Race: October 2005 Archives

Roundup

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Christian Carnival XCIII is up at White Ribbon Warriors.

GetReligion explains why Catholics proposing withholding communion from politicians who allow abortion and euthanasia need not say the same about Catholics who support the death penalty or war.

Bush hates rich people too!

He's gay, Jim!
From what I've heard about Rick Berman's attitudes toward homosexuality, this might ruin the chances of a Sulu series or even a Sulu appearance in any further stories. [Evidence: See this from 2000, which interestingly points out that one TOS actor and one or two TNG actors are gay. There's a lot more here, but much of that goes way beyond evidence presented. See the Wikipedia entry on this subject for more. Ron Moore confirms that someone in charge explicitly didn't want gay characters, and Kate Mulgrew says it was Berman.]

Tim Challies gives an excellent argument for Christians' participation in Halloween. I think he concedes way too much to those who think the current practice of Halloween has anything to do with paganism in the religious sense, but that's what makes his argument so strong. Even if you concede that, he thinks Christians shouldn't just see it as ok to participate. He thinks it's more like a moral obligation.

Jonathan Ichikawa thinks a proposed amendment to the Texas constitution intended to ban gay marriage is going to invalidate marriage of any kind. He first pointed this out five months ago and raised the issue again recently. His latest volley sort of responds to people taking alternative views, including my comments on both those posts (to the effect that an originalist won't take the conclusion he thinks follows) and the discussion at Orin Kerr's Volokh Conspiracy post. He thinks everyone questioning his view is underestimating how serious this is. I'm not sure he's really dealt with my argument, though. Either way, it's a really funny issue, because if he's right then those opposing gay marriage on the grounds that it will harm marriage as an institution will be fully destroying marriage as a legal institution while getting rid of the possibility of gay marriage.

Marty Lederman has a post at Balkinization arguing that originalism is inconsistent with colorblindness. Justices Scalia and Thomas, for instance, think it's always unconstitutional for the government to use race as a basis for giving someone more favor in hiring or college admissions (and private organizations receiving government funding are subject to this as well). I think they have the wrong view, both constitutionally and morally. Affirmative action is not in principle wrong, even if in our current setting it's more harmful than helpful to those it's intended to help.

Lederman and Balkin argue that originalism is inconsistent with colorblindness. The primary argument for this is that the Congress that passed the Fourteenth Amendment wasn't colorblind in outlook. Some of them went only as far as they did with "equal protection of the laws" and "privileges and immunities" because they didn't want to give blacks the right to vote. It wasn't until the 15th Amendment that blacks were guaranteed the right to vote, and the 14th Amendment even says how to handle states that did deny blacks the right to vote, assuming it could be done. Balkin also says that many of the people voting for the 14th Amendment did not intend to remove bans against racial intermarriage, which I don't think is really surprising given predominant views at the time.

Now Balkin and Lederman seem to me to overstate the conclusion we should draw from this. They say that this shows the original understanding of the 14th Amendment did not include these additional rights that colorblindness requires. I don't think it's quite so simple. What this shows is that some of the people voting for this language didn't intend it to mean colorblindness, though others who voted for this language did intend it that way. That means there are (at least) two intended meanings of the amendment. On Justice Thomas' view, original intent is what determines the Constitution's meaning, but we don't have just one original intent. We have an underdetermined original intent. It could mean either. What's common to both, however, is certainly intended. So the original intent of the amendment does include the things both factions agreed upon. The original intent of the group of all voters does not. That seems to me to be the most plausible way to go with this if you hold to original intent (which I don't). So the conclusion does seem to me to follow from original intent, but it's not as straightforward as saying that the original intent of Congress conflicted with colorblindness. That was true of some of them but not all, and you have to take a further step to recognize that the intent of the language chosen cannot be something not intended by a large enough portion of the people voting for it.

Rosa Parks

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Rosa Parks is dead. See discussions by some of the Conservative Brotherhood: Sam, La Shawn Barber, Baldilocks, and Booker Rising [technically, La Shawn is now for some reason listed as emeritus in the Brotherhood, but she was a founding member].

I just have one question. I know she's an icon, and she's really respected for standing up for something that really was a good cause, but can a Christian really condone what she did? I can't see how. God can use immoral acts for his will. This certainly isn't as bad as some of the horrendous acts God has chosen to work through for good. I just can't see how it can be morally justified given what the Bible says about how we should relate governments that persecute Christians. How should it be any different for governments that allow people to mistreat whole ethnic groups? Jesus even says to give someone your shirt if they ask for your coat and to go an extra mile when a soldier asks you to carry his gear for a mile. So why can it be morally justified to refuse to give someone your seat when he asks, given a Christian ethic? That's something I've never understood about Christians' support of this woman's actions. It seems to me to be contrary to the direct teaching of Jesus, Paul, Peter, and the general thrust of Christian ethics.

I've pointed out numerous times in the past how black conservatives have moved conservatives in a new direction from where white conservatives had gone in the past. The primary difference is that black conservatives seek to remedy problems in the black community through conservative values and policies, or in many cases the removal of certan liberal attitudes and policies. A good example of that is John McWhorter's article last month in the London Sunday Times, arguing that liberals are right that white people are responsible for the fact that poor people in New Orleans are predominantly black, and white people are indeed responsible for the particular kind of poverty black people in New Orleans have been living in.

Yet it would be misleading to stop there. It's not white people per se who are responsible for this. It's the white people who crafted the proposal to expand welfare massively in the 1960s to take black people from jobs and make them dependent on government doles for generations. It's the white people who were convinced by those people that they would be promoting racial harmony and helping out people they felt guilty about. It's the white people who continue to vote for people who promote such policies due to the rhetoric that it's the decent thing to do. I think it's unfair to portray white conservatives as opposing things like welfare simply because they don't care about black people or poor people. But it's certainly evil to portray black conservatives who make this sort of argument that way. What's amazing to me is that McWhorter gets that sort of critique all the time from people who don't even bother to hear what he's saying.

McWhorter's more recent National Review piece on race and the government response to the hurricane is even more telling, and I think more obviously correct. His closing comments on identity politics are apt. I agree with them fully, but it's sort of old hat for him. This is nothing new, and I've talked about it many times. What caught my eye in this piece is the first part. His response to Kanye West's "it's been five days because most of the people are black. George Bush doesn't care about black people" is hilarious, if you can put aside the fact that we're talking about people suffering here (and that West is using these people's suffering merely to score political points):

I do not agree with the president on everything, though I've often defended some of his less popular statements and policies, against liberals who think his views are too conservative and against conservatives who think his policies are simply not conservative. It should never be said that I defend him no matter what he does. I happen to agree with him more than any liberal or moderate would, and I also happen to agree with him more than most conservatives would. That's not because I agree with whatever he would say but because I simply think he has the right views on many things that I don't think either major party gets quite as right. That being said, I wanted to disagree with something he did that I suspect most people I know would agree with him on. Last Friday, he made a statement criticizing Bill Bennett's infamous comments Wednesday morning about abortion and its social effects. I don't think the president was right in declaring Bennett's comments "not appropriate". I've seen two complaints against what Bennett said, one completely stupid and the other based on a genuine but misguided worry, indeed a logical fallacy. This second sort of issue comes in two forms, the more prominent and more misguided one and the less prominent and a little more reasonable one that I think ultimately is still not a good reason to criticize Bennett.

What Bennett said was pretty clear and straightforward. He was responding to a caller who thought you could argue against abortion on social consequences grounds. In particular, the caller wanted to say that abortion is wrong because if we didn't have it we'd have more taxpayers, and the GNP would be higher. Society would be more productive. Regardless of whether such a claim is true, if abortion is wrong it's for much deeper reasons than that. Bennett wanted to distinguish between the mere consequences of an action and what makes it wrong, thus siding squarely on the non-consequentialist side of ethical theory (which is the right view). He wanted to make this point by showing that an action can have good consequences without being a good action. So he picked an example that most everyone would consider horrendous with consequences that, independent of other factors, would be good. Since the original example was just like that, his point would be made, and it would be a very effective way of making the point. So he chose the example of aborting all black babies, which no one in their right mind would consider a good thing, not only for the horrific element of killing a whole generation of kids (presumably without consent of either parent). What's even worse is that it singles out just black babies to kill, which is verging in the direction of genocide. Yet surely such an action would reduce crime, Bennett points out. This is thus a very good example of the sort of argument Bennett wanted to make his point. He could have made it raceless and just had every fetus being killed regardless of race, but that wouldn't have been as bad a case, and he wanted it to be very bad.

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