Category Archives: Race and race relations

War Wounds, Lost Income and the Reparations Debate

Benjamin Franklin, Civil War amputee. Source: Pinterest

As the reparations issue heats up across the country — Congressional Democrats are considering forming a commission on reparations, reports the New York Times — it’s just a matter of time before the divisive debate comes to Virginia. The Old Dominion, after all, was a slave state and a segregationist state. We have a history of racism and discrimination to grapple with that, say, Minnesota or New Hampshire do not.

Personally, I find the idea of holding individuals accountable for long-ago sins committed by members of the same race to be a moral obscenity. But as an amateur historian, I find the debate fascinating. The controversy should dredge up loads of intriguing material as Americans trace the impact of slavery and segregation and the efforts to ameliorate that impact.

Here is a study that you won’t hear cited by the reparations brigade: “The Impact of a Wartime Health Shock on the Postwar Socioeconomic Status and Mortality of Union Army Veterans and their Children.” The authors did not research the paper with reparations in mind. Rather, they were tracing the impact of disability on earnings and wealth in an economy dominated by farming and manual labor. But the findings bear upon the reparations debate. In any moral reckoning over the legacy of slavery, one must consider that 620,000 soldiers died from combat, disease and other causes in the Civil War. Even if we assign zero value to the deaths of Confederate soldiers in the war to end slavery, surely we must take into account the loss of 360,000 Union soldiers (who were, for purposes of the reparations debate, overwhelmingly white). Continue reading

Arlington Schools’ Non-Solution for English Learners

Arlington County, which has one of the most politically “progressive” school systems in Virginia, has reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice to bolster support for students learning English, reports the Washington Post.

The column described systemic problems in the school system. English-as-a-Second-Language students are often taught below their grade level and grow frustrated and bored. As a specific example of dysfunctional education, columnist Theresa Vargas cites a 15-year-old girl who had spent three years in the school system but still didn’t know how to use an English-Spanish dictionary correctly.

Now for some context missing from the column… The problem is not a lack of money. Arlington County spent $19,323 per pupil in Fiscal 2017 compared to an average of $11,745 per pupil spent statewide that year, according to Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) data.

Neither is the problem a lack of commitment to “diversity and inclusion.” The Arlington County school system has an Office of Equity and Excellence, which… Continue reading

Special VPI Graduation Ceremonies for Everyone (Except for Straight White Christians)

I don’t know what was considered deficient with the main Virginia Tech commencement ceremony — too white? too heteronormative? insufficiently diverse? — but the university this year provided ten supplementary graduation programs for African-Americans, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, gays, and other groups.

Apparently, the administration deemed it inadequate for some students to revel in what they shared in common as Hokies, graduates of one of America’s more prestigious universities, or as young people embarking upon their life journeys as adults, or even, dare I say, as Americans. They needed an opportunity to celebrate their cultural identities. Well, some of them did. If they were of English, German, Irish, Scotch-Irish, Italian, or Polish descent, or if they were Catholic, Protestant or some other denomination of Christianity, there were no special Cultural Achievement ceremonies to attend.

But if students were of African-American descent, they could participate in the university-sponsored Donning of the Kente ceremony. If they were of Hispanic-Latino background, there was the Gesta Latina. There was a ceremony for American Indians & indigenous people, and another one for Asians. There was a special ceremony for Jews and one for Muslims. There was a ceremony for international students, and a ceremony for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and ally community. Oh, and there was even one for students in recovery and one for veterans.

According to a Virginia Tech feature story, the special ceremonies advance the university’s mission to ensure the success of all students, particularly those from underrepresented and historically marginalized populations. Continue reading

Cranky Strikes Again, Shows Rampant Cheating in Richmond Schools

I have been chronicling the administrative-cheating scandals in the Richmond Public School system, noting with each post that the situation is even worse than it appeared the previous time I wrote. Now it appears that administrative cheating is even more systemic than even I had suspected. In a statistical tour de force, John Butcher, writing in Cranky’s Blog, leaves readers with the impression that the graduation criteria have been so thoroughly corrupted that the numbers are meaningless.

Butcher starts with the common-sense (and incontestable) observation that economically advantaged (referred to as Non-Economically Disadvantaged, or Not ED) students pass the SOLs at higher rates and graduate from high school at higher rates on average than Economically Disadvantaged (ED) students. No one disputes this generality. Indeed, the statement is a truism. The disparity in outcomes is routinely cited in the debate about the inequity in racial outcomes.

Incredibly, the pattern doesn’t apply at Richmond’s five mainstream high schools. At four high schools, economically disadvantaged students graduate at higher rates than their Not ED counterparts. The only exception to the pattern is Armstrong High School, where the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) conducted a course schedule audit in 2016, bringing attention to the administrative-cheating scandal that has been brewing ever since. The ensuing crackdown at Armstrong, Butcher argues, had a “salutary effect” there but had no impact on the other four high schools. Continue reading

Counseling, Jail Time, and the Cycle of Violence

Prayer vigil at Carter Jones Park

Families in south Richmond have long held community cookouts at the Carter Jones Park. Last Sunday evening, an altercation broke around at a basketball/skateboard facility nearby. Gunshots were fired. Nine-year-old Markiya Simone Dickson and an unnamed 11-year-old boy were struck by bullets. Markiya died.

Community members and city leaders gathered at a vigil yesterday to protest the violence. One of the city officials in attendance, Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras, addressed the impact of trauma upon school children.

Dozens of children in the park witnessed the tragedy, said Kamras, as reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “They will carry that trauma into their lives, and certainly into their classrooms. Sadly, this is all too common for many of the young people in Richmond Public Schools.”

As Richmonders held their vigil, First Lady Pamela Northam was addressing Southwest Virginia’s Rural Summit for Childhood Success across the state in Abingdon. Shootings that kill random by-standers are rare in that part of Virginia, but child abuse and child neglect are far from uncommon. According to the Washington County News, Northam said: Continue reading

Richmond’s Real Scandal

It just keeps getting worse. At least 280 students have been disqualified from receiving a high school diploma after a Richmond Public Schools review of student transcripts and irregularities in the granting of high school diplomas. At best only 810 students will qualify to attend graduation ceremonies — and the number could be smaller, the school board has learned. Only 507 seniors are currently “on track” and 303 are considered “likely” to graduate, reports the Richmond Free Press.

Twelfth grade enrollment in the fall of 2018-19 in Richmond Public Schools was 1,212, according to Virginia Department of Education statistics. How is it not the biggest scandal in the Commonwealth of Virginia when half the city’s seniors might fail to graduate? We’re not talking half of all those who entered high school, we’re talking about half of those who made it to their senior year!

Here are the racially-oriented social justice issues that Virginia media reported on over the weekend, as found in VA News: Continue reading

Northam Finds Salvation in Victimhood-and-Grievance Agenda

Funny how things worked out. Democratic Party cries for Ralph Northam’s resignation during the blackface scandal have diminished to a barely audible murmur. Now the establishment media is taking notice of the fact, stating out loud what everyone knows: The scandal has passed. Northam is off the hook. Virginia’s governor has purchased absolution by advancing the racial agenda of the party’s progressive wing.

As the Wall Street Journal notes today in its national news coverage, Northam recently vetoed two mandatory-minimum sentencing bills he claimed would disproportionately affect African-Americans, created a director-of-diversity position, and launched a review of how public schools address black history. And that’s just the headline news. Of greater import, his appointees are injecting progressive priorities into the public school system.

I don’t doubt that the outrage of Democrats, liberals and progressives over Northam’s blackface offense was genuine at the time. But at the end of the day, power trumps outrage. By threatening Northam with the end of his political life, the Left pushed the politically moderate governor into advancing a progressive victimhood-and-grievance agenda. Continue reading

Herring Still Campaigning on Racial Justice Issues

Attorney General Mark Herring wants to be the next governor of Virginia, which means he first must win the Democratic Party nomination. Despite confessing several months ago that he once wore blackface as a college student, he has put race front and center in his bid for the state’s top office. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Last year Herring launched his gubernatorial bid on the proposition that a crescendo of white supremacist hate crimes warranted new hate crime legislation. The bills he favored got nowhere in the General Assembly. But he’s back, participating yesterday in a Loudoun County forum on how to counter racial inequities such as the lack of judicial diversity, offensive highway names, and how to quickly remove Confederate monuments, according to WJLA.

Are those really the top concerns of Virginia’s African-Americans? Not jobs? Not education? Not health care? I guess we’ll find out whether a white man cranking up the volume on symbolic but inflammatory racial issues is a winning political formula in today’s Democratic Party. Continue reading

SJWs Strike Again: Police Field Reports Are Biased

VCU Professor Liz Coston says black Richmonders are “overpoliced.”

Here we go again. Today readers of the Richmond Times-Dispatch are treated to a front-page, top-of-the-fold article highlighting racial disparity… not in arrests… not in convictions… not in stop-and-frisks… but in the Richmond Police Department’s use of racial identifiers in “field interview reports.”

The newspaper’s indictment:

Of the 29,997 reports Richmond police officers documented in 2017 and 2018, a disproportionate number of them described the subject of the report as a black person. In a city where black residents make up 49 percent of the population, 65 percent of the people documented were listed as black.

The RTD’s Ali Rockett quotes the Richmond Transparency and Accountability Project as describing the disparity as an “alarmingly disproportionate policing of black boys and men.” And it quotes Liz Coston, a Virginia Commonwealth University sociologist, as saying that the numbers constitute evidence of “overpolicing” of Richmond’s black community. “It’s clear that black residents in Richmond are impacted by policing to a much greater extent than white citizens are.”

Not until 31 to 33 paragraphs down does the reader encounter quotes from interim Police Chief William Smith making an obvious point: The reason a disproportionate number of field interviews are conducted with African-Americans is that a disproportionate number of violent crimes and property crimes occur in high-crime neighborhoods populated by… African-Americans. Continue reading

Northam Seeking “Diversity and Inclusion” Officer

Governor Ralph Northam is looking for a new senior-level official to promote diversity and inclusion within state government, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The new employee will report directly to the governor and his chief of staff.

Among the qualifications listed in the job description: the “understanding of systemic and institutional bias.” States the RTD:

The director will be responsible for developing a plan to promote inclusive practices and address system inequities in state government. The person who fills the post will be tasked with “promoting diversity and fostering an inclusive environment throughout state government where employees feel a sense of belonging.”

Questions: In what way is Virginia state government infected with “systemic and institutional bias”? Are we to believe that the Virginia state government apparatus, which has been run by Democrats for four of the past five gubernatorial administrations, is riddled with racism? I know the political justification for this appointment — Northam is trying to atone for his blackface scandal. But is there a factual justification — as in actual evidence of bias — for creating the office? If there is, why haven’t we seen it?

Replacing One Inequity with Another

Governor Ralph Northam vetoed a bill yesterday that would have imposed mandatory minimum sentences on repeat domestic abusers on the grounds that racial minorities would be disproportionately affected.

I nearly headlined this post, “Northam to Domestic Abuse Victims: Drop Dead.” I decided that wouldn’t be quite fair. But I wouldn’t be surprised if many people interpret his action that way.

Thanks to Northam’s veto, Virginia might be “fairer and more equitable” to perpetrators of domestic violence. But will it be “fairer and more equitable” to victims? The data is patchy, but considerable evidence suggests that African-Americans are roughly twice as likely to be victims of domestic violence as whites. One could argue that creating racial “equity” for African-American criminals creates inequity for African-American victims, primarily females. Continue reading

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