Category Archives: Race and race relations

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Dick Hall-Sizemore

As a life-long resident of Virginia for seven decades (there, I have said it), I have seen many changes.  Occasionally, reminders of these changes are especially striking. One of those stark reminders occurred about 10 years ago. I was sitting in on a General Assembly committee meeting in which the Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court gives sort of an annual report to the legislature. The Chief Justice at the time was Leroy Hassell, the first black chief justice. It suddenly hit me: Wow! The Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, an imposing black man! Virginia has really come a long way over the last 30-40 years.

I just finished a remarkable book that brought more reminders. The book is We Face the Dawn: Oliver Hill, Spotswood Robinson, and the Legal Team That Dismantled Jim Crow by Margaret Edds. The author combines the best of two worlds: thorough and detailed scholarly research and the writing of a journalist. Continue reading

Woke… But Not Woke Enough

Members of the Black Parents of Arlington tell white progressives, “Put your money where your mouth is.”

by James A. Bacon

There’s a lot of blue-on-blue happening in Virginia’s schools these days as race consciousness in the educational system reaches a fever pitch. Even well-meaning teachers and administrators desirous of promoting inclusivity and diversity are subject to criticism and/or disciplinary action. Two interesting case studies drove home that point over the weekend.

Virginia Beach. Last year a Virginia Beach teacher, Deborah Aho Smith, was fired for producing a poster for an assignment in which students wrote down negative racial and ethnic stereotypes. The moral, of course, was that such stereotypes are bad. But a photo of the poster was circulated on social media and the parent of a black student who wasn’t in the class took offense and complained. The school administration panicked, and Smith was fired.

“Man, that could have been me,” the Virginian-Pilot quotes Kelly Walker, a 28-year teaching veteran and president of the Virginia Beach Education Association, as saying. Teachers are increasingly wary about leading classes on topics such as race, discrimination and stereotypes, Walker said. Continue reading

What Does It Mean to Be “White” or “Black” These Days?

Texas Senator Ted Cruz and family. Using Census definitions, three of the four Cruz family members picture here are “people of color.”

by James A. Bacon

As President Bill Clinton famously predicted in 1998 based on Census Bureau forecasts, white Americans would lose their majority status in the United States by the 2040s. The prospect of “people of color” comprising an “emerging Democratic majority” has undergirded the Democratic Party strategy of making racial/ethnic identity politics the core of their appeal. In parallel, fear of becoming a minority has inflamed the passions of many white voters. Ironically, due to an increase in the number of Hispanics and the offspring of inter-racial marriages, the percentage of Americans identifying as white is barely declining.

It is increasingly evident that the U.S. government’s system of racial classification is archaic. Indeed, recent numbers call into question what it even means to be “white” or “black,” both of which are classifications reflecting the obsessions of a by-gone era.

“The same Census projections that predict Americans who identify as white alone will become a minority during the 2040s also predict that about 75 percent of the U.S. population is expected to mark the box next to White on their Census form, either alone or in combination with another race or ethnicity,” writes Hamilton Lombard, a University of Virginia demographer, on the StatChat blog. “The race categories we use are struggling to keep up with our changing population.” Continue reading

Richmond’s Progressive Petri Dish…. Where Black Kids Are the Science Project

by James A. Bacon

One of the more interesting questions of 2019 is whether public figures like Governor Ralph Northam and Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras are more interested in striking poses that make them look enlightened on racial issues or in actually bettering the lives of African-Americans. In many cases, I would argue, progressive social policies are all about making educated elites feel righteous, not about the people they purport to help.

The latest example is a proposal under study by Richmond schools to “spread the cream,” so to speak — to distribute the relatively small percentage of white students among a larger number of of schools. The justification for scrapping the neighborhood-based school system, according to Kamras, is that “diverse” schools improve academic performance. The plan, he has said, “will provide academic and social benefits to all children of all backgrounds.”

But will it? Remarkably enough, that proposition can be tested with data from Richmond public schools. John Butcher, of Cranky’s Blog fame, has pulled Standards of Learning pass-rate data for white-majority Mary Munford Elementary and William Fox Elementary with that for two predominantly black elementary schools, Barack Obama Elementary and John B. Cary Elementary.(Cary would be merged with Munford under one of the proposals.) Continue reading

Disregard that Law

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Well, Virginia made the national headlines again last week and over the weekend.  This time it was over the requirement that couples applying for a marriage license list their race on the application. And Attorney General Mark Herring was the hero, saying that, despite what the law said, the couples did not have to do that.  (NYT, WP, RTD, as well as all the networks).

On the face of it, the state could make a case that gathering information about the race of people getting married serves a legitimate purpose by providing data for state demographers and sociologists. But, because “race” can be a vague concept and applicants self-identify their race, any data collected has become meaningless. Apparently, each county can compile its own list of categories from which applicants choose.  According to newspaper reports, Rockbridge County had a list of  approximately 200 “races”, including American, Aryan, Hebrew, Islamic, Mestizo, Nordic, Teutonic, Moor, and White American. Continue reading

Richmond Schools: Changing Names, Acting White, and Serving Hispanics

by James A. Bacon

Look, there’s nothing wrong with re-naming public schools. I take no issue with the Richmond Public Schools changing the name of one of its predominantly black schools from J.E.B. Stuart Elementary to Barack Obama Elementary. And if Richmond school officials want to swap out the name of slave-owner George Mason for an African-American hero, that’s up to them. Personally, I feel that Mason’s positive contributions warrant recognition, but inherently local decisions should reflect community values.

“Mr. Mason obviously made many contributions to the country, but I think it is time to move beyond naming schools for individuals who were slave owners,” Superintendent Jason Kamras told the Richmond Times-DispatchThere are five city schools named for slave owners and three for Confederates. 

It’s good to know that Kamras is fearlessly tackling the big issues that afflict Richmond Public Schools, one of the worst-performing school districts in Virginia even after adjusting for the large disadvantaged student body. OK, I was being sarcastic there. But at least renaming schools does no harm, you say. That’s true. When social justice progressives are diverted by purely symbolic issues from actively undermining the educational system, one can argue that is a good thing.

Still, there are many other problems that the school board could be dealing with. We could start with issues raised in separate op-eds and news articles published today. Continue reading

Yup, Virginia Universities Discriminate Against Asians

What would Mr. Jefferson say?

by James A. Bacon

A study of five Virginia public universities shows that admission policies at all five institutions discriminate against Asian applicants after accounting for standardized test scores and high-school grade point averages. The University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary, the two most selective institutions, also discriminate against whites in favor of blacks and Hispanics.

Based on data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Althea Nagai, a research fellow at the Center for Equal Opportunity, a right-of-center think tank, reached the following conclusions:

“At UVA and especially at WM, blacks were given substantial admissions preference over whites … (controlling for SAT scores, GPAs, gender, residence, and legacy). To a lesser extent, Hispanics also received preference over whites at these two schools. …

White applicants (along with blacks and Hispanics) were favored over Asian Americans at all five institutions. The other universities included in the study were Virginia Tech, James Madison University, and George Mason University. Continue reading

The Unstated Assumption in Richmond’s School Rezoning Proposal

Sen. Glen Sturtevant

by James A. Bacon

Which position is more objectionable? Opposing a rezoning of Richmond schools to achieve greater racial balance on the grounds that it would eliminate neighborhood schools… or the unstated assumption that black kids need more white kids around them to perform better academically?

We can be assured that the the “neighborhood schools” argument will be tagged as retrograde. Indeed, for all practical purposes, it already has. But how about the black-kids-need-white-kids assumption? Isn’t that offensive, too?

Sen. Glen Sturtevant, R-Chesterfield, facing a tough re-election campaign, has made “Save Our Neighborhood Schools” a campaign issue. His district includes two white-majority elementary schools that would be merged with black-majority schools in a plan under consideration by the Richmond school system. Siblings would be split between schools, creating scheduling conflicts for parents, and fewer students would be able to walk and bike to school, he has argued.

Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Michael Paul Williams has likened the neighborhood-schools rallying cry to the rhetoric of whites resisting de-segregation in the 1970s. “Save Our Neighborhood Schools was to the 1970s,” he writes today, “what Massive Resistance was to the 1950s.” Continue reading

English Learners and SOL Scores

by James A. Bacon

A couple of weeks ago I speculated on the reasons for the continued fall in Standards of Learning (SOL) English test scores, a trend that was particularly conspicuous for African-Americans and Hispanics. The prime culprit, I suggested, was the imposition of “restorative justice” disciplinary policies, designed to reduce the disparity in suspensions between black and white students, which had the effect of undermining order in in classrooms and disrupting teaching.

Now comes another explanation — at least a partial one — by way of Debbie Truong with the Washington Post, who focuses on the precipitous decline among English as a Second Language (ESL) students. It turns out that the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) changed the way it calculated pass rates for ESL learners in response to a change in federal education law. Continue reading

The New African Migration

Image source: Pew Research Center

by James A. Bacon

While the United States indulges in an orgy of introspection over the 400th anniversary of enslaved Africans arriving on the shores of Virginia, it might be worthwhile reminding ourselves that that was then, and this is now. It may have escaped the notice of the New York Times, but the country has changed.

Africans are coming voluntarily to the United States by the tens of thousands every year. And, in an irony of ironies according to a 2017 Pew Research Center report, African immigrants are most likely to live in the South — 39% reside in the former center of slavery compared to 25% in the Northeast, and much smaller percentages in the Midwest and West. Virginia, by the way is one of seven states with African-born populations of more than 100,000.

Historians estimate that 400,000 enslaved Africans came to North America during the 200-year period in which the trans-Atlantic slave trade was practiced in the English colonies and the newly independent United States. Pew estimates that 2 million Africans (the vast majority of whom are from sub-Saharan countries) have emigrated to the U.S. since 1990. Americans need to be honest about the nation’s past of slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and discrimination. But we also need to be honest about the nation that we have become. America is a land of opportunity for all people of all races and ethnicities.

Do “White People” Suppress Black History?

Christy Coleman

by James A. Bacon

Christy Coleman, CEO of the American Civil War Museum in Richmond and an African-American, professes to know how white people think. Here’s what she said yesterday at a Richmond forum that, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, was organized “to dispel racism against African Americans.”

White people want to feel good about their history, and that means everyone else has to forget about theirs. Well, I’m not in that business.

Wow.

First point: I’m such a dinosaur I can remember what it was like growing up in the 1960s when I was taught that it was wrong to make sweeping generalities about the people of other races and cultures. That was called “stereotyping.” When applied to blacks and minorities, stereotyping was considered a form of racism. Now, apparently, it is deemed acceptable to make sweeping derogatory generalities about “white people.” Continue reading

From Oppression Narrative to Opportunity Narrative

by James A. Bacon

I have fallen into a trap — a snare of my own making. Day after day, Americans are subjected to a barrage of commentary and “news” on the topic of racial/gender-driven victimhood and grievance, the most recent example being today’s New York Times‘ 16019 Project, which reinterprets American history through the lens of slavery and racism as if they were the sole defining attributes of the American experience. And I react to this stuff. When the issues hit home at a state/local level, I devote article after article detailing the falsehoods, unfounded assumptions, and sins of omission. Because there is a never-ending supply of victimhood-and-grievance stories, a never-ending rounds of rebuttals is called for. As a result, I spend far more time writing about what I’m against than what I’m for.

Today I shall devote myself today to outlining in broad brush strokes a positive vision for Virginia going forward. In the long run, parsing the  flaws of the Victimhood and Grievance Narrative will take us only so far. If those espousing conservative/libertarian principles wish to win converts, they need to formulate an alternative narrative — what I’ll call the Opportunity Narrative — that appeals to all peoples and creeds.

The Victimhood and Grievance Narrative is inherently backward looking, dwelling on past injustices to stoke the resentments of racial/ethnic groups. (It is important to note that some on the Right have adopted the rhetoric and logic of group-based grievance and victimhood, making them guilty of sins similar to those of the Left.) The forward-looking Opportunity Narrative asks, how do we empower individuals, regardless of racial/ethnic/gender identity, to improve their lives? Continue reading

Unintended Consequences and SOLs

It has been fascinating to observe the reaction to the disappointing news that Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores for reading and writing for Virginia’s major racial/ethnic groups declined in the 2018-19 school year, and that, despite strenuous efforts of school administrators to address racial inequities, the gap between blacks and whites grew wider.

The Washington Post, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and the (Charlottesville) Daily Progress all duly noted the erosion of black and Hispanic educational attainment. In none of the articles, however, did state education officials proffer an explanation for the regression. Certainly no one suggested that Virginia Department of Education’s relentless implementation of “restorative justice” disciplinary policies, designed to reduce the disparity in suspensions between black and white students, might have had unintended consequences.

I have warned that the emphasis on therapeutic interventions over suspensions and other traditional disciplinary policies was contributing to the erosion of classroom discipline, particularly in predominantly black schools. As far as I know, I am the only member of Virginia’s chattering class to stick out his neck and predict that black students, whose educations were disproportionately disrupted by this social engineering, would suffer the most. The proof, I suggested, would be seen in lower SOL scores for black students.

Well, the results are in. While all racial/ethic groups lost ground in reading and writing — the two disciplines in which apples-to-apples comparisons are possible this year — blacks and Hispanics backtracked the most. Continue reading

VCU Study Jumps to Unsubstantiated Conclusions

Richmond-area schools suspend black students at four times the rate of white students, a gap that exceeds the national average, a study by the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education has found. The findings have been duly reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

One in five black students in the region received an out-of-school suspension during the 2015-16 year compared to 5% of white students. Nationally, the numbers are closer to 15% and 5%, according to a study by the Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium (MERC), a research arm of the VCU educational school that gives special emphasis to “social justice, equity and diversity.”

“This is a long-standing problem with deeply rooted causes, and it’s going to take dedicated leadership and policy to resolve it,” the RTD quoted Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, a VCU education professor and one of the study’s authors, as saying.

To drive home the point, the RTD also quoted Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras: “We have a moral obligation to end racial inequity in school discipline — particularly here in the Richmond region given our history as the former capital of the Confederacy. Continue reading

Magnifying Partisan Research with a Partisan Spin

Photo credit: Washington Post

Social scientific studies are increasingly infected by ideological bias and a crisis of unreplicable results. Compound that with the ideological bias of the mass media, which spin findings to advance their own partisan narratives, and you get articles like this one from the Washington Post: “Trump’s presidency may be making Latinos sick.

Trump’s presidency may be making some people sick, a growing number of studies suggest. Researchers have begun to identify correlations between Trump’s election and worsening cardiovascular health, sleep problems, anxiety and stress, especially among Latinos in the United States. A study published Friday using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the risk of premature birth was higher than expected among Latina women following Trump’s election.

This is the same kind of junk reporting of tendentious science that we see increasingly in Virginia, where newspapers report on “studies” showing “correlations” that supposedly demonstrate the existence of systemic institutional racism. It’s not impossible that some of the studies are valid. But they need to be subjected to much closer scrutiny before being accepted and propagated widely, as they invariably are. Continue reading