increasingly required even for blue-collar jobs, and the poverty of black neighborhoods. Unable to find jobs, he claims, black males turn to illegal activities, especially the drug trade and chronic drug use, and often end up in prison. He also criticizes the practice of withholding child-support payments from the wages of absentee fathers who do find jobs, telling The Times that to these men, such levies "amount to a tax on earnings."

His conclusions are shared by scholars like Ronald B. Mincy of Columbia, the author of a study called "Black Males Left Behind," and Gary Orfield of Harvard, who asserts that America is "pumping out boys with no honest alternative."

This is all standard explanatory fare. And, as usual, it fails to answer the important questions. Why are young black men doing so poorly in school that they lack basic literacy and math skills? These scholars must know that countless studies by educational experts, going all the way back to the landmark report by James Coleman of Johns Hopkins University in 1966, have found that poor schools, per se, do not explain why after 10 years of education a young man remains illiterate.

Nor have studies explained why, if someone cannot get a job, he turns to crime and drug abuse. One does not imply the other. Joblessness is rampant in Latin America and India, but the mass of the populations does not turn to crime.

And why do so many young unemployed black men have children — several of them — which they have no resources or intention to support? And why, finally, do they murder each other at nine times the rate of white youths?

What's most interesting about the recent spate of studies is that analysts seem at last to be recognizing what has long been obvious to anyone who takes culture seriously: socioeconomic factors are of limited explanatory power. Thus it's doubly depressing that the conclusions they draw and the prescriptions they recommend remain mired in traditional socioeconomic thinking.

What has happened, I think, is that the economic boom years of the 90's and one of the most successful policy initiatives in memory — welfare reform — have made it impossible to ignore the effects of culture. The Clinton administration achieved exactly what policy analysts had long said would pull black men out of their torpor: the economy grew at a rapid pace, providing millions of new jobs at all levels. Yet the jobless black youths simply did not turn up to take them. Instead, the opportunity was seized in large part by immigrants — including many blacks — mainly from Latin America and the Caribbean.

One oft-repeated excuse for the failure of black Americans to take these jobs — that they did not offer a living wage — turned out to be irrelevant. The sociologist Roger Waldinger of the University of California at Los Angeles, for example, has shown that in New York such jobs offered an opportunity to the chronically unemployed to join the market and to acquire basic work skills that they later transferred to better jobs, but that the takers were predominantly immigrants.

Why have academics been so allergic to cultural explanations? Until the recent rise of behavioral economics, most economists have simply not taken non-market forces seriously. But what about the sociologists and other social scientists who ought to have known better? Three gross misconceptions about culture explain the neglect.

First is the pervasive idea that cultural explanations inherently blame the victim; that they focus on internal behavioral factors and, as such, hold people responsible for their poverty, rather than putting the onus on their deprived environment. (It hasn't helped that many conservatives do actually put forth this view.)

But this argument is utterly bogus. To hold someone responsible for his behavior is not to exclude any recognition of the environmental factors that may have induced the problematic behavior in the first place. Many victims of child abuse end up behaving in self-destructive ways; to point out the link between their behavior and the destructive acts is in no way to deny the causal role of their earlier victimization and the need to address it.

Likewise, a cultural explanation of black male self-destructiveness addresses not simply the immediate connection between their attitudes and behavior and the undesired outcomes, but explores the origins and changing nature of these attitudes, perhaps over generations, in their brutalized past. It is impossible to understand the predatory sexuality and irresponsible fathering behavior of young black men without going back deep into their collective past.

Second, it is often assumed that cultural explanations are wholly deterministic, leaving no room for human agency. This, too, is nonsense. Modern students of culture have long shown that while it partly determines behavior, it also enables people to change behavior. People use their culture as a frame for understanding their world, and as a resource to do much of what they want. The same cultural patterns can frame different kinds of behavior, and by failing to explore culture at any depth, analysts miss a great opportunity to re-frame attitudes in a way that encourages desirable behavior and outcomes.

Third, it is often assumed that cultural patterns cannot change — the old "cake of custom" saw. This too is nonsense. Indeed, cultural patterns are often easier to change than the economic factors favored by policy analysts, and American history offers numerous examples.

My favorite is Jim Crow, that deeply entrenched set of cultural and institutional practices built up over four centuries of racist domination and exclusion of blacks by whites in the South. Nothing could have been more cultural than that. And yet America was able to dismantle the entire system within a single generation, so much so that today blacks are now making a historic migratory shift back to the South, which they find more congenial than the North. (At the same time, economic inequality, which the policy analysts love to discuss, has hardened in the South, like the rest of America.)

So what are some of the cultural factors that explain the sorry state of young black men? They aren't always obvious. Sociological investigation has found, in fact, that one popular explanation — that black children who do well are derided by fellow blacks for "acting white" — turns out to be largely false, except for those attending a minority of mixed-race schools.

An anecdote helps explain why: Several years ago, one of my students went back to her high school to find out why it was that almost all the black girls graduated and went to college whereas nearly all the black boys either failed to graduate or did not go on to college. Distressingly, she found that all the black boys knew the consequences of not graduating and going on to college ("We're not stupid!" they told her indignantly).

SO why were they flunking out? Their candid answer was that what sociologists call the "cool-pose culture" of young black men was simply too gratifying to give up. For these young men, it was almost like a drug, hanging out on the street after school, shopping and dressing sharply, sexual conquests, party drugs, hip-hop music and culture, the fact that almost all the superstar athletes and a great many of the nation's best entertainers were black.

Not only was living this subculture immensely fulfilling, the boys said, it also brought them a great deal of respect from white youths. This also explains the otherwise puzzling finding by social psychologists that young black men and women tend to have the highest levels of self-esteem of all ethnic groups, and that their self-image is independent of how badly they were doing in school.

I call this the Dionysian trap for young black men. The important thing to note about the subculture that ensnares them is that it is not disconnected from the mainstream culture. To the contrary, it has powerful support from some of America's largest corporations. Hip-hop, professional basketball and homeboy fashions are as American as cherry pie. Young white Americans are very much into these things, but selectively; they know when it is time to turn off Fifty Cent and get out the SAT prep book.

For young black men, however, that culture is all there is — or so they think. Sadly, their complete engagement in this part of the American cultural mainstream, which they created and which feeds their pride and self-respect, is a major factor in their disconnection from the socioeconomic mainstream.

Of course, such attitudes explain only a part of the problem. In academia, we need a new, multidisciplinary approach toward understanding what makes young black men behave so self-destructively. Collecting transcripts of their views and rationalizations is a useful first step, but won't help nearly as much as the recent rash of scholars with tape-recorders seem to think. Getting the facts straight is important, but for decades we have been overwhelmed with statistics on black youths, and running more statistical regressions is beginning to approach the point of diminishing returns to knowledge.

The tragedy unfolding in our inner cities is a time-slice of a deep historical process that runs far back through the cataracts and deluge of our racist past. Most black Americans have by now, miraculously, escaped its consequences. The disconnected fifth languishing in the ghettos is the remains. Too much is at stake for us to fail to understand the plight of these young men. For them, and for the rest of us.

Orlando Patterson, a professor of sociology at Harvard, is the author of "Rituals of Blood: Consequences of Slavery in Two American Centuries."


Cobb said...

I suppose that we had to have a black President for Patterson's wisdom to be taken seriously. Yes. Moynihan was right.

I was among those who chuckled during the culture wars at Reaganite champions of 'family values'. But I was single, childless and advancing my career. For me it was all about economic advancement. What I saw that blackfolks needed more than anything else was an economic base of substance. Well, I don't write family values in quotes any longer. They are real values with important consequences that cannot be downplayed, and I say they are central to the prospects of African Americans. Black people persist, but black families are challenged. Blackfolks will survive, but without marriage we will not advance or sustain those advances.
(Cobb - 2006)

Read my lips. "Defense of Marriage".

chaunceydevega said...

Wow we found common ground on something! Maybe we are both going to hit Powerball.

But, I don't think that the defense of marriage act and demonizing our gay brothers and sisters has anything to do with the many factors structural and cultural that lead to this nonsense--or the pathologies of white suburbia (that often go undiscussed).


Cobb said...

I dint seek to demonize gays. I seek to mArginalize and mock them, like a bad football team.

gordon gartrelle said...

1. Chauncey, it isn't obvious what "black superpublic" means. Perhaps you should provide a brief definition.

2. Cobb, the fact that conservatives, who claim to be champions of individual freedom, are still making arguments against gay rights is pathetic. How embarrassing it will be for your descendants to read your irrational, retrograde positions. Hell, I'm embarrassed for you now.

Shouldn't a reasonable person question the value of a philosophical approach that has supported the wrong side of history on every single expansion of legal rights?

Cobb said...

Rights are the gift of the strong. But you can't invent a term like gay in one decade and expect the strong to reinvent rights the next. What's in it for me?

chaunceydevega said...


So what of the struggle to expand rights for black folk when we were weak? Is strength your barometer of justice?

Please say no to the latter...

Cobb said...

What Moynihan being right proves is that the gift of rights guarantees no results. The greatest fear of white supremacy was the mixing of blood. So what of Living vs. VA? It is not the 'right' to have the law on your side agianst hateful fear that makes for success. it's always the same thing, defense of property and individual rights, not anti discrimation and group immunities. The ways and means of power never change. Blacks today are more defnded in law and society than ever - that's not what makes black achievement. Black achievement makes black achievement, except of course for the psychologically weak who will remain forever victims of stereotype threat.

chaunceydevega said...

@Cobb--you said "it's always the same thing, defense of property and individual rights, not anti discrimination and group immunities. The ways and means of power never change. Blacks today are more defended in law and society than ever - that's not what makes black achievement."

How do you reconcile the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution? Black folks needed group protection because our individual rights were not respected by white people? Wrong ruling? Misunderstanding? What of "original intent" that you praise so much?

Also what of how individual rights and property rights have been racialized for much of this country's history? Racial minorities--blacks in particular--did not have individual rights that whites as a group were bound to respect. Remember Dredd Scott? Property rights? We were denied property rights and owned as property.

There are reasons for the protected persons/groups clause/category in Civil Rights Law. Or is that all liberal claptrap?

The stupidity on display in that video has little to do with full respect for the rights of Black Americans in this country. Don't conflate ign't subculture with Black Freedom and the Black Freedom struggle that is something a conservative, racial reactionary who thinks that we were better of on the plantation would suggest.


Cobb said...

I didn't watch the video, I read Patterson. I actually have no idea what it looks like since I've been responding by phone. At any rate, the question of what it takes to establish and maintain a prosperous class of black Americans is my interest. That is only peripherally a Constitutional issue. The principle that individuals can, without regard to noble lineage, reach prosperity has been settled. It wasn't anti-discrimination and group immunities that created white old money and it won't be for any other type - that is unless the law is abused.

The assemblage of a prosperous class of black Americans is taking place in a fully distributed manner. What happens (here) in DC society has little or nothing to do with what happens in LA or ATL. So 'groups' of black boats are not being raised. Rather, like the independent scientific discovery process, the advantages of certain values and discipline are showing up the same way everywhere. Once people start surpassing the Tibbs Threshold, the world opens up. Once upon a time it was only Sidney Poitier who could be a police detective. Today nobody much cares if 'first blacks' are that good.

To the topic - what black Americans have suffered with all Americans is an assault on the family. It was indeed a sexual revolution with great social consequences (or perhaps we could say it was a social revolution with sexual consequences) that took marginal and previously considered anti-social and immoral behavior of the margins, and placed it front and center in the guise the 'liberation' and new freedom. It was and will always be a bad idea. Now everybody has to live it down, because the singular unavoidable fact is that libertine sex is anti-social - it is about personal gratification, and a certain fraction of the newly acceptable sexual practice is clearly immoral, and none of that is going to raise anyone above the Tibbs Threshold. It only degenerates.

When I speak of the prosperous class of black Americans I have always done so using the term 'aggregation'. The implication is that this class isn't created by any coordinated action, rather it is created family by family and efforts must be made to interconnect such 'made' families. However I don't believe there is much of a compelling interest in aggregation which is why Respectable Negroes is an island. A very interesting island above the Threshold, but not a mainstream thing. Nor has this compelling interest had a chance, I think, since black enrollment at 'predominately white' colleges and universities surpassed that of HBCUs in the 80s.

We have human rights. We have civil rights. Now comes the time for social power. Bruce Sterling said 'The future is already here, it's just unevenly distributed.'

Cobb said...

My point is to stongly suggest that the differences between 'People Like Us' and 'The Element' is a permanent and enduring condition of human nature, and that it is not blood that makes the difference, but merit. This country's principles are to preserve an aristocracy of merit, primarily by defending that stuff that is achieved by merit, ie property. What 'rights' one might have could be seen to be as what one has by being in the midst of such an aristocracy. You have no idea how a cellphone tower works, but you get service because you're here. If you don't make productive calls with your cellphone it's your own fault. You have no idea how money is liberated to offer you a mortgage, but if you default on your own payment it's your fault. You have no idea what a molecule of cholesterol looks like, but it has been identified for you on the food label. If you pig out, it's your fault. The breadth of human behavior that is possible is enormous, but only a fixed and few set of actions will get one over the Tibbs Threshold.

To confuse the social approval of certain uncommon features of unusual people and their emergence in society with 'rights' is a grave error. They substitute a literal diversity of meaningless things with those core values and actions which must be defended for a society to sustain its aristocracy of merit. There is no merit in race. There is no merit in sexual orientation. To preserve true equality, such things *must not* be considered. Affirmative actions and aggregations are not central directives in a free society - they are the privileges of social power and political fashion, they are just as often dangerous as uplifting.

I doubt the ability, although not the sincerity, of any aggregated class of post-Tibbs Americans to raise the boats of The Element through political appeals to the mainstream or by their own independent ability to police and/or raise capital for projects of social engineering. And so I expect the walls of class to rise higher between those who maintain and those who don't, despite the coincidental hues of their skin.

I offer West Virgnia as proof.

Lady Zora, Chauncey DeVega, and Gordon Gartrelle said...

I am in mixed agreement with you. But again, white prosperity did not exist in a vacuum--the State engendered and created the white middle class and subsidized the elite upper classes (the Old money that you talk about).

Wealth creation and property attainment have been profoundly influenced by america's racial order. As Stuart Hall said race is the modality in which class is lived. A powerful observation.

Check out Black Wealth/White Wealth; When Affirmative Action was White; Sundown Towns; Whiteopia; or even the classic How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America.


Cobb said...

I couldn't possibly be bothered to read those books. Instead, I wonder 50 years after integration, if black families living in the very same houses nobody would let them own in Shaker Heights are doing the same kind of work the previous owners were doing. In the home of Rockefeller, who is now running the steel business?

I mean really that's half of the problem right there, if you ask me. There is no reason for me at this moment in my life to be working with people from halfway around the world in the computer industry - an industry created in America by Americans in the post-Civil rights era. Say whatever you like about the perfection of the Constitution, but when I was saying dot com 18 years ago, the black professoriate was coming up with a way to support the theory of a digital divide. They studied the poltiics of discrimination and I studied the science of computing. So did my brothers from Hyderabad, but not my brothers from Compton.

You must surely have Respectable friends from Stanford who hung out in the multicultural houses becoming critical theorists. I say they stereotype threated themselves into a semiotic swamp, whereas they might have used their long-established standing as equals to pursue the dosh that is Silicon Valley.

You surely can't suggest to me that 'white' = entrepreneurial, or that Stalin and his subjects were not 'white'.

It is as it has always been, a matter of the defense of property and individual liberty, not anti-discrimination and group immunity.

BTW, Didn't Manning Marable die broke?

Cobb said...

Actually, the import of that post wasn't properly stated. We need to circle back to the question of which sorts of cultures support which sets of values, and how they are reinforced. And on that point it would be useful for me to see how stable or relative are the Respectable definitions of race vs culture. And when we're ready we might slam the point home with a bit of Sally Hemmings.

I have heard it said around these parts that the Constitution was conceived as a racial document full of racial self-interest wrapped up under a moral figleaf of 'all men'.

But was it race or was it culture? Did the slave trade indeed steal West African royalty or their own Bloods and Crips? After all, there was only a fraction of Africans coming to the States - what, a half million perhaps? Be those numbers whatever they may, one can determine and decide whether the failure of black Americans to achieve X as either intrinsically racial, extrinsically racist, intrinsically cultural, extrinsically cultural or mere coincidence.

I generally start my contemporary comparisons with the Dust Bowl, when most of America was broke. There's no reason for any Okies to have more than blacks of similar cultural predispositions to succeed in America. And so I would not expect to find any of your above mentioned books on the shelves of any black entrepreneur - except maybe Tavis.

Lady Zora, Chauncey DeVega, and Gordon Gartrelle said...

Yikes Cobb. Rejecting books for the sake of merely rejecting them. This is why it is hard to take your more serious, and "intellectual" arguments seriously.

Money matters of course. Success matters of course.

But don't position yourself as a commenter on public affairs and politics if you aren't willing to at least do the work to read some serious well regarded scholarly work by folks you may disagree with. By doing so your opinions are just that--at times vacuous and poorly reasoned. Now if you just want to preach the prosperity gospel that is great but then drop the commentary on race, society, the Constitution, politics, etc. because you don't want to do the intellectual work necessary.


Cobb said...

Deuling references? How pseudo. But I suppose that is to be expected of non-techical people who spend their lives rehashing subjective knowledge. Don't you folks understand the intellectual beauty of independent discovery? You obviously don't appreciate it but at least understand it.

the unreliable narrator said...

I love this debate; and, I too would kinda like to know more about this black "superpublic."

Came here for the Jack Daniels bottle (I teach first-year comp/rhet to the ign'ts at a ginormous state school) but am staying for the hilarity and intelligent anger (not so much the respectability). Also I loved what you said about Ebert. And the Oscars. And Patterson. And, everything.

(And what about historical/intergenerational trauma as part of the complex package keeping young black men economically/educationally sef-thwarting?) Keep it coming—

Cobb said...

Returning seriously, I don't mean to dismiss as much as diminish such scholarship. That is because my orientation is towards social power, which is fast and loose but assumes justice.

So let there be no confusion on the matter of *justice*, that to a certain extent a gritty, countercultural and even revolutionary bit of gutbucket whoopass is needed when people are denied justice. But that standard of justice must be international, historically accurate and transcendent. I am convinced that the level of gutbucket required in these United States called up on behalf of black Americans and all matters of race is minimal. I cannot be convinced by any such scholarship that black Americans merit anything more than neglect. That is precisely because I put black American conflict in the perspective of human conflict on a historical scale.

Readers at Cobb are familiar with my term 'Lynch Factor'. 1 Lynch Factor is about 3000 dead. That, according to whathisname, America's premier expert on slavery, are the numbers killed post Reconstruction until the end of Jim Crow. It's also roughly equal to 1 9/11 and roughly around the number of US soldiers KIA in Iraq. I say all legitimate politics and scholarship ought to be put in the perspective of lives lost - and it is with that basic restraint that I consider every matter of legitimacy for black partisan politics. Who died?

Now I would have no problem considering the most important policy ramifications of your selected works and having them dominate political debate until they are silly by 9/11 standards. Even as lynching in America was a trickle over 100 years as compared to the flood of one day's blood at WTC & the Pentagon - give me 20 years of righteous democratic political activism.

You know where I'm going from here. The moral capacity of America is not in question, but the political will of Americans to support all that is implicated by such scholarship is weak. I say it is reasonably weak, just like the current mandate for Affirmative Action. It has worn out its welcome, just as Thomas Sowell and Orlando Patterson predicted. There are no new neo- anythings to replace the Klan the (Kool) Morris Dees destroyed. Racial conflict in America is not deadly. It rarely invokes questions of human rights or civil rights, merely of social power. The matters of justice are settled. We no longer need minds and energies of the capacities of Thurgood Marshall to bring America out of some racial dark age.

So as regards the future, matters of race and justice are fine, but the social distinction of class and values and influence and narrative and all that subjective fluffy stuff can be in flux. I'm taking a hardline to work within the context of class as we know it in Western Civ, also I take that whole Judeo-Christian stuff seriously, and I'd like to back it all up with some philosophical grounding.

So I am at liberty to dismiss those I consider socially inferior and degenerate, in fact I hold it as an ethical imperative to do so. This in no way jeopardizes my commitment to justice. The commentary on race, society, the Constitution, politics, etc, is not a transcendant issue of justice in life and death terms. At least I don't see it as something that merits the megatonnage of one Lynch Factor. Therefore the weight which I am likely to give any scholarship which cannot aggregate that much damage is marginal.

If you understand the import of those works, then surely you could argue that x lives were lost - something greater than the net impact of high cholesterol or STDs. But I think when it comes to life and death, you'll find that the Conservative approach to sex is morally superior. Progressives might attempt to claim some academic high ground with some newly invented social ethics. I call bullshit. Marriage works. Abortion kills. Gay marriage is oxymoronic.

Anonymous said...

Reducing the entire argument into "show me the bodies" seems a short sighted wholesale dismissal of the complexity of the issue. There are still bodies piling up in homocides fueled by an underground economy that is fed by marginalization and oppression from a hierarchy built by and for the interests of the priveliged dominant white culture. I would point as well to incarceration having significance up there with bodies piling up. Beyond just 'lives lost' you can look to 'quality of life lost' as a significant measure in this complex issue. Life is lost not only in the myopic sense of a heart stopping to beat but lives/dreams/hopes/opportunities crushed. There is such a thing as 'dying on the inside.' Many war veterans may not have been a 'physical' casualty of war and thus not counted as a 'life lost', but the effects of the psychological and emotional damage sustained taking the form of PTSD, suicide, alcohol/drug abuse, domestic abuse etc. is not insignificant, and should not be wholesale discounted. There is a palpable and real 'loss of life' happening here.
Conservatives approach to sex supports abstinance training which is laughable at best. Birth Control works. It should be available in vending machines in every high school in America. Birth control pills should be available over-the-counter, just like robotussin. This would be a better way of reducing abortions instead of trying to legislate morality, picketing clinics, and thumping Bibles. If Heterosexual marriage is a right, then Gay marriage should be too. Church and state should be separate. If the Church wants to put it's official seal of 'ordained by God' on some types of marriage over others, good for them. But, there should be no legal difference between heterosexual, or gay marriages.

the unreliable narrator said...

Well, and I was trying to stay out of this, but according to the Kaiser Family Foundation:

Young African American men die at a rate that is at least 1.5 times the rate of young white and Hispanic men, and almost three times the rate of young Asian men. While the death rate drops for men ages 25 to 29 for most groups, it continues to rise among African Americans.

The leading causes of death for all young men ages 15-29, regardless of race or ethnicity, are unintentional injury (e.g. car accident, firearm, or drowning), suicide, and homicide. For young African American men, more deaths are caused by homicide than any other cause. Additionally, HIV is the sixth leading cause of death for young African American and Hispanic men, yet for other racial groups, HIV is not among the top 10 causes of death.

(based on data from the National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 54, No. 13, April 19, 2006)

So, um, there IS a body count. Not that, as the previous poster already said, that's where it's all at. But even if that IS your criterion for injustice—looks like it's certainly been satisfied.

the unreliable narrator said...

And this fascistic, racism-denying blogspot form ate my link! but here it is again:


Cobb said...

We can go down the rabbithole of gay marriage, but I doubt that Anonymous has the stamina. Bottom line for Cobb, take your Civil Union and shut the hell up. Touch my Marriage and be prepared for conflict. It's not a right, it's a privilege. If you want the privilege you have to earn it. Activists for Gays have not earned it. So says California where I live, thank God. End of discussion.

Anon say: There are still bodies piling up in homocides fueled by an underground economy that is fed by marginalization and oppression from a hierarchy built by and for the interests of the priveliged dominant white culture. I would point as well to incarceration having significance up there with bodies piling up.

That's a stereotypical mouthful, but I'm happy to grant it. Just understand that kind of loaded sentence ends up talking about quality of life, and quality of life is not a matter of justice. It *is* a matter of social power. I'm not saying the argument is bankrupt, I'm saying it's overvalued in black political currency and the exchange rate is low everywhere else.

In other words you can talk about quality of life issues all you like but it doesn't rise to the level of justice. It's "social justice" and that particular concern does not rise very high on the American political agenda - as it shouldn't. So here's the curveball that should blow the anonymous mind. On the one hand you say that Bible thumpers should change their political tactics. Maybe so. But the Catholic Church, which has come out against abortion and birth control, at least has hospitals and schools and has been funding them for hundreds of years. You're right, there is a better way than legislating morality, it's called religion. And if you truly believe in the separation of church and state, you should think a bit longer about what kind of moral persuasion you think the state should have. I say minimal. Let the private individual have the greatest and last say.

But before I go any further, I really need to know what kind of assertion this is: 'abstinance training is laughable at best'. Why is it laughable? Is it laughable because it supports a bad idea or beacause it's ineffective or because it's impractical?

I've noticed that almost nobody answers my questions directly around here. Is that because you've never heard them before and they are making you think in unexpected ways, or what?

But let's keep it cultural. Why should black Americans rising out of poverty in the 60s have followed the white middle class countercultural sexual revolution of the same period? Give me three good reasons.

Cobb said...

hey unreliable, are your stats normed for income and education, or is that just pure racial traffic? I think it's the latter. who's killing whom and in how many numbers? if stupid, poor, young black men are killing stupid, poor, young black men, are the killers by and large being sent to prison, or are they getting away with murder?

this all seems to be nothing extraordinary. remember, i'm the one for an aristocracy of merit. education and solvency are indications of merit. race is not. so why should i care about the race of killers? why should that even be considered a matter of political concern? mankind has known what to do with murderers for thousands of years.

Anonymous said...

Cobb say: “It's "social justice" and that particular concern does not rise very high on the American political agenda - as it shouldn't”

I agree that it doesn’t, but disagree that it shouldn’t. We are facing a mass demographic shift in America that will leave white folk in the numerical minority by 2050 (if you buy the numbers). We are going to have this ‘minority boom’ funding the (majority white) baby boomers social security. I would say that issues of social justice will by force of circumstance need to be pushed to a more prominent position in American politics. I honestly feel we are far behind while people hide their heads and pretend this will all go away sweeping it under the political rug. In order to prepare for this shift and the America of tomorrow, it should be higher than it is on the agenda. On some level, this past election may have spoken to that (but I don’t want to open that can of worms). The currency and exchange rate on this conversation must rise or we are in a heap of trouble. Invest now.

Cobb say: “But the Catholic Church, which has come out against abortion and birth control, at least has hospitals and schools and has been funding them for hundreds of years.”

Yeah, I’ve heard about these mission schools that they stuffed the Native Americans into on their ‘mission’ of cultural genocide. “kill the Indian, save the man.” Ripping children away from their families, prohibiting them from speaking their native language, beating and molesting them? Yes the wealth and power of the Catholic Church is great.

Cobb say: “But before I go any further, I really need to know what kind of assertion this is: 'abstinance training is laughable at best'. Why is it laughable? Is it laughable because it supports a bad idea or beacause it's ineffective or because it's impractical?”

Culture in times past has been that folks got married when they were 13-16 (perhaps the men were a touch older, but the girls certainly could fall in this range). Abstinence until you got married was practical in that framework and served society well. The extended adolescence of today’s youth pushes that number way past puberty- 20’s 30’s (if at all). Abstinence training is laughable in its ineffectiveness to practically function in today’s society. You could blame this on moral collapse if you want, but in part it has to do with the educational system/specialization of the American work force. Three generations back, one could have an elementary school education and raise a family and function well in society. Two generations back, a middle school education; One generation, a high school diploma; and the current generation is pushed to get a 2 year degree or more. Abstinence does not serve this reality.

Anonymous said...

Cobb say: Why should black Americans rising out of poverty in the 60s have followed the white middle class countercultural sexual revolution of the same period? Give me three good reasons.

I see the ‘countercultural sexual revolution’ as intimately tied with the women’s movement. Women’s issues are black issues because black women are disproportionately marginalized by male privilege (especially white male privilege). The women’s movement advocates for the interests of single working mothers which disproportionately benefits black women. If one views the ‘countercultural sexual revolution’ as a legitimate adaptation to an industrialized work force, the two-income household, and prolonged adolescence, then joining the ranks of those taking birth control has its benefits.

Cobb says: “I'm the one for an aristocracy of merit. Education and solvency are indications of merit. race is not. so why should i care about the race of killers? why should that even be considered a matter of political concern?”

Because there are factors at play, namely white privilege, supremacy, and prejudice that interfere in the function of a true meritocracy. You can live in a little bubble where race isn’t a concern (and it’s a staple of white privilege to do so), but overwhelming evidence adds up to this not being the practical reality of society. Having an ‘ethnic’ sounding name means you are less likely to get called back for job interviews. If a cop sees you reaching for your cell phone, the vision of a gun magically pops up in his head and he shoots. In-group/Out-group bias is a measurable concept. Those in power (white folk) see those in their ‘in-group’ (other white-folk) as personally responsible for their successes, while attributing (white-folk) failures to circumstance or external factors(shit happens). They see those not in power and members of the “out-group” as perhaps being responsible for successes, but are more likely to attribute failure as an internal factor. This is a measurable phenomenon that flies in the face of a situation where a true meritocracy can exist. Bias is real. Bias taints the perception of merit. America is biased and its biased view of merit serves to oppress and marginalize

Cobb said...

It's difficult to argue against Anon because he spits out, almost word for word, exactly what I consider a liberal foil. On every one of these subjects, I disagree - mostly. What I want to do is push back the walls and reveal some principle.

Item 1. The demographics of retirement.

I agree that this is an important issue. It must be taken in the context of whether or not people have reasonable expectations of retirement. In Greece, as we speak, people are shutting down government offices on strike because the people there believe they have a right to expect retirement at the age of 54 and pension benefits that equal 14 months of pay per year. The Greek government is in danger of default. They simply cannot afford it, and this is now challenging the very core of the European Union. The very idea that a government sponsored retirement program is a right is a new one and a bad one. The impending insolvencies of the American entitlements is heading towards a crisis. Today's politicians are too craven to dial this back, and the electorate sounds as intransigent on the issue as Anon. It won't hold. Me? I'm hedging. If we don't privatize Social Security, only those with private funds will successfully retire. My bet is that liberals will start carping about the new economic reality when they find workers in their 60s (can't afford to retire) with lower unemployment rates than workers in their 20s. (can't find a well paying job). Patricide is called for. This social contract is too expensive already.

Item 2. Catholics and Indians.
Uh. No. That argument can't possibly fly with me. You insult and misrepresent. Too tangential anyway.

Item 3. The Economics of Virginity.
Yours is similar to a position I held many years ago. If God made the human body to function sexually at age 16, then our economy should serve the function of the body. It turns out that we are less in control of that economy than we think - so I tend to agree with the laissez-faire approach. So we both seem to agree that that our sexual behavior should comport to our economic circumstances. I say that we should privilege the moral circumstances over the economic circumstances and that the confluence of both still point towards pre-marital restraint and marital monogamy. Independent of the sad and sorry facts about the fuglies crawling around this young generation's gonads I stand behind this conservative and Conservative approach.

I still don't see that your argument necessarily accepts the primacy of an 'extended adolescence'. These are simply hard times. If it takes two working adults to maintain a household, then that's what it takes. In east Asia it often takes three and some working kids too. It comes down to kids screwing in their parents' houses because they can't afford to move out. MTV's sexual reality needs to be seen in its proper historical context - the sexual court antics of spoiled royal youth.

Cobb said...

Item 4. Countering the Counterculture.
Aside from the fact that your argument is circular - the women's movement is a failure. Your argument is circular because you say that black women's issues as single working mothers are the same as white women's issues. As our academic friends would gladly inform you Audre Lorde and Candace Bergen did not get along. The women's movement is a failure because it didn't, and cannot, unite women on a broad variety of issues across the spectrum and it attacked patriarchy broadly without a sufficient sense of economics, offering nothing in its stead but the politically correct notion of accepting that single motherhood is OK. And yet here it is begging for help on exactly that issue.

Let me stipulate that the main economic work of the world's economy is primarily men's work and it will continue to be until the global economy is post-industrial. It's still all about lifting objects greater than 40 pounds and working where there are bugs and funky smells. Until such time as we on the whole would prefer to sustain GDP on the economics of pay-per-view, Oprah is the exception, far from the rule. OK? In the meantime, it's all about Walmart's supply chain, and right now, my perception is that the women prefer the work of the retailing and marketing of the goods, not the design, manufacture, transportation & distribution of the goods. This is only partially a judgment about fitness, but it is more an observation on the sort of work the women's movement has emphasized - the college-educated white collar kind, and that's simply bourgie cherry picking that in no way applies to most women.

Women have made advances in American society more along the lines of America's own exceptionalism with regard to its economic position in the world as well as its all volunteer army. Those opportunities were not created nor directed by the Women's Movement.

Watch TV. I mean really watch TV. Look at the entire economy of women's magazines. Which companies are funding them? What is their business - it's disposable income consumer goods in a boom economy. Do you think brands like Glade and Swiffer and Maybelline and Charmin and Bounty and Bounce and Virginia Slims and Hot Pockets and Ziploc and Pledge and Scrubbing Bubbles and Secret and Venus and.. actually this is a very interesting tangent... I'll be back...