Category Archives: Race and race relations

Teaching the English Learners

Last week I posted a map showing the wide variability between school districts in the rate at which economically disadvantaged students passed the Standards of Learning (SOL) for English reading. By comparing students from comparable socio-economic backgrounds, I suggested that that some schools do a better job of teaching disadvantaged students than others. But any conclusions were preliminary because any analysis, it can be argued, needs to be adjusted for such factors as, say, spending per pupil, concentrations of poverty, or the prevalence of English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) students in the school districts.

As follow-up, I present the map above showing the wide variability in the rate at which ESL students pass the English reading SOLs. School districts with the highest pass rates out-perform the schools with the lowest pass rates by a two-to-one margin.

Again, this data, drawn from the Virginia Department of Education, is consistent with the notion that some school systems do a better job than others. But it’s important not to draw any hard-and-fast conclusions. I can think of a number of reasons that might explain the variability. School districts that teach English learners from multiple ethnic backgrounds may be more difficult to teach than ESLs who all speak the same language, such as Spanish. Some schools might have higher concentrations of ESLs than others. Schools might vary in the percentage of ESL students who come from disadvantaged households.

Bacon’s bottom line: Think of this data as a starting point for asking more probing questions.

Cry for help! I’m using Datawrapper software, but I can’t get the map to display the name of the locality or the numerical value when the cursor moves over the locality. Online tutorials don’t help. Obviously, I’m doing something wrong. If someone out there knows how to use Datawrapper, please help!

Virginia Tech Gets This One Right

As the 150th anniversary of Virginia Tech’s founding approaches, university officials are thinking about how to tell the story of the institution’s past. At the University of Virginia and Washington & Lee University, reflections upon the institutions’ histories have been the occasion for self-flagellation over the sins of ancestors who participated in slavery and segregation. While it is proper to acknowledge ugly aspects of the past, nothing useful comes from wallowing in self-abasement.

Judging from recommendations submitted by a 24-person history council described in today’s Roanoke Times, Tech will likely strike the right balance between candor about the past and wallowing in it.

In a nod to contemporary PC sensitivities, the council proposed erecting a work of outdoor art to honor the Native Americans who lived in the area before white settlers arrived. It also proposed an expansion of VT Stories, an existing oral history project, which collects stories from a broad cross-section of the Virginia Tech community.

Last year President Timothy Sands initiated an inquiry into the legacy of Confederates at Virginia Tech. The university has several buildings — McBryde, Vawter and Lane halls — named for men who fought for the South. John McLaren McBryde, sometimes called the “father of VPI,” enlisted in 1861 before the attack on Fort Sumter. Charles Erastus Vawter Sr. fought in the Stonewall Brigade. James Henry Lane was a brigadier general who commanded the 28th North Carolina infantry.

The council decided not to recommend renaming any buildings. Said historian Peter Wallenstein: “Worrying about what someone did as a 20-something member of the Confederate military really was not on the forefront of our minds.”

Council Chairman Bob Leonard, a performing arts professor, hit a pitch-perfect note: “The council strongly believes that previously silent stories must be voiced, such as those of under-represented and historically marginalized groups, and that complicated histories not be hidden, but instead, be related in full context.”

Add to the history. Contextualize the history. Don’t obliterate the history.

Failing Richmond Schools Doubling Down on Failing Policies

Thomas Jefferson High School graduates. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Richmond Public School System is in crisis, roiled by two independent audits and the publication of new state data showing that the administration is hobbled by rampant inefficiency, there are deep and pervasive achievement gaps between white students and black and Hispanic students, and the high school dropout rate is the highest in Virginia.

The sense of urgency is welcome. The school system has been failing its students for many years. But the major players — school board members and school administrators — seem to be drawing the wrong conclusions. Judging from news accounts, educational power brokers are doubling down on their commitment to “restorative,” or therapeutic, disciplinary policies designed to reduce “inequities.”

From flawed assumptions flow flawed policy prescriptions. These policies, I predict, will backfire. The restorative justice approach to school discipline will make the racial gap worse by disrupting the education of minority students who come to school motivated to learn.

Captive to progressive dogma, Richmond public school officials are blind to the nature of the problem. That dogma was captured perfectly in a quote from the new school superintendent Jason Kamras, who said: “There’s nothing wrong with the kids in RPS. We, the adults who are charged with caring for them, have not done right by them for too many years.”

It’s true enough that the adults have failed spectacularly. As documented by one of the audits Kamras commissioned, the administration is riddled with inefficiency. Employees aren’t fulfilling basic tasks, for instance, such as building inspections, contributing to the disgraceful deterioration of the city’s aging school buildings. Richmond allocates significantly more per student on operational expenditures than neighboring Henrico and Chesterfield Counties — $10,973 in 2014 compared to $8,879 and $8,958 respectively — yet its physical plant often is in atrocious condition.

Unfortunately, there is plenty wrong with the kids, too. A large percentage come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and many are categorized as having learning disabilities. Describing the students as “economically disadvantaged” really doesn’t tell the whole story. Most “economically disadvantaged” kids also are socially disadvantaged. The problem isn’t material poverty, it’s social breakdown. The kids live in single-mother households; many if not most have absentee fathers. Many are subject to child abuse and neglect, often at the hands of live-in boyfriends. Their domestic lives often are chaotic. They receive little educational guidance or encouragement at home. Tragically, these dismal realities affect students’ success at school.

But look how the social-breakdown problem, when viewed through the social-justice paradigm, is translated into a racial issue (and here I quote the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s summary of an audit performed by The Education Trust):

The audits found major inequities in the district’s academics, ranging from suspension rates that disproportionately affect students of color to white students having better access to advanced courses….

The Education Trust’s report, which focused on academic equity, found that nearly 1 in 6 students were suspended out of school at least once in 2017 and 1 in 5 students were chronically absent. The report also found that elementary and middle schools with a population that skews white are much more likely to have students enrolled in gifted education programs and algebra in eighth grade, which have been shown to better prepare students for college and careers.

What’s the answer? Round up truant kids and get them back into school. Change policies to reduce the number of suspensions and other disciplinary actions. Get teachers to engage with problem students rather than expel them from the classroom. Judging by a Michael Paul Williams column in the Times-Dispatch, the RPS administration is doubling down on restorative justice in the expectation of reducing the inequities. Writes Williams:

Kamras, to his credit, appears focused on attacking those inequities. The hiring of Ram Bhagat to implement restorative justice practices and to develop a trauma-informed approach to education was inspired. Bhagat, a retired RPS teacher with substantial community capital, is the district’s manager of School Climate and Culture Strategy.

The power of ideology to blind people to reality is on full display in the Richmond public schools. Let’s start with the obvious: the fact that one in five Richmond students was chronically absent in 2016-17. The “inequities” decried by The Education Trust and school officials stems from that fact. Clearly, a high percentage of Richmond students — almost all of whom come from “economically” disadvantaged backgrounds — are not committed to advancing their education. Rounding up these kids and getting them back into school does not improve their motivation. Most of these students have already fallen far behind their classmates academically. They find class either boring, frustrating or threatening because, in many cases, they can’t keep up with what’s going on. Thus, they “act out.” Teachers spend more time focused on the problem students and less time with students wanting to learn.

By contrast, most white kids in Richmond public schools come from affluent families that place an emphasis on education. Parents have the wherewithal to invest considerable time at home reading to their children, teaching the alphabet, helping them with homework when they’re younger, and leaning on them do their homework when they’re older. Needless to say, chronically absent students aren’t attending the advanced classes, so white students are largely insulated from the consequences of politically correct policies that undermine order.

Here’s the real tragedy: There are thousands of black kids whose families value education and who expend great effort — often in the face of greater social obstacles than their white peers — to learn. Last year 80% of Richmond students were not chronically absent. Roughly half of Richmond’s black students passed their reading and math SOL assessments. One in twenty earned assessment scores that ranked them as advanced. I submit that very few of these black achievers are among those who skip school, skip class, and disrupt teachers when they are in class. To the contrary, these are the students who are cheated by the erosion of order in schools and classrooms. These are the ones who receive fewer hours of instruction every week while teachers are distracted by trouble makers. But no one speaks for them.

What can we expect as the flailing leadership of Richmond Public Schools doubles down on restorative justice? More disruptive students in classrooms. More distracted teachers. More demoralized teachers, who quit or transfer out of inner-city schools. More students short-changed of a full education. A continued erosion of student assessment scores. And more anguished hand-wringing by educators committed to the social justice paradigm whose policy prescriptions continue to fail.

The Catastrophic Effects of Henrico Schools’ War on Discipline

Sometimes I ask myself, do I write too much about race on Bacon’s Rebellion? I lament the nation’s descent into racial identity politics — am I contributing to the trend by dwelling upon the topic so much myself? Then I encounter a report like “A Review of Equity and Parent Engagement in Special Education in Henrico County Public Schools,” and I am reminded that I am only responding to the obsession about race in Virginia’s public policy establishment.

“A Review of Equity,” whose lead author is Anne Holton, wife of U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and a former state Secretary of Education, makes a fetish of statistical disparities between white and black students, whether the issue is the percentage classified as having disabilities, placed in special education classrooms, or subject to short-term suspensions and other disciplinary actions.

The report gives limited praise to the Henrico County Public School system. The system does not demonstrate “racial disproportionality” in identifying students with disabilities. Schools have reduced the number of short- and long-term suspensions in recent years as teachers and administrators implemented more “restorative” or therapeutic approaches to maintaining discipline. The number of expulsions and suspensions has declined markedly — 38% for black students and 41% for white students between the 2011-12 school year and the 2015-16 school year. Progress has been particularly evident among students with disabilities, and the white-black disparity in suspensions has shrunk by a third.

Yet disparities persist, notes the Holton report. Black students are still more likely than their white peers to receive short-term suspensions, even when the numbers are adjusted for poverty. The report views continued racial disparities as a big problem and major injustice. Suspending students reduces the time they spent in class, which makes it all the more likely that they will fall behind in their studies.

The report recommends that Henrico County act more aggressively to reduce in-school and out-of-school disparities in disciplinary actions.

Despite HCPS’s successful efforts in recent years to reduce suspensions and expulsions overall, the division still struggles with excessive discipline, particularly for Black students and students with disabilities. In addressing this persistent issue, HCPS should consider setting targeted goals around the reduction of suspension and expulsion rates for certain subgroups of students.

Henrico should “consider designing and implementing a locally tailored plan that explicitly focuses on race and culture to reduce exclusionary discipline practices in elementary and secondary schools.” Henrico’s Positive Behavior Intervention Supports approach, says the report, is beneficial to the extent that it relies on proactive rather than reactive discipline practices. “This shift in how to approach student behavior has been critical to advancing how to re-think discipline, particularly for students with disabilities.” The drawback, however, is that Henrico’s policies are “racially and culturally neutral.”

Instead of applying race-neutral disciplinary policies, Henrico schools should set “specific goals for the disciplining of Black students and students with disabilities.” In effect, Holton is calling for disciplinary quotas — capping the number of disciplinary actions for blacks — in order to bring about racial proportionality.

In pursuit of racial proportionately, Henrico should amend the Code of Student Conduct to promote “alternative discipline approaches” for minor infractions in place of “exclusionary discipline.” Specifically, infractions such as disobedience and disrespect — such as, to give concrete meaning to the report’s recommendation, refusing to be quiet and telling a teacher to go f— himself — should be reclassified in order to help reduce suspensions. And, of course, staff training should be mandated for “implicit bias, trauma-informed care, restorative practices, understanding of diverse cultures, and basic understanding of the needs of children with disabilities.”

Bacon’s bottom line. Nowhere in the report do Holton and her co-authors acknowledge the possibility that perhaps the reason blacks are disciplined at higher rates than other racial groups is that they engage in more disruptive behavior. Given the higher incidence of poverty, single-parent households, child neglect and abuse, and other socio-economic characteristics that affect children’s well being, this is hardly a novel suggestion. Yet the report argues that school disciplinary practices — not the disruptive behavior itself — is the problem.

And nowhere does Holton examine negative effects of Henrico County’s embrace, as insufficient as she believes it to be, of the therapeutic paradigm for maintaining school discipline. Holton and her co-authors authors totally ignore the “disproportionate” impact of eroding classroom discipline on black students who come to school ready and willing to learn. Teachers are required to spend more time on “positive behavior intervention,” which subtracts from classroom teaching time. I would argue that the student-hours of instructional time lost by students suspended from school is a small fraction of the instructional time that all students lose when trouble-makers disrupt classrooms.

Rule-abiding black students suffer the most from restorative disciplinary policies designed to benefit the rule breakers. The “disproportionate impact” is vividly on display in the table atop this column. The failure rate in reading, writing, math, science and history trended the wrong way for all racial groups between the 2015-16 and the 2017-18 school years as the new disciplinary policies took hold. The decline in performance was marginal for whites and Asians but catastrophic for blacks and Hispanics.

The war on discipline in Henrico County schools, launched on the pretext that previous disciplinary policies disproportionately impacted blacks, has… disproportionately impacted blacks (with Hispanics as collateral damage). Oblivious to deteriorating conditions in schools and classrooms, Holton and her colleagues double down on their disastrous prescriptions.

How much longer must black children suffer from the failed prescriptions of liberal white ideologues before someone calls a halt to this madness?

Update: In fairness to Holton and her co-authors, they were responding to Henrico County’s request to focus on disproportionality. (See LarryG’s comment here.) The obsession with race in this report ultimately emanates from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Identity Politics Are So Extreme Now that Gays Look Old Fashioned and Conservative

For more than 20 years Godfrey’s restaurant and nightclub has been a prominent part of Richmond’s LGBTQ scene, hosting drag shows, creating a hospitable environment for young people with alternative sexual identities, and participating in charitable fund-raising events that transcend the LGBTQ community. As the restaurant website describes its mission: “RVA needs a space where young people can come together in an environment that is inclusive and safe regardless of their sexuality or gender identity. We hope Godfrey’s is that space.”

Despite its role in mainstreaming gay acceptance in the Richmond community, Godfrey’s recently ran afoul of LGBTQ militants at Virginia Commonwealth University. Now the controversy is spilling out beyond Godfrey’s and dividing LGBTQs along racial, generational, and gay/cisgender lines. Reports GayRVA:

Initially spurred by the debate over whether Godfrey’s could be considered a safe space for the LGBTQ community, the conversation has moved beyond any single venue. Members of the community have begun discussing local bar culture in general, and what a queer inclusive space could look like. Some don’t see any spaces in Richmond that fit the profile.

Some people describe the local LGBTQ bar scene as “anti-queer.” Numerous patrons of gay nightclubs cite “bad experiences” and “really traumatic stories.” A big problem: “predatory behavior” of cisgender males. Another issue: continuing evolution of politically correct terminology. For example, many older gays self-identify as “gay,” not “queer.” 

The issues erupted when two VCU student groups — Queer and Transgender People of Color Collective and Queer Action — launched a protest campaign against Godfrey’s. That campaign began with an open letter listing grievances against the restaurant, including:

  • Lack of gender-inclusive bathrooms;
  • people being policed for using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity;
  • Excessive police force used against patrons;
  • Numerous anti-black incidents with drag performers, staff members, and police officers.

The letter writers demanded that Godfrey’s make bathrooms “gender inclusive,” reduce the presence of police officers, acknowledge the restaurant’s racism, educate staff on issues of “racial justice and trans inclusion,” and apologize publicly.

Godfrey’s owners did not respond well to either the allegations of discrimination or the manner in which the demands were posted publicly. Wrote management in a publicly posted response:

My business partner and I are particularly incensed because of everything that we had to endure as a gay men growing up in the 80’s. We have been personally attacked and our lives threatened and almost every other person at our business has experienced real discrimination in some form or another.  So no, we are not going to bend to you or your groups’ demands because we haven’t done anything to warrant such an action.

As for escorting people out of the nightclub, well… people misbehave and the restaurant evicts disruptive people. Said Godfrey’s staffer Eric S. Kelsey in an interview with GayRVA:

Just this past weekend. I saw two individuals, two white straight males, escorted out by security because they’d snuck liquor into the bar. I’ve seen people from all walks of life in my time there. If they are breaking rules, they are being violent, they are disturbing patrons, they are being destructive, they are too drunk to even function, they are going to be taken out of the bar. And that I think is fair to ask of any establishment. Your main goal is to make sure no one is breaking ABC laws, because if we don’t do anything about it, ABC could come in and shut us down. If somebody’s acting violent, they have to go, it doesn’t matter who they are.

Bacon’s bottom line: As 65-year-old heterosexual Southern white male fitting just about every negative stereotype in the Left’s catechism of intersectionality, my opinion means nothing to the protesters. But I’m offering it anyway. For what it’s worth, I’m a live-and-let-live libertarian. I really don’t care what LGBTQs as long as they don’t infringe upon my right to do what I want to do. The gays I know (most of whom, admittedly, are of the older generation) blend into the community. No one cares that they’re gay, and they don’t waste their lives nursing grievances.

It is a disturbing sign of the times that the ideology of alienation has gotten so extreme that members of VCU’s LGBTQ community would target Godfrey’s, of all places. That’s par for the course, though, for campus leftists who cherish their victimhood and turn upon allies who don’t meet their standards of ideological purity. Some people live in a state of perpetual outrage and always find reasons to justify their never-dying anger. They can never be mollified. But their intolerance wins them no friends and generates no sympathy. In this dispute, Godfrey’s comes across as a law-abiding member of the establishment willing to enforce norms of respectable behavior. They may not want me, but I’m with them.

Do Chief Diversity Officers Make a Difference?

By 2016 about 65% of all institutions of higher education had created an executive-level position to promote ethnic and racial diversity on campus. Baylor University professor Steven W. Bradley and three colleagues at other institutions wondered what effect such offices had on the hiring of minority professors. After assembling data on graduate degree-granting institutions with 4,000 students or more, they concluded that the presence of chief diversity officers (CDOs) made no difference at all.

“We are unable to find significant statistical evidence that the preexisting growth in diversity for underrepresented racial/ethnic minority groups is affected by the hiring of an executive level diversity officer for new tenure and non-tenure track hires, faculty hired with tenure, or for university administrator hires,” they conclude in a newly published paper, “The Impact of Chief Diversity Officers on Diverse Faculty Hiring.”

Indeed, as can be seen in the graphs above (though not emphasized by the authors), institutions with CDOs have consistently employed fewer minority faculty and staff, and the gap has gotten slightly wider since 2000.

The paper did not study the impact of CDOs on the recruitment of minority students and graduate students, nor the effect on creating a more hospitable environment for minorities. But in light of the findings, those would seem to be appropriate topics for follow-up study.

Bradley and his fellow researchers attributed at least some of the inability to budge the numbers for minority faculty to the small pipeline of minority Ph.D.-level candidates and to the fact that a large percentage of minority Ph.D.s take jobs outside of academe. Creating a diversity bureaucracy cannot change those intractable realities.

Bacon’s bottom line: I would like to know not only whether a given university has a CDO but how big the CDO staff is and how much money the university spends on CDO offices. To what extent have diversity expenditures driven up the cost of providing a college education? What impact has the growth of diversity bureaucracies had on tuition levels? And, by extension, what impact has funding the growth of diversity bureaucracies added to the cost attendance for minorities — especially poor minorities? Is it possible that CDOs are actually counter-productive to the interest of minority students? Heresy, I know, but it’s a question worth asking.

A fallback defense of CDOs is that at the very least CDOs they help create a more hospitable environment for minorities. But I’d like to see proof for that. One could argue that the continual harping on the theme of minorities as victims of insensitivity and discrimination has the opposite effect intended — minorities, especially African-Americans, wind up feeling more alienated, not more welcome, and they are more likely to self-segregate in self-defense. Which institution do African-American kids says is more “inclusive” — a place like Liberty University, a campus lacking a conventional CDO but where the student body is 11% black, or a place like University of Virginia, which makes a fetish of diversity and inclusion and where 9% of undergraduates are black?

I doubt many university boards are interested in the answers. Hiring chief diversity officers is more about virtue signaling than getting results.

(Hat tip: John Butcher)

Now Drug-Free School Zones Hurt Blacks

By conventional measures of racist attitudes — support for school segregation, opposition to racial intermarriage and the like — white people have become decreasingly racist over time, as seen in the chart above extracted from Gallup organization data and published by the Institute for Government and Public Affairs. Older racists are literally dying out, replaced by young people with egalitarian attitudes.

Yet I don’t remember the preoccupation with race, discrimination and prejudice being so intense since the urban race riots of the late 1960s. Partisan commentators like to blame President Trump, not without some justification, for rhetoric that is racially insensitive or, as they would say, outright racist. But that tells only part of the story. Leftist academics, think tanks, politicians, and media have committed themselves all out to the narrative that not only are Trump and his supporters grievously racist, but so are America and America’s institutions. The bombardment of messages is inescapable. I get reminders in my inbox every day.

The latest missive to provoke my ire comes from the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Policy, a Virginia think tank that is mainstream liberal in orientation — not on the lunatic fringe of the left. Today, an email arrived entitled, “Beyond Fiscal Impact Statements: Understanding the Racial Equity Impacts of Public Policy Choices.”

As an example of unintended racial impact, Research Director Loren Goren refers to policies that enhance penalties for distributing drugs within a certain number of feet of a school. Such penalties, she writes, “contribute to longer terms of incarceration and have a disparate impact on people of color. Communities of color generally have more population density and therefore any particular arrest is more likely to be within the school zone.”

As it happens, I have some knowledge of the intersection of drug violence and elementary schools. When I moved in Richmond’s gentrifying Church Hill neighborhood some 30 years ago, I lived a block from Chimborazo Elementary School. I participated in a neighborhood clean-up of the school grounds, cleaning trash and broken glass off the cement playground — not that it made much difference, because I don’t remember kids playing outside very often.

There was a reason for that. Drug-related violence was endemic in the neighborhood. Three people were murdered in a crack house on my block. I recall an incident in which perpetrators on the school grounds shot and wounded three people across the street.

So, who are we supposed to sympathize with? The shooters, on the logic that they operated in a dense urban neighborhood, thus finding it difficult to avoid the schoolyard when conducting their criminal mayhem? Or the school kids, whose recess activities were curtailed due to criminal behavior that ran rampant and uncontrolled at the time? (Things are better now.) I’m sorry, but I fail to see how this is even a question that intelligent people can ask.

Aside from white supremacists representing about one percent of the population, the most race-obsessed people in the United States today are white liberals who are desperate to avoid acknowledging the stupendous failures of welfare policy, K-12 disciplinary policy, the every-family-deserves-to-own-a-house policy, the every-American-deserves-to-attend-college policy, and the myriad other ways in which social justice palliatives have blown up like exploding cigars and made life worse for poor African-Americans. Instead, white liberals double down on the narrative that racism permeates every corner of our society and racists lurk behind every bush. The strategem absolves them of guilt for their failures but it feeds the narrative of African-American victimhood.

White supremacists could not have masterminded policies better designed to fail, demoralize African-Americans, and keep them poor and marginalized.

Pipelines, Fake Racism and the Environmental Justice Hustle

Photo credit: The Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice

A 15-member advisory council has recommended that the state rescind permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline on the grounds of environmental justice, the Washington Post reports.

The Advisory Council on Environmental Justice, created by former Governor Terry McAuliffe, said that Governor Ralph Northam should appoint an emergency task force “to ensure that predominately poor, indigenous, brown and/or black communities do not bear an unequal burden of environmental pollutants and life-altering disruptions.”

Environmental justice advocates have focused in recent months on the community of Union Hill in Buckingham County, a historically African-American area where the ACP wants to build a compressor station. The compressor requires an state air-quality permit, the denial of which would put a serious crimp in the pipeline plans. African-American residents would be impacted by the noise and dust of construction as well as from air pollution emanating from the compressor station. A draft letter (I haven’t been able to find a copy of the final letter) from the group declares that the compressor station “exhibits racism.”

Friends, the environmental justice/social justice movement has jumped the shark. Pipeline foes raise serious issues about landowner rights (are property owners sufficiently compensated for rights of way?) and water quality (will erosion and sedimentation in mountainous karst terrain damage local water supplies?). But the environmental justice angle is hokum.  We live in an era in which labeling someone or something as “racist” trumps all other facts and logic. The anti-communist McCarthyism of the 1950s has revisited America a half-century later in a new guise. Today, social justice warriors espy racists behind every bush. But tarring the ACP as exhibiting “racism” deprives the term “racism” of any meaning.

Let’s consider a few facts about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The pipeline is 600 miles long. Architects of the pipeline route circumvented sites of historical or cultural significance (including those associated with African-Americans), as well as sites of ecological importance, including large tracts of land protected by conservation easements and national park status. Concerned about the impact on local economies and local tax bases, the ACP made efforts (not entirely successful) to minimize impact on sites with economic value. The unavoidable consequence was to steer the pipeline through properties with less economic value.

Steering a pipeline through areas with lower property values means redirecting it from affluent areas to lower-income areas. Insofar as there is overlap between the lower-income population and the African-American population, that means routing the pipeline through areas populated by African-Americans. ACP didn’t route its pipeline with an intention of discriminating against African-Americans, it reconfigured the route in response to pressure emanating from those with political power. If there is institutional racism in the picture, it’s the superior ability of affluent white pipeline foes to protect their property.

Despite this unintentional bias in the routing process, it is difficult to see a disproportionate impact on lower-income or African-American Virginians in the numbers.

According to the ACP Environmental Impact Statementin Virginia 11.5% of the population lives below the poverty line. Thirty-four of the 63 census tracts in Virginia within one mile of the pipeline have a higher percentage of the population living below the poverty line when compared to the state. Consider how elastic this definition is. The pipeline doesn’t have run through a lower-income census district, it can run within a mile of such a district! Furthermore, the methodology fails to adjust the “poverty” line for the lower cost of rural living. Thus the percentage of poor Virginians who are truly poor — and the putative impact on truly poor people — is significantly overstated.

Likewise, minorities in Virginia comprise 30.8% of the population, according to the ACP’s Environmental Impact Statement. The pipeline route goes through, or within one mile of, census tracts with minority populations ranging from o.2% to 100%. In 15 of the 63 census tracts, the minority population is either (1) greater than 50% or (2) is meaningfully greater than the percentage of the minority population in that particular jurisdiction. Nice trick: Create two definitions for describing disparate impact and rather than pick one or the other, use both!

Despite the way the process is loaded, it strikes me that you would have gotten much the same impact if you had plotted the pipeline route by random chance. In 48 census tracts, the disparate-impact criteria do not apply.

In a state in which the African-American population is scattered throughout the countryside, it is impossible using random selection criteria to avoid impacting some African American landowners and communities. As it happens, one cluster of the minority communities in the path of the pipeline is located in Buckingham County near a proposed compressor station, the location of which was picked not because of proximity to African-Americans but because of the availability of an industrial parcel in proximity to the anticipated junction with the Transco pipeline.

The social justice warriors are focusing on one African-American community along a 600-mile pipeline and using it as a stand-in for the entire African-American population along the route. Then the SJWs purport to speak for that community (some of whose members may not share their views), and insist that the alleged injustices visited upon that single community are grounds for scuttling the entire project. If this logic prevails, SJWs will be given the power to exercise veto power over major infrastructure projects — not just gas pipelines, but electric transmission lines, highways, or any major industrial project — on the basis of race.

Of course, as I have frequently pointed out in other contexts, the SJWs are highly selective in assigning racism. One could just as easily describe the SJWs as the racists. Pipeline construction will open up hundreds of jobs for African-Americans working for the Laborers International Union of America. By augmenting local supplies of gas, the pipeline also will make rural counties with large African-American populations eligible to recruit new categories of manufacturing business.

Dominion Energy and other ACP partners would be fully within their rights to accuse the predominantly white SJWs of trying to shut off economic opportunities for blacks to advance their anti-fossil fuel agenda — an accusation which has considerable validity. Dominion doesn’t play the game that way. But I wouldn’t blame them if they did.

Crack, Guns and Murder Rates

The 1980s crack epidemic created a vicious spike in homicides in major cities across the United States. As the epidemic faded, so did the street killings. While the murder rate went down for all races, however, it stayed persistently high for one demographic group: young black males. Seventeen years after the arrival of crack in a given city, homicide rates among young black males remained 70% higher than they had been beforehand.

So concludes a newly published study, “Guns and Violence: The Enduring Impact of Crack Cocaine Markets on Young Black Males,” published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“The long run effects of this increase in violence are large,” write the authors William N. Evans, Timothy J. Moore, and Craig Garthwaite. We attribute nearly eight percent of the murders in 2000 to the long-run effects of the emergence of crack markets. Elevated murder rates for younger black males continue through to today and can explain fully one tenth of the gap in life expectancy between black and white males.”

For a work of economics, the driest of the social sciences, this study makes fascinating reading. While the authors themselves do not extrapolate their findings to broader public policy debates, others almost certainly will do so. The study illuminates the causes of black violence in places as disparate as Chicago (66 shot, 12 killed in a recent weekend) and Richmond (five people shot at a Shockoe Bottom restaurant over the weekend). It does not fit easily with liberals’ white oppression/black victimization narrative. Nor does it give any comfort to conservatives’ people-kill-people/guns-don’t-kill-people narrative.

Reality is complex. Ideologically driven narratives do violence to reality. Our job as informed citizens is to fathom those complexities. And this study is a good place to start. Here follow some highlights of the study.

The United States has seen a 25-year decline in its murder rate. Scholars have advanced a variety of theories to explain it — the legalization of abortion, the birth dearth and declining percentage of young males in the population, increased imprisonment rates, changes in police strategies, better emergency medicine, a decline in teen births, and the removal of lead from gasoline. The main flaw in these theories, suggest Evans et al is that they fail to explain the differing experiences of demographic sub-groups: “Young black males in the United States have failed to enjoy a long-run decline similar to other demographic groups, including older black males.”

Between 1968 and 1984 older and younger black males had remarkably similar murder rates. The rates diverged sharply after 1984. The murder rate for young black males roughly doubled by 1993, peaking at 164 murders per 100,000 population. While their murder rate fell to half the peak six years later, it declined only slightly thereafter. As a result, in 2015 the murder rate for young black males was 23 percent higher than the rate in 1984. By contrast, the murder rate of older black males fell by 54%.

The murder rate among whites likewise surged between 1984 and 1992 (though from a lower base and by a smaller percentage). Unlike the experience of young black males, the murder rate for young white males continued to decline throughout the 2000s.

Here is the authors’ explanation:

The daily experiences of young black males were fundamentally altered by the emergence of crack cocaine markets in the United States. … The diffusion of guns both as a part of, and in response to, these violent crack markets permanently changed the young black males’ rates of gun possession and their norms around carrying guns.

Large-scale cocaine traffic entered the United States in the early 1980s, driven by the Latin American drug cartels. Initially, the drug was expensive, making it unaffordable to lower-income populations. But the innovation of cooking cocaine with baking soda and water, allowing it to cool and harden so it could be broken into “rocks” that could be smoked, expanded the market. A single dosage could be sold profitably for as little as $2.50, which lower-income Americans could afford.

Unlike powder cocaine, which tended to be sold discretely in private locations between dealers and customers who had pre-existing business relationships, crack was sold frequently in small doses between dealers and customers had made no pre-existing contacts — in open-air markets. The nature of the crack market put a premium on certain geographic locations. Drug dealers began using violence to defend their turf from competitors.

As crack dealing spread from the original cocaine depots of Miami, New York and Los Angeles to smaller cities, violence spread with it. Crack arrived in Washington, D.C., in 1985 and in Hampton Roads in 1987, according to data in the article’s appendix. (Crack came to Richmond, situated on the crack highway of Interstate 95, about the same time.) Murder rates soared. Killings were so prevalent in Richmond that the city became notorious as a “murder capital” of the U.S. Everywhere it went, crack changed local attitudes toward guns. Write Evans et al:

The violence from crack markets was not limited solely to its participants. While organized crack markets were primarily run by young black males, the majority of black males avoided participation in these illicit activities. … Instead, their close proximity to friends and acquaintances involved in the drug trade exposed them to increased risk of violence, a fact that encouraged many to carry guns.

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The Free-Fall in Varina High School SOL Scores

Varina High School is a predominantly black (68%) high school in eastern Henrico County with a significant white minority (27%, mostly working class), and a smatter of Hispanics, biracial students, and others. As part of the Henrico County school district, Varina is one of the high schools subjected to a therapeutic disciplinary regime imposed by the Obama administration in order to reduce the number of students punished for disciplinary infractions on the grounds that the old methods disproportionately impacted African-Americans. I focus on this school because a source tells me that discipline, never great, is deteriorating — an assistant principal was assaulted by a student in the last school year —  teacher morale is terrible, and teacher turnover is high. The school appears to be a perfect example of what happens when social justice warriors impose “reforms” heedless of unintended consequences.

I have long maintained that the new, politically correct disciplinary regime, far from advancing racial justice, does grave damage to blacks. When teachers are unable to maintain order in classrooms, they cannot teach. Further, they get discouraged, and quit or transfer to other schools. Thus, predominantly black schools are staffed by less experienced teachers. I have predicted that as the new disciplinary regime took hold, academic achievement would suffer.

In the previous post, I noted that SOL test scores for blacks and Hispanics have deteriorated statewide in the past two years, which I tentatively suggested might reflect increased classroom disruption at schools in districts where the policies took hold. But I was reluctant to draw hard-and-fast conclusions on the basis of statewide data. We needed to drill down to a school-by-school level.

To get a sense of whether my hypothesis held up or not, I drilled down to Varina High School, which may or may not be typical of all high schools subject to the social-justice-warrior disciplinary regime. The results are startling. While average SOL pass rates have eroded statewide over the past two years, they have plummeted at Varina. As can be seen in the table atop this post, pass rates have deteriorated in subjects across the board.

As can be seen in the table below, the decline has been especially marked among blacks. To be sure, whites have suffered from the breakdown in discipline, displaying a greater cumulative deterioration in SOL pass rates than whites statewide. But the collapse in SOL pass rates among blacks has been disastrous.

Varina seems to be a perfect confirmation of the Bacon hypothesis. I don’t want to make too much of this one example. Conceivably, other factors could account for this skewed performance, although I can’t think of any off-hand. However, the results at Varina are so shocking that it would be reckless to refuse to consider the possibility that the same thing is happening elsewhere.

Someone — preferably VDOE — needs to conduct a systematic review that compares school districts and individual schools subjected to SJW disciplinary systems and those that have not been, paying special attention to high schools and junior high schools, where discipline is a more pressing issue than in elementary schools, as well as to schools dominated by economically disadvantaged and/or African-American students where the new rules likely have had the greatest impact on discipline and classroom disruption.

If you want examples of institutional racism, this is a good place to look — blacks as victims of social justice warriors’ half-baked theories and unintended consequences. Of course, being an SJW means never having to say you’re sorry. Ignore the wreckage, blame racism, and move on to the next cause.