Courage, Ebony, and Ivory

The courage to get it right?

Last year, during black history month, Eric Holder, our first black AG, called us “a nation of cowards” when it comes to discussing race. That was the single phrase seized on by many in the media, on both the right and the left, and it was the phrase used to praise or denigrate Holder’s speech and the current state of racial affairs in the United States. The speech itself was lengthy and only somewhat nuanced, but there was a lot more there than most people were willing to discuss – black or white… or any other color for that matter. Let me use a part of the same sentence where the offending phrase was found: I believe that “in too many ways,” Eric Holder was right. Whether you agree with him or not, I’d urge you to listen to the entire speech in context, or of course, read the text of the speech – much faster results.

Part of his point is that while Americans have moved to the point of working, lunching, and attending functions together, on weekends, we pretty much self segregate… and that isn’t good in his view. I am more sanguine about our progress than Holder, but I do believe he is right about our general unwillingness to discuss racial matters in an open and honest manner. Lots of reasons for that little problem, but I’d like to open up this can of worms… because “in too many ways,” not many people are willing to expose themselves to the consequences Holder so blithely suggests we all should risk.

I had several people at work try to dissuade me from heading in this direction (I often bounce some of my more controversial ideas off of several folks I know), but I thought, “Hey, screw it. This blog has had me on the carpet more than once.” And, as some of you know, I have often argued that courage is a thing to value.

Rather than throw a rant on why I think the AG is full of it, I’ll just throw out a few facts, a few statistical certainties, and wait for the charges to fly. Keep in mind here, that I am NOT offering explanations at this point, nor am I making any allegations or interpretations of the facts I’ll be laying out. I’d really like to hear what you have to say – providing you can keep the conversation civil, accurate to the best of your ability (in other words, be prepared to back it up), and really aimed at affording all of us the opportunity to get a better grasp of the realities involved.

In addition to the Bureau of Justice Statistics site, you can also find some of this information at Heather Mac Donald’s Weekly Standard article, Excusing the Oakland Rioters: Looting is not a form of civil rights protest, and the city of New York’s crime statistics.

  • Blacks commit nearly 6,000 murders annually (most of whom are black), and whites & Hispanics commit a little more than 5,300 murders a year (most of whom are white or Hispanic). Whites & Hispanics comprise about 81% of the population, while blacks comprise about 13% of the population. Since the US has just over 300,000,000 people, the math is pretty straight forward. Blacks murder almost 154 people per 100,000 of their own population. Whites & Hispanics murder almost 2.2 people per 100,000. The murder rate for blacks is 70 times higher than the murder rate for whites and Hispanics.
  • The 73rd precinct in New York is mostly black, and “the per capita rate of shootings there is 81 times higher than in the mostly white 68th precinct…”
  • The police stop rate of vehicles in the 73rd precinct is 15 times higher than in the 68th precinct.
  • In New York City, blacks “commit 80 percent of all shootings, whites 1.4 percent, though blacks are 23 percent of the population, and whites 35 percent.”
  • At the beginning of 2009, there were nearly 1800 whites on death row and there were just over 1300 blacks on death row (both the white and black numbers include some Hispanics).
  • During 2008, there were 20 white and 17 black people executed.

As I said earlier, at this point I’m not trying to explain these numbers, nor will I offer any interpretations of the meaning in these numbers. I’ve got questions about these and other numbers. Why are these kinds of numbers rarely if ever mentioned when discussing race in America? Especially on the “big three” news stations, PBS, NPR, CNN when their prolific little series on race air on national television? For the elites that are concerned with the brutality of the police and their unnecessary taking of black lives, why are they not equally concerned with the unnecessary taking of black lives in the inner city? Why don’t these victims get the same care and concern from our nation’s elite, the media, and the professoriate? Especially when they are so obviously more numerous?? Why doesn’t the unnecessary taking of white lives by the police rate the same air time and outrage?

Finally, in closing this post, remember, please keep the comments and email civil, and as important, let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt about our honesty and earnestness in seeking out the truth. I’ll be using the replies to guide some of my follow up posts – posts aimed more at our nation’s intellectuals than at everyday Americans.

Cheers – all of you!

  1. Dan Russ
    July 26th, 2010 at 15:41 | #1

    I believe that the reason many white people dont speak openly about race is that there is a double standard on speaking up. As a white man, speaking up about pride in my own race would have me labeled as a racist. I cant just say “I’m white and proud”.

    In order to show my pride it must be in conjuction with a nationalistic approach. Such as an Irish Fest or Scottish Highland games. I can say I’m proud to be Irish, or a Scott, or German, (all concidered white countries). I cant just say “I’m proud to be white” this would have a serious negative connotation attached to it. But if a black man was to say “I’m proud to be black”, that is perfectly acceptable. He can even be semi militant about it and just be concidered as standing up for his rights. A militant whiteman? He’s automatically labeled a Nazi, or white supremist even if he made no negitive mention of black people. It would be automatically assumed that he is anti black.

    I’m a proud Whiteman, white people have made many of the advances that we enjoy in all of the arenas of our lives. So have all the other races, we all did it together. There’s room for us all to be proud.

  2. Jeff
    July 26th, 2010 at 17:51 | #2

    Eric Holder’s speech… I have a hard time taking criticism for racial beliefs from a man who refuses to apply the law equally (see Samir Shabazz).

    I think the answer to many of your questions have to do with the difference between black and white. The white community (whatever that is) is not monolithic. We vote from various perspectives, we listen to a wide range of music, and we spread ourselves out across the country.

    The black community is defined by their voting habits (98% for Obama?). They claim hip hop as their own and then set about populating the genre with rhymes about bitches and shooting people. The black community tends to remain in an urban area they claim to be unhappy with, do nothing to improve, and then idolize for it’s survivalist lifestyle ignoring the fact that the only thing they have to “survive” is each other and their own self-imposed poverty. The black community, as the media defines it, is monolithic.

    While any half-intelligent person knows there are exceptions, we’re not talking about the exceptions. When reports come out on how the black community has a disproportionately high crime rate due to whites forcing them into urban ghettos, the reporters are not including Bill Cosby, Colin Powell, and Condoleeza Rice in that group. While I don’t know about Condoleeza, I do know that Cosby and Powell had to overcome poverty when they were younger and, with the help of solid values, THEY DID. They didn’t HAVE to sell drugs, they worked in a shoe shine stand and furniture store, respectively.

    One of the problems is defining what it means to be black or white. When I was growing up, Hispanic was a race. Then, through the wonders of affirmative action, Hispanics began pushing blacks out of the running for jobs in California. Wasn’t too long before Hispanic was an ethnicity and no longer a race.

    I’m about at the end of my patience concerning race in this country. The pendulum seems to have swung not back to center, but far over to the other side and is beginning to tread on my rights as a human being. There is a single word in the English language that dare not even be spelled out completely as if it’s the true name of a demon and speaking it summons him to damn you eternally. On second thought, it’s not as if. That’s actually what happens.

  3. July 27th, 2010 at 16:32 | #3

    I read the speech. I think it would be interesting to have a discussion about race with Mr. Holder. I also think we come at the issue from very different places and therefore would have little in common about which we could agree. His view would be different from mine, not because he is Black. It would be different because he is a member of the Ruling Class. Unless I am mistaken, he has always worked for the government and almost always, his brief has had to do with race relations. His upbringing was privileged.

    Regardless of how he feels, or how I feel about it, race is a very consequential factor in American life today. I actually believe we were making great progress at blending our cultural heritages such that members of the many races were not too concerned about the other guy’s race. That was until politicians, bureaucrats and other ne’er-do-wells learned the awesome power of race to change the political landscape. Are you losing the argument? Drop the race card. Did your opponent catch you in a lie? Drop the race card. Want to be President? Drop the Race Card.

    If you doubt that last one, look at the numbers. Mr. Obama won the election with 69.5 million votes (52.9%) to Mr. McCain’s 59.9 million votes (45.7%). Mr. Obama received over 96% of Black vote (which amounted to 13% of the total vote). If you remove that 12.4 million black votes from Mr. Obama and the 500,000 black votes from Mr. McCain and then add back 6.9 million votes (52.9%) for Mr. Obama and add back the 5.8 million votes (45.7%) for Mr. McCain, you have a new winner. Mr. McCain wins by 65.2 million to 63.9 million for Mr. Obama.

    What does this prove? It proves an exceedingly high correlation between race and the vote as to blacks. Does this mean black voters are racist? No. Does it mean that race was the most important factor in their vote? Probably.

    I don’t know how we change and move toward that “post racial society” that we seem to long for. I do know that as long as playing races against one another has such huge power, it will not stop.

    How do we blend better? I think we do it the old fashioned way. We meet each other. We get acquainted and learn what we have in common. We learn from each other about our different upbringing, customs, likes, dislikes. We find that we have enough in common to become friends, or, we don’t. At some point, the color of the skin has faded into noise level and we are just two different people, not two different races. At some point we have admiration for the other guy for who he is, not for the color of his skin.

    As long as our ruling class continues to use race for power (to divide and conquer), I think there is slim chance we will make true progress –and I am an optimist.

  4. Mr. Grim
    July 28th, 2010 at 08:22 | #4

    Birds of a feather, so to speak…

    We, as a species, tend to gravitate towards others like ourselves. It seems to be “human nature” if you will, to form “tribes”.

    Even in these tribes, we further break down into more and more specialized groups.

    In my mind, we love ourselves most of all. We recognize in other those traits and qualities that most reflect our own and we desire to surround ourselves with those traits and qualities. They make us feel comfortable in their familiarity. They are our “happy place”.

    This is not to say that those that congregate are mere clones of one another. We humans (and we Americans most of all) idolize the “individual”. We also tend to be somewhat advesarial and do so enjoy the art of conflict. So, even in our tribes, there is not complete harmony. But with those most like ourselves, we can usually agree to disagree in the end.

    There are plenty of other tribes that are not like ourselves. We may not hate them, but we don’t want to be them. We may see their standards as lower than our own or their habits too unusual or uncomfortable for us. We willingly distance ourselves from the ther tribes. Many people in today’s society (like Mr. Holder) see this as inherently wrong. I do not. I see this as providing a very necessary safety buffer and avoiding undue conflict or even downright hostility.

    My neighbors are Mexican. Yes, Mexican. They are good, hard-working folks that take good care of their place and love each other dearly. They have good, strong family values and truly aspire to be valuable (if quiet) members of the community. In short, they are good people.

    When we see each other we always smile and say hello or hola. We even take a few minutes from time to time to chat as neighbors sometimes do. Their kids and my kids attend the same school so we have a few things in common. Sometimes I mow our collective lawn, sometime my neighbor does (we share a duplex). If one of us is gong to not be around on Sunday night we can count on the other to take our garbage can to the curb and if we’re still not back by Monday evening, we can count on the other to bring the garbage can back. We are patient and friendly with each other and even go out of our way to help each other from time to time.

    But we do not “hang out” with each other.

    In many ways they are very like me. But in too many ways they are not. I recognize and respect the differences but see no need to try and overcome them. Why do the differences need to be overcome? Is there something wrong with us being different? Is just being friendly and helpful with one another not enough? Do I also need to absorb and be absorbed by their culture?

    These days the word “diversity” gets bandied about with nauseating frequency. But the fact is, those that most often and most loudly preach diversity are doing everything that can to destroy it. My neighbors are good folks. They have strengths I lack just as I have qualities they do not. Why must we seek some sort of common lowest denominator to remove the strengths and make everyone equally weak?

  5. July 31st, 2010 at 16:46 | #5

    @Dan Russ

    I agree Dan, there is a serious double standard regarding “speaking up.” Even when using virtually identical syntax, e.g., a tee shirt with “Black Pride” vs. a tee shirt with “White Pride” and both with a raised fist are NOT viewed using the same standard. I also agree that there is room for all of us to be proud. While working in the military, law enforcement, or any group essentially built around team thinking, we seem to do pretty well. Get out into the civilian community and an almost artificial focus on differences seems to be the norm. It’s one of the reasons I tend to prefer my military service to my civilian employment. I guess my question, in these circumstances, would be “Why does the double standard exist?” More to the point is how to eradicate the double standard…

    Thanks for contributing Dan – it’s much appreciated.


  6. July 31st, 2010 at 17:33 | #6


    Gotta say, I experience the same difficulty taking any kind of suggestions about racial attitudes from a man who so clearly demonstrates an agenda that is anything BUT post-racial. In fact, his performance in several areas, but especially in the so-called “panthergate” debacle, demonstrates his lack of concern for both the nation’s perception and the reality of the rule of law.

    You use the term monolithic when referring to the media’s definition of the black community. Tom refers to a .96 correlation between race (being black) and voting for Obama. I think the irony here is that the black community is the very kind of hegemony they decry as creating race problems in the first place. More specifically, it is that evil white hegemony that creates race problems. In more than one of my “race relations” classes in college, white hegemony looms large as the root of all evil in race relations. Just Google “white hegemony” and compare it to, say, “black hegemony” (adding “+ racism + multiculturalism” gives a more robust result).

    You mention that “One of the problems is defining what it means to be black or white. When I was growing up, Hispanic was a race. Then, through the wonders of affirmative action, Hispanics began pushing blacks out of the running for jobs in California. Wasn’t too long before Hispanic was an ethnicity and no longer a race.” I too, am “about at the end of my patience concerning race in this country.” But I do wonder if there is a way out of the mess. Say, go back to immediately prior to the Civil Rights Act.

    Why mention that? Because most of the spectacular changes attributed to the Civil Rights Act actually occurred prior to the passage of the legislation. It seems more likely that the incredible progress made by the black community prompted the legislation rather than the legislation producing any real results. I believe there is a strong evidentiary argument for the idea that the “supposed results” of the Civil Rights Act actually preceded the legislation. Thomas Sowell is pretty convincing in his book “Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality.” From the Wikipedia:

    The third cause fallacy is a logical fallacy that asserts that X causes Y when, in reality, X and Y are both caused by Z. It is a variation on the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy and a member of the questionable cause group of fallacies.

    When third causes are ignored, it becomes possible to corral shocking statistical evidence in support of a nonexistent causality. For example:

    “It seems that every time empty beer cans are piled up in a car, an accident occurs. It seems that the excess weight and shape of the cans must cause other cars to want to crash into the victim’s car.”

    The fallacy in this situation would be the fact that the arguer focused on the first (beer cans) and second (car crashes) facts without looking for possible causes of both phenomena, such as drunk driving.

    Though a better example might have been used, I think it still makes the point. I’ll end this before I get too far into stealing my own thunder 😀 Thanks for weighing in!

    Cheers Bud!

  7. July 31st, 2010 at 18:16 | #7

    @tom Vail

    Thanks for stepping up Tom. I appreciate what you invariably add to the discussion. I am not sure I’d want to discuss race with Mr. Holder for reasons I’ve already mentioned – it seems his mind is already made up, and his deliberate choice to ignore the criminal conduct of the New Black Panthers argues strongly that he has little respect for the rule of law.

    I once thought of myself as pretty much amoral, but I’ve returned to roots nurtured by my grandfather, father-in-law, and my own father. Instead of being basically pragmatic about morals and laws, I’ve returned to a belief in an objective view of morality and law. Because of this, I would argue that despite the fact that I might “have little in common about which we could agree,” we are both obligated to follow, and in his case enforce, existing law.

    I think your observation that Mr. Holder “is a member of the Ruling Class” is an observation that is in dire need of being both made and shouted around neighborhoods. Though your comment doesn’t really speak to the point of the post, it does raise additional issues that deserve an honest accounting on the part of each of us.

    As Mr. Grim points out, I am not sure there is a necessity to breakdown, or for that matter, understand our differences. As long as the differences do not result in criminal behavior, where is there an obligation for one person to understand another? While understanding is a good worth pursuing, it is not necessarily a good one is obligated to pursue. People opt out of participating in the civic life of a community all the time, and I don’t believe they are required to participate beyond staying within the bounds of current law.

    Your observations draw a stark and convincing contrast between white and black voting habits. I wonder if there is some bit of wisdom that can be gleaned from some of the numbers that are available to us, some bit of information that would provide a direction toward a “post racial society.” I think your last three paragraphs speak to the underlying realities of the questions I posed. I don’t believe that we can move forward if our communities remain totally insular, but I do believe we can move forward if we do at least the minimum suggested by Mr. Grim – accept our neighbors for who they are and remain engaged.

    Like you, “I believe that as long as our ruling class continues to use race for power, I think there is slim chance we will make true progress” – and I am an optimistic pessimist. So here’s to hoping our leaders will stop encouraging a victim class that needs recompense at someone else’s expense.

    Cheers Tom!

  8. July 31st, 2010 at 19:06 | #8

    @Mr. Grim

    “Birds of a feather, so to speak…” is both an anthropological and sociological explanation that not only has its merits, but seems to be commonly ignored by many, if not most political scientists, community activists, and of course, politicians. …so much for the objectivity and integrity of our social sciences.
    I’ve had Mexican, Punjabi, Vietnamese, Laotian, and other nationalities living next door. I have also lived in a few foreign communities. Some have been hard working and kind people, some have not, but generalizing from anecdotal evidence is problematic at best. Moreover, descriptions of my experience tend to tell more about myself than my neighbors.

    I agree with the thrust of your comment, especially in terms of the perceived “need” to overcome differences. You observations highlight the saddest irony there is in our current situation. While the priesthood of diversity and multiculturalism preach their sermons about breaking down barriers and differences they destroy the very thing they say they are celebrating… our differences.

    It also fails to recognize that some aspects of various cultures ARE inferior or “bad.” If that were not the case, then U.S. jurisdictions would have had no need to outlaw female circumcision. In fact, even the simple expedient of a “ceremonial circumcision” to satisfy the parent’s religious needs (where a small nick that drew a little blood without the mutilation was outlawed) was rejected. The United States actually does have some celebrities and politicians arguing to allow female genital mutilation as a legitimate cultural practice.

    This is definitely one area where I would refuse to seek the lowest common denominator in blending cultures. Come at my daughter with a razor, and I’m likely to use something other than a blade to prevent it! I use an extreme example because it provides the starkest difference available – one that is easily referenced. Like Tom, I don’t think we’ll move forward until our leadership stops using these differences to pit one group against the other. I hope, at the very least, people can ignore some of the diversity rhetoric and manage to get along with each other in just such a fashion as you describe.

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