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Exchange With David Horowitz on Racism


In September, 2000, Tim Wise, ZNet commentator, wrote an article called ‘Gore-Vey’, about Lieberman’s Vice-Presidential candidacy with Al Gore and the Democratic Party. David Horowitz, a prominent conservative, called Wise a ‘self-hating Jew’, and a debate ensued on an email listserve. The following is the exchange:

HOROWITZ:

You’re a patronizing racist who thinks American blacks are inferior and can’t live by
the same standards as everyone else. What would you think of Jews who blamed every
community and individual failing on 2,000 years of persecution by Christians? You would
probably understand conservative arguments better if you took time to listen instead of
knee-jerk name-calling.

TIM WISE:

> You’re a patronizing racist who thinks American blacks are inferior and can’t live
> by the same standards as everyone else.

Silly David, truly silly. It isn’t racist to say that folks actually face
discriminatory barriers that affect opportunity. One can argue about whether such
barriers exist, to be sure; or alternately, one can argue who is responsible for said
barriers, or some other such thing. It is those kinds of legitimate arguments, about
which honest people can disagree, that we could, for example, debate.

But to say that one is racist if one believes the barriers exist, and believes the
barriers actually effect equal opportunity…well, that’s just ridiculous. By that
standard, King was a racist, as was everyone in the movement.

> What would you think of Jews who blamed every community
> and individual failing on 2,000 years of persecution by Christians?

First off, to imply that blacks blame every individual and community failing on white
racism is asinine and indicates how little time you actually spend in the black
community. Of course, in your case I can understand why you wouldn’t want to. As
someone who works in and has worked for many years in black communities around some
of the poorest blacks in the country, I can assure you, you don’t know your ass from
your elbow. And by the way, what do you think Herzl was saying when he put forth the
founding documents of Zionist thought? The whole thing was based on the idea that
Jews would ALWAYS be persecuted by Christians, that there was no place safe for us to
go; that anti-Semitism was intrinsic to gentiles, etc…so, by your own standard, if
anyone has a persecution complex it would be the Jewish Nationalists…

HOROWITZ:

If blacks actually faced discriminatory barriers that caused them to fail, of course
it wouldn’t be racist to name and fight those barriers. You’ve already had three shots
to name one of those barriers and haven’t. The problem is you start off from the premise
that it’s “racist” to ascribe any responsibility to this community for its failures
(actually to one section of this community, since the black middle class is not only
thriving but doing better than its white counterparts). This double-speak premise is
itself racist. (And is what makes you a racist.) It’s also incredibly destructive to
those blacks who believe you, or believe their huckster leaders who sell the same
snake oil.

TIM WISE:

> If blacks actually faced discriminatory barriers that caused them to fail, of
> course it wouldn’t be racist to name and fight those barriers. You’ve already had three shots
> to name one of those barriers and haven’t.

David, come on…I could send you 30 pages of evidence about such
barriers in housing, employment, wealth accumulation (effected by past barriers to
assets), criminal justice, etc, and you would refute them, and then I would refute
your refutations…it would be pointless in THIS forum. Again, if you want to debate
them in a more meaningful place, fine

> The problem is you start off from the premise
> that it’s “racist” to ascribe any responsibility to this community for its failures

Where did I say this? Where in my article did I say anything like this?

> (actually to one section of this community, since the black middle class is not
only
> thriving but doing better than its white counterparts).

That is bullshit David. The black middle class, on average has significantly less net
worth, lower assets, lower home ownership rates, and tends to more closely mirror the

working class. Oliver and Shapiro’s book Black Wealth/ White Wealth (they are ACTUAL
economists, unlike you), makes this more than clear.

This double-speak premise is
> itself racist. (And is what makes you a racist.)

Amazing how you guys move the line for what defines a racist. When D’Souza wants to
minimize how much racism there is in the country he uses a definition that requires
belief in actual biologically-rooted inferiority, but you turn around and say that
anyone who thinks racism still exists and effects opportunity is a racist, if, in
your opinion they are wrong about those barriers…that is the ost fucked up
definition of the term I have ever heard.

It’s also incredibly destructive to
> those blacks who believe you, or believe their huckster leaders who sell the same
snake
> oil.

As opposed to the non-hucksters like yourself…you seem to be the one with the low
opinion of blacks David, as you obviously think they are so stupid that they can’t
intuit their own life realities, or what is in their best interest, and thus they can
be fooled by folks like me….Of course,  You are convinced that YOU know their
realities better than they do…talk about racist.

HOROWITZ:

> David, come on…Like I said, I could send you 30 pages of evidence about such
> barriers in housing, employment, wealth accumulation (effected by past barriers to
> assets),…

Of course, “past barriers” is bullshit since we’re talking about the present. What about
the past barriers that Vietnamese boat people have, or West Indian blacks, since it
hasn’t stopped them? Why don’t you try naming ONE that will stand up to scrutiny as in,
if I were black this would be an obstacle based on race, that stands in my path and would
explain all those disparities you have in mind.

> That is bullshit David. The black middle class, on average has significantly less net
> worth, lower assets, lower home ownership rates, and tends to more closely mirror the
> working class. Oliver and Shapiro’s book Black Wealth/ White Wealth (they are ACTUAL
> economists, unlike you), makes this more than clear.

Of course all of this statc analysis is irrelevant. The question is how are they
advancing, since most Americans started at the bottom. The answer is that the black
middle class is growing faster and increasing its income faster than the white middle
class. That’s really all that matters in this discussion.

> Amazing how you guys move the line for what defines a racist. When D’Souza wants to
> minimize how much racism there is in the country he uses a definition that requires
> belief in actual biologically-rooted inferiority, but you turn around and say that
> anyone who thinks racism still exists and effects opportunity is a racist, if, in
> your opinion they are wrong about those barriers…that is the ost fucked up
> definition of the term I have ever heard.

It might be, my friend, but since I never said anything like this, it’s irrelevant. (I
said it was racist to patronize blacks as incapable of performing under the same rules
that everyone else does).

> >As opposed to the non-hucksters like yourself…you seem to be the one with the low
> opinion of blacks David, as you obviously think they are so stupid that they can’t
> intuit their own life realities, or what is in their best interest, and thus they can
> be fooled by folks like me….Of course,  You are convinced that YOU know their
> realities better than they do…talk about racist.

By your absurd logic, it’s racist to criticize Thabo Mbeki’s theory that AIDS is not
caused by a virus and therefore it’s in the best interest of black South Africans not to
fight AIDS as a contagioius, sexually transmitted disease. Oh, and BTW, the majority
of black South Africans of course support Mbeki, in the same way the majority of African
Americans support Jesse Jackson. So what’s your point?

TIM WISE:

> Of course, “past barriers” is bullshit since we’re talking about the present.

But Dave, the Oliver and Shapiro book is quite specific about the present day effects
of those past barriers, as well as the reality of ongoing barriers in housing,
employment etc. TODAY (see the recent Russell Sage Foundation study, etc)…Again,
what is the point of this back and forth?

> What about
> the past barriers that Vietnamese boat people have,

Yes, and the Southeast Asian community has unbelievably high poverty rates, even for
those with college degrees…they are among the poorest folks in the U.S., with
higher rates of welfare receipt than Latinos and equal to the rates  for blacks in
many communities. They are not making it by a long shot.

>or West Indian blacks, since it
> hasn’t stopped them?

Among others, Steven Steinberg has demonstrated how this b.s. about West Indian
success is just that, b.s….again, I could offer stats here but what is the point
Dave…let it suffice to say, I acknowledge your command of the issues, and I know
you are capable of making a good argument…but I see no point in having it here…do
you really think this is productive? I simply insist that I too am well researched
and in command of knowledge on these issues…that we could both be well-informed and
still have a disagreement is perfectly reasonable, and there is no need for us to
call names and spit on one another…

>Why don’t you try naming ONE that will stand up to scrutiny as in,
> if I were black this would be an obstacle based on race, that stands in my path and would
> explain all those disparities you have in mind.

Again, there are plenty, including tracking in K-12 education (see Oakes, the last
two ARC reports on educational equity, etc), and the justice system, and employment
(see Russell Sage, Wilson, Urban Institute, Glass Ceiling Commission, Brimmer, etc),
but what is the point in doing this?

> > >That is bullshit David. The black middle class, on average has significantly less net
> > worth, lower assets, lower home ownership rates, and tends to more closely mirror the
> > working class. Oliver and Shapiro’s book Black Wealth/ White Wealth (they are ACTUAL
> > economists, unlike you), makes this more than clear.

> > Of course all of this statc analysis is irrelevant.

Why is it irrelevant?

> > The question is how are they
> > advancing, since most Americans started at the bottom.

Most Americans started at the bottom? Where is that from, exactly? As the book points
out, even whites who are working class are more likely to have inherited a small
amount of property (house, savings, etc) than middle class blacks, and whites with
only about $13,000 in annual income are more likely to own their own home than blacks
with income of $48,000 or more, and it is NOT because of differential savings rates
or behavior as consumers, or credit histories…

> > The answer is that the black
> > middle class is growing faster and increasing its income faster than the white middle
> > class. That’s really all that matters in this discussion.

No, that is meaningless…of course it is growing faster…so what…that only
indicates that it had farther to climb and that the white middle class was already
fairly well entrenched.

> > Amazing how you guys move the line for what defines a racist. When D’Souza wants to
> > minimize how much racism there is in the country he uses a definition that requires
> > belief in actual biologically-rooted inferiority, but you turn around and say that
> > anyone who thinks racism still exists and effects opportunity is a racist, if, in
> > your opinion they are wrong about those barriers…that is the most fucked up
> > definition of the term I have ever heard.

> It might be, my friend, but since I never said anything like this, it’s irrelevant. (I
> said it was racist to patronize blacks as incapable of performing under the same rules
> that everyone else does).

And I asked you to point out ONE  example of where I did this, especially in the
article you were so apoplectic about…and you did not do it.

> > As opposed to the non-hucksters like yourself…you seem to be the one with the low
> > opinion of blacks David, as you obviously think they are so stupid that they can’t
> > intuit their own life realities, or what is in their best interest, and thus they can
> > be fooled by folks like me….Of course,  You are convinced that YOU know their
> > realities better than they do…talk about racist.

> By your absurd logic, it’s racist to criticize Thabo Mbeki’s theory that AIDS is
> not caused by a virus and therefore it’s in the best interest of black South Africans
> not to fight AIDS as a contagioius, sexually transmitted disease.

Where did I say that…I have never said that, and that is not implied by my
argument. I am simply saying that for you to say that blacks don’t face the barriers
they themselves say they experience is arrogant, and yes, racist. Mbeki’s argument is
not an argument from racial experience…he is making an argument (tendentious as it
may be) about science…I never said a black person can’t be wrong about something,
but to say that they are en masse, wrong about THEIR everyday experiences (as opposed
to say, some non-racial experience position like, “is there life on Mars?”) I think
takes a lot of hubris, and yes, more than a bit of racist arrogance

> Oh, and BTW, the majority of
> black South Africans of course support Mbeki, in the same way the majority of
> African Americans support Jesse Jackson. So what’s your point?

How does this matter? To criticize a black person’s policy position is not
necessarily racist, whether its Mbeki, or Jackson. I am merely saying that to be so
cavalier about dismissing black folks claims of their own experiences is pretty
arrogant. One could argue the finer points over the degrees of ongoing discrimination
and not be as cavalier as you have become David. It is as if you think admitting to
ANY discrimination at all will essentially destroy your position. I saw you on TV
debating Ron Daniels after the report on racism in the juvenile justice system came
out (last May), and when it was pointed out that black juvies are 48 times more
likely to be incarcerated for a drug offense than whites WITH THE SAME PRIORS your
response was — in total disregard for what had just been said — that it probably
reflected prior offending.

HOROWITZ:

You’ve got a good command of the leftwing literature (you need to broaden your
reading a bit, though). You’re a little too facile also. First, AIDS affects the average South African black as directly as
anything that affects any average American black. After years of propaganda by black hucksters
like Jackson, and white liberal patronizers, blacks have an almost paranoid sense of
racial slight. A 1995 Washington Post survey cited in Larry Elder’s new book showed
that 30% more blacks thought Hispanics were held back by past or present discrimination
against them than did Hispanics themselves. A survey taken on the Tavis Smiley show
when I was on discussing my book Hating Whitey showed that 62% of the black audience
polled said that blacks blame whites too much for problems they themselves are responsible
for. Racial paranoia is an industry these days, and it’s too bad that people with your
intelligence seem to feel obligated to make it a growth industry as well.

The reason that static analysis is irrelevant as is all those figures about assets
etc. is because no one seriously argues (or no one serious argues) that blacks were not
heavily discriminated against in the past. The issue is this. Discrimination was
effectively outlawed in this country nearly 40 years — a generation. Since that
time, trillions of dollars have been spent redressing past grievances done to blacks, and
legal and other systems have been rigged (counter-productively in my view) to do likewise.
The only relevant question is this: Right now, given the unequal starting points, are
black Americans blocked from progress by racial barriers. The obvious answer is no. The
point of invoking “model minorities” is to try to separate obstacles within black culture
(you might try looking at John McWhorter’s new book, Losing the Race) as for example,
deriding intellectual pursuits, nursing victim mentalities and preaching separatist agendas,
obstacles created by various historically created deficits, and actual racism. I
would guess that the latter factor, which you make primary, is no bigger problem for blacks
in 2000 than anti-Semitism was for Jews in 1960. That’s the issue we began this
correspondence with, at least as I understood it.

TIM WISE:

> You’ve got a good command of the
> leftwing literature (you need to broaden your reading a bit, though).

David, I’ve read your book, (yes, I even bought a copy), and pretty much every
conservative screed on race that comes
out. I have to do that or else I wouldn’t be intellectually honest when I make the
arguments I make. One really can read that stuff and not be convinced…just as you
can read well-researched stuff like Oliver and Shapiro and Steinberg, et al, and not
be convinced. Fair enough.

>You’re a little too
> facile also. First, AIDS affects the average South African black as directly as anything
> that affects any average American black.

I never said otherwise…of course this is true, though I don’t see the point of the
comparison. As re: the previous comments about Mbeki, and whether it is racist to
question others’ reality, as far as that goes, I only mean to say that to question
Mbeki is not to say to black South Africans, “you are not experiencing what you think
you are experiencing,” it is to have a disagreement about the scientific cause of
certain medical phenomena. Even to question the degree of discrimination in the US is
not, ipso facto racist, and I didn’t mean to say it is…what I am saying is that
there is a tone in your work David, which, as a polemicist, I can appreciate, but
which as a social scientist (which I also am), I find , as I said, arrogant. It is
the way that you argue for the lack of real racial barriers–a way that is so utterly
dismissive of what most black folks say they experience–that I find disturbing…and
to write it up to paranoia, as you do below, is indicative of this..it is to make a
psychological evaluation of people: something you have absolutely ZERO clinical
ability to do.

> After years of propaganda by black hucksters
> like Jackson, and white liberal patronizers, blacks have an almost paranoid sense of
> racial slight. A 1995 Washington Post survey cited in Larry Elder’s new book showed that
> 30% more blacks thought Hispanics were held back by past or present discrimination
> against them than did Hispanics themselves.

How does that indicate paranoia? Could it not just indicate different perceptions?

> A survey taken on the Tavis Smiley show when
> I was on discussing my book Hating Whitey showed that 62% of the black audience polled
> said that blacks blame whites too much for problems they themselves are responsible for.

Which points out that your belief in black paranoia and pass-the-buck-ism is
overblown…blacks are fully willing to take responsibility for working hard, and
overcoming obstacles themselves. But that doesn’t speak to whether the obstacles may
very well exist. And if they do, it doesn’t matter whether or not one CAN overcome
them, nor whether one should try mightily to do so…the question is, should anyone
HAVE to try twice as hard, should anyone have to face those obstacles, be they
starting three steps back because of the past or being subjected to various forms of
discrimination today…anyway, again, I don’t know why we are hashing this out here.
I know what your responses will be, and I’m sure you can anticipate mine

> Racial paranoia is an industry these days, and it’s too bad that people with your
> intelligence seem to feel obligated to make it a growth industry as well.

C’mon Dave…again, questioning my motives it seems. I appreciate that you’ll give me
some credit for being intelligent, but it doesn’t amount to paranoia to say that
barriers really exist, and certainly the work I’ve cited thusfar (like Oliver and
Shapiro’s) wasn’t written in an hysterical, polemical, paranoid style, but was quite
deliberate, and nuanced, and actually very careful in the arguments it made, and
didn’t make. One really can believe as I do (and as the left does) about racism and
not be paranoid. Similarly, I acknowledge that one can feel as you do (and as the
right does) and not be racist. Fair enough for now?

> The reason that static analysis is irrelevant as is all those figures about assets
> etc. is because no one seriously argues (or no one serious argues) that blacks were not
> heavily discriminated against in the past. The issue is this. Discrimination was
> effectively outlawed in this country nearly 40 years — a generation. Since that
> time, trillions of dollars have been spent redressing past grievances done to blacks,

Well, most of these trillions were not spent directly on those purposes, and you know
it. “Evidence” the likes of that produced by Heritage back in 1995 to indicate the
massive expenditures on “welfare” (and which they claimed mostly went to the
“underclass”) in fact included every dollar spent on ANY social program, even for the
non-poor, and certainly for the non-underclass, and most definitely for the
non-black. Very little direct effort has been put into programs that would allow for
autonomous control of those resources by the black community. As you know–and we
would probably agree here–the way Great Society programs were bastardized and turned
into patronage games by folks like Daley and other mayors, pretty well eviscerated
whatever potential the programs might have had to work. I am no fan of the
traditional liberal welfare state, though obviously I tend to support more
thoroughgoing and radical programs, as opposed to the direction you would like to
go…

> and legal and other systems have been rigged (counter-productively in my view) to do
> likewise.

Well, we could argue a lot about this and get nowhere…most of my speaking and
writing has been about aff. action, and it is that which I have debated with most of
your contemporaries, and frankly, I’ve gotten a bit bored of saying the same thing,
and hearing the same answers, especially when–as now–no one is listening. Maybe
we’ll get a chance to debate this sometime…

>The only relevant question is this: Right now, given the unequal starting points, are
>black Americans blocked from progress by racial barriers. The obvious answer is no.

And I would say yes, and could give lots of reasons why. And for you to admit the
unequal starting points but basically eschew any importance for that, and to say that
that alone is not a big deal, is, in my opinion disturbing. And I say this, not from
a statist, “equal results” philosophy, by the way. For example, Robert Nozick (no
one’s statist) makes clear in Anarchy, State and Utopia that the key principles of
Libertarian, market justice are “productive exchange,” and “just transfer.” As long
as a distribution (of goods, resources, wealth, etc) comes from market transactions
that meet the strictures of both of these things, then that distribution is ipso,
facto, a condition of justice. No attempt should be made to undo that distribution,
or redistribute it. To meet both standards, basically requires no coercion be
involved in the initial exchanges that bring about the distribution, and no force be
involved, and no fraud, etc.

Now, it seems fairly obvious to me, that even if one were to say–as Nozick likely
would–that a total free market would be the best way to ensure an end to racism and
discrimination (and I do not believe this, but don’t want to argue the point
here)…that even then, one would still be obliged to acknowledge that the ACTUAL
distribution that came about in THIS society was NOT one that met the standards of
productive exchange or just transfer: the market–irrespective of what “magic it
COULD perform–did not get the chance to actually perform that magic, because–as we
would agree–the STATE both imposed, and then collaborated with private actors in
maintaining racial oppression. This skewed the distribution of “stuff” as it were
(including not only actual resources that are tangible, but even “non-tangibles” like
credentials, contacts, etc), and means that unless something is done to correct for
the VIOLATION of market principles that was at the heart of not only chattel slavery
but Jim Crow, then one is effectively perpetuating the initial injustices and, in
effect, allowing the original maldistribution of “stuff” to be continued and even
deepened.

So one could make an argument for things like aff action, and even reparations, using
a libertarian standard of justice. Even Nozick, for example, has said that the
preferential treatment in housing for whites (through things like
racially-restrictive FHA and VA loans from the 30′s to the 60′s) brought about
“massive inequality that causes unequal opportunity.” (This is quoted directly in
Oliver and Shapiro).

Anyway, I know this won’t persuade you, and that’s fine. But I think one can make the
argument I have just made, and do it in all good faith, without being “facile,” and
certainly without being a “paternalistic racist,” or any of the other things you
called me. Is that unreasonable for me to say? Isn’t it enough for you to think that
I am perhaps wrong, or ideologically off-base…do you really have to think that I am
irrational, or “contributing to paranoia,” or something like that?

> The point
> of invoking “model minorities” is to try to separate obstacles within black culture (you
> might try looking at John McWhorter’s new book, Losing the Race) as for example,
> deriding intellectual pursuits,

But the model minority images are always flawed and stereotypical: especially the
phony ones that have been constructed about Asians and Jews: Brodkin’s work, as well
as Steinbergs, as well as Prashads goes into this more than I care to here…

As for blacks deriding intellectual pursuits: Claude Steele (as opposed to his
brother Shelby) has done significant research in this area, which I figure you are
familiar with. I think he makes a more than reasonable argument, and backs it up with
clinical studies, to indicate that the disassociation with academics that is evident
among SOME blacks, is directly related to negative attitudes held about blacks by the
larger society, and the problem of “stereotype threat.” I won’t go into it in detail,
but if you aren’t familiar with the arguments then read his work. Also, when blacks
are being tracked into remedial track classes even when their standardized test
scores in early grades would justify their placement in higher level classes, why
would we be surprised that some would begin to disassociate from academics. I have
seen personally what tracking of this sort did in schools I attended, and the
quantitative evidence on the same phenomena is also quite persuasive, in my opinion.

>nursing victim mentalities and preaching separatist agendas,

No one nurses a victim mentality better than white guys who are just CONVINCED they
only lost out on that last job of theirs because of aff. action…

HOROWITZ:

So what you’re conceding is that there are no racial barriers to progress for blacks
except for past injustices which have left them with less stuff? Do you concede any
impact at all of the negative self-pitying attitudes that the left promotes? Would
you concede that use of the term “racism” and continuation of a “civil rights” movement
is counter-productive when we are dealing (or so you seem to be conceding) with legacies
of the past and pragmatic disagreements over remedies rather than anything that could be
presently called racist?

TIM WISE:

> So what you’re conceding is that there are no racial barriers to progress for
> blacks except for past injustices which have left them with less stuff?

No I don’t concede that David. Read what I have said. I mentioned studies dealing
with PRESENT discrimination, not just past barriers. And Oliver and Shapiro and the
other sources I have mentioned ALL talk about present barriers. Certainly that is
what tracking is, etc…I was simply saying that even if that were ALL there were,
there would be a good argument that something would need to be done to correct the
present effects of that.

> Do you concede any impact at all of the negative self-pitying attitudes that the left promotes? Would
> you concede that use of the term “racism” and continuation of a “civil rights” movement
> is counter-productive when we are dealing (or so you seem to be conceding) with
> legacies of the past and pragmatic disagreements over remedies rather than anything that could
> be presently called racist?

No, David. I don’t believe we are promoting self-pity, first of all, so I disagree
with your premise, right? Racism is a real thing David, attitudinally and
structurally (I know, I know, you disagree…fine). It makes perfect sense to use the
term when it fits. I realize some could use it when it doesn’t fit…likewise, some
might neglect to use it even when it does fit, right? Institutional racism, is, in my
definition of the term: “any practice, policy, or procedure which has the effect of
causing, perpetuating or maintaining inequality on the basis of race.” That means
that racism can exist without bigotry and hatred (which terms I think ARE terribly
overused and often unfairly thrown around). But this means that things like the
racially-skewed “old boys networks” that exist for hiring, contracts, etc ARE
institutionally racist because they ahve the effect of perpetuating inequity and in
fact, unequal opportunity. I think we need to divorce the term racism from the term
“bigotry,” and that too many people assume that the former means the latter…it
might not. Just as any “ism” in this sense is both attitude/worldview AND system
(i.e. communism, capitalism, socialism, fascism), so too is racism both
attitude/worldview (the belief in racial superiority/inferiority) and systemic, as
defined above. Again, I know you’ll disagree, and that’s fine…but one can make the
arguments I’ve just made without being facile, paranoid, deluded, self-pitying,
etc…

HOROWITZ:

one question: do you give black
individuals at any point in life any credit whatsoever for where they wind up if it
happens to be on the negative side of any equation?

TIM WISE:

Of course David, and I can’t think of anything I have written that would indicate
otherwise. And having worked around and with black folks for years, I think most of
them accept the idea that they are both responsible for their own lives AND that
there are such things as honest-to-God structural obstacles and institutional
injustices that prevent true equity of opportunity. For them, and for me, we see no
necessary contradiction between the concepts of personal responsibility and
collective responsibility. The two can and should be seen as co-existing. I’m sorry
that the world is so either/or to you. Or perhaps I’m misreading you, and if so, I
apologize.

HOROWITZ:

since you say you hold black individuals accountable for their actions, then here’s the next question: obviously there’s a
correlation between poverty (regardless of race) and family formation. If inner city
blacks married and stayed in school long enough to get a high school diploma it would
virtually eliminate inner city poverty. Given this, what proportion of the existing
poverty do you attribute to “racism.” Let’s focus on Washington DC. It’s been
administered by blacks for 30 years and leftist blacks at that. Its per pupil
spending is probably the highest in the country (and its schools probably the worst). There are
jobs all around (scratch William Julius Wilson’s thesis) and anti-discrimination laws up
the yin yang, not to mention all those leftwing lawyers funded by the government just to
help poor people sue. How do you make whites responsible for the persisting inequalities
here? Or should I give you the benefit of the doubt and ask you how much of the
inequalities you attribute to present-day “racism”?

TIM WISE:

> since you say you hold black individuals
> accountable for their actions, then here’s the next question: obviously there’s a
> correlation between poverty (regardless of race) and family formation. If inner
> city blacks married and stayed in school long enough to get a high school diploma it
> would virtually eliminate inner city poverty.

This is a silly and simplistic statement that is not at all true. The high school
graduation rates of blacks and whites are not that different, and in fact, the gaps
in educational achievement have been falling consistently for thirty years. Yet the
income gap has not fallen commensurate with that trend: especially in California, as
a matter of fact. Poverty rates are first and foremost controlled by labor market
variables, and monetary policy determining how tight or slack labor markets will be.

As for inner city poverty, this is then influenced by housing availability which will
not change just because someone finished high school or got married. Intact two
parent black families under the age of 25 still saw their incomes decline from the
early 90′s until 1996 (the last year for which I saw the stats), and so long as we
have a monetary policy that REQUIRES unemployment of around 4% (officially), which
really means 8-10% in actual terms when discouraged workers, and temps who want full
time work are included (and this number exists: it is called the U7 rate), this means
that about 12 million people will be out of work having nothing to do with their work
ethic, but rather, because our monetary policy demands it to keep wages down and
prevent inflation (a dubious theory but that’s a different issue)…since many of
these structurally unemployed folks will have dependents, this means that probably
double this number are affected directly by the existence of such a monetary policy.
This means that a good 20-25 million poor folks are likely poor based mostly on the
need to maintain a certain slack in labor markets.

>Given this, what proportion of the existing
> poverty do you attribute to “racism.”

I don’t subscribe to the belief that is possible to lay specific percentages at the
door of any ONE phenomenon, David. That is your dualistic mind at work again. I think
these factors work in many combinations, but they are all serious: discrimination in
labor markets is one element (and the recent Russell Sage study provided excellent
examples of this, as has WJ Wilson’s recent work, which even he admits changed his
mind in many ways about the extent of discrimination); a second factor is capital
flight from the cities that may not have been explicitly racist (certainly not always
or mostly because of racist intent, although sometimes yes, as the Sage study found),
but which resulted in the loss of millions of high paying manufacturing jobs, and the
reduction in the income base in the cities; a third factor would be the
disproportionate incarceration of black males in many urban centers which has reduced
the pool of “marriageable” black men per black women who might otherwise choose them
as partners; a fourth factor would be the monetary policy imperatives mentioned
above; a fifth factor would be the inadequate funding of urban schools, including
property tax mechanisms that fail to meet needs, and the dispro reliance on Title I
and other “separate but equal” type mechanisms (in effect) instead of real attempts
at desegregation, and monies directed at actual resource equalization, teacher
training, etc…

> Let’s focus on Washington DC. It’s been
> administered by blacks for 30 years and leftist blacks at that.

These people have not been leftists, and you know that when you were a leftist you
would never have thought that folks like those who administer DC fit anything even
remotely left…liberal yes; but they are not leftists in any meaningful sense of the
word. They are big city bureaucrats, party hacks, etc…and I don’t see the point of
this argument really…

> Its per pupil spending is
> probably the highest in the country (and its schools probably the worst).

But per pupil spending is a faulty formula in the aggregate because it includes
capital expenditures that are not in the classroom, it includes the dispro cost of
special ed and programs for educationally and physically handicapped students. When
the disaggregations are made that actually look at the real spending on the typical
kid, these numbers come down considerably. And of course there are other issues. Work
by Berliner and Biddle is probably the best in this area…Urban schools tend to have
the least experienced and trained teachers, and are dispro likely to have teachers
teaching subjects that they have no training in…that has a significant impact on
student learning, as do a number of other factors…but again, why are we having this
discussion here?

Could you do me one favor: explain to me why you want to continue in this vein? I
could (if I didn’t have other obligations, both professional and familial), send you
an e-mail with literally hundreds of pages of information, studies, citations,
statistics, etc to “prove” everything I say, but what would be the point of that? I
don’t get what you get from this kind of exchange…do you do this with everyone,
’cause if you do, I would love to know when you sleep, find time to write books, go
to a movie, breathe…

> There are jobs
> all around (scratch William Julius Wilson’s thesis

Well gee David, that was a very scholarly and well-documented blow-off. Sounds like
Reagan with his infamous comment that there were 20 pages of want ads in the
Post….you’re not really that simplistic are you? Explain to me how everyone can
work when the Fed REQUIRES unemployment to remain around 4% (used to be 6%) in order
to restrain inflation? Explain it…

>) and anti-discrimination laws up the
> yin yang,

Yes, and little enforcement power. The OFFCP review that takes place every few years
only covers about 4000 companies, and even then, they find that about 75% are in
violation of basic principles of the 64 Act (not aff action but the civil rights act
itself)…but they only have enough monitors to check up on each business about once
every 38 years, so what kind of deterrent is that? If I were to say to you: hey Dave,
you know we’ve got criminal laws against assault, rape and murder up the yin yang,
and they don’t work, so, shucks, let’s just scratch em…you would go ape shit. You
would say we need to make the laws have teeth, get tougher, etc. I would say the same
here.

> not to mention all those leftwing lawyers funded by the government just to help
> poor people sue.

This money has been slashed considerably and you know it…and this is just a
hyperbolic drive-by, with no substance at all. Many of those suits are quite
legitimate, but I guess to you good legal advice is just one more commodity which, if
you can’t pay for it, “fuck you,” right Dave…that’s justice, right?

> How do you make whites responsible for the persisting inequalities here?

I would never simplify things down that much David…you have such a black/white
dualistic mindset it is amazing…it’s either the white man or it’s all personal
failing. There are no other factors for you, nor interplay of factors…this helps me
to understand how you went from being a devout Leninist (or whatever you were) to
being what you are now. Did Eric Hoffer pay you an option fee when he wrote True
Believer, for God’s sake?

> Or should I give you the benefit of the doubt and ask you how much of the
> inequalities you attribute to present-day “racism”?

Again, real world cause and effect doesn’t run the way you’re trying to make it run.
There are substantial barriers, both racial, and economic to black opportunity. Some
of these are past and some are present. Some are present day effects of past
barriers. For INDIVIDUALS there may also be character issues at play and other
individual effort issues. But to say that this is true for a GROUP is absurd, as it
assumes the group has some inherent, scientifically precise “essence.”

Only someone who believes there is such a thing as the “Black race” and the “white
race,” and “Asians” (as a genetically distinct people), etc. could believe that any comparisons
between them on such things as “intellect” or “work ethic,” or “Motivation” or values
was possible. But these are non-scientific categories, made up by society for
particular reasons, and though they take on social meaning, they have no intrinsic
connecting thread that would lead any of these socially constructed groups to be
fundamentally different in terms of core values, behaviors, motivation, etc…

As Steinberg explains in Turning Back, even if one finds certain “cultural” patterns
within a group, that is not the end of sociological inquiry, that is the beginning.
The question then becomes, why and how did certain “cultural” traits become
normalized? So, if you think blacks don’t marry enough, or stay in school enough, or
demonstrate a love of learning and education that is sufficient, the question for a
social scientist then is why these things are true (to the extent they are)…and
this is how the dual responsibility issues comes into play.

One can say, for example, that of course, blacks and everyone else should stay in
school, work hard, do their homework, eat their vegetables, etc. But one can also say that if blacks who stay in
school and ARE self-identified with education and learning are STILL more likely to
be tracked low than whites and Asians with less impressive early scores on tests, and
if they are still more likely to be taught by less trained teachers, and if they are
still more likely to face disciplinary action for minor infractions than similar
whites; and if they are still facing the fear of failure that comes from what Steele
and Aronson call stereotype threat, then there is something that society must do
ALSO.

There is no way to break down “responsibility percentiles” into some numerical
percentage, and say, “stereotype threat” explains 10%, and motivation 15%, and family
structure 20%, etc…These things can all interrelate, and trying to break it down as
you would like me to do, is not possible or logical, any more than Murray and
Herrnstein’s ridiculous claim that they could determine what percentage of IQ was
genetic and what part environmental, despite the intrinsic interrelationship between
both kinds of factors…

HOROWITZ:

Interesting. You say one can’t identify groups — but of course your entire analysis
is based on group distinctions. Those of us who think the civil rights battle has been
won and what remains are cultural and ideological problems (created in part by people
like you) have to argue against racialists like you, but you shrewdly (but also
transparently) try to put the race card in our hand. You are the one arguing from race, I’m just
responding. Your analysis is intellectually paranoid. You project your own racialism
onto your opponents. We after all are arguing against the census boxes that define racial
categories, against laws that are discriminatory on the basis of race, etc. Your
argument on the other hand is of this order: School budgets don’t go mainly to the classroom
(thanks to leftwing teacher unions and politicians), but that’s the case for all
students. You single out black students as singularly affected by this. A four
percent national unemployment allegedly created by monetary policy somehow targets blacks.
Did it ever occur to you that at the same time the unemployment rate for blacks is pushing
fifty percent in South Central LA and other California inner cities, hundreds of thousands
of very poor Mexicans are pouring into South Central L.A. and other California inner
cities to get work? My only quarrel with Sleeper’s book is that it should have been called
“Leftwing Racism” because liberals aren’t really smart or perverse enough to put a
theory behind their prejudices, but leftists like you obviously are.

TIM WISE:

> Interesting. You say one can’t identify groups — but of course your entire
> analysis is based on group distinctions.

But David there is a difference: I recognize that groups exist as social units, and
as such there is nothing wrong or untoward, let alone racist about saying things like
“group x faces y barriers disproportionately because of thing z…” What I am saying
to you is that for you to ascribe some group tendency like motivation, morality, work
ethic, etc as an internal characteristic of blacks (which I think you do regularly)
is racialist, because it is not merely an issue of saying a certain group exists
socially and is effected by certain phenomenon, but rather it is saying that this
organic entity has something wrong with it…

>Those of us who think the civil rights battle has been won

are silly…

> and what remains are cultural

right, and you think there is something wrong with blacks culturally, though to
believe that is to believe that culture and cultural “traits” to the extent they
exist exist in a vacuum. But they don’t. As I mentioned before, even those things
that appear to be “cultural traits” have roots in opportunity, experience,
relationship to the economy and polity, etc. That is my point. To believe that
cultural traits exist, outside of the structural interactions that folks experience
with the larger world is essentialist, and in this case racialist…

> and ideological problems (created in part by people like
> you) have to argue against racialists like you, but you shrewdly (but also transparently)
> try to put the race card in our hand. You are the one arguing from race, I’m just
> responding. Your analysis is intellectually paranoid.

Again with the clinical diagnosis. David, where did you get your degree in
psychology, such that you can make this diagnosis? And where did you practice your
craft as a professional psychologist? Answer: nowhere.

> You project your own racialism onto
> your opponents. We after all are arguing against the census boxes that define
> racial categories,

Of course, because you would like us to not be able to keep statistics about how well
people of color were doing relative to whites, which getting rid of the boxes would
assist…

> against laws that are discriminatory on the basis of race, etc. Your argument
> on the other hand is of this order: School budgets don’t go mainly to the classroom
> (thanks to leftwing teacher unions and politicians),

School money doesn’t get to the students for lots of reasons, and to the extent there
are bureaucrats to blame for that, I condemn that entirely.

> but that’s the case for all
> students.

But some students, (i.e., those from families with more money and resources for
outside-the-class enrichment, as well as those where the parents have college
degrees, etc) can do fine despite the misallocation of resources, because they have
other substantial economic resources at home, in their neighborhood, etc. Their
families can raise money to supplement the school budgets, whereas poor families will
not be as likely to have this option, and certainly not to the same degree.

You single out black students as singularly affected by this. A four percent
> national unemployment allegedly created by monetary policy somehow targets blacks.

No, it didn’t target them…it just requires 4% officially (8-10% actually) be
unemployed. Given the realities of urban labor market mismatching, barriers to
suburban jobs like transportation barriers, discrimination (see the Sage study), etc.
blacks will tend to have higher rates of unemployment than whites.

> Did it ever occur to you that at the same time the unemployment rate for blacks is pushing
> fifty percent in South Central LA and other California inner cities, hundreds of
> thousands of very poor Mexicans are pouring into South Central L.A. and other California inner
> cities to get work?

Yes, I realize this. And I also know that many of the folks who readily hire those
undocumenteds are unwilling to hire blacks for the same jobs, and they ADMIT it, as
the Sage study, among others has indicated. Even when the blacks have greater
experience, qualifications, obviously speak the language better etc…employers who
hire undocumented workers do so because they can exploit them more than a domestic
“minority” thanks to the fact that the latter knows the law, knows there is a minimum
wage, and can’t be threatened with deportation.

HOROWITZ:

I have never ever ascribed a tendency to blacks as “internal”. In fact my whole
argument is that the left has shaped the political culture of black America since 1966 with
these tragic effects. If you’re going to attack me, at least attack me for what I have
actually said and written.

On the other hand, when you argue exceptionalism for a group, it is you who are
identifying the group. I have never — since becoming a conservative, written
anything about blacks in America, for example, that was not responding to a leftwing claim.

Reading on this email, I have suddenly grown extremely weary. You are an ideologue
with an essentially religious mentality. I argue that the political influence of the left
is crippling black America. You call this “essentialist.” I’m stumped.

TIM WISE:

>I have never ascribed a tendency to blacks as “internal”. In fact my whole
> argument is that the left has shaped the political culture of black America since 1966 with
> these tragic effects. If you’re going to attack me, at least attack me for what I have
> actually said and written.

But David, for you to believe that black folks en masse can be misled so easily by
“the left,” is to say that they are so intrinsically weak, and perhaps feeble-minded
that they can’t think for themselves. After all, whites and others have also been
exposed to “left” and liberal thought, and yet, as you would point out, haven’t
fallen “prey” to the same pathologies, mentalities, etc…so, to that extent, whether
you intend it or not, you are in fact making a statement that is quite essentialist.

> On the other hand, when you argue exceptionalism for a group, it is you who are
> identifying the group. I have never — since becoming a conservative, written
> anything about blacks in America, for example, that was not responding to a leftwing claim.

What does this mean? Your comments about black Americans are laden with the belief
that they are too stupid to know their own interests, to identify their own
realities, etc. You are quick to ascribe medical and psychological diagnoses to an
entire group (or the majority of them) even though you are not a clinician…

> Reading on this email, I have suddenly grown extremely weary. You are an ideologue
> with an essentially religious mentality. I argue that the political influence of the
> left is crippling black America. You call this “essentialist.” I’m stumped.

David, c’mon. Did you really think a dozen or so exchanges was going to swing me to
your side and have me appearing at the next Turning Back conference, or whatever in
the hell that thing was you did in the 80′s? Just because someone doesn’t agree with
you doesn’t make them a mere ideologue. I could say the same for you, and for folks
like Larry Elder (what with his credentials as a radio personality)…I have offered
repeated references to source materials, as well as statistics and actual arguments
in response to many of the things you said in the last few days, and you have offered
nada, nothing, zip, bupkus. Just your opinions. At least I have made reference to
actual research materials…go back and look at how many things you totally ignored,
as opposed to the way I responded (or at least attempted to do so) to everything you
wrote…

HOROWITZ:

Dear Tim,

This exercise for me was not to persuade you, but to understand you. I think I
actually read you right in my very first email. You are a religionist, what you call
an essentialist. You start from the premise black good, white bad. You are the one who
defines the racial categories. You live by them, and couldn’t live without them. (I
have written about this in The Politics of Bad Faith). The political left came to dominate
the civil rights movement in 1966. This was not out of its own weakness, but when its
grievances were real. But I waste my breath and your time. It’s been interesting.
You’ve done a lot of work within your own sealed and circular universe. You are a very
destructive indivdual, however, and the people you hurt most, besides yourself, are
black.

TIM WISE:

> Dear Tim,
>
>     This exercise for me was not to persuade you, but to understand you. I think I
> actually read you right in my very first email. You are a religionist, what you
> call an essentialist. You start from the premise black good, white bad. You are the one who
> defines the racial categories.

No David. Your ability to understand someone is pitifully weak. Frankly, I don’t know
how you could even think you could so, even if we corresponded for a week or more. I
have read your biography and most everything you have written and still wouldn’t
claim to really understand you…so how in the name of God do you think you can do so
with me so easily?

I simply realize that because of a history and legacy of institutional racial
inequity in this country, predicated on “racial” categories, certain realities now
exist on the ground, in terms of resources, assets, opportunities, experiences, etc.
And though the categories themselves are scientifically meaningless they have taken
on social meaning because of that history. And simply saying, O.K., now we have no
more legal apartheid, so the past is over and has no effect upon the present, or if
it does, we can’t call that effect racist, or institutional racism, is simplistic and
silly.

> You live by them, and couldn’t live without them. (I have
> written about this in The Politics of Bad Faith). The political left came to
> dominate the
> civil rights movement in 1966.

But David, folks like King were advocating things like aff action as early as 1961,
and in 1963 King was calling explicitly for “preferential treatment,” as I point out
in an article on King I wrote last January for Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

http://www.britannica.com/bcom/original/article/0,5744,3159,00.html

> This was not out of its own weakness, but when its
> grievances were real. But I waste my breath and your time. It’s been interesting.
> You’ve done a lot of work within your own sealed and circular universe.

And you in yours David

>You are a very
> destructive indivdual, however, and the people you hurt most, besides yourself, are
> black.

Gee…that sounds exactly like what I was going to say…

And in light of this last comment, wasn’t it you that
called ME paternalistic a while back? But now you are the protector of black people
from the big bad 31 year old leftist who is too crafty and cunning for them to
realize my devious plans? Amusing…

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