Category Archives: Race and race relations

Mugged by Reality: Sedgwick Gardens Edition

Lawrence Hilliard moved to Sedgwick Gardens to escape the ghetto. Then the ghetto came to him. Photo credit: Washington Post

A conservative, as the saying goes, is a liberal who has been mugged by reality. Well, it appears that a large number of liberals in the affluent Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C., have been mugged by reality. Whether they become conservatives remains to be seen.

In a social experiment that could have implications here in Virginia where the idea of mixed-income housing is all the rage, the D.C. Housing Authority increased in 2016 the maximum value of vouchers to 175% of fair market rent as set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. That meant, according to the Washington Post, that vouchers could be used for one-bedroom apartments renting at up to $2,648 per month.

At Sedgwick Gardens, a historic Art Deco apartment complex overlooking Rock Creek Park, one-bedroom apartments rented for about $2,200 per month in 2017. The apartment complex, located in D.C.’s predominantly white Cleveland Park neighborhood, is, as the WaPo puts it, “a bastion of urbane liberalism where only one in 20 voters cast a ballot for President Trump in the 2016 election.” The reaction of many Sedgwick Gardens inhabitants to the influx of tenants directly off the streets, however, was less than warm, tolerant and embracing. Continue reading

A Street Sign by Any Other Name Is Still Just a Street Sign

The Arlington County board is expected to ask the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) to rename the section of the Jefferson Davis Highway, Rt. 1, that runs through the county.

What took it so long?

I defend the preservation of Civil War statues, especially those along Richmond’s Monument Ave. The statues are magnificent works of public art that are integrated into the urban design of the community. No one erects statues of this quality any more — just compare the craftsmanship of the Lee, Jackson and Stuart effigies compared to the modest and forgettable memorials that pop up today. Remove the statues, and you create gaping holes in the streetscape. But a street name is just a street name. Continue reading

Virginia’s Decline in Crime

Source: Demographics Research Group, StatChat blog

One of the advantages of living in Virginia is that citizens are less likely than other Americans on average to become crime victims. The rate of violent crimes (seen above ) is about half the national average, according to data published today on the StatChat blog based on 2017 FBI crime data. The rate for property crimes is only three-quarters of the national average. That’s pretty impressive considering that Virginia’s demographics come pretty close to matching the national profile. The Old Dominion is doing something right.

Not that you’d know it by reading Charlottesville’s Daily Progress today. Continue reading

17th-Century Renderings of Native Virginians

Wenceslaus Hollar, a prolific maker of etchings in the 1600s, has an exhibit dedicated to his works now on display at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Born in Bohemia, he spent most of his adult life in Germany, Netherlands and England, where he cranked out a prodigious number of works, sometimes of his own contrivance, sometimes copying the paintings of others as etchings. Two renderings, I thought, were worthy of note for Bacon’s Rebellion, for they depicted the indigenous inhabitants of “Virginia” — a term used somewhat more loosely than it is today — before they were displaced by the Europeans. One etching is of the muscular gent above. And the other… Continue reading

Brace Yourself for the “Food Justice” Movement

Richmond Food Justice Corridor “planting party”

“Food justice” is a thing now.

My first instinct when I read the phrase was cynical: While some people are busy running food banks and food pantries, growing urban gardens, and setting up grocery stores in Richmond’s inner city — you know, doing things that actually feed poor people — food justice warriors are busy advocating economic and political change.

As I looked into it, I decided my gut reaction wasn’t entirely fair — partly fair, but not entirely. The Richmond Food Justice Alliance, for example, has sponsored urban-gardening events and nutritional workshops. And some of the values it promotes — inner city citizens eating better, becoming food producers as well as food consumers, in sum becoming more self-sufficient — are actually quite admirable. The movement does appear to be pushing for some positive cultural changes in the inner-city black community.

Still, steeped in the rhetoric of the Oppression Narrative, food justice warriors seem hostile to the efforts of well-intentioned outsiders. There are signs that a rift has developed between African-American community militants and white liberals in the nonprofit sector who espouse similar goals. That doesn’t help anyone. Continue reading

Follow-up: Charlottesville Race Threats a Really Bad “Joke”

A week ago I predicted that an online threat of racial violence that resulted in the shutdown of Charlottesville public schools would prove to be a hoax, possibly perpetrated by an activist trying to bring attention to racial injustice. Well, the incident did turn out to be a hoax, although I was wrong about the motive. The perpetrator, a 17-year-old white male, either (a) was making an immature “joke” (if you believe him) or (b) was seeking attention (if you believe local prosecutors). The key point is that the kid was not a white supremacist and the threat was not serious.

The “joke,” if truly meant as one, was truly unfunny. Posting anonymously online, the teenager threatened an ethnic cleansing and a school shooting, telling white students at Charlottesville High School to stay home, reports the Daily Progress. However, prosecutors said there was no evidence the teenager intended to carry out the threat. Police found no weapons at his house and found no evidence that he associated with white supremacist groups.

The “joke” was wildly irresponsible, all the more so when committed in a community where, a year and a half after a violent white supremacist rally, racial tensions remain frayed. The kid should be chastised and receive an appropriate punishment, and then everyone should chill out. Minorities are not under threat. White supremacists are not running amok in Charlottesville. Continue reading

Hit-and-Run Journalism and the Oppression Narrative

Interim Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene.

Two days ago, I took the Washington Post and New York Times to task for uncritically publicizing the allegations of recently resigned Portsmouth Police Chief Tonya Chapman that the police department was riddled with racism. Both newspapers rushed to publication without any dissenting view or even a note of caution.

Portsmouth City Council has appointed an interim replacement, Assistant Chief Angela Greene. In her first public statements yesterday, Greene, who like Chapman is a female African-American, said she did not see a problem with racism in the department. Said she, according to WTKR TV:

I can’t tell you what [Chapman] felt, what she might have gone through. My experience here in almost three years, I do not see that. I do not see that as a perception. I do not see that as a problem here.

Continue reading

Bacon Bits: Economic Research Edition

I periodically check the research papers coming out of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) because they often address issues of interest to Bacon’s Rebellion. The research is far more rigorous from a methodological perspective than the work product of special-interest and advocacy groups, hence more worthy of serious consideration — even when it leads to public-policy implications I don’t like! Here are some quick hits from recent studies:

“The Effects of Rent Control Expansion on Tenants, Landords, and Inequality: Evidence from San Francisco”
“We find rent control increased renters’ probabilities of staying at their addresses by nearly 20%. Landlords treated by rent control reduced rental housing supply by 15%, causing a 5.1% city-wide rent increase.”

Implications: Rent control benefits existing renters but punishes newcomers entering the rental marketplace. Can you say “increasing homelessness?” As zoning codes and other restrictive policies aggravate the supply/demand imbalance here in Virginia, will our politicians avoid the temptation to impose rent controls? Continue reading

The Media’s Oppression Narrative: Portsmouth Edition

Portsmouth City Manager L. Pettis Patton (left) and former police chief Tonya Chapman.

Thanks to the release of the Mueller report, we now know that the national media utterly disgraced itself over two years by pushing an unfounded conspiracy theory about President Trump’s collusion with Russians. Now maybe it’s time to focus on the media’s role in perpetuating the narrative of endemic racism. The latest example: coverage by the Washington Post and the New York Times over the forced resignation of Tonya Chapman, the city of Portsmouth’s black police chief.

Both newspapers gave extensive and uncritical coverage of a statement Chapman issued yesterday attributing her ouster to resistance to her attempts to overhaul a department riven by racial tension. Before arriving in Portsmouth in 2016, she said, she had “never witnessed the degree of systemic bias and acts of systemic racism, discriminatory practices and abuse of authority in all of my almost 30 year career in law enforcement and public safety.” Some officers, she said, “quite frankly did not like taking direction from an African American female.” 

I  have no idea of what the reality of the situation was in Portsmouth. Perhaps Chapman fell victim to racist white police officers who resented the leadership of a black woman. Perhaps she was railroaded by City Council. Or, conversely, perhaps she is one of those people who interpret every encounter through the prism of race and gender. Perhaps she stirred up resentment by maligning those who opposed her actions as racists and sexists. Either explanation is theoretically possible.

The issue I am raising here is not the reality of what happened, but how the Post and Times approached an issue of extraordinary delicacy and sensitivity. Continue reading

Update on Charlottesville Race Threats

Last week, I urged people not to jump to conclusions regarding the threats of racial violence that resulted in the closure of Charlottesville public schools. Many such threats turned out to be hoaxes, perpetrated by activists seeking to raise consciousness of racism and bigotry. Let the police investigation play out, I suggested.

Well, it didn’t take long to find the perpetrator, although the motive still remains a mystery to the public. Charlottesville police have arrested a 17-year-old Albemarle County male who identifies as Portuguese.  Such an identity does not fit the stereotyped profile of either a white supremacist or a progressive activist. A second teenager was arrested over an online threat that referenced Albemarle High School. Continue reading

Fear and Loathing in the People’s Republic

Charlottesville students protested gun violence in a walkout last year. Photo credit: Daily Progress

The City of Charlottesville is closing all of its public schools today after alleged threats of racial violence surfaced online. Authorities did not say what the threats were, but the Washington Post reported images circulating on social media sites referring to a post on 4chan, an anonymous online messaging board, that “included a racist meme, used slurs for blacks and Latinos, and threatened to attack students of color at Charlottesville High.”

I’ll lay five-to-one odds that the threats are a hoax. The incident has many of the earmarks of racial hoaxes described in the book, “Hate Crime Hoax,” by Wilfred Reilly, an African-American professor at Kentucky State University.

One tip-off is that hate crimes reported on college campuses are almost always hoaxes. In this case, we’re talking about a college town, not a college campus. But we’re talking about an extremely “progressive” town where racial sensitivities remain acute a year and a half after the infamous United the Right rally. The white supremacists, almost none of whom were actually from Charlottesville, have long since dispersed, but memories remain vivid, citizens cultivate their sense of victimhood — a link from the Washington Post article reads, “A year later, Charlottesville remains a wounded city” — and students are radicalized politically. Continue reading

Fatherless Households and SOLs

Source: Cranky’s Blog

We know that the percentage of “economically disadvantaged” students in a school district is correlated significantly with Standards of Learning failure rates. But is poverty the driver behind low test scores, or is it just correlated with a third factor that is the real driver? Over on Cranky’s Blog, John Butcher ran an interesting analysis: He correlated English reading pass rates in a Virginia school district with the percentage of no-husband households in the jurisdiction. The results can be seen in the graph above. The percentage of no-husband households accounts for roughly 40% of the variability in SOL pass-rate performance.

John was addressing a different issue from the one I am interested in. He was making the argument that school districts should not be judged on raw SOL pass rates. Given the fact that SOL pass rates are strongly correlated with poverty, and even more strongly correlated with the percentage of fatherless children, schools should not be held accountable for their district’s demographics. They should be held accountable for under-performing on a demographically adjusted basis. (Even by that standard, he notes, the City of Richmond schools underperform “atrociously.”)

While I totally agree with the point Butcher is making — schools should be judged on their educational value added, not the demographics of their student bodies — my interest in this post is different. To what extent is the sociological background of Virginia’s students responsible for poor educational outcomes? Continue reading

Health Care and the Oppression Narrative

County health rankings. Source: Robert Woods Johnson Foundation

Correlation does not equal causality. That’s a fundamental tenet of statistics, but the concept apparently is so rarefied that a Virginia Mercury article based the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings appears to be unfamiliar with it. The result is a headline — “In Virginia, health outcomes follow geographic and racial lines” — that has become standard fare in the ongoing Oppression Narrative embraced by most of Virginia’s media outlets. By misdiagnosing the problem, the Oppression Narrative does a grave dis-service to Virginia’s poor and minorities.

Writes the Virginia Mercury today:

More than 20 percent of Virginia’s black, American Indian and Hispanic populations report poor or fair health, compared to 14 percent of the state’s white residents. …

Year over year, the rankings essentially tell the same story: Virginia’s healthy counties, many of which are nestled in the northern part of the state, remain healthy, while its unhealthy localities, clumped together in the south and southwest, continue to struggle with poor outcomes. …

Continue reading

Gentrification, Racism and the Democratic Electoral Coalition

Washington Post headline today: “D.C. has the highest ‘intensity’ of gentrification of any U.S. city, study says. More than 20,000 African American residents were displaced from low-income neighborhoods from 2000 to 2013, researchers say.”

Forbes magazine, circa June 2018: “Washington DC is being sued for gentrification. The 82-page class action lawsuit, filed by Aristotle Theresa, brought grievances against the city for its alleged discriminatory policies favoring creatives and millennials at the expense of the city’s historically African American, low-income residents.”

Reminder: Washington, D.C., also is one of the most liberal and Democratic jurisdictions in the country. In the 2016 presidential election, 91% of the population voted for Hillary Clinton.

Question: How long can the electoral alliance between creatives/millennials and African-Americans persist?

Moral Measures, Skin in the Game, and K-12 Education

Four former state secretaries of education banded together to publish an op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch today in support of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s proposal to raise real estate and cigarette taxes to fund the Richmond public school system’s strategic plan. In the op-ed they made a statement that is core to liberal thought:

The moral measure of any community is its commitment to investing in opportunities for its neediest citizens. About 40 percent of children in the city of Richmond live below the poverty line, and nearly three-quarters are economically disadvantaged. All of Richmond’s children deserve the opportunity to reach their potential to be contributing members of society. When that happens, our entire community will benefit.

The answer, of course, is mo’ money. The answer is always mo’ money.

I may not speak for everyone with conservative or libertarian leanings, but I speak for many. We, too, want to create a society in which every Virginia child has access to a good education. We, too, want to see African-American children in Virginia’s inner cities escape the clutches of poverty. We, too, want everyone from every county, city and town in Virginia to become a productive and contributing member of society enjoying a decent standard of living.

We disagree on how to achieve those aims. Continue reading