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Colombia’s Historic Pact

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/06/2022 - 12:59am in

On the victory of Gustavo Petro Urrego and Francia Márquez Mina.

Book Note: Erin Pineda, Seeing Like an Activist

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/06/2022 - 6:49pm in

I’ve just finished Erin Pineda’s Seeing Like an Activist: Civil Disobedience and the Civil Rights Movement (Oxford University Press, 2021), and it is a very welcome addition to the literature on both civil disobedience and the history of the US civil rights movement that anyone interested in either topic should read. Pineda is keen to push back against a particular liberal constitutionalist theory of civil disobedience, associated with Bedau and Rawls that purports to draw on the US civil rights movement but which, according to her, ends up both falsifying the history and provides succour to a narrative about civil rights that is used to discipline subsequent movements (such as Black Lives Matter) as failing to live up to the standards set by the activists of the 1960s. That narrative and theory also supports what we might call a form of soft white supremacy, according to which a nearly-just republic composed largely of white citizens was already in place and the task of civil disobedience was to communicate the anomalous exclusion of black Americans from the polity, so that white citizens, apprised of this injustice and stricken by conscience, would act to rectify things.

This standard liberal narrative around civil disobedience has fidelity to law and an acknowledgement of the basic justice and legitimacy of the established order at its heart. The task of civil disobedients on this view is to act non-coercively and non-violently but to break the law (a bit) only to raise the awareness of citizens considered as fellows who are thought of not as themselves implicated in the injustice but as basically good people who would act if only they knew. The civil disobedient on this view submits willingly, even eagerly, to punishment in order to testify to injustice whilst also accepting the shared framework of law. The tacit framework here is also a nationalist one (or at least a statist one) of shared co-operation among fellows who want to establish a just order on national territory together.

This picture, Pineda demonstrates, is just historically wrong and naive. Black civil disobedients did not see their position in a national frame and as an unfortunate national anomaly but rather saw their struggle as part of a wider global fight for racial justice that encompassed Indian independence, Ghanian struggles against colonialism and the fight against apartheid in South Africa. Far from going to prison as an act of communication to white liberals, activists saw it as part of a refusal to compromise with a racist state, as an act of defiant self-actualization, and as a tactic for draining the resources of the oppressor. And far from seeing northern whites as being generally on the side of justice, they saw them as implicated in racial oppression, indifferent to the poverty and discrimination of the black citizens around them and too willing to see the South as somewhere exceptional that was nothing to do with them.

I only felt (mildly) frustrated by material that the book did not cover but which another book might have and which the author may yet address in subsequent work. The first of these is that the focus on the civil rights movement and the struggle for black equality obscures from view other aspects of the US as a white settler state such as the domination of indigenous peoples and their struggles and of the racially exclusionary laws against Chinese and other immigrants, also designed to bolster white supremacy. Second, I found myself wanting more comparative material about disobedience and non-violent resistance but drawing on other countries and traditions: some of that his here in the links drawn to anti-imperialist and anti-colonial struggles, but I also found myself thinking about France and its history of resistance internally but also the far-from-nonviolent story of resistance to its colonialism, particularly in Algeria (to be fair, Fanon gets a mention). And third, I found myself hoping that Pineda might engage with Erica Chernoweth’s work somewhere, and that didn’t come.

But these are minor things: the book gets ***** from me!

(Small note: the image on the cover, Jack Whitten’s Birmingham 1964, is a really arresting piece of visual art. I believe it is in the Brooklyn Museum, and I would love to see the original.)

Evanston, Illinois Is the First City to Offer Reparations to Black Residents

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 19/06/2022 - 6:00pm in

For most of her childhood, Ramona Burton didn’t notice other people treating her differently. Born in the city of Evanston, Illinois, the 73-year-old was raised by hard-working, loving parents: her mother was a primary school teacher; her father, among several jobs, was an employee at the Oscar Mayer meat company.

But as Burton grew up, she began to connect the dots. One time, she remembers, the family ordered a meal at a restaurant but they were told they could only have take out, not eat the food inside. Then, as a high school student, she was suspended for a day or two just for running down the hall too quickly, something that never happened to white students. Later on, she found out that she and her siblings had to be delivered in a Chicago hospital — Black babies weren’t allowed to be born in Evanston’s. “I realized there was a different set of rules for caucasians and for Blacks,” she says.

Ramona Burton and her siblings in 1955. Photo courtesy Ramona Burton

That prejudice against the Black community was deeply entrenched across the country as Burton grew up. Some say that while aspects of equality have improved and discrimination has reduced, much of it remains. But in a pioneering effort to begin the healing process for decades of racial injustice, last year Evanston became the first city in the US to offer Black residents reparations. 

“We hope this will lay the tracks and foundations for a better future,” says Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward Councilmember and Chair of the City’s Reparations Committee. “But there’s a long way to go. This process will take generations.”

Under the “Restorative Housing Program,” the first of the reparations initiatives, Evanston City Council has given an initial 16 qualifying Black households $25,000 for home repairs, down payments or mortgage payments. In order to qualify, residents must either have lived in — or be a direct descendant of a Black person who lived in — Evanston between 1919 to 1969 and suffered a form of discrimination related to housing because of city ordinances, policies or practices.

Research commissioned by the City of Evanston, which formed the groundwork for the reparations policy, uncovered city-mandated housing discrimination during that period. This included arbitrarily denying Black communities loans in a practice known as redlining, demolishing Black homes through commercial rezoning, and divesting from Black communities by closing the only school and hospital. These actions “led to the decline of socioeconomic status and hindered the ability to acquire wealth for Evanston’s Black community,” the researchers found.

The relics of those discriminatory policies are stark: Since the 1960s, unemployment in the city’s Black community has risen from five to 15 percent even while the citywide average has held steady below eight percent. Median income in the 5th ward, a Black neighborhood, ranges from $45,000 to $55,000, while the median in Evanston is between $60,000 and $110,000. The ward also has the lowest property values in the city, no public school, and is the only ward with areas classified as food deserts. 

“It is a first step, but it is an extraordinarily commendable first step,” says Cornell William Brooks, reparations advocate and professor of the Practice of Public Leadership and Social Justice at the Harvard Kennedy School. Credit: risingthermals / Flickr

In response to those findings, the city identified four areas in which its local reparations could be focused: housing, education, economic development and mental health support related to the traumas of discrimination.

The first to be addressed is housing. The city is funding the scheme through a three percent tax on the sale of recreational marijuana from a local dispensary, as well as through private donations from individuals and companies. The goal is to “revitalize, preserve and stabilize” homes; increase homeownership and build wealth; build intergenerational equity; and improve the retention rate of homeowners.

Cornell William Brooks, professor of the Practice of Public Leadership and Social Justice at the Harvard Kennedy School and a reparations advocate, believes the policy has the potential to be a landmark moment in US history.

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“It is a first step, but it is an extraordinarily commendable first step,” he says. “The first government reparation check was not issued by Washington DC. The cradle of the confederacy, Richmond, Virginia, didn’t do it. Charleston, South Carolina, where the Civil War began, didn’t do it. What this midsize city in Illinois is doing, attempting to repair the harm born of slavery, is not just noteworthy, but historic.”

The development of Evanston’s reparations dates back years and is rooted in community engagement. The Equity and Empowerment Commission held two meetings in July 2019 to discuss practical solutions for reparations with community members. Then, in November 2019, the council adopted Resolution 126-R-19, establishing the Reparations Fund and the Reparations Subcommittee. Following that, the subcommittee hosted three town halls to educate and inform the community on reparations at the local and federal level, plus 15 public meetings to discuss the Restorative Housing Program. “It helped us not only improve the program, but, I believe, contribute to the national discussion,” says Braithwaite.

The Reparations Committee randomly selecting the approved “Ancestor” applications. Credit: City of Evanston

While pioneering, Evanston’s scheme forms part of a wider national movement for reparations. Amherst, Massachusetts; Asheville, North Carolina; and Iowa City, Iowa, are among the places to have stated an interest in launching their own initiatives. And at the federal level, legislation has been introduced to create a commission to study and develop reparations proposals for Black Americans. Yet the issue is divisive: An opinion poll released in 2020 found that 80 percent of Black Americans believed the federal government should compensate the descendants of enslaved people, while only 21 percent of white respondents agreed.

According to data from 2019, the median white household held $188,200 in wealth — 7.8 times that of the typical Black household. Experts say that gap, which adds up to $14 trillion according to some estimates, can be linked to centuries of slavery, mass incarceration, discriminatory housing and finance policies.

“We’re talking about not billions but trillions of a wealth gap,” says Professor Brooks. “These inequities, perpetuated inequalities, are felt in your pocket book and in your DNA — in other words, people have less money, less worth and less life.”

That’s why Brooks believes the evidence-based nature of Evanston’s approach is crucial — and in that sense can be applied at the federal level. “Evanston engaged the community, it formed a commission, used scholars and research, was empirically driven and narratively informed,” he says. “This is a useful model. When you compare Evanston to the federal level, it’s like comparing a minnow to a whale. That being said, the minnow makes a case, a municipal argument for the federal response. It’s like the Montgomery Boycott to the Civil Rights movement.”

Others have also endorsed Evanston’s Restorative Housing Program, such as The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America and the National African American Reparations Commission. But the scheme has its critics, who say it is far from the direct payments that have come to characterize the idea of reparations, a form of redress for slavery and the subsequent racial discrimination in the United States.

Cicely Fleming, a Black alderwoman whose roots in Evanston go back to the 1900s, released a statement saying that while she is in support of reparations, she believes the Evanston scheme limits participation and fails to provide enough autonomy to the community that has been harmed. Whereas direct cash payments with no strings, she argues, allow community members to decide what’s best for themselves, Evanston’s payments must be spent in ways predetermined by the program.

But, according to Braithwaite, the reality is not so simple. For one, the city does not have the authority to exempt direct payments from state or federal income taxes, meaning recipients of any such stipends would be liable for the tax burden — as much as 28 percent. And the practicalities of awarding funds means that housing is the most straightforward method. A report on the city’s policies identified housing as the “strongest case for reparations” and uncovered  “sufficient evidence” of discrimination as a result of city zoning ordinances in place between 1919 and 1969. “Housing was at the top of the list of needs for the Black community, one of the top strategies for city council, and discrimination of housing is identified as one of the foundations of harm for reparations,” says Braithwaite.

Early evidence of Evanston’s program has shown tentative success. 122 out of around 700 Black households have already had their applications approved.

Ramona Burton

Recipients of the housing reparations are pleased with the work, too. Ramona Burton, a widow who has lived in her current home for 46 years, is one of the first recipients. She is using the money to replace her roof, install new windows and build a fence around her backyard. “I was very happy when I heard,” she says. “I never thought that I would be picked. It was like a cherry on a Sunday.”

But long-term indicators will prove more reliable: the city will monitor property values, the extent of segregation, the number of properties successfully being transferred through generations, as well as broadly the education and health outcomes of the city’s Black community.

In the future, Evanston plans to expand its reparations to other realms like education — a school will be restored in the 5th ward to replace the one torn down before. The city is also sharing best practices with a number of other cities such as Providence, Rhode Island and San Diego California, while in conversation with the National League of Cities. “Each local municipality has a specific harm depending on local history,” says Braithwaite. “But there are learnings we can share.”

Yet Braithwaite is clear about the limits of the program’s objectives. For one, Evanston’s reparations are only responding to the local wrongs that were done, not those perpetrated on the federal level. “These local reparations are much different to the national issue,” he says. “The foundation of it is what was done against the Black community in Evanston.”

Burton agrees that these reparations can only achieve so much, but that they should nonetheless be scaled. “I think it’s a baby step in the right direction,” she says. “It’s kind of like an apology for wrongdoings and it is helping out. I think every major city should join, especially down south, where prejudice was well known.”

One teething problem, however, is financing. With just one cannabis dispensary, Evanston’s initial income for the scheme has been lower than expected — though there’s capacity for up to five dispensaries to be built. Other proposals reportedly being considered include a tax on lakefront properties and a transfer of $5 million from the city’s general fund. “I hope that we’re able to attract more dollars and accelerate this program to fund all those who applied,” says Braithwaite.

But advocates say that reversing decades of racial discrimination, done well, will be a gradual process. “We need to manage expectations, but also need to be sure that monies are being justly spent,” says Brooks. “Assessment is so important here. Are we doing what needs to be done in a demonstrably impactful way? We can’t look at the long arc of history and insist on solving the problem in nanoseconds.”

The post Evanston, Illinois Is the First City to Offer Reparations to Black Residents appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Fresh audio product: racial wealth gap, Jack Welch

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/06/2022 - 8:00am in

Tags 

Radio, Capitalism, race

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

June 16, 2022 Ellora Derenoncourt, co-author of this paper, on the racial wealth gap, 1860–2020 • David Gelles, author of The Man Who Broke Capitalismon Jack Welch, CEO of GE from 1981–2001

Implicit Attitudes, Science, and Philosophy (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/05/2022 - 12:03am in

“Philosophers, including myself, have for decades been too credulous about science, being misled by scientists’ marketing and ignoring the unavoidable uncertainties that affect the scientific process…”

The following is a guest post* by Edouard Machery, Distinguished Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh and Director of the university’s Center for Philosophy of Science. It is the first in a series of weekly guest posts by different authors at Daily Nous this summer.


[Anni Albers, “Intersection” (detail)]

Implicit Attitudes, Science, and Philosophy
by Edouard Machery

How can we be responsible and savvy consumers of science, particularly when it gives us morally and politically pleasing narratives? Philosophers’ fascination with the psychology of attitudes is an object lesson.

Some of the most exciting philosophy in the 21st century has been done with an eye towards philosophically significant developments in science. Social psychology has been a reliable source of insights: consider only how much ink has been spilled on situationism and virtue ethics or on Greene’s dual-process model of moral judgment and deontology.

That people can have, at the same time, perhaps without being aware of it, two distinct and possibly conflicting attitudes toward the same object (a brand like Apple, an abstract idea like capitalism, an individual like Obama, or a group such as the elderly or women philosophers) is one of the most remarkable ideas to come from social psychology: in addition to the attitude we can report (usually called “explicit”), people can harbor an unconscious attitude that influences behavior automatically (their “implicit” attitude)—or so we were told. We have all grown familiar with (and perhaps now we have all grown tired of) the well-meaning liberal who unbeknownst to them harbors negative attitudes toward some minority or other: women or African Americans, for instance.

While it was first discussed in the late 2000s—Tamar Gendler discussed the Implicit Association Test in her papers on aliefs and Dan Kelly, Luc Faucher, and I discussed how implicit attitudes bear on issues in the philosophy of race—this idea crystallized as an important philosophical topic through the series of conferences Implicit Bias & Philosophy, organized by Jennifer Saul in the early 2010s at Sheffield. This conference series led to two groundbreaking volumes edited by Michael Brownstein and Jennifer Saul (Implicit Bias and Philosophy, Volumes 1 and 2, Oxford University Press). By then, philosophers’ fascination with implicit attitudes was in sync with the obsession with the topic in the society at large: implicit attitudes were discussed in dozens of articles and open-eds in the New York Times, by then President Obama, and by Hilary Clinton during her presidential campaign. We were lectured to be on the lookout for our unconscious prejudices by deans and provosts, well-paid consultants on “debiasing,” and journalists.

Most remarkable is the range of areas of philosophy that engaged with implicit attitudes. Here is a small sample:

  • Moral philosophy: Can people be held responsible for their implicit attitudes?
  • Social and political philosophy: Should social inequalities be explained by means of structural/social or psychological factors?
  • Metaphysics of mind: What kind of things are attitudes? How to think of beliefs in light of implicit attitudes?
  • Philosophy of cognitive science: Are implicit attitudes propositional or associations?
  • Epistemology: How should implicit bias impact our trust in our own faculties?

The social psychology of implicit attitudes in philosophy had also another kind of impact: it provided a ready explanation of women’s embarrassing underrepresentation and of the perduring inequalities between men and women philosophers. Jennifer Saul published a series of important articles on this theme, including “Ranking Exercises in Philosophy and Implicit Bias” in 2012 and “Implicit Bias, Stereotype Threat, and Women in Philosophy” in 2013. In the first article, after summarizing “what we know about implicit bias” (my emphasis), Saul concluded her discussion of the Philosophical Gourmet Report as follows:

There is plenty of room for implicit bias to detrimentally affect rankings of both areas and whole departments. However, it seems to me that this worry is much more acute in the case of whole department rankings. With that in mind, I offer what is sure to be a controversial suggestion: abandon the portion of the Gourmet Report that asks rankers to evaluate whole departments.

The British Philosophical Association was receptive to explaining gender inequalities in philosophy by means of implicit biases and to this day implicit attitudes are mentioned on its website. Of course, by doing so, philosophers were just following broader social trends in English-speaking countries.

Looking back, it is hard not to find this enthusiasm puzzling since the shortcomings of the scientific research on implicit attitudes have become glaring. In “Anomalies in Implicit Attitudes Research,” recently published in WIREs Cognitive Science, I have identified four fundamental shortcomings, which are still not addressed after nearly 25 years of research:

  • It isn’t yet clear whether the indirect measurement of attitudes (via, e.g., the IAT) and their direct measurement measure different things; in fact, it seems increasingly dubious that we need to postulate implicit attitudes in addition to explicit attitudes.
  • The indirect measurement of attitudes predicts individuals’ behavior very poorly, and it isn’t clear under what conditions their predictive power can be improved.
  • Indirect measures of attitudes are temporally unstable.
  • There is no evidence that whatever it is that indirect measures of attitudes happen to measure causally impact behavior.

These four shortcomings should lead us to question whether the concept of indirect attitudes refers to anything at all (or as psychologists or philosophers of science put it, to question its construct validity). To my surprise, leading researchers in this area such as psychologist Bertram Gawronski and philosophers Michael Brownstein and Alex Madva agree with the main thrust of my discussion (see “Anomalies in Implicit Attitudes Research: Not so Easily Dismissed”): indirect measures of attitudes do not measure stable traits that predict individuals’ behavior.

It thus appears that many of the beliefs that motivated philosophical discussion of implicit attitudes are either erroneous or scientifically uncertain—why worry about how to limit the influence of implicit attitudes in philosophy when they might not have any influence on anything at all?—and that philosophers have been way too quick to reify measures (the indirect measures of attitudes) into psychological entities (implicit attitudes).

Hindsight is of course 20/20, and it would be ill-advised to blame philosophers (including my former self) for taking seriously science in the making. On the other hand, philosophers failed to even listen and a fortiori to give a fair hearing to the dissenting voices challenging the relentless hype by implicit-attitudes cheerleaders. The lesson is not limited to implicit attitudes: the neuroscience of meditation, the neuroscience of oxytocin, the so-called love molecule, the experimental research on epigenetics in humans, and the research on gene x environment interaction in human genetics also come to mind.

Philosophers, including myself, have for decades been too credulous about science, being misled by scientists’ marketing and ignoring the unavoidable uncertainties that affect the scientific process: the frontier of science is replete with unreplicable results, it is affected by hype and exaggeration (COVID researchers, I am looking at you!), and its course is shaped by deeply rooted cognitive and motivational biases. In fact, we should be particularly mindful of the uncertainty of science when it appears to provide a simple explanation for, and promises a simple solution to, the moral, social, and political ills that we find repugnant such as the underrepresentation of women in philosophy and elsewhere and enduring racial inequalities in the broader society.

COMMENTS POLICY

Incitement of violence by far-right media networks

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 16/05/2022 - 8:52am in

Tags 

Democracy, race


The sickening tragedy of Buffalo yesterday -- the racist attack on a group of African-American shoppers and workers by an 18-year-old white supremacist man in body armor, carrying a military-style weapon -- is simply too much to absorb. This is indisputably an act of domestic terrorism; and yet our police and federal counter-terrorism agencies are still woefully behind in taking the threats of racist violence seriously. Where is Homeland Security when it comes to protecting African-Americans, Muslims, Asian-Americans, Latinos, and Jewish people against a rising tide of racist attacks? (Here is a Brookings report on the state of right-wing terrorism in America; link.) We are forced to ask ourselves, how many other "true believers" in the Great Replacement theory and other memes of white supremacy are out there, contemplating their own acts of racist violence?

But here is a question that must be confronted: how did violent white supremacy become mainstream in America? How did racist antagonism and fear-mongering become something more than shameful and marginal mutterings by fringe extremists? And more specifically, what role do Fox News and Tucker Carlson play in the shameful tragedy that took place in Buffalo this week?

The answer seems to be: a very extensive role. Carlson's advocacy of the supposed catastrophe of "the Great Replacement" has reverberated throughout this country and in other parts of the world. As the recent and rigorous New York Times study documents (link), Carlson's program is deliberate in its stoking of racial fear and hatred among its three million viewers. Here is part of the assessment offered in the Times series:

To channel their fear into ratings, Mr. Carlson has adopted the rhetorical tropes and exotic fixations of white nationalists, who have watched gleefully from the fringes of public life as he popularizes their ideas. Mr. Carlson sometimes refers to “legacy Americans,” a dog-whistle term that, before he began using it on his show last fall, appeared almost exclusively in white nationalist outlets like The Daily Stormer, The New York Times found. He takes up story lines otherwise relegated to far-right or nativist websites like VDare: “Tucker Carlson Tonight” has featured a string of segments about the gruesome murders of white farmers in South Africa, which Mr. Carlson suggested were part of a concerted campaign by that country’s Black-led government. Last April, Mr. Carlson set off yet another uproar, borrowing from a racist conspiracy theory known as “the great replacement” to argue that Democrats were deliberately importing “more obedient voters from the third world” to “replace” the current electorate and keep themselves in power. But a Times analysis of 1,150 episodes of his show found that it was far from the first time Mr. Carlson had done so. (link)

The alleged Buffalo assailant's manifesto seems to follow this script of "great replacement" and white supremacy very closely. The manifesto is explicit on these points (link). So the connection seems evident -- message disseminated, message received, violence committed.

Milan Obaidi, Jonas Kunst, Simon Ozer and Sasha Y. Kimel make a strong sociological argument for the connection between "great replacement" myths and racist violence in "The 'Great Replacement' conspiracy: How the perceived ousting of Whites can evoke violent extremism and Islamophobia" (link). These researchers document the role this meme has played in anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim populism in European states:

In recent years, the “Great Replacement” conspiracy has not only gained prominence among right-wing extremists but has also found a foot- hold among right-wing populist political parties in Europe. For example, while evoking anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment, such ideas have been espoused by the former leader of the Danish People’s Party Pia Kjærsgaard, the Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán, the Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, and the leader of the far-right movement Rassemblement National Marine Le Pen (Alduy, 2017; Kingsley, 2019; Kjærsgaard, 2020). Various conservative intellectuals and far-right organizations have also utilized language that stokes fear about the decline of the “White race” and “White identity.” For instance, in an interview in the Wall Street Journal in 2006, Mark Steyn, a prominent proponent of “Eurabia” (i.e., a term coined to describe an alleged Islamization and Arabization of Europe), claimed that by the year 2025 “Europe will be 40 percent Muslim and much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive this century” (Steyn quoted in Carr, 2006; see also Steyn, 2005). Meanwhile, anti-Muslim organizations such as the German PEGIDA movement and the European White-nativist movement Generation Identity (GI) have espoused similar views. For example, GI—one of Europe’s fastest growing far-right movements that advocates for an ethnically and culturally homogenous Europe—portrays immigrants as invaders while playing a prominent role in promoting, popularizing, and disseminating the “Great Replacement” conspiracy (Cox & Meisel, 2018; Feder & Maplestone, 2019). (link)

Based on their survey-based study, they find that there is a causal connection between perceived replacement and willingness to act violently against members of the other group.

Perceived replacement of the autochthonous population was positively correlated with willingness to violently persecute Muslims, violent intentions, Islamophobia, as well as symbolic and realistic threat perceptions (see Table 1). Moreover, both types of threats were related to Muslim persecution and Islamophobia. However, only symbolic threat was associated with violent intentions. (link)

Now--back to America. Tucker Carlson now finds it expedient to use the "Great Replacement" meme to crystallize the fears and antagonisms of his followers -- again, a finding well documented in the New York Times series cited above. It seems all too obvious that this is a potent causal factor in the rise of activist white supremacist individuals and organizations. And, coincidentally, our country is witnessing a horrifying rise in violent attacks on people of color.    

What are some of the means available to those who care about democracy and equality for combatting this resurgent white supremacy and the violence it so recklessly engenders? Electing politicians who demonstrate their commitment to our democratic values is one response, but not a very rapid or targeted cure.

Is there another possibility deriving from civil liability? Is it possible to make use of civil lawsuits against the purveyors of false and hateful theories that inspire other individuals to commit acts of violence? In the Lawfare blog Alexander Vindman raises the possibility of using civil lawsuits to prevent the harms purveyed by right-wing media and personalities, including defamation and (one might speculate) encouragement of violence (link). Consider the example of the lawsuit successfully undertaken by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1981 against United Klans of America for the murder of Michael Donald by two klansmen. Success in this lawsuit led to bankruptcy and dissolution of this branch of the Ku Klux Klan (link).

Can the victims and their survivors of the Buffalo atrocity hold Tucker Carlson and Fox News at least partially responsible for the racist murders committed on May 14? Would $1 billion be an appropriate civil damage finding for the harm done by this reckless and immoral racism on a highly influential media channel? Would Fox News then find it prudent to eliminate the racist hatred it channels on its network if it were faced with such a judgment?

And what about the advertisers who continue to provide millions in ad revenue to Fox News? Can these companies at last be brought to recognize the shame of their support for racist hate mongering, and withdraw their support? If not, should not consumers look at these companies as complicit in the rising tide of racist violence in America? Here is a call for "defunding Fox News" (link) that identifies the top advertisers on Fox: GlaxoSmithKline, Liberty Mutual, General Motors, Procter & Gamble, Intuit, NortonLifeLock, Nestle, Kraft Heinz, Progressive, Charles Schwab, Toyota, and Subaru. GM, P&G, Subaru -- do you really want to align yourself with racism and anti-democratic lies and the rising tide of violence that accompanies these pathologies?

(Here is a New York Times article on the background of segregation in Buffalo; link.)

American history as imagined in liberal political philosophy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 09/05/2022 - 7:59pm in

I was reading a book on migration ethics recently – I may write a review later 1 — and it reminded me how a certain picture of the normal liberal state and its place in the world figures in a lot of political philosophy. Although the normative arguments are supposedly independent of historical facts, history is to be found everywhere, but only in a highly selective version that reflects the dominance of the United States within the discipline and the prominence of prosperous white liberals as both the writers of the important texts and as the readers and gatekeepers. 2 Their assumptions about the world and the US place in it shine through and form a "common ground" that is presupposed in much of this writing.3

In this vision, all the world is America 4 — though not one that corresponds to the actual history of the US — and the rest of the world mostly consists of little proto-Americas that will or should get there in the end (thereby echoing Marx’s dictum that the more developed country shows the less developed one a picture of its own future). This imaginary, but also not-imaginary, state is a sort-of cleaned-up and aspirational version of the actual one, cleansed of embarrassing details that are mere contingencies that detract or distract from what US liberals suppose to be its real essence or telos. Crucially, it is also considered as a basically self-contained entity, where all the important relationships are ones among people on the territory.5 It is an association of free and equal persons that has simply arisen on virgin soil. Both the actual United States and other countries fall short of this model, of course, but with time and good will wrinkles and carbuncles will be removed. 6

Now nobody believes that actual United States is anywhere near where its supposed essence directs it, so proponents of the model have certainly conceded its gross and deep injustice. But I think that what they take that great and deep injustice to be and the necessary mode of its correction, is both revealing and problematic. In brief, the apparently wise and noble vision of "the Founders" is soiled by the great uncorrected "anomaly" (henceforth the Anomaly) of race and the bringing to full citizenship and equality of the United State’s black citizens. In this narrative, then, slavery, the Civil War, Lincoln, Reconstruction, the struggle for civil rights and Martin Luther King all loom large and the central political task is overcoming that legacy of civic exclusion and subordination so that all take their place as full American citizens, recognizing one another as equal members of the Republic.

Corresponding to this is a characterization of White Supremacy (though this term is rarely used explicitly) as the domination of White Americans over Black Americans, with White Supremacy conceived of as being overcome once true civic equality is realized. (On the Left there is a variation of this story in which race is an epiphenomenon of class and in which the Anomaly is overcome once black and white recognize their commonality as American workers.) 7 Anyone who consumes the liberal output of Hollywood will also recognize the narrative in innumerable movies, but Selma is a recent example. The narrative of essential purity contaminated by the Anomaly explains some of the angrily defensive reactions to the New York Times‘s 1619 Project.

Now the narrative isn’t exactly false: the struggles of black Americans for equality are of very great historical importance: those who fought and fight for civil rights were and are heroic. They really did make immense sacrifices against racism and injustice, something that is rather diminished in a narrative that has them as redeeming the essential goodness of the very polity that brutally oppressed them and in large measure continues to do so. The trouble is that the bordered national and historical frame that the narrative is set in leaves so much else out of the picture, most significantly, perhaps, three things: first, the indigenous peoples of the Americas, overwhelmed by the aggressive imperial expansion of the original white settler-colonists; second, the fact that black Americans have another commonality that is tacitly suppressed in the focus on US citizenship, namely with the African diaspora elswhere in the Americas that also results from the Atlantic slave trade; third the fact that White Supremacy was not simply directed at black Americans but also had as its antagonist — and not just in the United States — immigrant workers from China, India and other Asian countries (and more recently from Latin America).

On the first of these, the place of the indigenous peoples of the Americas in the story, there is either silence or the the thought that it was all a long time ago and we can’t unpick it now (and certainly not without causing great injustice in the present). And maybe that’s right, at least to the extent that claims to resources on the part of indigenous populations have to both settle the thorny and contested question of who counts as indigenous,8 and to upset the lives that have been blamelessly built by many in the very places that indigenous people used to hold. Hence various attempts by philosophers to address the supercession of historical injustice. 9 But it is one thing to think that we cannot roll the clock back and quite another to deny the exclusionary claims of past holders of territorial and property rights while asserting very strong claims for oneself against people now characterized as non-citizens and hence as “outsiders” but who may well include descendants of past holders. Anyway, my purpose here is not even to begin to settle these questions of restitution, compensation and the like — which many people have worked on — but to note how little the issue features compared to other intrusions of historical detail into the central texts of liberal political philosophy.

The second omission, in some ways more interesting to me, is that of the black diaspora. It is interesting because of what neglect of it implicitly erases. The Anomaly is that there exists on the territory of the supposedly liberal-democratic state a group of people who have been wrongfully excluded from the civic status of equal citizenship and so the "solution" is to turn them into (or to recognize them as) regular citizens alongside other Americans. Presented like this, the Anomaly is a problem that is purely internal to the liberal democratic state and the "solution" is the re-establishment of a kind of normality that is consonant with the alleged essence of the political community. Perhaps this re-establishment also involves some kind of compensation in recognition of historical injustice, and perhaps it does not, but either way the goal is to bring it about that the hitherto excluded are brought to a position where they have a set of rights and duties towards the other members of that political community that are more extensive to those owed to "outsiders". Indeed, the primacy of these "internal" rights and duties over external ones is presupposed by the assumption that the state or nation is the privileged site of co-operation for all its inhabitants.

However, alongside the commonality that black Americans share with those who live within the state that they inhabit is another history, that of all the descendants of those forcibly brought to the Americas by Europeans, some of whom ended up in the United States, others in Brazil, elsewhere in Latin America or in the Caribbean. That the descendants of the victims of this legacy of forced kidnapping, transportation, rape and murder ought to, in the first instance, be bound by ties of civic equality to the children of their kidnappers and exploiters (and others, of course) rather than to their fellow victims who contingently ended up behind other borders, may have something to recommend it given that we live in a world of bordered national states, but it is surely an argument that deserves to be set out in the open rather than something that disappears behind a theory’s founding assumptions. Too often I have read some white American migration theorist arguing that "we", ie the set of American citizens, ought to protect poor black Americans from labour competitition from immigrants, but why are those poor black Americans part of a "we" that excludes a "they" of whom other descendants of slavery are a part? (Commonality with one’s fellow victims beyond borders is also something that bears on the indigenous case.)

The third omission is the failure to notice that the United States (like other white settler states such as Canada and Australia) has historically pursued policies of racial exclusion to preserve white supremacy that have little to do with the dominance of whites over black Americans. 10 The chief exhibit here is the Chinese Exclusion Act and related measures at the end of the 19th century and the subsequent making explicit by leaders such as Theodore Roosevelt of an approach that saw the United States as part of a group of white countries determined to preserve racial dominance against the threat of labour competition from Asia. These days, if work on migration ethics mentions these measures at all it is as another unjustified "anomaly" that disgraces the constititional liberal state which really ought not to discriminate in matters of immigration. This rather neglects the fact that such measures of racial exclusion were not unjust deviation from the state’s legitimate exercise of the right to control its borders but rather the central motive to getting immigration control started in the first place.11 Moreover, while the focus of racial anxiety has shifted its location somewhat, the central motive behind restrictionism remains the worry that the white core of America may be overwhelmed by the undesirable other: nowadays "Mexican rapists" instead of Chinese labourers and "prostitutes".

The centrality of the Anomaly in the historical imagination of liberal political philosophy and the pretence that White Supremacy would be defeated once civic equality for all, irrespective of race, is realised within the borders of a liberal constitutional state that remains free to restrict immigration obscures much from view that we ought to take seriously if we oppose both inequality and racism. First, there are consequences for the realization of civic equality within the state. Historically, the creation of a national citizenship and pressure to conform the the expectations of what a citizen is like has not worked well for indigenous people and their children. In the present, the equal status of citizens who look and sound like the people that the state is trying to keep out is often compromised as they and their families suffer the consequences of aggressive immigration enforcement.12 But in focusing on equality within the state taken as a discrete unit, as a little world unto itself, the methodological nationalist gaze simply fails to notice that White Supremacy both historically and in the present is maintained by keeping the non-white Other (Chinese labourers then, Central Americans now) on the outside. Liberals caught in an epistemic frame that is limited to citizens within borders can therefore complacently congratulate themselves on their anti-racism, because they favour equal status of all irrespective of race, while upholding in practice a system of white dominance. To my mind the lessons ought to be that we cannot easily separate questions of equality among citizens from the unequal statuses that are produced by nationality and bordering and that in doing political philosophy we cannot easily escape from the contingent unjust histories that have deposited particular people in the places where they now are.

[Many thanks to the friends who gave me feedback on drafts of this post]

  1. It was Michael Blake’s Justice, Migration and Mercy, (Oxford University Press, 2021).?

  2. As as British person I’m aware that we could tell a similar story about Britain, racism, exclusion etc as I refer to here and we could even find examples of historical amnesia and selection in the work of British political philosophers to illustrate the point (perhaps David Miller, and see for example Lorna Finlayson’s "If This Isn’t Racism, What Is? The Politics of the Philosophy of Immigration" Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 94 (1):115-139 (2020)). But US institutions are so dominant within the discipline that it is American historical narratives of self-congratulation, messianism, guilt, anxiety that loom largest.?

  3. Olúfémi O. Táíwò discusses Stalnaker’s notion of common ground as presupposed in conversation in his new Elite Capture (Pluto/Haymarket, 2022). It is "a shared resource that participants in a conversation use to build and perform social interactions." "When we act in social contexts, we treat the information in the common ground as if it were true…." Elite Capture pp 40–41.?

  4. See what I did there??

  5. Most liberal political philosophy therefore resembles the approach that Andreas Wimmer and Nina Glick Shiller have called "methodological nationalism". See e.g. their "Methodological nationalism and beyond: nation-state building, migration and the social sciences", Global Networks 2, 4 (2002) pp. 301–34. In political philosophy, both Alex Sager and Speranta Dumitru have been prominent in challenging the assumption of methodological nationalism. See e.g Alex Sager, "Methodological Nationalism, Migration and Political Theory", Political Studies. 2016;64(1): pp. 42–59 and Speranta Dumitru, "Qu’est-ce que le nationalisme méthodologique : Essai de typologie". Raisons politiques, 54, 9-22.?

  6. The relationship between the liberal state in ideal political philosophy and actual states has, of course, long been a topic of controversy, on which see for example Charles Mills’s classic article "Ideal Theory as Ideology" (in Peggy DesAutels and Margaret Urban Walker, eds., Moral Psychology: Feminist Ethics and Social Theory (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004), pp. 163-81). On the one hand people will say that something like Rawls’s well-ordered society (as an example among others) is a purely philosophical construct to enable the discussion of abstract principles, on the other hand critics have long suggested that Rawls, Dworkin et al are merely parochial rationalizers of something like existing states. Personally, I think that claims of purity are often belied by the intrusion of actual facts into the discourse, most notably facts concerning civil rights but also, for example, Dworkin’s discussions of workfare programmes in his Sovereign Virtue. In our conversations with students, moreover, there’s often an implied "we" and a shared social and political context against which classroom argument takes place. But I also think that the "merely" of the parochial rationalization attack vastly overstates that case. Anyway, here I’m in the business of noticing which bits of reality and history intrude and which don’t, and suggesting that this might be symptomatic of something.?

  7. A proper academic article making the points of this blogpost might look through the works of, say, John Rawls, and note how often the Anomaly, Martin Luther King, Lincoln etc are mentioned compared to the lacunae outlined here and then look at later work by others in journals such as Philosophy and Public Affairs. The answer for Rawls himself is that even the Anomaly gets rather thin engagement, though one can extrapolate from his concerns with topics such as civil disobedience. Later work could include Elizabeth Anderson’s Imperative of Integration (Princeton 2010) and Tommy Shelby’s brilliant Dark Ghettos (Harvard 2016) (which both shows how much can be done to address racial injustice from within a Rawlsian paradigm but also stays firmly rooted within the boundaries of the nation state).?

  8. On which, see Nandita Sharma, Home Rule: National Sovereignty and the Separation of Migrants and Natives (Duke 2020) pp. 46­–50.?

  9. The key reference here is Jeremy Waldron’s "Superseding Historical Injustice", Ethics , Oct., 1992, Vol. 103, No. 1 (Oct., 1992), pp. 4-28. For reasons why past injustices in the acquisition of territory might not necessarily impugn the justice of later holdings see Lea Ypi "A Permissive Theory of Territorial Rights" European Journal of Philosophy 22 (2):288-312 (2014).?

  10. The key text here, which will transform your thinking (guaranteed!) is Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds, Drawing the Global Colour Line: White Men’s Countries and the International Challenge of Racial Equality (Cambridge University Press: 2008).?

  11. As Sarah Fine has pointed out, race and discrimination are central to popular discourse on immigration but almost absent from philosophical discussion of it, despite the roots of modern immigration control in the desire to discriminate on grounds of race. See her “Immigration and Discrimination” in Fine and Ypi eds Migration in Political Theory: The Ethics of Movement and Membership (Oxford, 2016).?

  12. See, for example, the work of Amy Reed-Sandoval, such as her Socially Undocumented (Oxford, 2020).?

Singing America’s Racial History

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/05/2022 - 4:41am in

Image credit: Kinney Tobacco Company/Wikimedia Commons. May 7, 2022, is the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby, nicknamed “The Greatest Two...

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Peter Temin: Black and White America Always on Separate Trajectories

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/05/2022 - 2:32am in

Tags 

race

MIT economic historian Peter Temin discusses his new INET-CUP book, Never Together: The Economic History of a Segregated America, in which he shows how efforts to bridge the gap between races were always undermined, resulting in constant economic hardship for Black people.

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Transcript

Rob Johnson:

Welcome to Economics and Beyond. I'm Rob Johnson, President of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

I'm here on the podcast for the second time with Dr. Peter Temin, who is a great influence in my life as an undergraduate at MIT, and have known him and one of my other mentors, our research director, Tom Ferguson, and he have been co-authors many things. I remember particularly papers on the 1930s, '20s and '30s in Germany as being very, very powerful. He's the Elisha Gray II Professor Emeritus in the economics department at MIT. He's done a number of extraordinary books over the years, but more recently, The Vanishing Middle Class has been... How do I say? It's almost like the talking points of INET. It's the guiding... When you travel, you buy a folder's guide, but when you talk about what INET's supposed to do, you read The Vanishing Middle Class and you get you off the... At least in the Global North that tells you what to do.

He's obviously written this new book, Never Together, about the problems of race in the United States. I remember him being a very profound speaker at our 2016 conference in my home city of Detroit, where we experienced firsthand in my upbringing, a lot of the problems and challenges that you underscore. This book is part of the studies in New Economic Thinking at Cambridge University Press, which is the INET series on what we think is at the cutting edge or the most important things to feature. So, Peter, thank you for being here and thank you for being part of our efforts to illuminate the challenges that we face.

Peter Temin:

Thank you. And I'm delighted to be here with you, Rob.

Rob Johnson:

Well, we have a lot to cover today. A lot of very, very powerfully historic, sometimes uncomfortable historical experience, but sometimes you got to take the medicine in order to heal. I'm just curious, from your inner experience, how did you become inspired to write this book? Is there an aha moment or is it just the culmination of things? You're very good at economic history, analytic history, they're wonderful table charts, references to historical episodes that make your point. This book is... It's how I wish an economist was able to integrate all of these things. But I'm just curious, what triggered your setting off on this course?

Peter Temin:

Well, a couple of years ago when the American Economics Association was meeting in Atlanta, I figured who would I like to talk to. And that was Trevon Logan, a black economic historian that I like very much. And we talked and out of that talk came a paper that I wrote with Trevon, which is now up on the INET website. And then someone who knows the field said it looked very much like the outline of a book. And by that Trevon had been promoted to a time-consuming job at Ohio state. So I wrote the book on my own. So it grows out of the racial comments in The Vanishing Middle Class. And it starts with the constitution and the notion that when they said all men, that meant all white men.

Rob Johnson:

Well, I think I remember at the outset of your book.

Peter Temin:

Yeah.

Rob Johnson:

Just to create an example. I think you created something that echoed throughout the book. It was from the Statue of Liberty and a quote was, "Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless tempest-lost, to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door." Now, how would I say? Practice what you preach is what comes to my mind. The old-

Peter Temin:

Right.

Rob Johnson:

... Old song by Barry White. It feels like the vision we created in America to inspire people to believe in it and follow it is not what we've been doing.

Peter Temin:

Right. Well, at that point it meant both European and African immigrants. And the African immigrants were slaves and the European immigrants had farms and they used these slaves to farm their grounds. So on, and that led to inequality of income. So there were two attempts to include blacks in the mainstream economy. Reconstruction followed the civil war and Lyndon Johnson's grave, great society followed World War I and World War II, excuse me. This right. And the first one eliminated slavery, but it did not grant freedom for freedmen 40 acres and a mule. And the effects wore off by the end of the 19th century. Lyndon Johnson's great society followed World War II, promised black voting and education, but it ended more quickly under Reagan and Clinton.

And when trade hurt rural whites in the 1990s, whites reacted badly to both [inaudible 00:07:41] and that's because Gilded Ages increased racism. The Gilded Age followed Reconstruction. White south was secured by the 1876 Presidential Compromise. It brought the south into the US by excluding blacks. Then Jim Crow followed in the 1890s, which restricted black education and program, which lasted until World War II again. Our Gilded Age followed Johnson's great society. Rich people do not want to pay taxes and they want to reduce services to workers, blacks, Latinos, and other poor people. They imprisoned blacks and the other poor people.

Now the Jim Crow laws... The north industrialized and expanded west, the south remained agriculture and focused on crops. Jim Crow laws segregated blacks. Southern labor markets were not linked to Northern ones and Freedmen earned less than whites. And that continues until today. Laws and lynching discouraged black voting peaked in the 1880s and continued into 1920s. A great migration started in World War I when skilled blacks went north. Southern wages fell, all Northern wages rose. So Nixon started the war on drugs. He demonized blacks who opposed Vietnam and replaced Johnson's poverty war with his drug war.

The US now has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's prisoners. [One out of] Three in black men go to prison during their lives. And drug laws are new Jim Crow laws. Blacks are 12% of population and 40% of prisoners. Incarceration is now stable in high levels, no releases or very few releases. I've read about a couple for COVID despite prison illnesses. Nixon's racism is shown from the few of his top advisors. John Ehrlichman said that Nixon had two enemies, antitrust left, and the black people. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the coming news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did. Haldeman, Nixon's chief of staff confirmed this. The whole problem is really the blacks.

Okay. So the US, to repeat, has 5% of the world population and 25% of the world's prisoners. Mass incarceration is hardly mentioned in policy discussions. How many people know that one out of three African Americans men go to prison at today's incarceration rates. These are problems that urgently need to be addressed. America was in turmoil in the '60s through the 1980s. The urban riots spread in the late 1960s. The war on drugs started by Nixon expanded by Reagan. 1986 and 1988 laws at minimum jail terms for drug crimes. The penalty for crack cocaine was a hundred times the penalty for powder cocaine. Blacks used crack cocaine. Whites used powdered.

The Kerner commission issued in 1968... The commission clearly stated that the problems were societal. Riots were started by blacks trying for equality with whites. But Nixon created the war on drugs, crimes on individuals. He wanted to condemn blacks who oppose the Vietnam war. He wanted individual crimes to demonize blacks, which they still do, creating a new Jim Crow. That's from Michelle Alexander's book. Race and income were important. Race described mass incarceration incidents. Blacks are more imprisoned than whites. The differences increase with family incomes. More than three times higher for Morris blacks than white blacks.

Poor black boys are destroyed by prisons. No education, no workplace skills, unable to form families. Crime and prison are a way of life. Black men remain a permanent underclass. So rebel relief rule is narrowly nearly complete in many states. Frederick Douglas said in 1894, and these words of an escaped slave are true again now. And Stacey Abrams formed fair fight in 2019 a century later to get blacks to vote. Do we need another war to try again to desegregate our economy?

Rob Johnson:

That's an ominous thought. So let me ask you a little bit about the chart. So it shows that among the poor, the likelihood of blacks being incarcerated is much greater. It shows among the wealthy it's still a lot more, but it's diminished in proportion. But the thing that's not shown in the graph when I looked at it, is how hard it is for a black person to go from that lower level to that affluent level within a lifetime when there is incarceration, demonization, difficulty, getting jobs and difficulty getting education that's of the quality that would allow you to move up that path. So it's not all good news because not everybody has migrated out into the household rank of the wealthy. And that still isn't good news there. Coming back to your thought, we have to fight another war, there was a sense.

I remember reading things about Eleanor Roosevelt after her husband died and talking to Harry Truman about these people were there defending our Republic. They deserve access to all the things. They were kept out of certain universities. They were kept out of the social security system. If they were agriculture workers, there were all kinds of things still going on, but the pressure and the consciousness of leadership was changing. So you think right now, if we went and fought a war that we could make an irreversible change, or do you think it would be just another dice bun of gestures and then a counter-reaction puts right back where we've been?

Peter Temin:

Yes. Well, we may be approaching another civil war because the Southern Labor Association said that there was a tremendous amount of violence in 1921. So who knows where this is all going?

Rob Johnson:

Well, in reading your book, I could see this, which you might recall, oscillation. It was almost like a pendulum. People could see things that were wrong. The famous basketball player, Isaiah Thomas, who played with the Detroit Pistons for years, I saw him on a... His wife used to... Excuse me, his daughter used to work with my wife and I saw him on a show. It was like a video show with a woman named Laura Johnson in Los Angeles. And he said, "It's very frustrating to see the government resisting when you're talking about human rights. But what we really need is not human rights. What we need is birthrights. If you are a human being, you get the same portfolio as everyone else." And I thought that was a kind of how we get there is a different question, but I thought that was a very powerful sense.

And I, myself, I've studied a lot of how music reflects the stress in a society. And people talk about... Oh, the spirituals. My favorite writer on music is theologian, the late James Cone, who I used to interact with quite frequently at Union Theological Seminary. And he said, "The spirituals are about the afterlife. Nothing you can do in this life. But the blues are from the Jim Crow era when you are allegedly free, but you're not free. Blues is about defiance in code in the here and now." So they'd go in to the juke joint, knowing there were people with guns and nooses and they would sing in code. My baby left me, my baby left me. And sometimes even the boss man would say, "My baby is mean to me too." And they'd enjoy the performance. But what they didn't realize is the baby that left him.

The baby that was treating him bad, was code for their professional life, for working in the field for working in the cotton area. And so there was a rallying point from these different types of music that interacted with the social conditions. But what I keep seeing is, and as I read your book, I see it codified so nicely is... I won't say nicely, that's probably not right. It's daunting to read, but it's skillfully done. Is, we seem to have this urge to do the right thing as humans, to abide by the principles said of our founding documents, declaration of independence, bill of rights.

And then we don't do it. And sometimes it's for commercial reasons, sometimes just based on historic fear and we back off. And then we see an episode like lots of black people fighting in World War II and we back off. Then we do the civil rights movement. I remember James Baldwin being concerned when Dr. King was murdered, that the black Panthers would frighten people and create a counter-revolution, which as someone said, turn the war on poverty into the war on drugs. And you seem to bring these things to the surface over and over again, that it's almost like an oscillating pendulum, but the fulcrums not really moving very far.

Peter Temin:

That's right. That's very good. And I've written on that. There's a kind of equilibrium and you can derive that mathematically that says we're in a stable position. I was helped by Bob Solow, Nobel prize winner, who I'm still in contact with at Brook Haven, so on. And there's a PBS station special on the people going on the coming to the outcome of jail and trying desperately to get to be part of the white economy and jobs and so on. So I recommend that to everyone. And I told Bob about that and he was interested good.

Rob Johnson:

I'm grinning because Bob Solow was my faculty advisor when I was an undergraduate at MIT. And so I learned a lot from him and I'm very grateful for his support and guidance throughout my life. But when you talk about that, people emerging from prison and how to reconnect with the world. I remember something that you gave in a talk that I wanted to bring up. I do believe it's in the book. You talked about the kinds of behavior that economists might talk about. One would be customary behavior, doing what you did yesterday. And one was, I don't know, I'll call it inspired behavior. And the third was subjecting yourself to command behavior.

And that the people in the prison aren't allowed to grow that inspired behavior, that thinking about a better future, that support in regenerating. If you believe in redemption, somebody in prison might feel bad about what they did in an impulsive moment and want to learn and become a better person. And that's not on offer, but the command behavior is fiercely there, which probably wounds and scars people that makes it harder to come out of prison and regain trust in humanity.

Peter Temin:

Yes. Well, well, professor of Freeman at Harvard calls those the black elite, which are the residue of the great society of President Johnson. And they've done well and have been expected. If you get education, you can fit within the kind of education you need. And when I visited my eldest child, my daughter, Liz, who was coming to visit me this afternoon as the various books on there. And she said, "Do you realize that Colin already has more books than most people have in their lifetimes?" And that's why Pre-K Adventure, which is still in the bill, but the bill hasn't been passed say, "Because of opposition to this, which still keeps because the unemployment has come back, the power is very cautiously working for this. So he can try and avoid a recession at the end of the inflation." But the volatility has come for all these people that the Republican Party now embraces of violence. And so it's very hard to know where we're going to go from here.

Rob Johnson:

Let me explore that for just a second. Coming from Detroit, seeing the Midwest, obviously it's a black majority city, but what I've also seen is what I'll call the Trumpian reaction in outstate, Michigan, as the old saying, the rising tide raises all boats. Well, when the tide goes out, all the boats go down. And what I saw in Michigan, particularly, and it's been vivid since George Floyd's murder, is that these white people there are saying, "Wait a minute, the ship's sinking on me too." And they get, if you will, jealous that people are trying to talk about uplifting. And I don't mean doing it. I mean, talking about uplifting black people in 400 years of woundedness, and they use the phrase reparations. And these people say, "We're getting trashed as well." And they are very large numbers. And so I don't think, and you've talked about this and others have, I know John Paul who's on my board at Berkeley. It is that when the economy suffers, insecurity goes up, diseases of despair go up and racial animosity goes up. The blaming of others is a disease associated with despair.

Peter Temin:

Yes. And in Flint, Michigan, a Republican or governor sent supervisors to go on who wanted to cut money. And so he went off the river from getting food, water, and had illnesses, which is still continuing for this. Their settlements going on. And they have impaired the younger blacks in Flint. So it's a kind of Republicans doing what they wanted with the black population of Flint. And they're now back on the river, but they haven't had their pipes replaced even now.

Rob Johnson:

And these were lead pipes that created the toxins that created the disease. Right? I remember the Flint water crisis. And there was a woman there who's mentioned in your book-

Peter Temin:

Right. In Berkeley.

Rob Johnson:

... Who said, "What a tragedy it is that they aren't learning the lesson of those lead pipes and replacing them all over the country urgently." Tolerating the poisoning in this case, particularly of black people, is just horrid. And the irony too-

Peter Temin:

[crosstalk 00:29:31] very slowly. Like the infrastructure program that Biden did pass is only slowly getting started, which you can notice by the potholes in Cambridge. So, I remind that to my class. Okay.

Rob Johnson:

Yeah. Yeah. And the irony in Michigan, whether it's Detroit Water and Sewage or Flint is you're sitting there... When I was a kid, my dad was a sailor. When you were on Lake Huron, when I was a kid, if you were thirsty, you could take a ladle and stick it into water and drink it. The good quality fresh water in Lake Huron is plentiful and not far from Flint, Michigan. The idea that happened there is just horrific.

Peter Temin:

Yes, it is. It is horrible.

Rob Johnson:

And you could almost say because of the rivalry between Detroit and what I'll call outstate, I wonder if the governor thought he was doing something to rally the enthusiasm by being cruel to the black people in Flint. That's just a hypothesis. I can't project onto the individual, but it seems awfully hideous.

Peter Temin:

Well, he was the man who reported the supervisor of Flint. So you can blame him.

Rob Johnson:

And the Detroit bankruptcy was an anomaly too, because if you have a company that goes bankrupt, it has no revenue to pay people. The state of Michigan had a tax base. So that I'll just say women that worked in Detroit for 45 years in the Municipal Public Service had their pensions caught in half in their healthcare removed. That's a choice. That's not bankruptcy. That's a distributional choice. It's a really ugly thing that they did with the...

Peter Temin:

And it's like mass incarceration. Nobody talks about it anymore in the policy grounds. It's just not changing at the moment.

Rob Johnson:

Yeah. I know where-

Peter Temin:

Not continuing.

Rob Johnson:

Heather Ann Thompson, who's a professor at University of Michigan and she's written books on Attica Prison and so forth, did some studies on when prisons were privatized and built in upstate Michigan. What happened is lots of fathers got arrested in and around Detroit and put in those prisons. And the performance in schools deteriorated because of the emotional turmoil of the children. And then teachers who were being assessed based on things like multiple-choice tests started to migrate out of Detroit because they were being penalized for something they had no control over. And so the entire social disintegration associated with accelerating the building of prisons and having them fully occupied was just ripping that culture apart. And I know that's been true. I've heard similar stories about Cleveland parts of Illinois, Atlanta, and-

Peter Temin:

And many people have gone back when the prejudice got to be too much, but even there they're put out for the prisoners, put them out for mining activities, for which famously they die often. And that's in my book. And an illustration of that. Yes and so on. Yes. I report all of these things that have done from Freedom's Day in Pittsburgh that made Trump reschedule his rally there to the problems elsewhere and other places where that had been done under blacks given equal rights then driven out of the city. Yes. So it's a continual process and we're by no means out of it today.

And people often write about prisons, often say that the incomes of blacks or the imprisonment of blacks is done by consultation with other people, and they often give the blacks. That's to avoid the minimum sentence there. And so they give them car theft or violent activity and send them back to prison, much more the blacks than the whites. And there's now a movement among policemen to end the traffic stops, which led one more black woman to commit suicide to end. And so let's hope that they carry this forward on a national plane.

Rob Johnson:

I have a friend who works on a television series called Law and Order. And I went for a walk with him, his name's Fred Berner. And he said to me that, as he studies what's happening in society, say since the time of George Floyd's murder, is a very deep conflictedness among people in the mid-career in law enforcement. In essence saying, and what I'll call PTSD symptoms, are occurring because these people thought they were coming in to play a role stabilizing society. Then you have an extremely unjust society, which is in unstable, and then they feel they have to escalate. And I'll add one other dimension. The Fred didn't say this. The absence of gun control in America makes law enforcement officers very frightened compared to those in other countries. And so, what I'll call meltdown emotionally of people in law enforcement who are caught in this cauldron actually tends to make them out of fear, even more aggressive.

Peter Temin:

Yes. And so we don't know where it's going to go yet, but it is dangerous. And so we are really very offended by it. Yes. And so we'll see what happens. But given the inequality of income, if or when the Republicans get there, get into power, most likely at this coming election, they'll try and turn back all of the progress that Biden has tried to think.

Rob Johnson:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, let's move from, I guess what I'll call... I'm a doctor's son. From diagnosis to remedy. Let's say a bipartisan commission from the United States Congress came to you and I, and they said, "We're really scared. The wheels are spinning off this vehicle called the United States of America. And we know we got to change course. So, Dr. Temin, what do you and Rob Johnson say is what we have to do to get back on track consistent with our founding principles and move away from this pendulum, which is what you might call a hideous equilibrium for many, many years."

Peter Temin:

Well, the way I end my new book is that you have to promote the education of blacks, which is why the Pre-K is still part of the reconciliation bill. Let's hope it lasts through the passage of it. Okay. And they need to give blacks the vote and make sure that they can vote so that they can express their views. And the Republicans are very fact getting the vote and reconfiguring the voting populations so that they can ensure them of getting a Republican.

Rob Johnson:

So you're talking about gerrymandering and voter suppression activities?

Peter Temin:

Organization is opposing on them. Yes. So they have become the party of violence too. Yes. So we'll see what happens with that.

Rob Johnson:

Yeah. But education is a key and voter suppression. And then I guess I was going to ask you, because we've alluded to it, when a person is in prison, I understand like Jim Heckman would talk about Pre-K, teaches you how to work with other people and exists in a school and by the time you're seven and your brain develops you are emotionally comfortable and you thrive. And all of society saves from having basically everything from prenatal nutrition to early childhood education. But what if somebody is in prison in midstream, say 26 years old and in prison, what do you do to take them out of that command behavior and have which you might call a rehabilitation or augmentation of their skills in a way where they can start to feel a confidence that they can live a better life when they leave prison? How do we put that together?

Peter Temin:

Very hard. And there are a number of private and tax-exempt organizations that try and give these prisoners a chance to reorient themselves. But the national government doesn't do anything, but give them a close back, send them on a bus home. So that's pointing out what you can do with the fringes, but it's not pointing out what's needed. And education at this point is dying at the moment in the United States because the teachers are so ill pay that you need to raise them. A few states have done so on, but the inflation is just keeping them even with the cost of living. So it's very hard at the moment.

Rob Johnson:

So are you hopeful that we might be, because of this suffering, whether it's climate or pandemic or racial... How would I say? Hideousness that you have documented in this book? Sometimes they say it's darkest before dawn. Are you at all hopeful that the stress now is going to propel us into a different direction than we've been on say since 1970?

Peter Temin:

Well, there were lots of demonstrations against the blacks. But after that, the budgets of the police were regained. So we're going to change, but I don't know how quickly and so on. And unless we can tax the Republicans and Piketty has a new book saying that for that and advocating taxes, but that's not going to come about very soon either.

Rob Johnson:

So, there may be light at the end of the tunnel, but it's a pretty long tunnel.

Peter Temin:

Yeah. That's what I'm saying.

Rob Johnson:

Okay. Well, Peter, I want to say to you... I mentioned at the outset that I've learned from you for many, many years. But I want my young scholars to understand how vital you are, how determined you are, how you've set yourself on a course. And it's not what you might call hiding in the apron strings of conventional wisdom. You've taken a path. You've seen things that concern. Historically, you've studied them in data and you've elevated and illuminated a very, very painful aspect of the country in which you live. That's what I call courage. And that's been in short supply within academic social science for a very long time.

Peter Temin:

It has been.

Rob Johnson:

I want to applaud and I want to thank you for that because when you set that example, my young scholars can watch an episode like this, or read a book like Vanishing Middle Class or Never Together. And it gives them inspiration. And when you said to me, the tunnel's long, I agree with you. But those young people are going to be at that end of that tunnel. And if they follow your example, I'm more optimistic.

Peter Temin:

Okay. Well, good for you. And let's hope it turns out your way, rather my pessimistic way.

Rob Johnson:

Yeah. But what I'm saying is, through your courage and your effort, ever so slightly perhaps, but you're changing the probabilities in my direction.

Peter Temin:

Sure.

Rob Johnson:

And so actions speak louder than words and your actions are contributing to a better outcome.

Peter Temin:

Thank you very much.

Rob Johnson:

Yeah. Thanks for being with me today. And thank you for writing this wonderful book and challenging us all to think about... How you say, never have to go back to being never together. And we put things back together.

Peter Temin:

That was my wife who has since died, made that title. Yes. And I agree with her. Yes. So let's hope that the book does promote your view of what's going to happen.

Rob Johnson:

Excellent.

Peter Temin:

Okay.

Rob Johnson:

Thank you.

Peter Temin:

Okay. My pleasure.

Rob Johnson:

We'll talk again. I'm sure you got more ideas bubbling up and I'm sure she's looking and down on you, grinning right now for this success. So I'll just wait for the next chapter whenever you're ready.

Peter Temin:

Okay. Thank you.

Rob Johnson:

Thank you. Bye-bye and check out more from the Institute for New Economic Thinking at ineteconomics.org.


The Experiment

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/04/2022 - 10:00pm in

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Books, race

Source photos: Charlotte Button. Design: DF/Public Seminar Steven Armstrong was the first to show up in Classroom No. 1O on the...

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