Race and Equality: a conversation

    @ City-Journal.org. July 16, 2020. On June 24, amid great cultural upheaval and unrest, Glenn Yu reached out to Glenn Loury, his former teacher, to record his thoughts about the current moment. An edited version of their conversation follows. Beginning excerpt:

    Glenn Yu: I’ve asked to speak to you because I find myself in the awkward position of being at once uncomfortable with the liberal stance on race that seems to deny the underlying reality of the black experience today while also being uncomfortable with conservatives who seem to disdain the George Floyd-related protests in a manner that makes it hard for me to believe that they have any empathy for the problems. I am also confused about whether it’s even my place to talk about these issues.

    Glenn Loury: Well, I can’t exactly answer that question, but I happen to be suspicious about the assertion of authority based upon personal identity, such as being black. Let’s take this example. Were the actions we’ve all seen of the police officer in Minneapolis, Derek Chauvin, expressions of racial hatred? I happen to think that we have no reason to suppose that about him, absent further evidence. There are plenty of alternative explanations for his actions that could be given, from negligence to him just being a mean son of a bitch. Sure, we could project a motive onto him, onto the expression on his face, onto his smirk; we could feed thoughts into his head that make him symbolically emblematic of a certain trauma or sickness in American society, and this all may or may not be true. It might be true. But it might not be.

    You may or may not have an opinion about that, but suppose the question were to arise in the dorm room late at night. Suppose you have the view that you’re not sure it’s racism, and then someone challenges you, saying, “you’re not black.” They say, “you’ve never been rousted by the police. You don’t know what it’s like to live in fear.” How much authority should that identitarian move have on our search for the truth? How much weight should my declarations in such an argument carry, based on my blackness? What is blackness? What do we mean? Do we mean that his skin is brown? Or do we mean that he’s had a certain set of social-class-based experiences like growing up in a housing project? Well, white people can grow up in housing projects, too. There are lots of different life experiences.

    I think it’s extremely dangerous that people accept without criticism this argumentative-authority move when it’s played. It’s ad hominem. We’re supposed to impute authority to people because of their racial identity? I want you to think about that for a minute [....]


    Loury suggests that the current protests are the result of identity politics and bullying of whites by blacks. This is ridiculous on its face. White people saw the video and were horrified. They had also seen the video of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. They heard about the death of Breonna Taylor. White people were outraged. There was no bullying. The reaction of whites was no different than their reaction to Bull Connor unleashing fire hoses and dogs on black children in the Civil Rights era. Loury's cocoon is similar to that of Trump. He cannot believe that people can disagree with him without being coerced.

    Because Trump believes that this silent majority is protective of Confederate statues and other monuments, he marked Independence Day with a speech on July 3 denouncing “angry mobs” for “defacing our most sacred memorials” and “unleashing a wave of violent crime in our cities.” Because he also believes that this silent majority fears integration and diversity, he has issued constant warnings to the “suburban housewives of America” that Joe Biden, the former vice president who is his opponent in the election, will destroy their neighborhoods with affordable housing. “People have worked all their lives to get into a community, and now they’re going to watch it go to hell,” he said last week. And because he believes that this silent majority is hostile to protests against police brutality, he has deployed federal law enforcement officers to Portland and other cities to suppress “anarchists” and generate “law-and-order” images for his campaign.

    Unfortunately for Trump, there’s quite a bit of distance between his perception and our reality. Most Americans support efforts to remove Confederate statues and monuments; most Americans welcome racial and ethnic diversity and few believe their communities should be less diverse; and most Americans are supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests against police brutality — 67 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.


    Black Lives Matter has public support. No bullying occurred 

    Sequence of events the author feels of the article feels uncomfortable discussing race, so he goes to the Black guy.

    Black guy says that people who disagree with his individual viewpoint are focused on their racial identity or being bullied.

    I don’t necessarily have to agree with Das Kapital to understand that it’s a serious engagement with history.

    Structural racism, by contrast, is a bluff. It’s not an engagement with history. It’s a bullying tactic. In effect, it’s telling you to shut up.

    Take structural racism’s narrative of incarceration. It’s supposed to be self-evident that if there’s a racial disparity in the incidence of punishment from law-breaking, then the law is illegitimate. Well, an alternative hypothesis is that, for reasons that we could perhaps spend lots of time pursuing, behaviors are different. Behaviors that bear on lawbreaking are different between races, on average. Violence is one behavior, but it’s not the only one I’m talking about. People have tried to do these studies. They’ve examined whether policing practices can accommodate disparity in arrest rates. They’ve examined whether court dispositions are somehow structurally biased, finding blacks guilty when whites would have been found innocent; whether judges systematically pronounce longer sentences for blacks than for whites. The net finding was no.

    You cannot get off first base trying to account for the racial disparity in incarceration rates, or in the purported behavior of police courts or parole boards, by reference to Michelle Alexander and the thesis behind The New Jim Crow. I’m not saying that there’s nothing there, but you can’t get anywhere close to explaining the outsize disparity with the explanations she and others provide. There are many disparities, and for every disparity, there are alternative explanations that one can bring to bear, but structural racism doesn’t even attempt to provide an explanation. It attempts to maneuver you into a corner rhetorically so that you must concede it’s not the fault of the people who suffered the condition at hand.

    The article was about an interview with Loury. It seems that he is saying that white people were bullied into responding to the BLM protests by a mythical tribal drumbeat.I feel that whites were justifiably outraged by the deaths of Arbery and Floyd and responded appropriately. I see whites making their own independent decision.

    1) BLM protests are not about the group BLM, but about the anger that Black Lives do Matter. 2 things not to be confused, as the group itself proclaims politics that most Americans probably disagree with quite a bit.
    2) Loury doesn't "seem" to be saying any of that tribal/bullying nonsense to me - he says that the term/idea of structural racism is a conversation-ender, that it's "take my view or you're racist", whether it's defunding police or reparations or any other viewpoint or remedy. And that there's immediately lost the idea that said victim group is in any way responsible for its own actions, just a feast of responses entirely predicated on "see what you're doing to us, how are you going to make it right?"
    I agree that was quite tasteless and tacky to respond to Arbery and Floyd with "white lives matter too". But after 2 months of digesting protests and vandalism and shootings, we can start asking questions like, "with black murders outnumbering police killings/murders 100 to 1, how *will* we tackle the unusually high black crime rate in a way that is effective and reassures society, while treating suspects, even perpetrators as humans? The Sandra Bland total-harassment theory of policing seems a most obvious 1st target - there is no good reason to run around playing "broken windows" to a society at large, nit-picking every suspect to find an offense(s) to exploit and escalate. Here I would disagree with Loury in that I think there's a racist discrepancy in how far cops will play smashball with black suspects while giving more benefit of the doubt to other races, especially white. Not 100%, but I imagine a short bit of Googling will bring that out quick.
    The Breonna Taylor "no-knock warrant" for the never-ending war on drugs, that gets tougher - hard drugs *are* a serious problem, life destroyers, gang sustainers, with the opioid craze adding to what was already unhealthy. Again as Gladwell notes, these neighborhoods or street corners aren't everywhere, so to some extent street apprehension can focus on a few locales, with a softer more compassionate approach elsewhere. But money laundering, guns, drug use, resulting domestic abuse & street crime are all felt in more locales - it's not like everything can be pinned to a specific corner. A thuggish speed or crack addict with a gun is a danger wherever he walks or drives, and yes, it's usually males we're talking about.
    And Loury referred to the Ferguson Effect, the rise in shootings when police were drawn back after an incident, much like the great increase in shootings now in Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis, etc. We know we need the police. We need a police willing to take on a tough dangerous job. But we need police also willing to be human, to do what's needed without turning it evil. But we also need more vocal statements about what the different communities will do to change their part of the equation, their part of the bad household. Because police to a large extent are just showing up from bad news - they may make things worse, but usually not starting it. And when 2 cops spend 30 minutes trying to talk a drunk ex-con down, and then he knocks one over, grabs a taser and runs... and everyone spouts against the cops? It will take a weird type of person to want to work such a position.

    1) The arrests in the Arbery and Floyd cases would not happened without the pressure. Similarly, the rules about chokeholds and knees on ecosystems would not have changed. Minneapolis revamping the PD would not be in progress.

    The protests helped usher in some black progressive candidates 


    Edit to add:

    Many candidates aligned themselves with BLM this year


    Who Is arguing against protests? Laury Is talking about cancel culture, preconditions to discussion that prevent discussion (like Zionists who insist accepting any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism before discussing Middle East solutions)

    Many candidates align themselves with the slogan & meaning of BLM. Many fewer align themselves with the group BLM. Laury especially didnt like the feeling of a university approved and ordained political position signed by all the heads of the school. It's generally understood campuses should have some heretics,some irrascible non-fellow travellers. Solutions & designs built with too little challenge tend to be non-robust, meet their breaking points later on during actual deployment when fixing them Is near impossible.

    You posted

    1) BLM protests are not about the group BLM, but about the anger that Black Lives do Matter. 2 things not to be confused, as the group itself proclaims politics that most Americans probably disagree with quite a bit.

    I started with (1) in your post. Instead of the protests being simply about anger, the protests provided the nerd for several political races

    As protesters marched through Brooklyn past curfew one night in early June, the young man holding the bullhorn at the front of the crowd kept repeating one date: June 23. 

    It wasn’t the date of George Floyd’s death. It was the date of the New York Democratic primary. “Nothing is going to change if we just protest,” explains Yahshiyah Vines, 19, who was leading the crowd. “All these people out here: use your emotions in the polls, use your emotions in the voting booth.”


    I disagree with your statement, the protests and the candidates fed off the energy provided by BLM

    From the Time article

    The first test comes on June 23, when several young Black candidates who have aligned themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement are running in competitive Democratic primaries. Those races could in some ways be a preview of the presidential election in November, when presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden hopes to ride strong turnout among African Americans to victory. The protests could be a political bonanza for Democrats, political strategists say, galvanizing its most reliable voting bloc and boosting voter registration. But it’s not yet clear whether the party is poised to take advantage, especially at the national level.

    Already, the movement has fired up some voters. The progressive non-profit Rock The Vote registered 150,000 new voters in the first two weeks of June, the highest tally of any two-week period in the 2020 election cycle. And despite significant obstacles at the polls, Democrats in Georgia cast more than 1 million ballots in the state’s June 9 primary, breaking the record set in the 2008 contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. “People were in line for hours,” says Nse Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project, which registered hundreds of voters at Black Lives Matter protests ahead of the primary. “Can you imagine the strength, the resolve, the steely-eyed determination that folks are going to have when they go to the polls in November?”

    If I can just make it simple if I may: I don't see President Joe Biden making getting rid of statues of Columbus a big priority.

    Rather, he's gonna meet with groups like the Knights of Columbus and with Native American tribal leaders and see if he can help them get everything they might need. Which wouldn't include ever getting to the issue of statues of Columbus.

    Joe Biden on Confederate statues

    WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday said that Confederate monuments belong in museums, not public squares, but that it is best to remove them peacefully. 

    “Don’t be surprised if someone pulls down the statue of Jefferson Davis,” Biden said, referring to the president of the short-lived, pro-slavery Confederate States of America in the 19th century. 

    “It’s better that they do not. ... It’s always better to do it peacefully,” the former vice president said.


    (2) You asked what Blacks brought to the table in fighting violent crime

    Many black people, desperate to stem the homicide rate that spiraled in the ’90s, even supported the Clinton crime bill, although some now criticize it as having hurt the black community more than it helped. A Gallup survey in 1994 found that nonwhite citizens favored it to a greater degree than white citizens, 58 percent compared with 49 percent.

    As a group, African Americans are consistently more likely to be concerned about crime than white Americans. They also are the staunchest supporters of tougher gun-control laws, with 72 percent saying that controlling gun ownership is more important than protecting gun rights, compared with 40 percent of white people.


    Long before the March for Our Lives and the Black Lives Matter movement dominated the headlines in recent years, African Americans were marching in crime-ridden neighborhoods to protest the killings. Davon McNeal, an 11-year-old fatally shot in Washington, D.C., on July 4, had just left an anti-violence community event when he was hit by a bullet. The event was put together by his mother, Crystal McNeal, who works as a “violence interrupter,” a job that has been created in several urban areas with a goal to mediate neighborhood disputes in an attempt to break the cycle of retaliatory killings. Black citizens have formed hundreds of such organizations to save teens so often caught up in that world. Black artists have written songs and made movies, urging youths to stop the violence.









    One clue is that Loury is answering questions from a guy of Asian heritage who is puzzled by the simplification of the narrative as if everything was whites vs. blacks. When blacks are actually only 13 % of the population of the U.S. and there's a heckuva lot of other people of other colors out there with different experiences

    Not to mention more and more "mixed race" all the time who don't really know where they fit in your simplistic old timey black vs. white schematic of racial and heritage and identity issues.

    The Asian guy asks the Black guy a series of questions. Black guy responds with the answer he believes all Blacks should give, and I'm old timey? If you're Black and don't agree with Loury, you are practicing identity politics.

    Surely a quasi-homogenous loosely defined group of 40 million can afford more than one viewpoint?

    I said that he is free to his viewpoint. He gets visibly upset that people disagree. Watch one of his podcasts with John McWhorter.

    Recognizing and protesting the fact that death-by-cop is something that keeps happening particularly to Black people is not to assign a unitary cause such as racism to what makes it happen.

    Loury equates testimony of those who have experienced this treatment firsthand to declarations of membership to a group with special privileges granted because of their identity. The reason to give attention to such testimony is in the realm of the Commons where we can work toward change. It is Loury who is too invested in identity politics to accept that shared outrage is the source of energy to face the matter and not a zero sum game of idealistic authority he describes.

    Loury must have gone to the same lecture Fukuyama attended by assuming that groupiness is a withdrawal from the Public realm on the principle that self-identifying with a collection of people and ideas is some kind of privacy. The matter of equal treatment under the law is not the leveling of all conditions and differences of social and economic status for all people. As Loury points out himself, such an approach would not actually make the situation better.

    Equal treatment under the law is a form of social design that changes outcomes we all agree need to be changed. It was initiated as a proposal between totalitarian hellscapes that border on either side of Loury.

    I don't see those who joined protests initially because they were about the very specific complaint of "death by cop" as necessarily the same as those who continue to protest because of vague and very ill-defined notions of systemic racism and systemic inequality (some even extending that to supposed worldwide, not just USA).

    One of many major problems like that involved with plugging everyone into simplified identity groups with supposed shared grievances is simplification of reality which ends up in misdiagnosis of problems bothering people. For instance, these 600 folks mostly with black skin weren't out protesting systemic racism under a Republican governor this weekend but just the oppposite,  partying and bickering and partaking of what some might call Afro-American culture, without masks to boot, against the wishes of local Democratic authorities. They clearly identify with some sort of culture, but it isn't one that is being presented in the protests (most of which are further distorted by being hyped on social media as gladitorial contests as well.) Another example would be the wholesome liberal surburban white moms of Portland joining up with the dwindling numbers of anarchist kids downtown when bullies Trump/Barr suddenly entered the picture. The moms undoubtedly are not anarchist sympathizers, they just happen to appreciate free speech and assembly rights (especially for young folks who might just be a little confused about grievances right now.)

    It is true that motives for people taking to the streets keep changing. My comment was not directed towards finding a shared message amongst a bunch of different groups who have done that. It was rather to say that something happened that brought a certain reality into focus that has been accepted into the status quo as a feature of our lives and many people are interested in changing it somehow, sooner than later. Protesters are not the full measure of what brings change. To say that is not to say they are not important.

    I would be a lot more receptive to the anti cancel culture crowd if they did not use so many either/or arguments themselves. What are the possible avenues of change in Loury's vision? You can't work toward a more diverse society because that gives precedence to various groups' claim to privilege. You cannot address the inequality of outcomes because that would destroy capitalism. You can't do nothing about nothing.


    Perfect example of how simplistic cancel culture according to current woke "theology' and identarianism according to stuff like skin color confuses things:

    What is funny is that Thomas Chatterton Williams would not have a career if it weren't for Hip Hop and discussions of race.

    more from Loury:

    It gets so old to listen to people talk about this when they are unwilling to point out the root cause. If there is a demand for a product and huge profits can be made by supplying it some one will supply it. It the government doesn't allow a legal supply violent criminals will produce the supply. Every thing Loury is saying comes after the fact that drugs are illegal and until we deal with that problem we're stuck.

    Yes, equal treatment under the law requires good laws. Bad laws lead to poor environments.

    if she gets elected, which identity group gets first dibs on her?

    uh oh, I see from her Twitter bio that she self-describes as Army brat. Does that mean she doesn't qualify as "real" black because she grew up not segregated in a tribal neighborhood, meeting all different kinds?

    Uh oh

    Seems like she has no problem saying African American and Korean American

    Kinda, sorta like how Barack Obama and Kamala Harris identify?

    Why do you have a problem?

    Barack's oh so 12 years ago. Kamala who?

    I have to ask, where does the Democratic agenda or the comments by Biden leave out white people?

    The protests, especially the ones in Portland, appear to have a healthy number of white people.

    Addressing health care is a universal issue.

    Police reform will help everyone, including the white people being gassed in Oregon.

    Go ask the writers of the article. I am not here to defend what they said. I merely find it interesting.

    The Dissent piece was especially interesting I thought, compared to that Quillette one, because it admits there is a major racial profiling problem, and because of that the majority affected by police abuse are black, but then separates the issue into one where blacks are not the only people who suffer from this. The point: police abuse and the facts (or not, if that's your wont) of systemic racism are two different things. And that it's basiscally arguing it's not smart of activists interested in reforming police to either make it a contest to fight over how many victims of which race nor to combine it with overall systemic racism.

    One thing I think this jibes with: the George Floyd influenced protests start in cities run by liberal Democrats and even black mayors. So arguing that it's because its about systemic racism where the race has no power really falls flat. I.E., they have governmental power and they still can't do a thing about the police that satisfies. That de-linking it from "systemic racism" therefore might be a better way to go.

    Also just retweeted by Williams:


    Latest Comments