Race: March 2006 Archives

Race Traitor

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Eugene Volokh has a good post about my wife. I'm not sure why he keeps referring to her as "he", though.

I think he's a little too unwilling to focus on how many black conservatives have been convinced by real arguments that liberal policies are worse for black people than conservative policies are. But his point about those not convinced by such arguments that they aren't race traitors still stands. I particularly like his last paragraph. Some people, even if they wrongly think Republicans and conservative policies are anti-black, might still put aside identity politics and concern themselves more with issues that aren't as self-focused.

It hadn't occurred to me until this afternoon that the term 'race traitor' originally arose in the context of white racists calling white liberals race traitors when they sought to promote liberal social policies with the goal of greater equality. Now it's being used to refer to black people who think conservative policies promote greater equality. Some say the charge is appropriate because this time the policies don't promote greater equality. I think that's wrong, because I think conservative policies do have better effects racially speaking (and I think it's demonstrable that liberal policies that were supposed to promote equality had mixed results, e.g. the mass expansion of welfare to include most black urbanites, thus creating generations of dependency). But two things even apart from that strike me as inappropriate about the traitor metaphor.

I have little sympathy for one line of argument currently being advanced [hat tip: SCOTUSblog] against the Texas redistricting that the Supreme Court is currently considering. This argument takes it to be an unconstitutional maneuver because it silences voters. It gives those who vote Democratic less voice by lumping them in with a larger group that turns out to be more Republican-leaning. Mark Veasey, in the above-linked article, complains that his district, which is majority black and majority Democratic, was moved to a district that is largely white and largely Republican. He wants his district back so that all the people in the district that happen to be inclined to vote Democratic won't be drowned out by those who vote the other way.

I grew up in RI. Voting Republican in RI in most elections is equivalent to not voting. I now live in a city in NY, where it's much the same. Most of the state of NY is red. If you look at the county map, you'd think it's a red state. I'd love for New York City to join northern New Jersey and Philadelphia as some new state that will always vote blue, so that the rest of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York can have their votes counted for a change. If every single voter in New York outside New York City voted one way, I'm pretty sure it would have no effect if everyone in the city voted the other way. Maybe that's wrong. I'm not checking populations. But if you add in Buffalo, Syracuse, and Rochester I think it's clearly going to be true. That means the collective total of the rest of the state has no vote, effectively. And this isn't just pointing out that lots of people live in New York City and posing a potential issue if there were going to be a political split between the city and everyone else. There is such a split. To use Veasey's language, the political views and values of residents in most of New York are remarkably different from those who live in the the cities and overwhelmingly vote Democratic. Under the current plan, our voting strength has been destroyed and our voices silenced.

Some would argue, and Veasey does, that it's different when it comes to a racial minority. How? Voting considerations directed toward minorities are for the purpose of restoring a balance, toward bringing minorities who had been denied the vote to a place where they have as much right to vote as others, toward vote-counting that treats each black vote as important as any vote from anyone else. Well, these problems occur for largely white populations, so not being allowed to have a vote in the same way that certain largely white populations don't have their votes counting doesn't mean that we haven't achieved equality in voting. It means we have indeed achieved it. So welcome to the club. Your votes now count enough that political machinations and arbitary lines will affect you too. They've been affecting me all my life, and they've been affecting white voters for long before I've been around. That they affect black voters who live in communities that tend to vote one way but are part of a region that tends to vote another way just means black voters have arrived at the same place white voters have been for a long time. Maybe there are problems with redistricting, and maybe there are issues unrelated to race that have a bearing on this, but I just can't see how this argument can even get started without revising every voting district so that it reflects voting blocs much more exactly. Even then those who are the minority within their district will be silenced, but even without that problem I very much doubt this is what Veasey wants to propose.

If this isn't evidence of at least a kind of residual racism among a readership who is usually fairly intelligent, I don't know what is. Tyler Cowen posts at the Volokh Conspiracy (a high quality legal blog, for those who don't read it) that Mexican-Americans tend to lower the crime rate in cities where they have a high presence. From the very beginning of the comments, almost every comment tries to respond by changing the subject to illegal immigration, as if Mexican-Americans are somehow illegal immigrants. When did we ever pass any laws that prevented Mexicans from immigrating legally? How did they get to be Americans if they were illegal. Last I knew, the Bush plan hadn't been implemented, and that would take years before anyone who entered illegally could restore themselves to good faith to be considered for citizenship anyway.

This reveals something about the gut assumptions of the primarily libertarian and libertarian-grounded conservative audience of a high-powered intellectual blog (or at least about those most motivated to comment). American law-abiding citizens are being assumed to be criminals merely because they were born in Mexico. So Mexicans are apparently criminals just because of their country of origin, even if they're legal immigrants to this country. The only thing I can think of to explain that is some sort of racism, even if it's unintentional and unconscious. I've seen this phenomenon before, but it was particulary obvious, especially given the site it was taking place at. I don't think this is something inherent to libertarianism or to intellectualism, but I wonder if there is something attractive about libertarianism and libertarian-like conservatism among those who are really irrational about things like this.

Quote of the Week

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It amazes me that the so-called black leaders who can see racism in the flight patterns of airplanes and the constellation of snowflakes cannot see the damage that celebrating a song like "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" is doing to young black minds, female and male alike.

From Laurence Thomas, Pimps, Blacks, and Racial Equality: Who is Zooming Whom?.

His observation about feminist leaders' silence reminds me of their similar silence after the President of the United States committed the most serious abuse of authority with regard to sexual matters according to standard feminist thinking. It makes you wonder whether it's really the stated concerns of feminism that drive them.

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