Category Archives: Race and race relations

I Remember Stonewall

The day they drove old Dixie down. Removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue on Richmond’s Monument Ave. Photo credit: Associated Press

By Peter Galuszka

Confederate statues are finally coming down in Richmond and other Virginia cities, including one of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. There have been outcries by sentimental mythologists and apologists on this blog and elsewhere about how “mob rule” is forcing issues and so on.

Since some bloggers here have come up with their version of positive biographies about some of the figures, notably Matthew Fontaine Maury, an early oceanographer and Confederate Naval officer, I thought I’d weigh in on my own personal experience with Stonewall.

Jackson was born on Jan. 24 1824 in what was then Clarksburg, Va., and grew up about 20 miles south in Jackson’s Mill near Weston Va. Then in 1863, irritated about Richmond’s racial policies and economic favoritism, residents seceded and created West Virginia which supported the North in the Civil War.

By coincidence, I moved to the Clarksburg area in 1962 from the D.C. area when I was nine years old and resided there until 1969.

It wasn’t exactly the “Southern” experience others seem to recall. For one thing, the homeland of “Stonewall” did not have many slaves or African-Americans. The area of Harrison County, however, held fairly mixed views about slavery and allegiance. While Jackson, a West Point graduate went with the South, his sister was loyal to the North. (For more details about Jackson’s life, read James L. Robertson Jr.’s excellent 1997 biography.) Continue reading

Unbiased Research on Race Becoming Taboo

As an aside to Hans’ column…. Much of what we believe to be true about race relations and racism in the United States comes from the social sciences. The hard sciences and the social sciences alike suffer from a “replication crisis,” that is, independent researchers cannot replicate the findings of the original experiment. The ability to replicate findings is crucial for moving past headline-grabbing announcements to something resembling a scientific consensus. The problem is most acute in the “soft” sciences such as psychology. The more ideologically fraught a subject matter is — and what is more fraught than the issue of race in America? — the more suspect it should be. The replicability crisis is compounded by the ubiquitous media practice of cherry picking studies that fit preferred narratives and failing to warn readers of any caveats or reservations. Be wary of any media coverage of a study that neatly fits preconceived political narratives. — JAB

by Hans Bader

It is now dangerous for an academic to conduct or even discuss research that shows an absence of racial bias in the criminal justice system. An Asian-American college official was forced to resign his position after discussing such research, as The College Fix reports in the article, “Scholar forced to resign over study that found police shootings not biased against blacks.” As it notes:

Michigan State University leaders have successfully pressured Stephen Hsu to resign from his position as vice president of research…The main thrust to oust Hsu came because the professor touted Michigan State research that found police are not more likely to shoot African-Americans….

“I interviewed MSU Psychology professor Joe Cesario, who studies police shootings,” he wrote in an email to The College Fix… Cesario is the Michigan State psychology professor who co-authored the study published July 2019 that debunked the notion that police are more likely to shoot African-Americans. Hsu wrote on his blog that the paper concluded “there is no widespread racial bias in police shooting.”

Cesario’s research had been cited in a widely shared Wall Street Journal op-ed headlined “The Myth of Systemic Police Racism” that was published June 3 amid racially charged protests against the death of George Floyd in police custody.

As Professor Hsu notes, “Cesario’s work (along with similar work by others, such as Roland Fryer at Harvard) is essential to understanding deadly force and how to improve policing.” Continue reading

Ocean Pathfinder Maury Swamped by Culture Wave

Lt. M.F. Maury in 1853

Today we get the attempted cancellation of Matthew Fontaine Maury, one of the world’s greatest oceanographers. Having had his memory preserved on Richmond’s Monument Avenue, and having served the Confederate States Navy, any scientific contributions he made before or after the war are hereby nullified, despite worldwide acclaim. The crane is at his statue as I write.

I was going to write my own summary, but the irony of finding a glowing account of his life on the PBS website was too rich.  For far more detail, there is this on Wikipedia, until they come for that, too.  The Wikipedia article does get into his views on slavery, and his idea to settle parts of the Amazon with American slaveholders and their property. His postwar views, if amended, are not mentioned.

UPDATE: A writer at Virginia Mercury adds this report Maury remained unreconstructed and unrepentant in the immediate aftermath. 

Here’s the PBS report on this man who clearly must be erased from memory:

A Naval officer and pioneer in the emerging field of oceanography, Matthew Fontaine Maury was nicknamed the “Pathfinder of the Seas.” Maury gave crucial support to Cyrus Field and the idea of a transatlantic cable by showing Field the route that a cable could take across the ocean.

Circling the Globe
Raised in Tennessee, Maury yearned to follow in his brother’s footsteps and join the Navy. In 1825, at the age of 19, he received a midshipman’s commission with the help of Sam Houston. Maury spent much of the next nine years at sea, participating in three extended voyages including the first circling of the globe by a U.S. Navy vessel. Dissatisfied with current naval books on navigation, Maury set about to improve them, and his A New Theoretical and Practical Treatise on Navigation was published in 1836.

Continue reading

A List of the Police Reform Proposals So Far

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

As we have discussed on this blog over the past few days, the Democrats in the General Assembly  have put together extensive and far-reaching packages on police reform. Steve Haner was considerate enough to provide a list of the Senate Democrats’ proposals, as well as a link to the package released by the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

Several of the proposals of the Black Caucus are what I have called broad, “aspirational” goals. They describe the ultimate goal, but do not provide the details on how to reach the goal. On the other hand, the Senate Democratic Caucus put forth more specific proposals

For your ease in following the action, I have consolidated them into a side-by-side comparison. (It can be found here.) I took the liberty of organizing them a little bit differently than the two organizations did and of providing some comments of my own on some of the proposals. Continue reading

The Big Lie of Unequal Funding

by James A. Bacon

The Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) has unanimously adopted a statement regarding its commitment to provide equal access to a high-quality public education.

“Systemic racism and discrimination still exist in public education, and too often, a student’s skin color or socioeconomic status predicts the quality of their educational opportunities,” says the statement. The VBOE goes on to attribute the educational achievement gap between whites and “people of color” to unequal funding.

The current system of funding for our schools, codified as the Standards of Quality, has not resulted in meaningful changes in educational outcomes. In fact, in combined effect with the previously long-standing Standards of Accreditation, segregation in our schools has increased. We have seen resources, in terms of funding and personnel, migrate to schools and localities that disproportionately served fewer students of color. The result has been a recognized achievement gap that continues to persist.

There is one big problem with this statement. There is no meaningful black-white funding gap in Virginia. The VBOE provides no statistics whatsoever to back up its statement. Repetition of a falsehood does not make it true. Here are the average annual per-pupil expenditures for school operations across the state broken down by race/ethnicity:

From a statewide perspective, there is a funding gap in Virginia, but it’s between Asians and Hispanics on the one hand and blacks and whites on the other. If the BOE had restricted its claim to the existence of a white/black funding gap, not a gap between whites and “people of color,” it would have been on firmer ground, although that gap is barely more than one-tenth of one percent. Good luck trying to explain the educational achievement gap (which is very real) on a one-tenth of one percent difference in spending. Continue reading

Senate Democrat Promises on Police Reform

By Steve Haner

What follows, without edits, is the full list of legislative proposals now endorsed by the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus. With 21 members, if they all show up and vote aye on all of these, they pass in the upcoming special session. Bills would then have to also pass the House of Delegates and be signed by the Governor. This follows up an earlier post by Dick Hall-Sizemore.

  1.  Bringing Equity to Virginia Policing
    ● Prohibit No Knock Warrants (Breonna Taylor)
    ● Ban Sex With Individuals Arrested by Law Enforcement
    ● Prohibit Hiring of Officers Fired or Resigned During Use of Force Investigations
    ● Create a Decertification Procedure for Law Enforcement Officers
    ● Ban chokeholds and strangleholds (George Floyd)
    ● Require Attempts at De-escalation Prior to Use of Force
    ● Require Warnings Before Shots Fired
    ● Require Law Enforcement to Exhaust All Other Means Prior to Shooting
    ● Create Duty to Intervene by Fellow Law Enforcement Officers
    ● Prohibit Shooting at Moving Motor Vehicles
    ● Require Departments to Create a Use of Force Continuum
    ● Require Comprehensive Reporting by All Law Enforcement Agencies Including Use of Force Data
    ● Defelonize Assault on Law Enforcement Officer (Return to Misdemeanor Offense)
    ● Cancel HB599 Funding (Virginia supplemental funding for local police departments) After Local Police Have Disproportionate Use of Force Incidents In their Jurisdiction
  2. Expand Local Authority to Respond to Mental Health and Regulate Law Enforcement
    ● Create Local Authority for a Marcus Alert System – System to Report Acute Mental Health Crises
    ● Create Local Option for Citizen Review Board Empowered to Investigate, Fire and/or Discipline Officers
  3. Restore Courts’ and Prosecutors’ Flexibility to Effect Mercy
    ● Confirm Prosecutors’ Authority to Drop Charges
    ● Enhance Courts’ Ability to Expunge Charges for Dismissed Charges, Substance Convictions and Pardoned Offenses
  4. Reduce Racial Profiling Opportunities for Law Enforcement
    ● Prohibit Searches of Person or Vehicle Based on Odor of Marijuana Without Probable Cause for Other Offenses
    ● Prohibit Stops for Equipment Violations Not Covered by State Vehicle Inspection
    ● Secondary Offense For Dangling Objects, Extinguished Tag Light, Tinted Windows or Loud Exhaust
  5. Restore Equity to the Sentencing Process
    ● Jury Sentencing Only at Option of the Accused
    ● Eliminate Commonwealth’s Right to Demand Jury Trial When Jury Trials Suspended for State of Emergency
    ● Require Agencies to Determine Cost Savings for Introduced Criminal Justice Legislation
  6. Restore Equity to the Virginia Prison System
    ● Allow Earned Sentence Credit for Good Behavior During Prison
    ● Create Discretion for Compassionate Release for Terminally Ill or Permanently Disabled Prisoners

Continue reading

“Equity” and the Performance of Virginia’s Black and White Students

by John Butcher

The estimable Jim Bacon suggests that the Northam administration’s emphasis on “equity” and “restorative-justice” is keeping disorderly students in the classroom to the detriment of the other students. As well, he posits that behavior problems are more common among black students so the effect should be larger in divisions with larger black populations.

VDOE has some data that might speak to those issues.

Elementary and middle school students mostly take the same tests at the same time. High school, not so much. So let’s look at the data for the elementary and middle school grades.

First, the disorder. The Safe Schools Information Resource goes back to 2015. For grades 3-8, the statewide counts there of individual offenders as a percentage of their ethnic population are:

Continue reading

“Bring That Sucker Down Without Anyone Getting Hurt”

Confederate statue in North Carolina

By Peter Galuszka

In a striking sign of the times, Popular Mechanics magazine has published a how-to article regarding removing statues on your own.

The article is titled: “How to Topple a Statue Using Science: Bring that sucker down without anyone getting hurt” by James Stout.

The force need to bring down a controversial statue is not all that great, Stout writes. Most statues are bronze, with an alloy of 90% copper and 10 percent tin with a maximum thickness of 3/16 of an inch. Most people statues weigh 3,500 pounds. One that includes a horse is maybe 7,000 pounds.

For a pure muscle job, you’d need about 70 people and several high-endurance recovery straps. One should be placed across the head. Once in place, you’ll need to break the statue from its base. This can be done by two teams on either side of the statue working a back and forth motion.

As for safety, this isn’t that big a deal as long as you have done the proper geometry.

If you don’t have many protestors, you can do the job using a high temperature approach with home-made thermite. Propane torches are also good. Continue reading

Another Use and Abuse of Statistics…

Sources: Fairfax County Police Department, U.S. Census Bureau

by James A. Bacon

The Fairfax County Police Department publishes a statistical report every year on the police use of force in the county. There were 594 use-of-force incidents reported in 2019, up from 510 the previous year. The publication provides data with minimal commentary.

This is the headline from the Reston Now article summarizing the report: “Fairfax County Police Disproportionately Use Force on Black Individuals.” The headline was backed up by this paragraph:

Black residents were involved in roughly 31 percent of use-of-force incidents, even though they make up a little over 8 percent of the total population. Roughly 48 percent of all use-of-force incidents involved whites, who make up 67 percent of the total population.

By placing the data in the context of the national uproar over the George Floyd killing and calls for police reform, as the story did, Reston Now feeds the standard media Oppression Narrative. But the story left a lot out, which seems to be the usual operating procedure. Cherry pick the facts that support the media narrative, and omit anything that might call it into question. Continue reading

The Systemic Racism of Monument Avenue

By Peter Galuszka

Richmond’s grand Monument Avenue, a double lane, tree lined thoroughfare, has been the epicenter of the Black Lives Matter campaign that has focused on the statues of several Confederate figures one the road, including Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Jefferson Davis.

All are up for removal, but the same foot-dragging that has for years protected the statues that some consider racist is at work today. Protestors have torn down Davis and have defaced the rest. On Sunday night, they nearly ripped down the Stuart statue as two city council members urged that it be removed on an emergency basis.

Lee’s statue has been ordered down by Gov. Ralph Northam, but the effort has been tied up in lawsuits by several property owners. One claims either that the original deed that gave the state the site for Lee included language that it could not be removed. Other plaintiffs, most anonymous,  claim that removing the statues would hurt their property values and their special tax status.

If anything smacks of white privilege and entitlement, this is it. But for more perspective, this article in The Atlantic neatly sums up the history behind the statues and the Avenue, noting that the issue has everything to do with rewriting Richmond’s history and making a marketing play to sell expensive and exclusive real estate decades after the Confederacy was suppressed. Continue reading

COVID Restrictions Slam Black Businesses the Hardest

Stephanie Hart, owner of Brown Sugar Bakery in Chicago. Restaurant Business describes her travails in “Recent Crises Add to Life-or-Death Struggles for Black-owned Restaurants.”

by James A. Bacon

If Governor Ralph Northam needs further justification for reversing his emergency shutdown measures, perhaps he should consider this recently published paper by Robert Fairlie with the University of California-Santa Cruz.

Analyzing the impact of COVID-19 social distancing restrictions on small business, Fairlie found that they disproportionately hit minority enterprises. The number of active business owners in the U.S. plummeted 22% between February to April 2020. “African-American businesses were hit especially hard experiencing a 41 percent drop. Latinx business owners fell by 32 percent, and Asian business owners dropped by 26 percent,” Fairlie writes. Immigrant and female businesses were similarly affected.

Using the logic of disparate impact, in which any adverse differential between whites and blacks is deemed to be evidence of discrimination or structural bias, the emergency decrees enacted by Northam and other activist governors can only be described as racist.

Northam may not have promulgated the decrees with racist intent, but motives really aren’t the issue. What matters are outcomes. Continue reading

Justin Fairfax Wants $30 Billion to Replace Old Schools

Justin Fairfax unveils profligate school spending plan at Chimborazo Elementary School in Richmond.

by James A. Bacon

And so the campaign for the Democratic nomination for Virginia governor gains momentum… with a bidding war for who can spend the most money. Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, one of five declared or likely Democratic candidates, has announced  plan to rebuild all public schools in Virginia that are more than 40 years old — an initiative that would cost the state $30 billion over ten years.

“Even as we rightly tear down bronze and stone monuments to the Confederacy and the racial oppression that is ingrained in that history, we also must tear down the ‘living monuments’ in our educational, economic, criminal justice, housing and health care systems that have carried that oppression from generation to generation to generation,” Fairfax said, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Traditionally, local governments in Virginia have assumed responsibility for financing the renovation and construction of schools. Some have lived up to that responsibility, and some have not. Henrico County, for example, imposed a new restaurant tax several years to fund new school construction. Fairfax’s plan for the Commonwealth to take over that obligation would reward localities that have failed to modernize their aging schools and punish those, like Henrico, that dug into taxpayer pockets to act proactively. Fairfax’s lesson to localities: shirk your responsibilities, drag your feet, and the state will bail you out. Continue reading

The Very Real Threat of “Boogaloo”

By Peter Galuszka

White protestors have smeared a statue of Arthur Ashe, the African-American tennis star who faced systemic racism when he was growing up in Richmond.

True, the Ashe memorial had earlier been defaced by “Black Lives Matter” messages spray painted on its base. On Wednesday, a small band of protestors painted over the “BLM” statements with “White Lives Matter” pronouncements.

One of the protestors, a white man who called himself “Everybody,” claimed he had grown up in Richmond and drove off in a sedan with South Carolina plates, according to the Richmond-Times-Dispatch.

What is disturbing is the prospect of violent conflict, perhaps involving fast-firing, assault-style rifles, between opposing camps.

Much has been made of the so-called threat posed by ANTIFA, said to be a radical left group that is prepared to use violence at protests, which have been largely peaceful in Virginia and across the country. Continue reading

Second Amendment is Not for Everyone

Persons charged with various offenses in Shenandoah County

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

For anyone who doubts that black people are harassed in everyday actions by other citizens and law enforcement, there is the recent incident in Shenandoah County to consider.

A black pastor was on the property of some apartments he owns when he saw a man and a woman, not his tenants, dragging a refrigerator toward the dumpster he maintains for the apartments. He stopped them and asked them to leave.

Shortly thereafter, three or four other men showed up. They began harassing him and using racial slurs. They told him that black lives don’t matter in Shenandoah County. They threatened to kill him.

The black man did what any good American would—he pulled out the gun for which he has a permit and then called 911.

The sheriff’s deputies showed up and did what was obviously needed to be done—they arrested the black man and charged him for brandishing a firearm. The gang at the black man’s property laughed and jeered as the deputies hauled the black man away to jail.

The story has a better ending this time. The sheriff has publicly apologized and asked that the criminal charge against the black man be dropped. The thugs who were threatening the man have been arrested and charged with abduction and other offenses, including hate crimes, and are being held in jail without bond. But the black people of Shenandoah County now have a graphic illustration of what some of their neighbors and law enforcement think of them.

Look, Over There, a Squirrel!

The new, politically correct UVa logo. How long before someone decides this, too, is insensitive? The term “cavalier” refers to English aristocrats and monarchists of the 1600s. Didn’t they support slavery? Wasn’t Governor Berkeley, the man who suppressed the uprising of poor whites and freed slaves known as Bacon’s Rebellion, a cavalier? Isn’t it time to jettison this anachronistic, militarist and offensive logo?

by James A. Bacon

Ever alert to signs of racism so subtle that most people can’t see them, the University of Virginia has altered its new V-Sabre logo to remove curves that had been added to the sword  handles. At the unveiling of the original logo, the university had noted that “detail was added to the grip of the sabres that mimics the design of the serpentine walls found on the Grounds.”

The serpentine walls have long been revered as one of a highlight of Thomas Jefferson’s design of the original university lawn, pavilions and environs. But Mr. Jefferson erected the walls for the purpose of keeping slaves out of view. Ergo, in the words of Virginia athletics director Carla Williams, there was a “negative connotation between the serpentine walls and slavery.”

Williams apologized to those who “bear the pain of slavery in our history.”

Interesting. As best I can tell, Williams has never apologized to those who bear the pain of the $28,335 cost of attendance (2019-20 academic year) at the University of Virginia, a cost that has increased 14% in just four years and, even with financial aid, causes disproportionate hardship on poor minorities who attend the university. Continue reading