Race: June 2004 Archives

There's been a lot more on Justices Thomas and Scalia voting together, which I blogged about before. Volokh has a list of which pairs of justices vote agree the most in their endorsement of opinions. Scalia and Thomas are seventh in the list. Six other pairs of justices are more likely to agree than those two are. Four of those six pairs are more likely to be considered liberal. Two are conservative-moderate pairs (Rehnquist with O'Connor and Rehnquist with Kennedy). The most likely to agree are Souter and Ginsburg, 12% more likely to agree than Thomas and Scalia.

Right on Race

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There's a new blog on race from a conservative position, Right on Race. This one allows posts from anyone, though any post will wisely have to pass a moderator's test for inclusion. I've submitted my post on Justices Thomas and Scalia. Thanks to Eugene Volokh for the pointer.

Will Baude at Crescat Sententia wonders why there's such a persistent myth that Clarence Thomas is a lapdog for Antonin Scalia and never expresses independent thought. Eugene Volokh has wondered about this before and also notices that these recent war on terror prisoner cases show about as strong a disagreement between the two as between any justices. Both wonder why this myth persists. Baude expresses his wonder at it even more strongly:

Usually, when a clearly-wrong belief persists like this one does, there is some sort of memetic explanation-- some reason that the belief is convenient, or that people who do not share it are unlikely to prosper, or some reason that the wrong belief has a particular advantage in replicating itself. But I can't think of any such explanation here.

Well, I can, and I would have thought it obvious.

For those who didn't follow the comments on my lengthy post on Christians and race relations, you should read this story for the background on this next item.

This is probably what most of the people at my in-laws' church think of me. Hey! It's what white Christian college students think of me and say to my face! I've spent enough time reading John Locke and Jonathan Edwards to know that 'enthusiasm' used to be a dirty word.

I need to put up a link somewhere to the Holy Observer, but I can't figure out where it would fit best. Any ideas?

PCA Statement on Racism

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The Presbyterian Church of America, which for those who don't follow denominations is the most recent splinter group off the mainline Presbyterian Church USA (and the more conservative of the two) has issued a pastoral letter on racism. Thanks to TulipGirl for pointing it out.

It's fairly interesting for a number of reasons. It gives a biblical theology of race and race relations. It contains an apology for and expression of repentance from the racist past of Presbyterians, whom they see as their direct forbears.

Then they describe racial distinctives, with awful punctuation because it's a list, so I'm taking some liberties with that without changing the words. First, they're "distinguishable categories; they are not irrelevant, but they are not defining categories that prohibit unity in the worship, fellowship and mission of the Body of Christ, and they are categories included in the distinctive and eternal celebration of God's work through the ages." This is an excellent summary of the biblical emphasis in ways that I don't think most people today would think to focus.

From a Washington Times report:

Talking about education yesterday, Mr. Kerry also told the largely black crowd at the day care center that there are more blacks in prison than in college.

"That's unacceptable," he said. "But it's not their fault."

What's not their fault? Is it not the fault of each criminal that he or she is a criminal or committed a crime? Or is it not the fault of black criminals as a whole that there are more blacks in prison than in college? If it's the first, it's a good example of separatist morality that I've mentioned in a few posts in the last week. (I'm not convinced every reason for the second is an instance of dangerous separatist morality, according to which someone isn't held as morally responsible simply in virtue of being black, but I haven't had time to think carefully enough about it to give one that I don't find problematic. I suspect I wouldn't be comfortable with Kerry's reasons, but I'd need to see more.)

Whichever one he means, the statement is actually true but not for the reasons he thinks. It's true that black people aren't responsible for there being more black people in prison than in college, but that's because there aren't more black people in prison than in college! See Joanne Jacobs and James Taranto for more.

I tutor Syracuse University football and basketball players, and a couple weeks ago some of them were looking at the death penalty in an ethics course. One of their readings looked at how race affects the death penalty, and the results were surprising. It turns out that the race of the victim does tend to affect whether someone receives the death penalty, whereas the race of the defendant (i.e. the killer) has much less, if any, effect. I think racism can easily explain this fact, though another possible explanation seems plausible to me after looking at the information more carefully, and what really turns out to be interesting is that any attempt to make up for this effect could easily be seen as racist itself!

Concocted Racism

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I'm at a loss. I thought I understood what the dominant liberal notion of racism was supposed to be. There's individual, attitudinal racism, where someone simply hates or wants to suppress people of other races. Then there's residual racism, where societal conditioning leaves us with negative attitudes toward people of other races or predominant cultural practices or preferences of other races. This can be so even if we recognize it and seek to overcome it. Finally, there's institutional racism, where societal practices ("the system") perpetuate a proportional disadvantage toward one race.

Well, a new kind of racism has appeared. It doesn't fit into any of those categories. Sam found this case mentioned at Tongue Tied. Somehow, saying that abortion is the #1 killer of African Americans (and showing a picture of a black baby) is racist. Not just that, but the picture of the baby is even the root of racism!

The Conservative Brotherhood is a group of right-thinking or right-leaning African American bloggers, or something like that anyway. These things admit of borderline cases in both criteria. I already had all these sites on my blogroll except one, which I've now added, but I figured it was worth drawing attention to this. I'm not quite sure why they didn't include Sam, since she was in on the initial discussions.

Update: She's been added.

Another Roundup

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I've got too many things to blog about again, so here we go.

Jonathan Ichikawa has a nice post at Fake Barn Country about obesity and determinism. I think I agree with everything he says. (It's also at his own blog, but there aren't any comments there yet. If you're interested in looking at all possible comments, it's worth checking both.)

Tiger! Tiger! has a great post on arguments for atheism. The author is an atheist but is acknowleding the insufficiency of the best arguments for atheism. I think I agree with every word up to a certain point. At the end, there's an appeal to a hermeneutic of suspicion as a final method of arguing for atheism, but I wonder if again this is at best at argument for agnosticism, since of course you can apply a hermeneutic of suspicion to the atheistic framework as well (and the atheistic explanations of evidence and experiences pointing to theism) by explaining the atheistic worldview in terms of Romans 1 and the fall of humanity.

Saddam's doctor gives some inside dirt. (via The Limitless)

Stuart Buck puts Brian Leiter in his place with a careful examination of a new poll that shows the overall increasing mistrust of the media from both political parties. Leiter was trying to use it to show that Republicans are stupid for not trusting C-SPAN and that Republicans are simply mad at the press for questioning Bush and no longer groveling to him (as if they ever did). Stuart points out that the poll shows that Democrats are growing distrustful of all the media sources, that the Wall Street Journal is the biggest drop in trustworthiness according to Republicans, that Democrats and Republicans trust both Fox News at nearly statistically equivalent rates to each other, and Democrats are distrusting enough of C-SPAN that they fall prey to his charge of stupidity if Republicans do (not that the charge applies anyway if you understand what they are distrusting, on which see his argument).

Eugene Volokh, as far as I can tell, is a standard pro-choice libertarian, but he's willing to acknowledge that, even though both sides of the abortion debate are guilty of euphemistic and dysphemistic language, the mainstream media really do show a bias toward the euphemisms and dysphemisms of the pro-choice side of the debate.

Donald Sensing at One Hand Clapping notices how Bush's order in 'women and men' sends a strong signal to Muslim practices that marginalize women. It's little things like this that show that Bush really isn't like a lot of Republicans of the past (or at least of the era since the 60s when Republicans were the civil rights party). The Bush Administration consciously thinks about things like this.

Joanne Jacobs connects talking to kids (including to babies), grades/test scores, class, and the racial achievement gap. I don't think everything she says follows from the data, but it's fascinating stuff. My comment there is sufficient to show where I disagree.

Jollyblogger has an excellent post on metaphor and whether Harry Potter can be morally redeeming for a Christian who believes the occult is evil. It's one of the best defenses of popular fiction with elements hyper-fundamentalists would reject that I've seen in a long time, using the examples of Hosea's marriage to a practicing prostitute and Isaiah's walking around "naked" (both commands from God) for an interesting point. He didn't say what I thought was the most obvious thing to say, which is that magic in Harry Potter isn't what's condemned in the Bible, since it's a natural ability of the characters in that fictional world rather than a supernatural ability not of one's own but sought out through practices involving demonic beings.

My list of favorite posts is getting fairly long, and I've decided to remove some of the earlier ones. I still want to have a link to them, so I'm linking to them in this post, and then I'll put this post in the list of favorite posts. That way the list will be shorter, but I'll be able to find them fairly easily without having to search the whole site.

New low for racist left looks at a poster making fun of National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice that I believe to be racist. I explain why in the post, and somehow some slack-jawed yokels found the post, completely ignored my reasoning and everything about me that a quick look around my site would reveal, and proceeded to call me a racist. It was probably the most commented-on entry in the history of my blog, and the comments are quite characteristic of the average response to the kind of point I was making, which is simply to ignore it and change the subject, to charge me with things I never said and don't believe, and to take everything I said in the most uncharitable way possible.

Pacifism links to my fairly comprehensive teaching notes on arguments for and against pacifism, including both philosophical and biblical arguments.

Personhood and Abortion summarizes some of my views on abortion, in response to some statements by Senator Sam Brownback (R, KS). Careful-thinking people realize that personhood is the central issue in the debate (not life or humanity), but personhood by itself itself doesn't decide the issue one way or the other, giving pro-life and pro-choice reasons for thinking that. I offer two considerations that should also come into play, one having to do with violence and the other from the fact that we view very early miscarriages as unfortunate but not as bad as losing a child at a later developmental stage.

Update: I've removed some of the posts originally in this entry and put them into a topical one on apologetics, because they belong there. This one's a little haphazard themewise.

Update 2: I've moved more into Christian Ethics Posts. This post is getting smaller and smaller.

Lara Jakes Jordan of the Associated Press has targeted the Bush Campaign's use of churches to organize support, saying that it should cause those churches to lose their tax-exempt status. The idea is to have someone from each church that tends to be more conservative to serve as an organizer for that congregation. This person will garner support within that group. The problem, according to Jordan, is that a tax-exempt status requires a non-profit organization to remain independent of any political candidates. No campaigning for or against any candidate is allowed by such an organization. The Bush Campaign coordinator for the state in question replied that this is a way to organize individuals, and the use of churches is simply a way of finding the people who will more likely support the president. No campaigning need go on in the church building, and none need be endorsed by the church.

Regardless of whether that answer is sufficient, other questions come to my mind. This reminds me of the targeting of pro-life groups for similar reasons while ignoring the environmentalist advocacy groups, pro-abortion (not pro-choice, since they rely on abortions to pay their salaries) groups like Planned Parenthood, and other not-for-profit groups with liberal political axes to grind.

There's no law against campaigns targeting churches. The law is against churches remaining not-for-profit if they endorse a candidate. I can't therefore legally fault all the Democratic candidates who wouldn't darken the door of a church (or at least one that believes anything) most of the year but then have to put in some time keeping black people in line by speaking in black churches in communities they'd never normally set foot in and have never bothered to try to understand. It's pandering and condescending (in the negative sense), and it led fellow Democrat Mickey Kaus to call John Kerry the Pandescenderer. It's morally obnoxious to engage in such insulting behavior, but there's nothing illegal about it, at least for the candidate. It can be construed as a church supporting a political candidate, though. Given that most of these candidates couldn't exegete a biblical passage to save their life, what qualification do they have to be giving a sermon except as a candidate for public office giving a political lecture at the invitation of the church?

At Volokh, a black RI politician pushes for the removal of terms that remind black people for slavery. Volokh's further recommendations are precious, and his analysis of the psychology behind this seems right to me.

Then, in another case of what Volokh calls "the infantilization of the very group that one is trying to defend", we find a lawyer defending a black father who killed his son, not just because he couldn't help it but because the effects of slavery caused him to do it. I don't think this is much different from what John McWhorter calls separatist morality.

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