Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Published in Race


Trayvon's Legacy

I continue to have little opinion on the Trayvon Martin case, just as I have little opinion on the other 45 alleged murders which occur daily in the U.S. But the killing continues to have reverberations on the left. Today, began a national petition to force the district attorney for Chadbourn, North Carolina to bring charges in the killing of Jasmine Thar. The reason for their passion in this particular case? Thar was "a 16-year-old African American" and the person who fired the fatal shot is a "23-year-old Caucasian" who possessed "a Confederate flag and Nazi literature in his home."

MoveOn does not mention news reports that the
23-year-old Caucasian burst from his house after the shot was fired and began shouting "No! No! No!" as he fell to his knees. Another witness saw him crying in front of his house and observed, "I've never seen anyone's face so twisted with anguish." He was arrested but released when police determined that the discharge was accidental and may have been a mechanical failure of the weapon.

I have no idea if the Caucasian is innocent or guilty. And neither does MoveOn, who is calling for an new, "unprejudiced" investigation. That is, they assume that the reason charges have not been brought is based on race. The vast majority of blacks in America are killed by blacks, but have you ever noticed a liberal movement to end black-on-black crime? If this case did not involve a Confederate flag and Nazi literature, I would never have heard of it. Yet can you imagine the howls of outrage from the left if conservatives presumed a black man's guilt based on the possession of a Black Panthers' emblem and Nation of Islam literature?

Thee here:
The left's obsession with race transcends their devotion to the rule of law and prejudices their perception of crimes across racial lines. This is not virtuous concern for "insular minorities," but rather racist bias rooted in psychological insecurity and liberal ideology. Liberals do not want justice for blacks - if that were so, they'd address the black-on-black crimes which claim most black lives. Rather, liberals want to make a spectacle of white-on-black crimes, purely for political gain and personal psychological satisfaction.

Trayvon's death was tragic, but liberals have made his legacy into something corrupt and unseemly.
Categories > Race

The Founding

If you shoot at a King...

Dr. King then applied for a gun permit. Ann Coulter on a brief history of blacks and gun control. Gun control remains a good litmus test of liberty--whom do you trust, yourself and your law-abiding friends, or lawless people and an arbitrary law? A WSJ op-ed puts Florida's "stand your ground" law in perspective and finds it moderate, and no license to shoot at will, or even when attacked.
Categories > The Founding


James Q. Wilson, RIP

One of the giants of contemporary political science, James Q. Wilson, has passed away. His writing displayed insightful commentary on areas of public policy--crime ("broken windows"), poverty, bureaucracy (the classic book), bioethics, marriage, and ethnic politics, plus a book on snorkeling,co-authored with his wife. I happened to use his Bureaucracy book last spring, originally published in 1989. Wilson taught us what questions to raise in examining political institutions. Some of his writings for the Claremont Institute can be found here. An appreciation of his work by Shep Melnick is here.

It is not to damn him with faint praise to say that Wilson was likely the nicest and the wisest President of the American Political Science Association. I can still recall the headshaking and denunciations of his presidential address, on "The Moral Sense."

Addendum: A conversation from 1987 with Wilson, conducted by Steve Hayward mostly.

Categories > Politics


Eurocentrism Rears Its Ugly Head

Were the first Americans originally from Spain? And where did those ur-Spaniards come from? I guess one bit of evidence is this artwork discovered on a dig; and then there's this. What is most distrubing about the scholarship in this field is its sheer conventionality--its lack of imagination.
Categories > History


CMC, US News Help End Race Preferences?

Not intentionally of course. But by inflating the test scores of its incoming students, Claremont McKenna College provides ammunition for critics of race and ethnic preferences in admissions.  How can we trust colleges to provide honest information? Won't they skew data about race to make the case for preferences? John Eastman's brief in an upcoming preferences case lays out this argument well.

In the meantime, a legal blogger has raised the possibility of law school deans serving jail time for falsifying student data and, biggest bonus of all, US News being charged with fraud for knowingly publishing false information.

U.S. News itself may have committed mail and wire fraud. It has republished, and sold for profit, data submitted by law schools without verifying the data's accuracy, despite being aware that at least some schools were submitting false and misleading data. U.S. News refused to correct incorrect data and rankings errors and continued to sell that information even after individual schools confessed that they had submitted false information. In addition, U.S. News marketed its surveys and rankings as valid although they were riddled with fundamental methodological errors.

Categories > Education


Affirmative Action Returns to the Front Page

This week's news that the Supreme Court will hear a case on policies to increase the number of black and Hispanic students enrolled at public universities in Texas reanimates the affirmative action debate, just in time for America to decide whether to elect its first black president to a second term. Our friend Joel Mathis forcefully expresses several pro-affirmative action arguments:

1. Diversity is good because diversity is good: "Why should diversity be a goal? That's easy," Mathis writes. "America is diverse. Unless you believe that white men possess all the talent and smarts - and some people really do believe that - it's criminal not to foster the resources and resourcefulness of all our country's citizens."

2. Fairness demands compensatory justice: "For more than 300 years, America's culture and law enforced racial preferences - whites, of course, were preferred. We still live with the ramifications: A few decades of affirmative action don't make up for the fact that many minority groups weren't allowed to start the 100-yard dash until whites got a 50-yard head start."

3. Affirmative action may be problematic, but its absence would be a significantly bigger problem: "[A]ffirmative action sprung up as a response to an actual problem: That ... 300 years of slavery and Jim Crow left a lot of folks without sufficient resources ... to achieve and succeed on society's new colorblind terms... [A] longstanding legal-cultural regime enforced both by senators and sheriffs for hundreds of years might've caused damage that still needs repair... Simply put, conservatives don't seem to have an animating principle that moves them to address problems of this sort."

I've never met anyone who really does believe that white men possess all the talent and smarts, and neither has Mathis. Happily, his sensible conclusion that we should foster all our citizens' abilities does not follow from his overwrought premise. Neither, however, does support for affirmative action follow from the premise that we should foster all our citizens' abilities. We - as a society, not just through public policies - should do so through good schools, safe and cohesive neighborhoods, strong families, voluntary organizations that deepen an ethos of caring and sharing, a vigorous economy that expands opportunities, and by strengthening the ties of affection and respect that bind Americans as Americans closer together by transcending race, class, faith, and ethnicity. 

Affirmative action is irrelevant or harmful to the goal of fostering every American's resources and resourcefulness. Instead of encouraging people to make the most of their abilities, it rewards them for making the most of their grievances, allocating opportunities and outcomes by calibrating the impact of the historical victimization of a large group on the life prospects of individual members of that group.

That enterprise isn't feasible, and wouldn't be fair if it were feasible. The rectification of racial injustice through affirmative action requires us to be a great deal smarter than we can be. In the 1978 Bakke decision, Justice Harry Blackmun defended affirmative action as a way of "putting minority [medical school] applicants in the position they would have been in if not for the evil of racial discrimination." The problem, as Thomas Sowell explained in Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality?, is that "the idea of restoring groups to where they would have been - and what they would have been" if past discrimination had never taken place, "presupposes a range of knowledge that no one has ever possessed."

To make this impossible problem manageable, affirmative action proceeds from the planted axiom that in a society that has extirpated ongoing discrimination as well as all residual effects of past discrimination, every occupational and economic subgroup will be a demographic miniature of the entire population. Sowell points out that the world overflows with evidence refuting the idea that discrimination is the decisive variable explaining differences in the status and attainments among various groups: The Chinese have been and continue to be targets of discrimination in Southeast Asia. Yet, in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, "the Chinese minority - about 5 percent of the population of southeast Asia - owns a majority of the nation's total investments in key industries. By the middle of the twentieth century, the Chinese owned 75 percent of the rice mills in the Philippines, and between 80 and 90 percent of the rice mills in Thailand.... In Malaysia, where the anti-Chinese discrimination is written into the Constitution, is embodied in preferential quotas for Malays in government and private industry alike, and extends to admissions and scholarships at the universities, the average Chinese continues to earn twice the income of the average Malay."

Looking at America, Sowell notes, "Japanese immigrants to the United States also encountered persistent and escalating discrimination, culminating in their mass internment during World War II, but by 1959 they had about equaled the income of whites and by 1969 Japanese American families were earning nearly one-third higher incomes than the average American family." In general, Sowell examined many ethnically and racially heterogeneous societies and concluded that, "large statistical disparities have been commonplace, both in the presence of discrimination and in its absence." He cites one scholar comparing different societies who wrote, "All multi-ethnic societies exhibit a tendency for ethnic groups to engage in different occupations, have different levels (and, often, types) of education, receive different incomes, and occupy a different place in the social hierarchy," and another who "examined the idea of a society where groups are 'proportionately represented' at different levels and in different sectors. He concluded that 'few, if any, societies have ever approximated this description.'"

There is an inescapable zero-sum logic: The goal of ensuring that no group is "under-represented" in society's sought-after berths necessarily means it's intolerable for any group to be "over-represented." It is hard to see how a society embracing that mission can be fair or free. Blacks, for example, constitute 13.6% of the U.S. population, but 0% of the U.S. Senate. Jews, meanwhile, represent 2% of the U.S. population and 12% of the Senate. (From 1992 to 2010 both senators from Wisconsin, the state with the highest proportion of German-Americans in its population, were Jews.) Fixing this "problem" by race-norming elections so that under-represented groups start out with additional votes and over-represented groups with a vote-handicap would be consistent with the spirit of affirmative action, but irreconcilable with the idea of free elections in a democracy.

Prior to the 1978 Bakke decision, "diversity" was a negligible consideration in the affirmative action debate. It became important - indeed, became a word synonymous with affirmative action - only because a tie between four justices who opposed affirmative action as illegal racial discrimination, and four who favored it as compensatory racial justice, was broken by Justice Lewis Powell's concurring opinion. Powell said that school admissions quotas impermissibly discriminated against applicants in the wrong demographic categories, but that using race as a "plus factor" permissibly furthered schools' legitimate interest in a diverse student body. The affirmative action supporter Dahlia Lithwick has shown admirable candor in admitting that Powell's diversity rationale doesn't pass the laugh test: "Powell wasn't really interested in filling colleges with Alsatian goat herders. He was looking for some neutral-sounding reason to give minority candidates a small 'plus' in the admissions office. But subsequent courts of appeals have called him on it. Refusing to honor his code, they take him at his word. If diversity is important, they say, admit more Wiccans."

Mathis, like most affirmative action defenders, uses the diversity and compensatory justice rationales interchangeably. They are not only distinct, however, but also at cross-purposes, as Ilya Somin has argued. Eight years ago Harvard University faced a controversy when Jesse Jackson, Sr. accused it of practicing affirmative action in a way that did too much on behalf of diversity but too little to advance the cause of compensatory justice. A majority, perhaps a large majority, of Harvard's black undergraduates were immigrants or the children of immigrants from the West Indies or Africa, or the children of biracial couples. (Barack Obama is both, a different kind of two-fer.) That meant that most of the blacks at Harvard did not have four grandparents descended from slaves, the blacks "for whom affirmative action was aimed in the first place," according to Jackson.

Affirmative action's defenders would do well by the virtues of coherence and candor to bring a merciful close to 34 years of cant about diversity and talk about what affirmative action is and has always been about: Figuring out how big a head start blacks should be given now to make up for the discrimination blacks endured for many years, how long that head start should be given to them, and how we'll know when affirmative action has succeeded and can be retired. To work within such a frame, however, would be a radical departure from a half-century of bad-faith advocacy on behalf of affirmative action. The most forceful advocates of the 1964 Civil Rights Act insisted over and over that it would never, by any stretch of the imagination, require employers or educators to favor any applicant over any other applicant on the basis of race, or to face sanctions for having the "wrong" demographic mix in a workforce or student body. The wheels that would break this promise started turning the day President Johnson signed the bill into law. If affirmative action's friends want to help it they can, at long last, tell the truth about what it entails. If a law that says no person may be discriminated against means some persons may, and must, be discriminated against, what recourse and what justifications do we offer to applicants denied school or employment opportunities on account of their race?
Categories > Race



NY Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin exhibits American virtues, not Chinese ones. One could conclude this from simple observation as well from this book on Chinese (PRC) professional baseketball. "Why are there no Jeremy Lins [point guards] coming out of China?" The answer lies in politics--the sports of a free society and those of a totalitarian one.

Speaking of Lincoln, note this 1860 cartoon of the presidential candidates, featuring baseball metaphors. Lincoln installed a baseball diamond on the White House grounds, as Diana Schaub relates in her classic essay on the All-American sport.

Categories > Sports


Race Preferences and the Claremont Scandal

Charles Johnson tracks Claremont McKenna's race preferences admissions policies with the scandalous inflation of SAT reporting to US News and the world. Once again we see how a perverse policy of preferences leads to further unethical conduct. The issue for Claremont McKenna is not the superb quality of its teaching and much of the research--it's rather whether its key administrators (its Dean of Admissions resigned) based the College's policies and altered its identity for the sake of a higher standing in US News.

Did the President create a culture of cheap ambition? The Administration could have further played up its Government and Economics programs and been happy with a major national niche. Perhaps the prominence of conservative scholars in those departments made such a strategy distasteful, though.

Categories > Education


William F. Buckley on Dr. King (Update)

We honor King when we try to apply his example to our times. William F. Buckley on Martin Luther King:

We read the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life we celebrate while tending to ignore the essence of his beliefs, acclaimed by him (as by Abraham Lincoln) as the ground of his idealism.  A bizarre paradox in the new secular order is the celebration of Dr. King's birthday as a national holiday acclaimed as the heartbeat of articulated idealism in race relations, conscientiously observed in our schools [think of all the colleges and public schools that ignore national holidays such as Veterans Day--but recognize the King holiday] with, however, scant thought given to Dr. King's own faith. What is largely overlooked, in the matter of Dr. King, is his Christian training and explicitly Christian commitment.  Every student is familiar with the incantation, "I have a dream." Not many are familiar with the peroration.  The closing words were "... and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." [speech honoring the Heritage Foundation, Oct. 20, 1999, p. 472]

The speech, from collected Buckley speeches, is available via google books.

Teaming with secular media, the Obama Administration is clearly hostile toward organized religion, in particular the Catholic Church.  Would King have stood for the churches or the Obama program?  Would he have joined the March for Life?

Update:  The Buckley speech can also be found here, with some added commentary, as Michelle notes in the comments below.  Please read Lucas Morel's comment as well--an excerpt from his MLK Day remarks.

Categories > Religion


The French Get Patriotic

As a typical conservative, I'm rather fond of patriotism and generally dissent from the "blame Amerikkka" crowd. And while I subscribe to a strain of American exceptionalism, I find patriotism in those of other nations to be highly commendable. In particular, I think Europeans are often lacking in national pride - leading to the sort of cultural drift currently observed in many northern European countries.

On the other hand, the last time France took a stab at patriotic nationalism, they ended up with the Reign of Terror. So, while I commend the latest attempt by the French to introduce substantive prerequisites to French naturalization, I do so with slight hesitation. According to France 24:

Foreigners seeking French nationality face tougher requirements as of January 1, when new rules drawn up by Interior Minister Claude Guéant come into force.

Candidates will be tested on French culture and history, and will have to prove their French language skills are equivalent to those of a 15-year-old mother tongue speaker. They will also be required to sign a new charter establishing their rights and responsibilities.

"Becoming French is not a mere administrative step. It is a decision that requires a lot of thought", reads the charter, drafted by France's High Council for Integration (HCI). 

Residing in Asia, I'm accustomed to rather strict naturalization laws. Viewing nationality as primarily a matter of blood, many Asian countries take a dim view of non-ethnic naturalization (excepting mixed-marriages) and simply forbid dual-citizenship. The thin-skinned may sense a pervasive racism in such sentiments, but there is an undeniable and obvious truth in the assertion that I, for example, am simply not Asian.  

America, of course, occupies the opposite end of the spectrum and is rather exceptional with regard to citizenship. We alone in the world are truly a nation of immigrants and boast no purely ethnic component to citizenship. History has rarely witnessed such a national condition, and never upon so broad a scale. We are truly unique.   

Immigration has never been my hot-button issue. Illegal immigration is certainly objectionable, but I can't passionately condemn something that I might very well attempt myself (for the safety and prosperity of my family) were I born into radically different circumstances. I see American citizenship as a privilege which should be available to those possessed of a certain American patriotism and willingness to adopt American culture (i.e., our language and basic civil and moral virtues). Immigration and citizenship are practical matters to me, best determined by balancing national interest with the circumstance of the applicant.

Yet America's immigration discussion generally encompasses Mexicans and the occasional Latin American. France is facing culture-altering waves of Muslim immigrants who have no will to adopt Western culture.

Guéant, a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, described the [naturalization] process as "a solemn occasion between the host nation and the applicant", adding that migrants should be integrated through language and "an adherence to the principals, values and symbols of our democracy". He stressed the importance of the secular state and equality between women and men: rhetoric perceived largely as a snipe at Muslim applicants, who make up the majority of the 100,000 new French citizens admitted each year.

France's interior minister has made it clear that immigrants who refuse to "assimilate" into French society should be denied French citizenship.

Earlier this year, Guéant intervened personally to ensure an Algerian-born man living in France was denied French nationality because of his "degrading attitude" to his French wife.

That followed an earlier push by France's former Immigration Minister Eric Besson to revise existing laws in order to strip polygamists of their acquired citizenship.

France is correct in all of this. While Sarkozy is accused of "pandering to the right," he has a responsibility to uphold the basic laws and ethics of France. There is always a danger of such sentiments degrading into ethnic, religious or other forms of prejudice, but the alternate extreme of cultural abandonment is equally perilous. Nations must stand for something, and France is finally standing for something worthwhile.

Categories > Race