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July 17, 2013

Eric Holder Asks for Honest Discussion on Race;
The WaPo's Liberal Columnist Richard Cohen Offers Some Discussion, and Is Immediately Called a Racist

Cohen sounds a bit silly as to hoodies being a "uniform" for criminals; he sounds like George Will decrying jeans.* A lot of people wear hoodies. Hell, I love a good hoodie.

That aside, he does attempt to "speak honestly" about race, just as Eric Holder said we needed to do.

Chiefly he speaks about the very high crime rates for young black males.

.Where is the politician who will own up to the painful complexity of the problem and acknowledge the widespread fear of crime committed by young black males? This does not mean that raw racism has disappeared, and some judgments are not the product of invidious stereotyping. It does mean, though, that the public knows young black males commit a disproportionate amount of crime. In New York City, blacks make up a quarter of the population, yet they represent 78 percent of all shooting suspects almost all of them young men. We know them from the nightly news.


The problems of the black underclass are hardly new. They are surely the product of slavery, the subsequent Jim Crow era and the tenacious persistence of racism. They will be solved someday, but not probably with any existing programs. For want of a better word, the problem is cultural, and it will be solved when the culture, somehow, is changed.

In the meantime, the least we can do is talk honestly about the problem. It does no one any good to merely cite the number of stop-and-frisks involving black males without citing the murder statistics as well. Citing the former and not the latter is an Orwellian exercise in political correctness. It not only censors half of the story but also suggests that racism is the sole reason for the policy. This mindlessness, like racism itself, is repugnant.

Very often the most heated arguments concern situations where two statements, each of which points to a different conclusion, are completely true.

Consider abortions in the case of rape. The discussion is heated partly because two things are simultaneously true. Neither can be denied, and denial of a premise is what people usually do to win an argument.

In the case of abortions in cases of rape:

It is completely true that a baby conceived of rape did nothing at all wrong to "deserve" to be aborted.

It is, however, simultaneously true that the victim of rape did nothing wrong, either, and did not even assume the risk of pregnancy as a willing woman does, and it's also true that compelling her to carry her rapist's child to term is, in some way, prolonging the victimization for nine months.

As both of these things are true, and neither can be denied (well, they can be denied, but as former Senate hopeful Akin can tell you, you might sound pretty dumb in your denial), it creates a very hot environment for argumentation.

As neither side can really deny the other side's Key Premise, all people tend to do is just keep shouting their own Key Premise louder and louder, without ever acknowledging the conflicting premise.

I feel the same thing applies here with respect to race and crime.

It is undeniable that an innocent black kid who is suspected of being a criminal, and treated as if he were a criminal, is going to feel insulted by that, and angry about that, and I can't blame him. I think all conservatives, actually, can sympathize with his plight better, now that we're nearly officially second-class citizens ourselves.

On the other hand, to demand that people forget what they know is absurd: People know that young black males commit a greatly, greatly disproportionate amount of common crimes/street crimes, including the violent ones. To ask anyone to pretend they don't know this, especially to the extent of actually putting themselves at an elevated risk of being the victim of serious violent crime, for the sake of "not making people feel bad," is a demand so huge that people will always do what they're currently doing: completely ignoring this demand, as it's just ridiculous.

Blacks themselves routinely take unhappy note of this sad fact: yes, they say, they understand, perhaps moreso than any White Racist, that the chances of victimization by a young black male are substantially greater than as regards any other demographic cohort.

So what is the right course? One can't just glibly say "Well, the numbers say they're likely to be criminals, so treat 'em like criminals." That creates itself a class of victims: the wrongly suspected. But neither can one just pop off that anyone who thinks that a young black male might be more dangerous than the average citizen is a racist.

Or else the FBI crime statistics from 1968 to 2013 are all "racist."

A "real, honest discussion of race" would have to include both of these statements, the truth which cannot be denied.

And yet, the second statement is frequently denied, or at least no one asking for "real, honest discussions about race" is willing to talk about it, and will gladly encourage various Prog Furies to deliver punishments upon those who dare to Say Things Which Are True.

Here's a little prognostication on my part. You can call my psychic when this comes to pass: A week from now, when Eric Holder has had plenty of time to think about it and has probably been informed about it, Eric Holder will not warn his progressive bullyboys from savaging Richard Cohen, and will not clarify that an "honest discussion" must include some actual honesty at some point. He will chalk up the silencing of Cohen as a win.

Taranto discusses this in a column called, accurately enough, Shut Up and Speak Honestly-- which is Holder's real message. Shut Up for some, Speak Honestly for his ideological allies. Considering the conundrum -- that "racist" is an insult designed to shut down an avenue of conversation, and yet many people who cry racist are nevertheless honest about it (in as much as they do believe it), he observes that "honesty" isn't enough for conversation -- respect and willingness to actually engage issues is required.

But an honest conversation requires more than honesty. It requires a willingness to engage constructively with people who hold views with which one disagrees, or that one finds disagreeable. In that regard, Cohen measures up while his detractors fall short.

If America is a "nation of cowards," it is likely because many people with views similar to Cohen's prefer to avoid the subject rather than endure the unpleasantness and potential serious repercussions that come with the accusation of racism. Holder's call for honest conversation would have some force if he exhorted fellow liberals and fellow blacks to be sensitive to the reasons for these inhibitions. Absent that, it's more lecture than conversation.

Indeed, and that is of course what Holder's really calling for. Not a conversation, but a lecture, with some designated as Truth Tellers, and others designated as people who should just be quiet and accept some Wisdom.

* But I do know what he was getting at, even if he seized upon the wrong article of clothing. He's getting at the idea of class and Advertised Identity, which is a major complicating factor in any discussion about race.

Because it's not true that people are "afraid of young black men." No one would be afraid of, say, Wayne Brady, even if he were younger. Wayne Brady's Advertised Identity is not "thug."

Among the poor -- poor whites, poor blacks, poor Hispanics, poor "White Hispanics" -- there is a big difference between the Aspirational poor and the Accepting poor. A poor person who advertises himself as a striver, an achiever, is not usually perceived as a threat.

A poor person, on the other hand, who signals himself as part of the sad, cynical, violent thug culture -- and every race has some version of this -- is perceived as a threat. I might not be able to see a white guy's Neck Tattoos and Iron Cross earring at the same distance I can spot someone's skin color, but the moment I do see the Neck Tattoos and Iron Cross earring, I am in fact labeling that guy as "Likely threat, seems to advertise his identity as being based in Prison Culture. Do not approach."

There is a very big difference between people who advertise themselves as I've Got Nothin' to Lose and those who advertise themselves as I Do In Fact Have Something to Lose. The fact that the latter sort of person has skin in the game himself makes him nonthreatening -- he's not comfortable with impulsive life-changing criminal decisions either.

But the first sort of person is all but advertising he doesn't think much of his own life and therefore, of course, doesn't think much of others' lives, which is the dangerous thing.

And anyone who adopts the cultural signifiers of a population which moves back and forth from prison without being too discomfited about it -- whether it's blacks' prison-denim styling, or a white dude with Neck Tattoos -- is signaling that they aren't afraid of prison. And anyone who fails to read that as "...and therefore aren't much deterred by the prospect of imprisonment" is just an idiot.

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posted by Ace at 12:15 PM

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