Webb Shatters the Mold

Senator Jim Webb has always been something of a maverick, but now he has done something truly shocking: He has broken from Democrat Party orthodoxy on the intertwined issues of race, diversity and white privilege.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece today, Webb makes it crystal clear that he is sympathetic to the condition of African-Americans in this country, who still wrestle with the legacy of slavery the Jim Crow era, and is supportive of measures to remediate, in the words of Lyndon B. Johnson, “the badges of slavery.” But he is uncomfortable with the idea of extending that remediation to all “persons of color,” most of whom are newcomers to America and have never suffered discrimination from the U.S. government. Furthermore, he argues that white cultures are so diverse that lumping them together for purposes of public policy (as in bearing the brunt of reverse discrimination) is not justifiable.

As Webb notes, 95% of the whites of the old South did not own slaves. The South was economically devastated by the Civil War, leaving not only blacks but whites in poverty. Of the South’s 1.8 million sharecroppers, two-thirds were white, roughly mirroring a population that was 71% white. As late as 1938, white illiteracy was far higher than the national average; all colleges and universities in the South combined had endowments smaller than Harvard and Yale combined. The legacy of that white poverty lives on today in lower-than-average levels of education. Writes Webb:

Policy makers ignored such disparities within America’s white cultures when, in advancing minority diversity programs, they treated whites as a fungible monolith. Also lost on those policy makers were the differences in economic and educational attainment among nonwhite cultures. Thus nonwhite groups received special consideration in a wide variety of areas including business startups, academic admissions, job promotions and lucrative government contracts.

He concludes:

Nondiscrimination laws should be applied equally among all citizens, including those who happen to be white. The need for inclusiveness in our society is undeniable and irreversible, both in our markets and our communities. Our government should be in the business of enabling opportunity for all, not in picking winners. … Memo to my fellow politicians: Drop the Procrustean policies and allow harmony to invade the public mindset. Fairness will happen, and bitterness will fade away.

Bravo! Well said.

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9 responses to “Webb Shatters the Mold”

  1. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    Good post, Jim.

    Webb is a good writer, too as evidenced by "Fields of Fire" and "Born Fighting."

    (The latter describes my maternal family side to a tee).
    Peter Galuszka

  2. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Now this is something we can all agree on and be proud of.

    Let us stop tossing rocks at empty pigeon holes and, as we will suggest in a coming post, getting roaring drunk and tossing empty beer bottles at the robins nesting in the pyracantha bush by the grill.

    EMR

  3. Groveton Avatar
    Groveton

    Sen. Webb is a good talker / writer. Let's see if he pushes the elimination of set aside legislation in federal contracting. The poorest white person ever to grow up in a West Virginia shanty has no chance of starting an 8A company while the son of a "disadvantaged" multi-millionaire gets a set aside.

    Time will tell if Sen. Webb is willing to put his money where his mouth is.

  4. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    I have very mixed feelings about Senator Webb. I've found his office very helpful on some issues, and valueless on others. While I was not on all fours with his position on Iraq, I admired his willingness to take a stand. Yet, he seems fairly silent on Iraq and Afghanistan now that a Democrat sits in the White House.

    He talks the language of a maverick, but seems to vote with the White House on many, many issues. It certainly did, however, take courage to write this op-ed in the WSJ. He is challenging Party orthodoxy. As Groveton writes, what does he do to implement his views?

    I'm not sure what he's really done for Virginia, but I wasn't sure what George Allen or Chuck Robb did before him.

    Senator Webb remains a mystery to me. I neither "love him" nor "hate him."

    TMT

  5. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    NEVER TRUST BACON!

    Geez, I just finally read Webb's op ed piece and didn't realize from Bacon's post that Webb was calling for an end of affirmative action. While I liked his essay, he didn't make a strong case for such a termination.
    Slick as ever, the Jimbo eased his smooth-talking way into this. I should never resond to anything he writes without reading the fine print.
    (EMR, it looks like we are back to cucking rocks at patterns of human settllement if I have that right).

    Peter Galuszka

  6. Mimi Stratton Avatar
    Mimi Stratton

    After all the turmoil this week stirred up by the attack on Ms. Shirley Sherrod, we are asked to believe there's no need for affirmative action? Because we've come so far, and all our institutions have been washed clean of any discriminatory practices? Webb is honestly asking me to buy this?

  7. Larry G Avatar

    It's invariably pointed out that racial discrimination is not practiced by modern-day white folks who are innocent from what some ancestors not even related to them did.

    You know what had more effect on embolden blacks in this country to demand equal treatment – AND …PROVED that discrimination..long after the civil war was rampant?

    World War II.

    It's kind of hard to come home from the war where you suffered and died side by side with whites and then come home and be told that not only can you not have a job that a white had but you can't drink from his water fountain either.

    So.. anyone who wants to say that discrimination only took place way back when… and then only slave owners …

    is simply denying the truth

    and most whites did benefit from it.

    There are a lot of white folks around these days whose white DADs and granddads got jobs that their black counterparts could not get, supported their families and sent their kids to college.

    and if your dad is one of these – you might well have benefited from that discrimination. Can you be so sure you did not?

    Having said that – I'm in general agreement with what Webb says..

    We need to move on.. but not by denying what happened.. just admit it and get it behind us

    I also want to remind people that the race card was played way back when FAUX news spent virtually night after night calling Candidate Obama a racist for hanging out with Jeremiah 'gawd damn America" Wright – and that race rhetoric continued . with his wife being accused of saying "Whitey" and now what amounts to a right-wing propaganda machine "racist" witch hunt against Obama appointees that would shame the tactics Of McCarthy.

    Even as Bill O'Reilly apologized the other night – they were playing other parts of the tape to "prove" that this lady did have some racist leanings…

    so FAUX and the right wing have no intention of letting it go…

    welcome to the world of hate.

  8. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Peter:

    You should not be so stern with Mr. Bacon or Senator Webb.

    They are both trying to face the reality of the widening Wealth Gap and the fact that ‘affirmative action’ is being gamed by those at the top of the food chain with out respect to race.

    The question they are both trying to answer is: How can wealth be redistributed equitably?

    As Joseph Pulitzer said: “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings.

    And Jawaharlal Nehru noted: “The forces in a capitalist society, if left unchecked, tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorer."

    Most of those who now have “a lot” got it by not paying their fair of the cost and at the expense of either the less well to do or the environment.

    Give credit to Mr. Bacon for trying to find an answer.

    As Groveton says, it will be hard to do.

    Observer

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