Category Archives: Race and race relations

UVa Doubles Down on Its Obsession with Race

Flaming assholes. Torch-wielding white supremacists marching at UVa last year — a useful distraction from what really ails American society.

This news is almost a month old, but I hadn’t seen anyone else pick it up, so here goes… The University of Virginia will create 20 new research professorships in “Democracy and Equity” to examine “underlying causes” of the white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville last year.

Each of the 20 professorships will be funded by $1 million in donor commitments matched one-for-one by UVA’s Strategic Investment Fund. The Board of Visitors approved the group’s recommendation to set aside $20 million in matching funds to support faculty research and teaching around “related social, cultural and political issues.” Continue reading

Marijuana arrests and racism in Virginia (especially Arlington County)

Reefer madness.  The upcoming debate in the Virginia General Assembly over decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana may have racial overtones.  VCU Capital News Service studied the data for marijuana arrests in Virginia from 2010 through 2016.  African Americans were 3.2 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana crimes than whites.  At the same time separate research shows almost no difference in marijuana use between white and black Americans.  Across America it’s even worse.  Nationally, a black person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for a marijuana crime than a white person.

Location, location, location.  VCU Capital News Service breaks down the data by locality.  You can find the numbers here.  The only jurisdictions where the per capita arrest rate for whites is higher than blacks are those counties where the population is so low that a single arrest can make a statistical difference.  Highland County, for example, averaged 13 African American residents over the study’s time period and none of the 13 were arrested for marijuana crimes.  Two white people (out of about 2,200) were arrested for marijuana crimes in Highland County.  In all of Virginia’s populous localities the African American arrest rate was notably higher than the corresponding rate for white people.  In Hanover County for example, blacks were arrested at a frequency 6.3 times that of whites.

Libtopia.  Anybody who has ever been to Arlington County knows that safe spaces are mandated by the building codes, snowflakes can be seen in July and rainbow colored unicorns prance in the bike lanes.  It’s a progressive paradise.  So it probably comes as a surprise that African Americans were more than eight times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana crimes in Arlington from 2010 – 2016.  Arlington County’s Board has five Democrats, no Republicans and no independents.  The lone independent (John Vihstadt) was defeated in November.  How is it possible for the Lions of Libtopia to turn a blind eye to rampant racism occurring in their social justice warrior wonderland?

The Hook is dope.  If you do want to posses marijuana you ought to consider residing in the City of Charlottesville (25 total arrests per 100,000 residents) rather than the City of Emporia (1,595 total arrests per 100,000 residents).  You are 64 times more likely to get a reefer bust in Emporia than in Charlottesville.  Does anybody think that the people of Emporia use marijuana 64 times more often than the people in Charlottesville?  In fairness, I95 comprises about 1/2 of the border of Emporia so many of the arrests may be people using that highway.  However, Falls Church (51) vs Fairfax City (589) makes one wonder.

Unfair at any speed.  As the General Assembly considers decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana it should also consider the fairness of the present system.  Vast differences are observable in the enforcement of marijuana laws across race and location.  In locality after locality you are more likely to be arrested for marijuana if you are black vs white.  The City of Charlottesville (pop 45k) made 11 marijuana related arrests from 2010 through 2016, fewer than 2 per year.  The City of Danville (pop 43k) made 354 arrests over the same period, over 50 per year.

— Don Rippert

Environmental Racism and Conservation Easements

Farmland real estate values of conservation easements granted to African-American landowners between 2011 and 2015, as tracked by the Black Family Land Trust.

I have to give Governor Ralph Northam credit: It took a lot of guts to remove two members from the State Air Pollution Control Board knowing full well that it would open himself to charges of indifference to environmental racism.

Earlier this week, Northam informed Rebecca Rubin and Samuel Bleicher that they would be removed from the seven-member board, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Environmental groups immediately connected the decision with concerns they had expressed about “environmental justice” in the Union Hill community of Buckingham County, where a predominantly African-American community would be exposed to low levels of pollution from an Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor station. Northam has denied that his decision to replace the two air board members is tied to an upcoming vote on the compressor, but that hasn’t stopped some foes from doubling down on the race card as a way to halt construction of the compressor station and pipeline.

“Governor Northam has now officially taken ownership of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and ownership of this compressor station, a facility which involves strong elements of environmental racism,” said Harrison Wallace, Virginia director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network & CCAN Action Fund.

Apparently, Northam isn’t buying that argument, although it’s hard to know what he thinks because he has not spoken publicly about the environmental-racism issue. The issue can be boiled down to this: About 80% of Union Hill residents are African-American. While Dominion says that the compressor station will have state-of-the-art pollution controls meeting the strictest standards in the state, foes say residents will be exposed to elevated levels of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide, putting their health at risk. You can read a detailed explanation of the allegations in a Southern Environmental Law Center letter to Michael Dowd with Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality.

For purposes of argument, let’s grant the proposition that the compressor station would pose a small but measurable health risk. (I don’t know that to be the case, but I want to set that issue aside to get to the meat of my argument.) In a 600-mile pipeline with three compressor stations routed through demographically mixed counties, it is inevitable that the pipeline will encounter minority communities. The standard under federal law is whether African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by the pipeline route. By focusing on the impact on Union Hill to the exclusion of many white communities along the route, pipeline foes have created a new standard: Does the pipeline route impact any African-American community? And if it does, some critics assert, it constitutes environmental racism.

I’ve made that point in past blog posts, but now I want to expand on it. The irony here is that one can make an argument that the system promotes social inequity — but not in the way pipeline foes suggest. If you’re looking for disproportionate impact, look at the racial distribution of conservation easements that protect landowners from pipelines, highways, transmission lines and other infrastructure projects from intruding on their land. It doesn’t take a planning Ph.D. to predict that conservation easements as well as the tax benefits and land protections they confer are rewarded overwhelmingly to white landowners — especially wealthy white landowners.

The tax benefits are substantial: federal income tax deductions, a state tax credit equal to 40% of the value of the easement, estate tax reductions, and property tax deductions. So generous are the tax deductions that the state has capped the value of tax credits that the Department of Conservation can grant in any one year at $75 million. Easements are in especially great demand by gentleman farmers — owners of horse farms, vineyards and the like — who have spectacular vistas to protect. Small farmers set amidst mundane corn fields and timberland have far less incentive to pursue obtaining the easements.

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation, which holds the conservation easements, does not track the race of landowners granted easements. But the Black Family Land Trust (BFLT), which works to conserve black-owned farmland in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, does have data which, though not comprehensive, gives a sense of the number and value of easements granted to black landowners.

The BFLT website displays data of easements granted between 2011 and 2015 in 28 designated Strike Force counties, 12 of which are in Virginia. Clearly, that does not represent a complete inventory of all the conservation easements in Virginia granted to black landowners. But the targeting of key counties likely does account for a significant percentage.

The four-year total for black landowners in Virginia’s eight targeted counties amounts to $3,o45,000. That works out to an average of $750,000 per year. That’s 1% of the total land value of conservation easements allowed by Virginia law. If we assume that the BFLT captured only half the easements granted black landowners in those years, we can guesstimate that black landowners were granted 2% of the total value of conservation easements and reaped 2% of the tax benefits. African-Americans comprise roughly 20% of Virginia’s population — a disproportionate impact if I’ve ever seen one.

(I could find no figures detailing the percentage of rural landowners, or even farmers, who were black. Nationally, black farmers tend to own smaller farms than the national average. I don’t know if Virginia is in line with national averages or not.)

When plotting their pipeline routes, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline made great efforts to avoid crossing conservation easements (although in a handful of instances it did not manage to do so). If you’re looking for institutionalized white privilege, there you have it. But the privilege is not that of the pipelines, it’s that of the white landowners. Curiously, pipeline foes and their allies in the environmental movement have ignored this gaping disparity. Why would that be? Perhaps because they are among the primary beneficiaries of the system.

Cynics might conclude that the hoo-ha about social justice at Union Hill is purely tactical, not borne of a principled concern for African-American communities. If Virginia’s social justice warriors were truly committed to fighting environmental racism, one might argue, they would target a system of conservation easements that protects wealthy white landowners far more than it protects poor black landowners. But I won’t make that argument.

Here’s the argument I will make: I don’t think the racial disparity in the dispensing of conservation easements constitutes discrimination against African-Americans. And I don’t think that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s selection of a compressor site in Union Hill constitutes discrimination. The Union Hill community comprises only one of many groups affected by the pipeline. I do think the racial justice angle on Union Hill is ginned up by mostly white pipeline foes desperately seeking any weapon they can to defeat the pipeline project — even if it means aggravating already-tender race relations. And I’m betting that Governor Northam is canny enough to see through the ploy.

Update: The Virginia Outdoor Foundation has responded that my view of landowners who take out conservation easements is out of date. Before 2000, a majority of easements were taken out by wealthy landowners who didn’t earn their income from farming/forestry. Today, a majority of landowners getting easements are working farmers. Read the full comment here.

Decriminalizing Metro Fare Jumping

Wow. Just as a white knight in the form of Amazon, Inc., rides in to help salvage the floundering Washington Metro mass transit system, Washington, D.C., City Council pulls a bone-headed move that could undo everything.

Amazon HQ2 will plop down a massive activity center near the Crystal City and Potomac Yard Metro stations, catalyze the development of walkable urbanism in the neighborhood, and throw in money to add new entrances to each station. Amazon anticipates that half of its expected 2,500 employees will ride the Metro, and it is logical to think that employees of the companies that grow up around Amazon will do so, too, eventually adding thousands of new riders to the system. What a life saver!

But in an 11 to 2 vote Tuesday, Washington City Council voted to decriminalize Metro fare evasion on the grounds that the use of criminal sanctions to collect fares… what else… disproportionately impacts African-Americans.

Data show fare evasion arrests, citations and warnings have risen dramatically — from 4,000 in 2013 to 15,000 in 2017, reports the Washington Post. Council member Charles Allen contends that police disproportionately target African Americans, citing the fact that 91 percent of Metro Transit Police citations and summons for fare evasion from January 2016 to February 2018 were issued to African-Americans. Metro estimates that it loses $25 million annually to fare evasion.

The Washington Post article mentioned no evidence presented by anyone, other than the raw statistics, to suggest that police were unfairly singling out African-Americans for enforcement.

City Councilman Jack Evans, who happens to be Metro Board Chairman, cast one of the two dissenting votes. He stated the obvious: “By decriminalizing fare evasion we are only encouraging people to not pay their fare. Because there is absolutely no mechanism to collect from a civil infraction. … You cannot steal from Metro. You can’t steal period. And if we get to a point where we say it’s okay to steal, I’m not sure where we are at this point in time.”

If curtailing sanctions leads to a surge in fare skipping and a decline in revenue, Metro will have to make up the balance from someone. And we all know who that will be — the taxpayers. Not just Washington taxpayers but Virginia and Maryland taxpayers, who subsidize Metro operations. Perhaps Governor Ralph Northam should issue a declaration to the D.C. City Council: Do what you want, but if the Metro suffers a decline in ridership revenue, you can make up the difference. Don’t come to us!

(Hat tip: Rob Whitfield)

Why Aren’t Asian Kids the Benchmark for School Achievement?

Tiger mom Amy Chua and her children.

I was doing my wonky thing, reading a presentation by an outfit called Strategy Labs to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the future competitiveness of Virginia higher education. And I came across a slide (page 10 in the PDF) that emphasizes the different levels of attainment between ethnic groups. States the slide: “Virginia’s Black, Hispanic, and Native American populations’ attainment are on average ~20 points behind White majority population attainment.”

That annoyed me. No mention of Asians, who account for about 8% of Virginia’s student population. Why is the attainment gap always shown to be between blacks, Hispanics and whites when, by the same measures, Asians are the highest-achieving group? Why isn’t the issue framed as gaps between blacks, Hispanics, Indians, and whites on the one hand and Asians as the benchmark achievers on the other?

The answer is evident: Framing the issue as a gap between whites and “brown people” minorities buttresses the dominant narrative that the problem in K-12 education today is one of race — or, to be more precise, unequal treatment of the races — rather than personal and familial responsibility. To frame the issue using Asians as the benchmark would ask us to ask an entirely different set of questions.

Everyone knows that Asians comprise the highest-achieving racial/ethnic group. But if all you do is focus on the total SOL pass rate, you can’t grasp the full dimensions of Asian academic superiority. That comes through only if you look at the yawning gap between Asians and everyone else — especially in math — for “advanced” test scores.

(To see the pass rates for English writing, history, and science, click on the “Continue Reading” button below.)

If you don’t trust the SOLs, consider the SAT college-placement exams. As seen in the chart below, Asian students are equally dominant.


The table above is hard to read, so you’ll need to click on the image to view a legible version. Check out the “Total” mean scores for each group. Asians rule. No wonder Harvard has Asian quotas.

Asians in Virginia are a diverse group encompassing many nationalities, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Filipinos, and South Asians (both Hindu and Muslim). Some are sons and daughters of wealthy parents who sent them to U.S. universities to get a world-class education. Many arrived as penniless refugees, like the Vietnamese and Cambodians. Or, like many Koreans I have met in Richmond, they took humble occupations like grocers and seamstresses, made sacrifices for their children, and demanded the children make sacrifices in return to rise up the socioeconomic ladder.

What they all share is a familial culture that values intact family structures, academic achievement, self-discipline, and a propensity to defer gratification. More than any other group, Asians embody the traditional virtues that made this country great. As epitomized by the famous “tiger mom” Amy Chua (pictured above), Asian parents expect more and demand more of their children than other Americans do.

Perhaps we should be asking ourselves if there are social and cultural attributes that make Asian students more successful. If so, should other students embrace those attributes? Perhaps Virginia educators also should start benchmarking other racial/ethnic groups against Asians and asking how we can bring the other 92% of the population, including whites, up to their level?

Continue reading

Yes, Virginia High School Grads Did Out-Perform on their SATS

Table source: Virginia Department of Education

Here we go again. The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has released SAT college-readiness test scores for Virginia high school graduates. And just as Virginia’s young people clobbered their peers nationally in the ACT college-readiness test scores, so they did in the SATs.

As can be seen in the table above, Virginia scores for public school students were higher in every category for both reading & writing across the four main racial/ethnic categories.

“We now have two years of performance data from the revised SAT and Virginia students continue to outperform their nationwide peers by wide margins,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said in a press release. 

Of course, there’s more than meets the eye to these statistics. In a recent post (“More Test Score Sleight of Hand“) I showed how Virginia’s higher test scores in the ACT exams could be attributed largely to a lower percentage of students taking the exam than in other states. As I explained: “When participation is so discretionary, it is safe to assume that the Virginia test-takers are a highly self-selected group —  more serious about going to college, better prepared academically, and more likely to earn high ACT scores.”

I wondered. Are we seeing the same thing in the SATs?

This year 68% of all Virginia high school graduates took the SATs — significantly more than the 36% average for the nation. One would expect that differential to depress Virginia scores, making the higher average scores for Virginia students all the more impressive. So, perhaps VDOE was justified in crowing about the positive results.

But comparing Virginia to the national average is tricky. The national average reflects some wild extremes. The SAT participation rate varies from 2% in South Dakota to 100% in Delaware and Colorado. Only a modest number of states had participation rates in the middling range that Virginia did. Therefore, for the benefit of discerning Bacon’s Rebellion readers who want a deeper level of analysis, I have compared Virginia to other states with comparable participation rates. Further, because SAT scores vary by race/ethnic group and the preponderance of those groups vary by state, I also compare Virginia whites, Asians, African-Americans and Hispanics to their peers in other states.

(Literally, as I write these words, I do not know what the results will be. Drum roll, please…)

And the results are in!

With this methodology Virginia still comes out ahead of its peers with comparable participation rates. The performance gap isn’t as wide as depicted in the VDOE data comparing Virginia against national averages, but it’s still pretty convincing. Not only is the average score for all students higher than any of its peers (except Vermont, which I’ll discuss below), Virginia students of each racial/ethnic category almost uniformly out-perform their peers in other states.

(Hey, Amazon, see that? Virginia’s high school grads got higher SATs than the state of Washington’s!)

Bacon’s bottom line: I’ve never hesitated to chastise the VDOE for the way it puts a  happy face on its data. But in this case, the Department appears to have exaggerated Virginia’s superior performance only slightly by making comparisons to the nation as a whole rather than states with like participation rates. If you accept the validity of SAT test scores as a predictor of college academic performance, it is fair to say that Virginia high school graduates are, in fact, better prepared overall for college than their peers in other states.

(The only one of the peer states to outperform Virginia on average SAT scores for all students was Vermont. According to College Board date, Vermont scored 112o compared to 1117 for Virginia. Yet Virginia Asians outperformed Vermont Asians, as did whites and blacks, while only Vermont’s Hispanics, constituting a mere 3% of the test takers, outperformed Virginia’s. That doesn’t add up. I’ve double-checked the College Board numbers. No typos. I have no explanation for the anomaly.)

More Identity Aggrievement at UVa

UVa Hispanic students feel left out? Really? Photo credit: University of Virginia Multicultural Services website

It didn’t take long for the University of Virginia’s new president, Jim Ryan, to have his first encounter with the university’s identity politics. A few days before his inauguration Oct. 19, Hispanic students circulated an open letter calling for more Hispanic faculty, Spanish-translated documents, and tours in Spanish and Portuguese for applicants and their families.

As of Monday, reports the Cavalier Daily, the letter had been signed by more than 70 student organizations and 450 individuals. Stated the letter:

This year, the University of Virginia admitted its ‘most diverse’ class in history. This is a great stride toward improving diversity at UVA; however, UVA cannot celebrate this when many minoritized students at the University feel underserved, underrepresented, and isolated. In order to help change this, there must be sufficient infrastructure to support minority students after their admittance to the university.

“Historically, providing and advocating for these resources has fallen on student organizations, students, and members of the community. We deserve to experience UVA as students and not as free-labored assets,” the letter read.

Welcome to UVa, Mr. Ryan!

Signatories urged the administration to expand staff in Multicultural Student Services. The letter also noted that while Hispanic students comprise 6% of the student body, there are only 24 Hispanic faculty members — 2.8% — in the College (presumably of the Arts & Sciences) faculty. Outside of the language departments, there are only 10 Hispanic professors. (The letter referred to “Latinx” faculty. I’m not ready yet to swallow that politically correct nomenclature. And for the record, university-wide, there were 80 Hispanic faculty members in 2017.)

So, Hispanic students at UVa have joined the ranks of the perpetually aggrieved. While the letter signatories purport to speak for Hispanics at the university, it’s not clear how many they actually represent. The 450 signatories are only a fraction of the number of 1,069 Hispanic undergraduates (2017 figures) and 312 Hispanic graduate students at UVa. Moreover, I’m willing to wager that many signatories are members of other races/ethnicities.

Furthermore, the letter notes that the first Latino Greek organization, La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, has been “inactive” for the past two years. Isn’t this evidence that many Hispanic students were perfectly happy joining non-ethnic fraternities, had no trouble getting accepted into them, and saw no need for an ethnic safe haven?

I suspect that the tone of whiny aggrievement and entitlement in the letter reflects the views of only a fraction of UVa’s Hispanic students.

By my count, there are at least ten active student organizations devoted to Hispanics:

  • The Darden Latin American Student Association
  • The Latin American Law Organization at UVA
  • The Latinx Student Alliance
  • The Latino/Hispanic Peer Mentor Program
  • The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
  • The Hispanic American Network at Darden
  • Destina (a Hispanic Christian group)
  • DREAMERS on Grounds
  • Fuego (an Hispanic dance team)
  • The Latin Student Network at McIntire

That doesn’t include a number of other groups dedicated to “minorities” and “diversity.” If these groups don’t fulfill their social and emotional needs, Hispanic students are free to form groups that do. Given the Student Council’s solicitude toward identity politics, they should have no trouble getting funding.

The freedom to form their own groups is not something the letter writers seem to appreciate. They want the administration’s validation and action. But I have to ask: How many Hispanic students at UVa genuinely feel “underserved, underrepresented, and isolated?” Is the feeling of isolation a real thing, or is it a political affectation of the Left? Do conservative, Republican, and non-political Hispanics — I’m sure there must be a few — feel left out?

How do letter writers think that expanding the staff of Multicultural Student Services will help? If the existence of 10 student groups doesn’t do the trick, what will adding a couple of multicultural staff members accomplish that students couldn’t do just as well by showing some initiative and launching their own groups?

What kind of world do these students imagine awaits them when they graduate? Do they expect their employers to bend over backwards to cater to their politically progressive Hispanic identity? Will they wilt like delicate flowers if they don’t have a multicultural bureaucracy to support them? Will they flounder if their bosses don’t “look like them”? Will they feel any responsibility to adapt to the corporate culture of their employers, or will they insist that their employers and fellow employees adapt to them?

Just as important, what kind of message will Jim Ryan and the UVa administration send their Hispanic students? Will they create a protective bubble to guard the tender sensitivities of the letter writers, or will they encourage them to grow up and learn to deal with the real world as, I’ll wager, most Hispanic students feel perfectly capable of doing?

Virginia’s Not-So-Crazy Rich Asians

Graph credit: StatChat

Once the victims of discrimination, Asians now are prospering in the United States. The median income in 2017 for Asians in the United States was $83,500. That compared to a national average of $60,300 — a 38% differential.

In Virginia, Asians’ incomes, and the income gap with other Americans, was even greater: $101,500 compared to $71,500, a 42% differential. Indeed, Virginia is the state with the second highest average median household income for Asians, second only to New Jersey.

Why do Asians out-perform other racial and ethnic groups? One reason is that they cluster in urban areas, where wage levels are higher. You don’t see many Asian farmers or mill workers in the United States. (When I lived in Martinsville nearly 40 years ago, I knew a Korean textile mill foreman, a former bodyguard of a South Korean dictator, who had been exiled for some reason that I can no longer remember. But his family was the only Korean household in town.)

Another reason, according to the StatChat blog, published by the Demographics Research Group at the University of Virginia, is that Asians are represented disproportionately in high-paying STEM-H occupations such as health care; architecture & engineering; life, physical and social science; and computer & mathematical.

Virginia’s Asians are a highly diverse group encompassing Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Indians and Pakistanis, so we have to be careful with generalization. One thing all of these groups share, however, is strong, intact families that uphold the institution of marriage and insulate children from the corrosive temptations of popular culture. Generally speaking, Asian kids work harder at school, they are more likely to succeed academically, they are more likely to attend and complete college, and they are more likely to choose academically challenging career paths that lead to higher-paying jobs. Oh, and when the IRS calculates income, Asians are more likely to belong to two-income households.

The emphasis on academic achievement can be seen in comparisons of Standards of Learning test scores.

Not only do Asian students out-perform all other ethnic groups, including whites, disadvantaged Asian students out-performed their disadvantaged peers in other ethnic groups. Remarkably, disadvantaged Asian students out-performed all blacks and Hispanics. Some of the disparity in academic achievement may be attributable to the fact that academic performance is correlated with income and that Asian students belong to higher-income households. But the achievements of disadvantaged Asian students demonstrates something else is going on.

That something, I would argue, is a familial culture that values intact family structures, academic achievement, self-discipline, and a propensity to defer gratification. Singapore Asians may be “crazy,” to riff off the title of the popular movie, “Crazy Rich Asians,” but American Asians are anything but. More than any other group, Asians embody the virtues that made this country great. That’s why they have engendered so little ethnic animosity in contemporary society, and almost all Americans are happy to see them succeed.

White Savior Complex — or Cynical Ploy?

ACP route through Virginia. Map credit: News & Advance.

I understand the motivations of landowners  opposing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. If I lived along the pipeline route, I’d be worried about the impact of construction on my drinking water, and I’d be upset that forest-clearing disrupted my pristine views. I appreciate their arguments that, with the rapid advance of solar power, wind power, and battery storage, maybe Virginia doesn’t need another gas pipeline. Reasonable people can disagree. What’s not reasonable is turning the ACP into a racial issue.

In their desperation to thwart pipeline construction, ACP foes have attacked the project on the grounds of “environmental justice.” ACP plans call for building a compressor station in the African-American community of Union Hill in Buckingham County. Raising the specter of noise and air pollution, the pipeline’s enemies have decried the “environmental racism” involved in the ACP’s siting decision. Governor Ralph Northam’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice recommended that Northam suspend the issuance of permits to ensure that “predominantly poor, indigenous, brown and/or black communities do not bear an unequal burden of environmental pollutants and life-altering disruptions.”

DEQ issued Friday the final permits needed for construction of the 600-mile pipeline project to begin in Virginia, so the issue may be moot. But resentments stirred up by the charges may well linger. And the racism card, once played, likely will be played again in other contexts. Leftist militants have demonstrated that they are willing to use any tool — including the inflaming of racial grievances — to advance their goals.

It is worth asking to what degree the mostly white environmental activists actually speak for the racial minorities whose interests they purport to represent. Derrick Hollie, an African-American writing in the conservative Daily Signal, didn’t see many other African-Americans attending a recent anti-pipeline rally.

It was exclusively white activists with their matching T-shirts and picket signs who were speaking out against the proposed compressor station at a recent hearing, claiming it to be “environmental racism.”

Sometimes, it’s helpful for those with social power to stand up and speak for the disadvantaged—such as when Kim Kardashian used her clout to help free a grandmother with a life prison sentence for a minor drug conviction.

Instead, what I saw in Buckingham County reeked of a so-called “white savior complex.” At one point, I was verbally attacked by a white woman and told that I “should pray for forgiveness.”

As Hollie observes, African-Americans have ample reason to support the pipeline. Many are susceptible to falling into “energy poverty,” which occurs when energy prices rise, as they presumably would with natural gas shortages. Minorities also stand to benefit from access to the construction and pipeline maintenance jobs. And, Hollie could have added, if rural communities along the route succeed in recruiting new industry thanks to more abundant gas supplies, African-Americans have a shot at getting better-paying factory jobs. Pipeline foes have counters to each of those arguments, but that’s not the point. How can it be “environmental racism” if African-Americans are themselves divided on the merits of the project?

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is required to look at environmental justice in its pipeline permitting process. The commission found that minorities along the 600-mile route are not disproportionately impacted. To be sure, when a pipeline passes through three states and 28 cities and counties with mixed racial populations, some minority communities will be impacted. In Virginia, however, the only significant instance appears to be Union Hill. The only way to avoid impacting any minority communities would be to restrict the path to white communities exclusively — thus institutionalizing racism in reverse.

The charge of environmental racism — that ACP deliberately didn’t merely impact African- Americans disproportionately but targeted them — is even more impossible to maintain. The ACP is a linear project that starts in Harrison County, W.Va., ends in Robeson County, N.C., connects with local gas-distribution systems at various points in between, and threads the needle through mountainous terrain, national forests, wildlife preserves, historical resources, cultural resources, and conservation districts — all the while traversing the shortest possible distance. ACP picked the Buckingham County site for its compressor station because it was near the intersection with the Transco Pipeline — not because it was the locale of an African-American community. Due to the reality of highly constricted options in mountainous terrain, ACP also is running the pipeline near the resort community of Wintergreen. Does anyone think ACP was targeting rich white people?

Why not re-route around Union Hill? Because adding another 30 miles or so of pipeline would… impact more people. The idea is to impact fewer property owners, not more. Instead, ACP created a community advisory group to develop a plan to reduce the noise and visual impact on Union Hill. The pipeline company will add sound and visual buffers around the compressor station, and it has agreed to air pollution controls that are tighter than for any other compressor station in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The environmental issues associated with the pipeline are real. The economic issues are real. The racial issue is spurious. By raising it, pipeline foes bring discredit to themselves and the entire concept of “environmental racism.” Derrick Hollie may be generous in attributing the “white savior complex” to the white militants making a racial issue of the pipeline. That would imply their hearts are in the right place. To me, the gambit of white militants crying racism looks more like a cynical ploy by people willing to say and do anything.

The case for legalizing recreational marijuana use in Virginia

Caveat.  While I have no moral objection to the possession of marijuana I do not espouse breaking the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  I believe the marijuana laws in Virginia should be changed but, until they are changed, I encourage everybody to obey the laws as they are presently written.

Strive for five.  I believe the five key reasons for legalizing recreational marijuana use in Virginia for adults are liberty, the failure of the current approach, costs of enforcement – both financially and in terms of racial bias, the economic benefits to the state and the inevitability of legalization.  Each will be discussed in turn.

Democracy, liberty and freedom.  The first and most important reason to legalize recreational marijuana use in Virginia is philosophical.  Our political leaders in Richmond speak in hushed, reverential voices about “Mister Jefferson”.  They then turn around and ignore the fact that a significant majority of Virginians favor legalizing marijuana.  Somehow, our political leaders seem to think that banning a plant against the wishes of a majority of the electorate is commensurate with Thomas Jefferson’s ideals of democracy, liberty and freedom.  Perhaps our General Assembly should start referring to Thomas Jefferson as “ole what’s his name” until they can demonstrate some willingness to adhere to Jefferson’s actual views on liberty, etc.

Pot prohibition has failed.  Federal, state and local efforts to make and keep marijuana use illegal have not curtailed its use.  Our government has been busily trying to ban marijuana since 1937 and raised the stakes considerably with the Controlled Substances Act (which became effective in 1971).   Nearly 50 years after the federal government made marijuana a Schedule 1 “narcotic” its use continues to rise.

Enforcement and racial bias.  The enforcement costs needed to continue the ineffective prohibition of pot are very high.  In Virginia authorities have made 133,000 arrests for marijuana possession over the past 10 years.  10,000 Virginians are convicted of a first time marijuana possession offense every year. In fact, marijuana arrests in Virginia increased over the past year.  Worse yet, the arrests are heavily weighted against African-Americans.  VCU studied the data in 2015.  As NORML calls out, “That study concluded that blacks account for nearly half of all marijuana possession arrests, but comprise only 20 percent of the state population.”  Some parts of Virginia are far worse than that.  “In some counties and towns, such as in Hanover County and in Arlington, Virginia, the black arrest rate was six to eight times that of whites.”  These arrest ratios completely diverge from studies showing that marijuana use is roughly the same between backs and whites.

Economics.  The Kansas City Federal Reserve studied the economic impact of marijuana legalization on the state of Colorado … “In 2017, the state of Colorado collected more than $247 million from the marijuana industry, including state sales taxes on recreational and medical, special sales taxes on recreational, excise taxes on recreational and application and licenses fees.”  Given that Virginia’s population is 42% bigger than Colorado’s a straight line interpolation would suggest $353m in annual taxes in Virginia.  That total does not count the savings from reduced law enforcement nor does it include the potential profit generated for the state if the legal marijuana were sold through Virginia ABC stores.

Inevitability.  Nine states and DC have legalized marijuana.  Michigan and North Dakota will vote on adult use marijuana legalization this November.  This week the entire country of Canada legalized the recreational use of marijuana.  Once again Virginia is being surrounded by progress and once again Virginia is standing slack jawed and rheumy eyed as a philosophical island of obstinate resistance to inevitable change.

– Don Rippert.

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.