How About a Resolution Atoning for the Welfare State?

The big cultural wedge issue in this year’s General Assembly session comes not from the right but from the left. Del. Don McEachin, D-Richmond, has submitted a bill that calls for “atoning for involuntary servitude of Africans and calling for the reconciliation of all Virginians.” It pays to read this bill carefully and to note what it says and does not say.

The bill commences by reciting the horrors of the Atlantic slave trade and the practice of slavery in the United States and Virginia, and then recounts the injustices of the Jim Crow era. If the bill stopped there, I wouldn’t find it terribly objectionable. (I say that with certain reservations. As Jim Bowden points out in his recent column, “Our Humblest Apologies,” the McEachin apology provides a lopsided, context-deficient account of history.)

But McEachin doesn’t stop there. He links the evils of slavery to the present time.

An apology for centuries of brutal dehumanization and injustices cannot erase the past, but confession of the wrongs can speed racial healing and reconciliation and help African American and white citizens confront the ghosts of their collective pasts together. … Racial reconciliation is impossible without some acknowledgment of the moral and legal injustices perpetrated upon African Americans. …

Throughout their existence in America and even in the decades after the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans have found the struggle to overcome the bitter legacy of slavery long and arduous, and for many African Americans the scars left behind are unbearable, haunting their psyches and clouding their vision of the future and of America’s many attributes. …

In the Commonwealth, home to the first African slaves, the vestiges of slavery are ever before African American citizens, from the overt racism of hate groups to the subtle racism encountered when requesting health care, transacting business, buying a home, seeking quality public education and college admission, and enduring pretextual traffic stops and other indignities.

This document does not merely ask Virginians merely to apologize for slavery — it asks that Virginianscollectively accept moral responsibility for the condition of African-Americans today. Further, it asks us to accept facts that are demonstrably untrue (that African-Americans are the victims of racism in college admissions) and facts that are arguably untrue (that African-Americans are discriminated against by mortgage lenders and providers of health care). And it does so without ever mentioning the devastation wreaked upon the African-American community by the modern welfare state. So, while Virginians apologize for the sins of long-dead ancestors, McEachin does not request anyone to apologize for the facts that:

  • Great Society urban-clearing programs devastated African-American neighborhoods and disrupted the social cohesion of African-American communities in cities across the country.
  • The problem of endemic African-American unemployment did not exist until after the introduction of Great Society welfare policies.
  • Violent crime rates among African-Americans skyrocketed after the introduction of the welfare state and liberal attitudes towards law enforcement.
  • The break-up of the nuclear African-American family and the surge in out-of-wedlock births occurred after the introduction of the welfare state.

Of course, acknowledging that the welfare state, not slavery or Jim Crow, is what created the African-American underclass, hence is responsible for most of the suffering of living African-Americans, would require McEachin to apologize policies that he endorsed and defended.

My sense is that McEachin really isn’t interested in apologizing himself. He’s looking for others to do the apologizing. McEachin isn’t interested in “racial reconciliation” — he’s just another liberal playing the racial blame game.

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42 responses to “How About a Resolution Atoning for the Welfare State?”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Mr. Bacon, you make a case that either you know the mind of Delegate McEachin or you suspect ulterior motives or you suspect his real motive. You imply his intentions are not honorable. All this may be true – or may not.

    But you do know your own motives – why don’t you come clean and tell us where you are coming from. What is your agenda? And if the current relative status of African-Americans in Virginia is not largely a result of the historic choices and actions of Virginians collectively, then I’d be curious to hear what you suggest is responsible for the current relative positions of African-Americans in Virginia vis-à-vis non-blacks.

    I think the Great Society welfare experiment of the Johnson administration backfired in many ways; I believe the way in which forced integration was conducted in Virginia was poorly conceived. But I am unclear why you would respond so strongly to what appears to be an effort to collectively say that we all have a current and historic responsibility and accountability — and to accept that is just to accept reality.

    On the other hand if you if you can “walk a mile in the shoes” of this racial class in Virginia with their shared history and shared societal inequities, then from that perspective, give us your wisdom of what is appropriate for Virginians collectively to do to both redress this and to heal this divide.

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar

    My agenda? My agenda is creating opportunity and improving the quality of life for all Virginians (and Americans), of all races, religions and ethnicities.

    Why, in my appraisal, have African-Americans failed to share fully in the blessings of American society? There are many reasons. The first reasons chronologically speaking were slavery, Jim Crow, racism and white flight from the cities. Then came the Great Society, which fostered a culture of dependence and passivity. More recently, I would apportion some of the blame to liberal whites and to African-American leaders in the post-civil rights era for promoting a culture of victimization. Finally, I would point to cultural choices of African-Americans such as equating studying hard as “acting white.”

    Any traces of residual racism in our institutions today, I would argue, are largely counterbalanced by affirmative action and reverse racism.

    Any “apology” that fails to acknowledge all the factors contributing to the misfortunes of African Americans is nothing more than an ideological act of blame shifting.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim, I think we are in relative agreement.

    I think the elephant in the room though is that under the surface, even among reasonable Virginians, is the presumption that there is some inherent difference between blacks and whites, and that whites, consciously or unconsciously, see their race as superior, and blacks, see themselves as victims and as inherently hobbled by their skin color from equal inclusion in society.

    As an illustration, I have many Southern Baptist relatives, who are good and decent and loving people but who cringe at the thought of a black moving into their neighborhood. They equate blacks with a lowering of property values, increased crime, unkempt property, and even feel it would be embarrassing to live in the proximity of blacks. I appreciate that this mentality is changing somewhat with our younger, less prejudiced generations.

    Also, there is a sense that other races, Asians particularly, often both integrate more easily into America and are more competitive to whites in their educational and economic success than are blacks. There is a sense that inherently whites are somehow superior to blacks as evidenced by the contributions of whites historically compared to blacks. Visibility of black role models in recent times tends to fly in the face of such perceptions.

    But continuing this polarization, insensitive and volatile rhetoric, and insinuations by subtle labeling of “liberals” or “conservatives” such that common ground is unattainable, seems to me to be self-defeating. Defeating for all of us.

    Honest debate is wonderful, but subtle and constant sniping back and forth between liberals and conservatives, only distracts us from any solution to commonly shared problems.

    I contend that education is a core long-term solution, and the concept of connecting education funding to local property values seems only to perpetuate the disparity in the races, as blacks predominantly live in areas of lower property values. If we were serious at redressing past mistakes, we might move as a state to provide a new system of funding education statewide that severed this connection and provided all Virginian youth with a more equal public education experience, and which made a commitment to giving each student a better chance to rise to his/her potential.

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: cultural….

    maybe ….

    NAEP 4th Grade Reading Proficiency:
    White and Black NAEP Scores
    White Black GAP
    232.8 207.2 25.6

    NCLB – Virgnia
    AYP Reading Proficiency (%) 2005

    All Students 81.5
    White 86.6
    Black 70.4

    I’m not sure what good an apology is… it gets a lot of folks backs up and I believe is divisive… tearing scabs off…

    I’d like to see a POLL of African Americans on this issue.

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Something worth reading from the Library of Congress:

    Slavery and Indentured Servants

    Before the Civil War, slaves and indentured servants were considered personal property, and they or their descendants could be sold or inherited like any other personalty.

    Regardless of their country of origin, many early immigrants were indentured servants, people who sold their labor in exchange for passage to the New World and housing on their arrival. Initially, most laws passed concerned indentured servants, but around the middle of the seventeenth century, colonial laws began to reflect differences between indentured servants and slaves.

    … much more…. lots of folks both white and black mistreated…

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim, Here again we have substantial agreement. I certainly don’t want money just “thrown” at problems. And I agree that little, certainly insufficient, progress has been made in educating those in central city and rural areas. I don’t favor diminishing the education in one area to bring up the education opportunity in another – I don’t favor so much a redistribution as to a bringing all up to the level of the best we have. This is a challenge to face up to the reality rather than just throwing up our hands in surrender.

    Certainly we are smart enough in Virginia to solve this. My relatives growing up in the 1930’s in one room school houses in Powhatan County seemed to have ended up more educated than many in our today’s predominately black and lower income districts.

    By not facing up and solving this problem we only create subsequent problems of unskilled, unmotivated citizens who end up unemployed, underemployed, or stuck in low wage jobs. By not facing up to the education challenge we only create future crime, future social unrest, future social costs, and makes Virginia less attractive to the type of new technology and capital investment that would benefit us all.

    If the problem is cultural, is the answer just to stand on our high ground and extol those less blessed to work harder, make better decisions, be less self-indulgent? That position seems to me to lack empathy, is simplistic, and is unrealistic. The Asian situation is very different as many Asian immigrants were not so much representative, as they were the one’s who were particularly motivated, overcame the obstacles to get here, and found they had a support network of Asians who had successfully navigated the gauntlet before them. They were sort of best of breed and not so encumbered by pervasive expectations of inferiority.

    It is difficult sometimes to put ourselves in the situation of a black single mother working hard at a low paying job, living in a poor and crime ridden neighborhood, and trying to instill good values and provide a good education to her children.

  7. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    How funny … and twisted!

    Someone born “white” in the United States within the past 40 years “needs” to “atone” to someone born “black” in the United States within the past 40 years? Why? – because of something that happened a long time before either one of them was born!?!

    What a crack up! What a scam!

    Folks, it is long past time to forgive and to move on … slavery in the United States ended a long time ago.

    The “Entitlement Class” created by race-mongers under the deceptive guise of “equality” however is alive and well – and is a product of government that reaps great harm on our society – today.

    When will the advocates of racial “preferences” admit their failed policies and accept responsibility for the harm their so-called “progressive agenda” has inflicted on all Americans? Yup … that will be the day!

    There are those individuals in politics that remain ALIVE TODAY that bear personal accountability for the harm of the politics of racial division in our nation. An apology from THEM might actually MEAN something!

    Of course .. no one should hold their breath waiting for that to happen, LOL!

    How sad that the once noble “civil rights movement” has morphed into the “racial discrimination movement” for so-called “African-Americans” to try to extort political and economic advantages over other races – primarily targeting “whites” as a primary source for undeserved “reparations” and “atonement”. The race-mongers cry and whine that “whites” haven’t walked a mile in their shoes. Of course, they clearly failed to walk 10 feet in mine! Such self-serving behavior from the race-baiter in the alleged victimized “minority community” serves to make a mockery of the dream Dr. King shared with so many.

    Frankly, I don’t owe anyone – anything due to slavery in the United States. I have never had anything to do with slavery in my nation. But … I have been subjected to reverse discrimination in the past, not because of any other reason than the color of my skin was ‘white”. The individual responsible was a black manager of a high tech firm conducting job interviews. Ironic, isn’t it? He apologized to ME later, over a beer – explaining that he was required to hire more non-whites by his management chain – for FEAR that his firm was not maintaining the “proper racial and gender make up”. He told me thought it was a bunch of “feel good B.S.” and he wished he could have hired me – because I was more qualified than the person he felt he “had to” hire. You see, he was a fellow shipmate of mine when he and I had served together in the U.S. Navy.

    Hey .. at least HIS apology meant something.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    It is downright dumb to suggest that African-American problems with crime, education and employment somehow began with LBJ’s Great Society. Blacks have ALWYS been suppressed here and always have had special problems. Untangling the reasons and finding solutions has been perhaps the single biggest dilemma in U.S. history.
    Is it the result of White America? Could be. Consider that individuals of African descent in other countries have not had the same scale of problems as U.S. blacks have had.
    Why so? Could it be the 400-plus year old tradition of slavery and oppression? Or are you just branding them as undeserving, lazy and shiftless, which may be your racist point.
    True, you can complain about post-1960s favoritism in hiring and school admissions, but the fact is that the problems of the black family structure, employment and crime existed a long time before LBJ. It is simply that the civil rights movement brought a level of attention to those realities that had never been exsited before.
    Don’t believe me? Read W.J. Cash’s “Mind of the South” which was published in 1940 some 24 years before the Great Society and in the midst of one of several mass migrations of African-Americans from the South to the North, MidWest and West. Why could it be that so many blacks, who lived predominately in the South, seemed so desperate to move? Not all that happy plunking banjos and eating fried chicken down in Virginia and Dixieland, perhaps?
    Your overall suggestion that African-Americans were somehow better off before the hated liberals interceded is so ludicrous that it defies comprehension.
    What’s next on your agenda — a special showing of “Gone With the Wind? or maybe a wooden cross and a can of kerosene?

    PS: Shame on you for citing James Atticus Bowden as some kind of history expert.

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    “Admit nothing, explain nothing and apologize for nothing”

    I just don’t get it — what harm is it in acknowledging reality — why is it that we have this human trait of refusing to face up to our past? And why do we play this childish game of turning everything around to how it effects me, how I was also wronged, how my feelings were also hurt – oh, woe is me, life wasn’t always fair to me either.

    Do the sons bear the sins of the fathers or not? I know not, however, there is some precedent for admitting, explaining and apologizing as a way of extending a hand and moving forward. It might work in Virginia – it might also work more broadly in the world.

    I recall the words of Lincoln, “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

  10. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Anonymous, I don’t think anyone would disagree that blacks were oppressed through the early/mid-1960s — until the Civil Rights revolution. No one is defending what happened to them, no one is trying to sugar-coat their experience. Slavery and Jim Crow are the greatest stains in American history. End of debate.

    But there are facts that you apparently want to ignore. African-Americans had higher rates of labor participation before the Great Society programs than after. They had more cohesive family structures — in particular, a smaller percentage of out-of-wedlock births and single-mother households — than today. They had lower rates of violent crime. African-Americans were slowly but steadily chipping away at the income gap between them and whites through the 1940s and 1950s. These are facts, well documented by Charles Murray in his book, “Losing Ground.”

    Since the Civil Rights watershed, roughly half the black population has assimilated successfully into mainstream society. The other half now comprises, tragically, an urban underclass. African Americans had no underclass before the Great Society. How do you think such a thing came into existence?

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Mr. Bacon,
    I respectfully disagree with your statistics. Are you basing all of this on the Murray book? I’ll have to check that out. Got anything else to back up your data?

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    That’s right, Murray of “Bell Curve” fame. Provactive, but right-wing point of view. Mixed reviews all the way around. Anon

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    There is vastly more overt and covert discrimination toward all persons who are “different” than is admitted.

    This antaganism against “difference” is genetically encoded. It only is erased one relationship at a time.

    Funtional settlement patterns provide more opportunity for positive interaction and less opportunity for isolation, insulation and overt discrimination.

    We question the first sentence of the original post. There are lots of other bills flogging cultural wedge issues.

    None of these social preference issues belong in the legislature or in a discussion of governance and governance reform.

    Anon Zeus

  14. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Anonymous, Murray’s book is the most authoritative source that I can cite off-hand. “America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible,” by Stephan Thernstrom & Abigail Thernstrom addresses many of the same points. So have Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams in columns and publications.

    One more point: One other major trend in recent decades has worked to the disadvantage of blacks in America, though it is not overtly racist — and that is the change in human settlement patterns. The phenomenon of “suburban sprawl,” or, more precisely, the pattern of scattered, disconnected, low-density development, pushed jobs out of the urban core and into settings inaccessible to anyone without an automobile. That made it difficult for blacks stuck in the inner city and dependent upon mass transit to access the newly created jobs. Somehow, though, Hispanics seem to have carved out a niche at the bottom of the economic totem pole in the suburbs. I’m not sure why the difference between the two groups exists.

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Not, Sowell, please. Ugh. All of these sources have a political agenda. Got anything a little more authoritative and maybe a little more objective?

  16. nova_middle_man Avatar

    It boils down to education and incarceration rates

    Incarceration rates

    Education rates

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    “Somehow, though, Hispanics seem to have carved out a niche at the bottom of the economic totem pole in the suburbs.”

    Really, I am a middle-aged white guy who lives in a nice neighborhood. My next door neighbor is a pyschiatrist from Colombia and his house is considerably nicer and more expensive than mine. I am sure he makes more money than I do.

    Better watch those sweeping statements, Buster!

  18. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Anonymous 5:39, My “sweeping” statement regarding Hispanics in the suburbs was not meant to imply — and, logically, does not — that all Hispanics are at the bottom economic rung. Of course there are many well educated Hispanics in the Richmond area. I invested money in one fellow’s business — he was Bolivian. Through him, I was amazed to discover how many other educated, well-off Bolivians live in this town!

    Anonymous 5:16, You said, “All these sources have a political agenda.” What you’re doing is dismissing their logic and the facts they muster by labeling them. That may impress others but it does not impress me. What does impress me is if you can show me data — from the Census, the FBI crime reports, whatever — that show that Murray, Thernstrom, Sowell & Co. are wrong.

  19. E M Risse Avatar


    You may be tossing too much straw on the “Great Society” man.

    The begining of the end of the worst of Urban Renewal came with “The Life and Death of Great American Cities” published in 1961. That was the year the Donkey Clan president before Johnson took office.

    An Elephant Clan administration run by a fellow named Ike was in power when most of the rules and much of the damage from Urban Renewal was done to “those other folks” regardless of color. In Boston it was Italian Americans, in Utica …

    The real point is, as noted by an Anon above, the “not like me” fobia is genetic and we are all guilty, especially if we think we can get away with it.

    It is just a waste of time and energy to keep beating on the “general” problem, we need to create settlement patterns that make it easier to raise children and to overcome narrow prejudices against the “not like mes” be they black, brown, liberal, centerist, catholic or even evangelicals — so long as they act as their scriptures dictate.


  20. E M Risse Avatar

    Speaking of data:

    Take a look at the WaPo A2 Department of Human Behavior report from yesterday about the economic success of companies that have diverstity in the Board Room.

    When it is understood that having diversity makes money the road forward will be a lot easier.

    It is sort of like when the cost of location-variable decisions are fairly allocated….


  21. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Jim Bacon: You nailed it. I would say that there are 3 sin stains on the Virginia flag – slavery, segregation and racism. Racism still exists and cuts in every direction.

    Since I see I have an anonymous fan of my reading of history, I’ll share something I gained from the world histories I read or re-read in the past year or so…

    No group, a sub-culture in the US, in the history of the world has moved so far, so high, so well over such hurdles with such dignity and success as Black Americans from 1865 to 1965. None.

    #2 may be the Lowland Scots from 1700 to 1760.

    From the late-60s on there has been a bifurcation of two Black Americas (sound like John Edwards?) where (I recall the data from the early 80s) 15% of Blacks were moving ahead of the average Whites by all indicators…education, income, etc. but 85% were losing. I don’t know what the numbers are now. The folks heading to the underclass suffered from socialism, destruction of the family (blacks exceeded whites in marriage stats in the 19th century after The War), and drugs – social pathologies not slavery.

    The GA should declare a Commendation of Black Virginians for overcoming slavery and segregation – not an apology.

  22. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    From nova_middle_man’s link refs:
    (thank you)

    Graduation Rates:
    State White Black
    Southern States
    Virginia 84.3 71.6
    Alabama 78.0 66.9
    Georgia 81.8 72.5
    Mississippi 78.9 60.4
    North Carolina 81.2 70.7

    Other States:
    North Dakota 84.2 92.6
    Vermont 86.6 84.2
    Texas 79.5 75.8
    West Virginia 75.1 76.6

    Notice the correlation of the GAPs with the Southern States verses other states.

    I think the idea that the differences are “cultural” … doesn’t jive with the data….

    I think also.. that for those that think what was done in the past has no connection with today… might want to look at the Southern vs other states data.

    Not overt racism… but clearly the states that practiced slavery have larger gaps in high school graduation between whites and blacks.

    Anyone want to try to explain this?

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    EMR nailed it. James Atticus Bowden blows it. Who in the **** cares about the upland Scots? Who does Bowden think he is? Do race and blood matter that much? Even I am part upland Scot and I could give a long, delirious whizz through my kilts what JAB (not Bacon) thinks.

  24. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Larry, Do you not think there are any cultural differences between African-Americans who live in Mississippi and the handful who made it to North Dakota, Vermont or West Virginia? It has nothing to do with north/south and everything to do with the group sampled. I’ll wager that you’ll find very few black people in North Dakota working on farms. Almost every one, I’ll bet, is a professional.

    If the South is so god-awful for African Americans today, how come so many of them are moving back to the South from the North?

  25. Anonymous Avatar

    One more point to Mr. Bacon who says that the urban renewal programs that uprooted Black families and resulted in dismay resulted happened when the LIBERAL (I jolt when I write this!) Great Society got underway in 1964.
    AAA..hemm! Noting EMR’s arguments about urban renewal, true “Negro Removal” government programs started much earlier.
    JAB needs only to look at Norfolk, where his online resume says he was partly raised. The city underwent a massive urban renewal program in the 1950s (predating LBJ by a decade) that ended up breaking apart many black neighborhoods. One impetus was the Housing Act of 1949 that takes us back to, well, Democrat Harry Truman and implemented by GOP Ike.
    JAB may be right in pointing out the many negatives that such programs had to mostly African-Americans in decimating family structure and the like, but it is just too knee-jerk right wing to automatically lay this at the door of a LIBERAL LBJ!
    Guys, you precious and lovable cabal of conservatives, please raise the level of your arguments and at least TRY to get your facts straight! I mean, the only time I can appreciate Bowden is when he is apologizing! Or even pretending to!

  26. Anonymous Avatar

    “Occam’s razor states that the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating, or “shaving off”, those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory.”

    In general, until the end of the Civil War, the wealth in America, particularly in the South, was made on the backs of all, but the wealth made on the backs of blacks reverted to whites. Whites built capital and wealth and blacks subsisted. That was about 150 years ago. Until the end of segregation, racially biased practices that continued from the pre-war era resulted in the denial of educational opportunities and wealth building afforded whites.

    Whites passed on their wealth to this day, built to a substantial extent on the backs of blacks, maintained their “ancestral” access to the best education, and their control of most government and economic power via their “white” network. Generations of exclusion from power, wealth, and education are not remedied so quickly.

    Now it’s 2007, and there remains a black underclass in Virginia. It presents a social cost to all – blacks and whites, and the priority of this problem among Virginia legislators is solely lacking.

  27. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Anonymous 8:35, Point well taken. It’s not fair to blame “urban renewal” programs exclusively on LBJ’s Great Society. Eisenhower-era Republicans deserve their share of the blame.

    But you’re missing the larger point. The “urban renewal” strategies that displaced so many African-American communities did not arise from racism — it arose from the “progressive” elements of society who who thought that they could combat poverty by removing the physical manifestations of it and transplanting people into federal housing projects. Who paid for the hubris of these social engineers? Black people did.

    But rather than own up to the disastrous failures of social engineering, the intellectual descendents of the urban renewers prefer to blame white racism for the modern-day ills of the African-American community. Sorry, but I’m not buying it.

  28. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: culture and the difference in graduation rates between states.

    but maybe folks don’t think that the disparities in the rates are indicative of anything of import… beyond …. “FYI” ….

    For me – they indicate something IS …STILL going on … which I realize is a separate issue from whether or not any kind of “apology” is required.

    I would think that even for Black folks – that the disparity in graduation rates would be more of concern… that the merits of a symbolic action but then I’m not black and I’m probably not very smart to boot on things like this.

    I DO think this. If something is important to the black community as a whole – it doesn’t matter what non-blacks think. It’s like your spouse telling you that something is important to him/her even though you don’t understand it.

    You respond … or risk alienation.

  29. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Larry, to my mind, the most persuasive evidence of all that cultural differences are a major factor in explaining the gap in black educational achievement is the tremendous gap between male and female achievement *within* the black community. According to conventional PC thinking, black girls are doubly oppressed — they’re black and they’re female. Yet, somehow, they perform much closer to national norms than boys do. Why? I don’t pretend to know. Ask Bill Cosby. But I suspect it has something to do with the hyper-macho male sub-culture of American cities — a sub-culture, incidentally, that gets lots of reinforcement from mainstream popular culture, especially the record business and movie business.

  30. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’ve not seen the graduation data between black women and black men.

    Has anyone got a link?

    Does this gap exist no matter what state we look at?

    Are there any schools – public or private where this gap does not exist?

  31. nova_middle_man Avatar

    One of the most beneficial classes I took in college was the intro to education class required for all teachers as an elective.

    My professor was amazing anyway…

    Just call me the link master :-p
    The power of the Internets

    Here are some links of interest

    In my brief search I couldn’t find state by state data broken out by race and gender. I’m sure its out there somewhere Just Google away 🙂

    This article is all encompassing focusing on the causes of the problem and effective strategies of mitigating all without being too PC.

    Some things that popped out from the article

    Unlike any other race Black Males do worse in Math and Science than Black females

    Epidemiologists and psychologists have identified a number of risk factors within the social environment which, when combined, are thought to have a multiplier effect upon risk behavior. Lack of access to health care, adequate nutrition, and decent housing; growing up poor and in a single-parent household; being exposed to substance abuse at a young age; and living in a crime ridden neighborhood; are some of the variables most commonly cited.(31) Similarly, anthropologists and sociologists have documented ways in which certain cultural influences can lower the aspirations of Black males and contribute to the adoption of self-destructive behavior. John Ogbu has argued that community-based “folk theories” which suggest that because of the history of discrimination against Black people, even those who work hard will never reap rewards equivalent to Whites, can contribute to self defeating behaviors.(32) There is also evidence that many Black males view sports or music as more promising routes to upward mobility than academic pursuits.(33) Finally, some researchers have found that for some African American students, doing well in school is perceived as a sign that one has “sold out” or opted to “act White” for the sake of individual gain.(34)

    Researchers who have studied effective schools have found that such schools possess the following characteristics: (1) a clear sense of purpose; (2) core standards within a rigorous curriculum; (3) high expectations; (4) commitment to educate all students; (5) safe and orderly learning environment; (6) strong partnerships with parents; and (7) a problem solving attitude.(77) Though the criteria used to determine effectiveness relies almost exclusively on data from standardized tests and ignores other criteria, there is no disagreement that such schools consistently produce high levels of academic achievement among minority students. Researchers on effective schools for low-income African American students also cite the supportive relations that exist between teachers and students, and the ethos of caring and accountability that pervades such schools as other essential ingredients of their success.(78) Educational reformers and researchers must do more to figure out how to adopt strategies that have proven successful at schools where achievement is less likely. As Ron Edmonds, formerly one of the leading researchers on effective schools, has stated: “We already know more than enough to successfully educate all students.”(79) The challenge before educators and policy makers is to find ways to build upon existing models of success.

    The entire article was very good IMHO.

    If the pay was better I could see myself being a teacher (but thats a whole other debate)

  32. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross


    Excellent Post!

    Here is the relevant issue in my opinion.

    1. – Black males may learn differently.

    2. – just born black males deserve the same opportunities at life as others

    3. – Blaming the failure to educate black males on culture, their parents, or even them – is evading the truth about the difference between what we say about the purpose of education and how we choose to implement it.

    You can bet your sweet backside that if we found out that white girls had a similiar problem.. that we’d be moving heaven and earth to deal with it.

    .. especially if it meant that white girls ended up in prison twice as often as other race/genders.

    Therein lies the painful truth about our attitudes about this problem.

    It’s NOT an easy problem. It is, in fact, enormously difficult but we dishonor ourselves as people when we shirk our moral responsibilities – as people.

    I’m not in favor of abandoning ANY child. It’s EASY to look at a rebellious, even violent 12 year old and feel that he deserves a bad outcome but I have a much more difficult time thinking that same way when he is two years old.

    Somewhere in between.. bad stuff happens… that.. unless we think is pre-ordained… no matter what we do… we ought to be concerned enough to do more than wring our hands.

  33. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Larry: Re Black males may learn differently.

    Based on biology? Or what?

    You may recall “The Bell Curve” was called racist, etc. etc.

    I’d have data and a hypothesis to test before I made up a reason.

    When children of all races and mixed races are in the same class room for 40 years and results vary significantly by race – it’s slavery isn’t the reason.

    I’d like to see the hypothesis that could be tested empirically that slavery and segregation causes racial discrepancies in the classroom. What specific aspect is trans-generational in its effect on human learning?


    Culture commands. Which is why the African and Carribean (sp) immigrants do differently in school than born in the USA Blacks.

  34. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    JAB – … do differently in schools that evolved from a white European culture….


    African American Vernacular English (AAVE)

    AAVE’s resistance to assimilation into Standard American English or other more standard dialects is a consequence of cultural differences between blacks and whites (Romaine 109). Thus, language becomes a means of self-differentiation that helps forge group identity, solidarity and pride.

    let’s take a quick poll and see if there is a difference in AGREE and DISAGREE with the above statement between the races.

    Bonus Question: if there IS a difference… what is an acceptable response from those who don’t agree with the above statement?

  35. Anonymous Avatar

    Personally I think the argument is a bit tedious. Sure, biology would suggest that there are measurable differences between the races inherent in their genes, the color difference is obvious. But these differences are subtle and largely overlap each other, and certainly if whites are different from blacks they are not as different as the difference between whites and rocks!

    We all came from the same primeval mother — we are all related in a larger sense of family and community –- we are our brother’s keeper. It is our choice to be a part of the solution or to look to our own self-interests and just remain critical bystanders.

    Too many generations have been lost — when it takes only one generation of quality education of the type spelled out by nova_milldle_man above. Politicians are reluctant to pony up the money because they assume the electorate would throw them out. But I conclude it is better to pay now than to pay later.

    . . . and this is not an argument to “throw” money at the problem but an argument to implement policies that have been proven to succeed elsewhere.

  36. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    money … with accountability…

    not money to spend time on task … with no performance metrics….


    My prediction – if you offered the money with the accountability strings -more than a few school systems would simply turn it down.

    At that point.. how would you proceed?

  37. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, our education system is moving linearly in a world that is moving exponentially. China is graduating six to seven times as many scientists, engineers, and mathematicians as is America. Our system is hardly evolved in basic terms from when we had an agricultural based economy. Summers off for farming chores? Teachers, who haven’t the skills to motivate, are ineffective in their jobs, and who are effectively tenured by their unions. Administrative tasks that swamp even the competent teachers. Students who are graduated without competitive skills to match today’s technology needs.

    And inner city and rural schools who have decrepit infrastructure and students who culturally are uninterested in education.

    What could be more important to the state than turning this situation around by bold moves?

    I assume our state legislature can trump the current system of both teacher unions and locality-financed public schools. My suggestion broadly is that the state, both through legislation and leadership, invest in our common future (whether by taxes or bond issues), mandate broad reform of state education, raise teacher salaries and throw out underperforming teachers, and work to enlist the support of parents, educators, and industry to bring Virginia into the 21st century and face the challenge of international competition that our children will surely experience.

    I know this is very broad and pie-in-the-sky, and I fail to see any leadership in Virginia that could pull this off. But in this matter we know our future, it sits today in our classrooms all across the Commonwealth.

  38. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Bill – do you think the countries that are cleaning our clocks – achievement-wise, not only the Asians but many of the Europeans… do you think it is because they spend more money than we do – even adjusted for differences in our relative wealth?

    If that can be shown to be true – that it IS about money.. then I’ll support it but I’d be especially interested in WHERE the increased money went…

    I doubt this very seriously but I’ve got an open mind.

    I think the problem is that we have an ebedded institutional culture that is NOT focused on results.

    The proof of this to me is the outright hostility to performance metrics such as SOLs and NCLB as well as other measures.

    They don’t oppose one measure and suggest another instead – they oppose them ALL.

    Read this from Teacher’s Magazine:

    “It was eight years ago—one of those years when I was trying to be super mom, super wife, super teacher. My husband, out of desperation, finally decided to hire a housekeeper to come once every two weeks to relieve some of the pressure at home. What a gift!

    For months the housekeeper slipped quietly into my home while I was at school. I couldn’t wait to get home. I would take in the smell of Pledge and Pinesol as I opened the door. On this particular day, she came while I was working at home. When she was finished working her magic, she walked in softly and stood by my desk. When I looked up, her eyes were on the floor. She stammered, “As I’ve been cleaning your house, I guessed you was a teacher.” “Why, yes!” I said, quite proud of my profession. “Well. … I was wondering. I graduated from high school here in town but I didn’t never learn to read. Do you think you could teach me to read?”

    this is the REALITY in this country .. people who GRADUATE … with not enough education to get a job that will provide for their own health care… their own kids… their own ability to be responsible for themselves and have enough left over to CONTRIBUTE to society so that others… who can’t care for themselves can be helped.

    We RANT on and on about the wrongness of Welfare mentality; but we CAUSE it… with our outright refusual accept the reality that other countries achieve while we.. blame … kids, parents, culture.. you name it – anything but a commitment to produce results.

    I hate the idea.. the concept of vouchers.. but unless the education community itself reforms and reinvents itself… what are the alternatives if we want USA kids to have a future in a World Economy?

  39. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    How odd, the public schools I attended – in several different states – taught me how to read.

    My daughter, who is 10 years old – has also learned to read, being taught by teachers while she has attending a public elementary school.

    In fact, she has qualified for gifted classes in every subject when she enters the 6th grade next year.

    Having read some of her stories, I can see the beginnings of an emerging future talent within the community of those that use words to communicate.

    Her public school is teaching her how to play the clarinet. She is doing quite well.

    Neither my wife nor I play can this instrument.

    Odd, isn’t it?

    My daughter spends the majority of her “free time” in a gym, practicing competitive Allstar cheerleading, so her success is not due to her spending a great deal of time on school work outside of her classroom.

    Of course, as her parents we do make sure she completes her homework assignments on time – or she has no TV or other privileges. When she gets “stuck” we do help her – mostly to show her where to go to find the answers.

    Did I mention that she is only 10 years old and she reads quite well?

    Did I mention that she has only attended public schools in Virginia within the past 6 years?

    Did I mention that her mother and I are the products of public schools?

  40. nova_middle_man Avatar

    Our education system is what I like to call the 80% education system.

    80% of the time it works great

    The real issue is what to do with the 10% on either end.

    Usually what ends up happening is you have a Gifted and Talented Program and a Resource program.

    For all intensive purposes these programs do a decent job of trying to make square pegs fit into the one size fits all program of mass eduction. (Please note I am not knocking the system remember it does an excellent job 80% of the time)

    The real “problem” is in areas where instead of a 10/80/10 split you end up with a 30/65/5 split or a 5/65/30 or even worse a 50/49/1 split or a 1/49/50. Obviously the one size fits all education model wont do as well in these situations.

    At this point it requires a different school philosophy. I believe it is up to principals to recognize when they are in a unique school situation and to seek out teachers who have unique skills/patience/creativity to reach
    out to the different learning needs within our educational system.

    This requires a couple things. First you need to have a decent supply of compatent and caring principals who are willing to go into challengeing schools and recruit different kinds of teachers. For the most part I would argue the principals are there. Financial incentives could be used in particular challenging environments.

    Now for the “hard part” IMHO. How do you train a teacher to be effective with the top or bottom 10% of students. It’s not very cost effective. It makes alot more sense to teach what works 80% of the time then to worry about the other 10% on each end.

    A possible solution We need more specialists perhaps and now the questions Would there be enough teachers willing to receive training to become specialists. Should specialists receive higher slaries. Would the training focus on both ends of the spectrum. Shouldn’t all teachers receive training in these areas anyway?

    Some anecdotal data. There is already a shortage of special education teachers. In some cases ESL and AP teachers get paid more. Most schools fit in the 10/80/10 model but the Washington DC metro area has an above average number of unique schools.

    For more information of what works Google Mel Riddile a principal with a proven track record.

    Heres a link to get started

    Isn’t it fun to think 🙂

  41. Anonymous Avatar

    TO: Reid Greenmun, I don’t see where your daughter’s experience moves the discussion forward. She obviously is bright, motivated, and has a supportive and nurturing home environment. I was raised in a dysfunctional family where my father opposed college education and even refused to fill out forms so that I could apply for assistance. I left home and finished college and grad school paying every cent of my education. So what! – what does this have to do with the state of education in America or in Virginia?

    The following from this link:

    “The United States is falling when it comes to international education rankings, as recent studies show that other nations in the developed world have more effective education systems. 

In a 2003 study conducted by UNICEF that took the averages from five different international education studies, the researchers ranked the United States No. 18 out of 24 nations in terms of the relative effectiveness of its educational system. 

Another prominent 2003 study, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, shows a steady decline in the performance of American students from grades 4 to 12 in comparison to their peers in other countries. 

In both studies, Finland, Australia, Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Netherlands and the United Kingdom beat the United States, while the Asian nations of South Korea, Japan and Singapore ranked first through third, respectively.”

    And to nova_middle_man, I appreciate your thoughtful, moderate postings – but if blogging is to be more than a hollow echo chamber, the discussions need to move forward to action. Otherwise what is the point?

  42. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    That is the hard thing to reconcile.

    We’re BOTH behind our world counterparts and then within our own distribution – we’re essentially satisfied with educating the low-hanging fruit and tossing the rest overboard – as long as the “average” looks pretty good – compared to US schools and not European and Asian schools.

    and I dunno about the idea of find the “right” principles and teachers unless there is a commitment to insure that kids at risk have access to them.

    Our problem is that Principles and teachers alike do not want to be put in harms way (educating hard cases) because it risks their own career.

    Yeah.. there might be a few who are willing to fall on their swords for the “gipper” but most folks are human…they have families and lives on their own and if they have their careers ruined.. because they actually were trying to change the system itself… well.. I cannot agree.

    What that would do .. is relieve the education institution itself of direct responsibility for institutionalization of the system to deal with the issue.

    If we cannot agree on a commitment to do this – then we need to open it up on a competitive basis… to other players – and every kid who cannot be served… get the dollars and let them be used via another path…. than public schools.

    If we don’t do this or something similiar – we’re not going to change. The education community is so entrenched and so unyielding to change that unless they have to compete – they don’t need to do anything different than what they are currently doing.

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