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Thursday, December 12, 2002

The GOP and Racism-Part II-Ghosts of Racism Past-Here's an open question; how much of the income and educational disparity between whites and blacks are due to present racism and how much is due to past racism? I'd argue that the lion share of the problem is due to the residual effects of past racism. A quick mind-experiment; let's say that God decides to eradicate racial stereotyping at 2PM this afternoon; people will pay less attention to skin color than they pay attention to eye color. Whiles won't get extra nervous at black youths and blacks won't be resentful for the ugly looks and bad treatment they used to get from some whites. If that's all God does, single black moms will still be single moms, undereducated black youths will still be undereducated. There will still be an inverse relationship between skin darkness and wealth, education and income and a positive relationship between skin darkness and incarceration, substance abuse and single-parent households. At that point a small-l liberal economic policy would be focused on helping young people get a good education, have a high sense of value of themselves and others and to avoid premarital sex and the single-parent households that they help produce so as to avoid the poverty that will result from the alternative of a poorly-educated, misanthropic and promiscuous populous. It will also focus on helping poor adults make ends meet and help undereducated adults get an education. Such a policy will help the youth and help the poor regardless of skin tone. Over time, the children of the poor will get better educations than their parents did and be less prone to having kids out of wedlock than their moms. As the years go by, researchers studying the relationship between skin tone and economic well being noticed that the difference were diminishing. By 2030, the differences between blacks and whites were cut in half and were down to 5% of their 2000 levels by 2100. However, by 2100, it was getting harder to find really dark-skinned people, for the skin tones were becoming a more-uniform light brown, as people didn’t care that they weren’t marrying on racial lines like they were before. OK, end of fairly tale. Or is this a fairy tale? We can fight the majority of the problem that is based on lack of education and poverty by setting up education and poverty-fighting programs; the two aren’t that far apart, as a good education will help people get good jobs. However, we still have a smaller part of the racial disparity that is due to current racial stereotypes.We still have people (both black and white) who get nervous around black male youths; even Jesse Jackson’s admitted that he’s more nervous around black youths that white youths. Young blacks will get the eagle-eye when they go shopping and be prone to being pulled over for “Driving While Black” by cops steeped in the perceived crime-proneness of black youths. However, once we get past the black youth=crime magnet issue, you don’t have a lot of racial stereotyping left. Does the typical white American have a negative stereotype of a black rug-rat, or grade school aged kid? Not really. A black grandmother? There, the stereotype is of a positive, caring-to-a-fault mama. Black grandpas? Not that I can think of. Of younger black women? A little bit of the promiscuous and boisterous (“Hey, girl!!”) welfare-mother, maybe, but 90% of the stereotype problem is from the guys. However, the key to this changing will be acculturating young people to be respectful of others, respectful of themselves and to value education. A secondary key will be for adults to learn to count to ten before applying stereotypes about young people, especially black males. If youngsters feel respected by society, they’ll be more willing to be part of it. If minority youngsters don’t feel that respect, they will become anti-social and look down on the people who are trying to fit in and get a good education as “acting white.” I’d argue that black-white relations are more of a cultural than a racial issue. A black person who speaks solid standard English and dresses nicely will get little flak from the whites he encounters, while the thicker the Ebonic accent and the hip-hopier the clothes get, the more of a cultural gap there will be. Such cultural gaps can be bridged in time; minorities can learn to speak and dress more like the rest of the crowd when their outside of their enclaves and the majority can learn to understand that the new styles and accents don’t equate to ignorance. If we focus our efforts on getting youngsters a good education and instilling a sense of respect and make a simultaneous effort to get adults to give young minority youth a chance, we can solve the lion-share of the racial problems in a generation. We still have a lot of single-parent homes and anti-social males from the current generation to deal with, but as they grow older and a newer, better-mannered crew of youngsters grows up, the stereotype of the crime-prone black male might gradually become a thing of the past. I hope this doesn’t open up too much of a can of worms, but I think the racial divide is very bridgeable and needs to be focused on the education and acculturation of the minority youth as well as educating the rest of us to give those youth a fair shot.

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