No Deviation From Anti-Racism Dogma Allowed!

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Like most of the regular columnists in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, D. Allen Kerr is on the left, but perhaps on the moderate left. Which means that he sometimes offends the easily offended! Case in point was his August 27 op-ed, which is behind the Foster's paywall, but here's the headline:

America is not a racist nation — but it’s not perfect, either

His outrageous heresy was corrected in today's paper, in an LTE from Danielle Hoffman of Kittery, Maine. And, to be clear: Kerr's sin was not in claiming that America was imperfect. It was in claiming that America is not a racist nation:

I was disappointed to read D. Allan Kerr’s most recent opinion piece. Not only by his words, or the piece’s glaring title, which minimizes the experience of countless Black Americans (including some of Mr. Kerr’s own neighbors), but also by the publisher’s decision to post the piece with no counterpoint or editorial notations.

While I truly appreciate Mr. Kerr’s optimism and enthusiasm for history, it is irresponsible to let his words stand without scrutiny of facts. Kerr holds up the existence of a Black president and other office holders to support his assertion that America has eradicated the systemic racism on which it was founded. Yet he ignores the well-documented experiences of regular (non office holding) Black Americans. The conservative commentator Jason Riley wrote in a 2017 opinion piece “The proliferation of black politicians in recent decades — which now includes a twice-elected black president — has done little to narrow racial gaps in employment, income, homeownership, academic achievement and other areas.”

Yes, Ms. Hoffman is put out that the paper failed to offer immediate rebuttal to Kerr's blasphemy. Readers had to wait for a little over a week before being enlightened by Ms. Hoffman's letter! Goodness knows what injustices and aggressions they might have committed in the meantime.

But what I found amusing was that Ms. Hoffman quoted Jason Riley in support of her thesis.

Reader, I'm a minor Riley fan, either favorably mentioning or citing him numerous times over the years (here, here, here, here, here (a report on his book about Thomas Sowell), here, and here). So I'm pretty sure that Ms. Hoffman is (intentionally?) misleading in her snippage of Riley's views. You can read Riley's book (our Amazon Product du Jour), or an excerpt thereof at the Manhattan Institute, Why Obama's Presidency Didn't Lead to Black Progress for fuller context.

Or you can read (or listen to) his Econtalk interview with Russ Roberts, where he directly refutes Ms. Hoffman's argument. A long excerpt:

I learn [from study of Black history] that Jim Crow and the legacy of slavery are not blanket explanations for black outcomes today.

There's no doubt that those events had a profound impact on the black experience in this country. There's no doubt, to me, that discrimination and prejudice and bias can in fact play a role in a minority group's upward mobility. The question is: how big a role is it playing? How much of what is going on today does it explain?

And, I would argue that it explains quite little given the amount of progress that was taking place when you had far more racial discrimination in America than you have today.

A lot of people look at these black crime rates and they say: Poverty. Obviously. Blacks are much poorer than whites on average, and so higher black crime rates make sense. These are desperate people. Which, you know, might sound logical, superficially, until you realize that in the 1930s and '40s and '50s, black people were a lot poorer then they are today and black crime rates were a lot lower than they are today. So, this correlation that is just thrown out there between poverty and crime rates does not hold up to scrutiny.

The poverty rate among black married couples has been in the single digits for more than a quarter century. You know, black people don't become less black after they get married. So, is the poverty rate in America a function of racism, or family formation? Is it a function of the fact you see fewer married couples among blacks?

We don't talk about that. We jump right to the racial explanation or the racist explanation of these outcomes.

And, I think that's a mistake.

Riley has been making this point for years (as has Thomas Sowell). And guess who jumped "right to the racial explanation or the racist explanation"? That's correct: Danielle Hoffman. Guess she should have read beyond that single sentence she quoted.

Also of note:

  • As long as we are citing Jason Riley… Let's take a look at his recent WSJ op-ed: The Racial Achievement Gap and the War on Meritocracy.

    Yes, this is another September “back to school” column. My apologies. But someone needs to keep pointing out that our national debate over which books to allow in classrooms, or how to teach slavery to middle-schoolers, is far less consequential than the continuing inability of most youngsters to read or do math at grade level.

    In Florida, where GOP governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis has taken lumps for a couple sentences in a 200-page black-history curriculum, only 39% of Miami-Dade County fourth-graders are proficient in reading, according to a Miami Herald report last year on standardized test results. By eighth grade the number drops to 31%, and math scores are just as bad. Who cares if kids have access to books by Toni Morrison or Jodi Picoult if most of them can’t comprehend the contents?

    These dismal outcomes have persisted nationwide for decades, and the racial achievement gap is even more disturbing. The U.S. Education Department reported last year that in 2022 the average reading score for black fourth-graders in New York on the National Assessment of Educational Progress trailed that of white fourth graders by 29 points. This “performance gap was not significantly different from that in 1998,” the report added.

    The progressive left’s response to these outcomes has been to wage war on meritocracy rather than focus on improving instruction. The goal is to eliminate gifted-and-talented middle-school programs, high-school entrance exams and the use of the SAT in college admissions. One defense of racial preferences in education for black students is that recipients, including those who go into teaching, are more likely to work in low-income minority communities after graduation. That’s true, but is it what economically disadvantaged students really need, more second-rate teachers?

    To keep yelling "racism" is unhelpful. Actually often harmful, unless your goal is mere virtue signalling.

  • We're Number Three! Which is actually kind of impressive. NHJournal reports: UNH 3rd in Free Speech Rankings While Dartmouth Among America's Worst.

    Granite State college students enjoy greater freedom of speech at the University of New Hampshire than their peers at the prestigious Ivy League school, Dartmouth College.

    The annual college rankings released this week by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, or FIRE, puts UNH third nationally, trailing only Michigan Tech and Auburn.

    Goodness knows I've directed piles of snark toward (my alma mater and longtime employer) the University Near Here. So I will just barely mention that the WSJ's rankings of The 2024 Best Colleges in the U.S.-"2024" being the year and not the number of colleges-has UNH in spot #171 out of 400.

  • If you can hear the dog whistle… then maybe you're a dog. That's the saying anyway. George Case looks at the history of a weird concept: Whistling in the Dark.

    Denunciations of “dog-whistle politics” are now a familiar part of contemporary public discourse. The metaphor refers to the high-pitched sound that calls canines but cannot be heard by humans, and it is used to imply that an apparently neutral policy or argument is actually a subtle or coded appeal to the biases of a select audience. Deploying politically coded messages in this way is a serious accusation, evidenced in a sample of recent headlines: “Politicians Should Stop Using Confusion Over Trans Issues as a Dog Whistle for Intolerance” (from the Globe and Mail), “The QAnon Dog Whistle at the SCOTUS Confirmation Hearings” (from the Atlantic), “Aitchison Condemns Lewis’ Nuremberg Email as ‘Dog Whistle’ to COVID Vaccine Critics” (from CTVNews), “Haley Sounds Her Dog Whistles As She Makes a Play for the MAGA Base” (from the Washington Post), “Backlash Against ‘Dog Whistle’ Labour Tweet About Rishi Sunak” (from the Daily Telegraph), et cetera, et cetera.

    The term’s origins are murky, but it made an early appearance in a 1988 remark by Washington Post pollster Richard Morin, who warned that a “dog whistle effect” should be considered in answers to the paper’s surveys when “respondents hear something in the question that researchers do not.” Twelve years later, Australian journalist Tony Wright was among the first to use the term as a reproach, when he wrote about Australian Prime Minister John Howard, whose views on immigration and Aboriginal issues were supposedly playing to white nativism:

    I'm pretty sure my dog would ignore a dog whistle, just like he ignores my normal whistle.

Recently on the book blog:

Last Modified 2024-01-11 4:43 AM EDT

Dead Silence

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The Amazon page summarizes the huzzahs:

A Best Book of 2022 by the New York Public Library • One of the Best SFF Books of 2022 (Gizmodo) • One of the Best SF Mysteries of 2022 (CrimeReads) • A GoodReads Choice Award finalist for Best Science Fiction!

And I think I put it on my get-at-library list due to a decent review at the Wall Street Journal last year. (That list is pretty long.)

And yet I didn't care for it at all. Obviously, you may have different results.

The Amazon page goes on to quote the book flap: "Titanic meets Event Horizon in this SF horror novel…"

Reader, it's more like "This SF horror novel is a shameless ripoff of Alien and Aliens": Plucky lady space traveller encounters a dread menace in space, which starts picking off her fellow crew members, which only she escapes by the skin of her teeth. But she is finagled into returning by her Evil Corporation™ employers, and she once again needs to deal with that same dread menace…"

The book is narrated by plucky Ellen Ripley Claire Kovalik, team leader of a small five-person spaceship, the LINA, tasked with repairing communication relays in the far reaches of the solar system. When they pick up a distress call from the Aurora, a luxury spaceliner thought to be irrevocably lost decades ago. The crew decide to rendezvous and board the hulk, only to find the entire crew and passengers long dead, victims of mass homicide and suicide. But! Riches may be had if the LINA's crew can establish their salvage rights to the loot onboard, while preventing the previously-mentioned Evil Corporation™ from screwing them out of it. Then bad things happen.

Along the way, Claire says the f-word a lot.

One major difference between Ripley and Kovalik: Kovalik has some serious mental issues, ones that are completely obvious to her crew, and you would think also to her employers. Was she really the best choice for even a routine repair mission? I wouldn't think so, but I guess it's hard to find good help in the future.

Last Modified 2024-01-11 4:42 AM EDT