Category Archives: Race and race relations

Yikes! Now Herring Confesses to Black Face!

Pandora’s box: Unleash the furies!

I’m guessing that some media outlet must have been hot on Attorney General Mark Herring’s trail, otherwise I can’t imagine any other reason for him to make this confession in a statement just released:

In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song. It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes – and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others – we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.

This was a onetime occurrence and I accept full responsibility for my conduct. That conduct clearly shows that, as a young man, I had a callous and inexcusable lack of awareness and insensitivity to the pain my behavior could inflict on others. It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then.

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How UVa Can Make a Useful Contribution to the Northam Black Face Scandal

University of Virginia President James E. Ryan

Poor University of Virginia. The College of William & Mary hogged the glory among progressives when Katharine Rowe, W&M’s new president, gratuitously inserted herself into the Ralph Northam blackface controversy by uninviting the governor from attending the annual celebration of the university’s 1683 founding.

Responding to news of the racist image in Northam’s 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook, Rowe announced four days ago, “That behavior has no place in civil society – not 35 years ago, not today. It stands in stark opposition to William & Mary’s core values of equity and inclusion.”

How, oh, how could UVa signal its virtue as well? UVa’s newly installed president, James Ryan, had no event from which to retract a gubernatorial invitation. I have an idea on how UVa could make a useful contribution to the controversy, which I’ll get to in a moment. But Ryan opted for expressing his politically correctness in an open letter to the Board of Visitors and the university community:  Continue reading

Why Virginia Democrats Are Pushing Ralph Northam to Resign

by Peter Galuszka

Virginia Democrats were on a roll politically until a story broke Friday that a photograph on Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) 1984 medical school yearbook page showed a man in blackface and a man in Ku Klux Klan garb.

Democrats had seemed to be in a good position to win control of both the state Senate and the House of Delegates in this November’s General Assembly elections.

A strong anti-Trump spirit showed up in last year’s congressional elections in which three moderate Democratic women won. A court recently ruled that the latest Republican-led redistricting disenfranchised African Americans. Demographic changes seem to be making make the state less conservative. Continue reading

Who Is the Dude in the Plaid Pants?

Who is the dude in the plaid pants?

This angle on the Northam blackface story is at least two days old — it appeared Sunday in Zerohedge — but it has yet to be reflected in any of the reporting I have seen on the controversy by Virginia mainstream media, so I summarize the details here. (I’m just back from traveling out of town, so I may have overlooked some reporting. If so, my apologies.)

Some resourceful Internet sleuth — I’m not sure if it’s Zerohedge blogger Tyler Durden or someone else — noticed the remarkable resemblance between a pair of plaid pants worn by Blackface Guy in the infamous 1984 yearbook photograph that threatens to take down Governor Ralph Northam and a pair of pants worn by an unidentified blond guy standing in front of a car below the title “Hi-Y,” the name of a YMCA high school program. A caption below the Hi-Y photo indicated that Northam was the group’s president.

The plaid-pants connection raises the interesting possibility that Blond Guy and Blackface Dude are one in the same, which would rule out the theory that Northam was the man in blackface — supporting his strained, widely mocked contention that he was not in the photo. Continue reading

Is There a Statute of Limitations for Racial Insensitivity?

This is just too rich. Ralph Northam in blackface… or is he the one in the KKK hood? Now, let’s sit back and watch how long the PC statute of limitation is for Democrats compared to that for Republicans.

Entirely predictably, Republicans have called for Northam’s resignation: “Racism has no place in Virginia,” said RPV Chairman Jack Wilson. “These pictures are wholly inappropriate. If Governor Northam appeared in blackface or dressed in a KKK robe, he should resign immediately.”

Northam issued what is surely a sincere apology:

I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now. This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to make clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment.

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Asian Family Values

Data source: Virginia Department of Social Services

A few days ago I posted data showing that “Asians” in Virginia are a diverse group whose country of origin include India, Pakistan, China, Vietnam, Korea, the Philippines and many other nations. Some groups are very well-to-do, some middling. But none, regardless of the circumstances of how they arrived here, are poor.

In the past, I have attributed part of the superior educational and income performance of “Asians” to the strong, family-oriented culture of the diverse immigrant groups lumped into that broader racial classification. Recently, while poking around Virginia adoption data, I have uncovered one measure of how Asian family values make life better for children. Continue reading

Only in America…

The latest wrinkle in Virginia identity politics, courtesy of the Daily Press:

Add another hurdle to the Pamunkey tribe’s ambition to build the state’s first casino in downtown Norfolk:

The Nansemond tribe is objecting, saying the Pamunkey are trying to rewrite history by claiming the parcel they’re negotiating to buy from the city was once a part of Pamunkey “ancestral land.”

Crazy, Diverse Asians

Breakdown of Virginia’s Asian population by country of origin, 2017. Image source: StatChat blog

In their obsession with identity politics and racial/ethnic classification, federal and state governments in the United States classify millions of Americans as “Asian.” From a sociological perspective, “Asian” is a meaningless term. Asia is the world’s largest continent and has more diverse indigenous populations than any other. As this graphic from the University of Virginia’s Statchat blog makes clear, Virginians classified as “Asian” include people who trace their ancestry to the Indian subcontinent, Korea, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan, Thailand, Pakistan, and many other countries. These people do not share a common language, culture, or history. Continue reading

Compassion for Unruly School Kids, Indifference for their Victims


In  the name of halting the “school to prison pipeline,” liberal legislators propose to take away an option — charging kids with disorderly conduct — that will make it more difficult to maintain discipline in school.

Bills filed by Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, and Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond, would exempt students from a disorderly conduct charge if they misbehave at school or on a school bus. “Our students cannot learn if they’re being put out of school because of behavioral issues,” McClellan said last week at a Legislative Black Caucus press conference. Continue reading

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?

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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.)