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“The Last Compromise”

WRM has written the lead piece in the latest issue of The American Interest, which broadly deals with the subject of race and class in America. Drawing on themes that regular readers of Via Meadia will recognize, the essay traces the long arc race relations have traveled since the founding of the country to today—four years into the Obama presidency. A taste:

Over the past two centuries, the question of race in America has been indissolubly linked to the general social and economic development of the country. That is not surprising; blacks and whites live and work in the same economy and the same forces act on their lives. But race and the history of race have meant that these forces play out in different ways. Just as past compromises going back to 1787 were based on the political economy of the day, the Compromise of 1977 reflected the nature of American economic and political life at that time. The United States was then still in the late heyday of the “blue social model.” Stable corporate oligopolies provided lifetime employment for both blue- and white-collar workers. Both public and private entities were bureaucratically organized with large clerical staffs dedicated to relatively low-skilled information processing. Employment in government and in the academy was rapidly expanding, and real wages had been rising for a generation. Manufacturing employment was high and presumably headed higher. The Compromise of 1977 was predicated on the assumption that these conditions would endure; they have not, and race relations must once again be rethought.

Give it a read this weekend.

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  • Alex Scipio

    A very interesting run through our history. Two comments.

    1. The only way forward into a post-Industrial economy is education. The party most strongly-wedded to our union-based (unions themselves being a relic of the Industrial Age) system of education, a system that fails African Americans most of all, is the same party for which Blacks vote in lockstep. Until & unless Blacks begin to allow the GOP to contest for their vote, urban failure will only continue & accelerate.

    2. We have a fairly awkward word in English, “bus.” to see it spelled differently twice within one paragraph is disturbing. “Buss,” of course, is an archaic word for a short kiss on the cheek, and “forced bussing” the act with which a young child must greet his grandmother. To see both “bussing” (misused) and “busing” in the same paragraph of a scholarly essay jerks the reader FROM that essay. It is unfortunate.

  • thibaud

    True to form, when Mead wanders outside his area of expertise, he gives us more flapdoodle. What, exactly, is this “Compromise of 1977”?

    Before one attempts to mint some kind of golden term – with a pompous capitalization, no less – wouldn’t it help to define it first?

    The only thing that Mead even references as defining this Watershed Event is the increase in incarceration rates for african-american Americans. Mead argues, if that’s the right word, that this non-federal non-policy is equivalent in scope and significance to the end of Reconstruction.

    Really? This is like saying that the notch baby seniors’ revolt is on par with the Boston Tea Party.

    Mead also tries to be cute. His choice of 1977 is meant to mimic 1877, but other than that attempt to grab the attention of some junior cable or radio show producer, there’s no evidence of thinking here.

    Does he mean to say his grand capital-letter Compromise was … the inauguration of Jimmy Carter?

    The death of Elvis?

    The winning of the Triple Crown by Seattle Slew?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  • Kenny

    1. “Affirmative action and other methods of improving black access to middle-class jobs work best in large, stable firms with fairly bureaucratic structures and large numbers of employees performing reasonably similar functions.”

    Not quite, Mr. Mead.

    Actually, affirmative action (a.k.a., racial quotas) ‘works’ when society is so prosperous that it can afford to let the marginally qualified (and often times even the outright incompetent) have positions based on race and/or gender that they otherwise would not have gotten.

    From the 1960s to just recently, America was so prosperous that it could afford AA. But not anymore. The free ride is fast ending.

    2. Mead says blacks are the last group to ‘colonize’ America’s great cities.

    Such a choice of words shows Mr. Mead is either ignorant of the history of American cities or he’s trying to show his patronizing sensitivity. (I personally think it’s the latter.)

    Here’s why I say that:

    Other racial and ethnic groups (Irish, Italians, Jews, etc.) came to American cities and made them bigger and better. As such, they did not ‘colonize’ those cities. It would be more accurate to say they actively participated in building the cities to their peak.

    There is no example that Mead (or his kiddies) can give where the blacks have actually improved American cities with their presence in great numbers. None.

    Yes, those that ‘colonize’ can take control of cities by the shear force of their numbers. But they have not improved the cities. Heck, they can’t even maintain them as evidenced by places like Gary, Newark, Cleveland, Detroit, Camden, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Kansas City, …….

  • cacrucil

    An excellent essay. Articles like this are why I keep coming back to Via Meadia.

  • Rand Millar

    Dr. Mead has written a compelling piece, one of his best, which is saying quite a lot. He frames an essential debate for the next decade and more. The observations offered by others are worthy additions. Particularly I would offer by way of anecdotal illustration how a part of the City of Los Angeles that visibly suffered during black “colonization” in the mid 20th century rejuvenated when newcomers with superior cultural capital (and the financial means that earned) turned it into Koreatown.

    A renaissance of possibilities for black people in this country in the decades to come when the entire country must come to terms with dire financial realities seems possible only with vast cultural change from within. The prompts to such a dynamic must be unsettling in the extreme for all.

  • Luke Lea

    An impressive piece of expository writing. My only qualm is the emphasis on race as opposed to class in our new “winner take all” meritocracy. A revisit to Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve might be in order, but stripping out all the chapters that deal with race: the problems you describe afflict everyone on the left-hand side of the bell curve of the normal distribution of the talents and abilities required to succeed in today’s economy, in which capital, including human capital (especially human capital) is the key to success. Without it you are not going anywhere no matter the color of your skin.

    Trade, immigration, and tax policies have a lot to do with this situation, both creating it and offering possibilities to mitigate it. Wage subsidies financed by progressive consumption taxes are really the only theoretically possible alternatives to immigration restrictions and old-fashioned protective tariffs, a fact which our policy elites have yet to face up to. It is all about the real hourly take-home pay of the half of our population who are below average, among whom blacks are in fact a relatively small minority.

    The American pie is bigger than it ever was, not only absolutely but on a per capita basis. The issues are all about distribution.

  • Luke Lea

    By the way, the notion that education is the key to equalizing human capital is a sad fallacy: education, as Richard Feynman once remarked, increases differences. This is not to say that education is unimportant; just that it is not the answer to inequality. Native ability is the source of inequality and always will be.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @Kenny says:

    “From the 1960s to just recently, America was so prosperous that it could afford AA. But not anymore. The free ride is fast ending.”

    Sadly, you are wrong here in otherwise an excellent comment.

    Just because country is becoming poor – poorer really, not poor – does not meant that state will stop open favoritism towards one race/ethnics/class among others.

    Or will, necessarily, stop open discrimination toward some races/ethnics/classes.

    History is full of examples of very poor states viciously discriminating some unlucky group.

    Some recent examples. No matter how poor or “moderate” Moslem country is they discriminate against non-Muslims.

    Perhaps less known, quite poor Soviet Union had a very aggressive Affirmative Action for ethnically Russian Party members from mid 1930th on.

    In fact we can expect that as an economic pie shrinks, fight for the remaining crumbs will be more vicious. AA is a part and parcel in that fight for extra goodies.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @Alex Scipio:

    “The only way forward into a post-Industrial economy is education.”

    Really? Can you prove it?

    Please explain how having tens of millions people with diplomas automatically generates jobs for them?

    Isn’t it more likely, as is the case today, that if there are no jobs, educated people remain unemployed?

    As an exercise, please explain why Germany with a significantly lower percentage of labor force with college diplomas is doing so much better vs unemployment than US?

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @Luje Lea:

    “It is all about … take-home pay of the half of our population who are below average, among whom blacks are in fact a relatively small minority.”

    Hispanics have a milder case of the same problem, their average is below nation average.

    That makes your statement incorrect and politically more difficult to deal with.

    Available data about US ethnic groups performance indicates that there are 50M of racial and ethnic minorities that are below national average. There are 150M people in the nation who are below average, so minorities are 1/3 of that number, plurality, not a small minority.

    The problem becomes a very easy one to demagogue, hence difficult to deal with.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @Rand Millar:

    “A renaissance of possibilities for black people in this country in the decades to come when the entire country must come to terms with dire financial realities seems possible only with vast cultural change from within.”

    True, but how you suppose it could happen?

    “The prompts to such a dynamic must be unsettling in the extreme for all”

    We have to stay clear of Komment Kontrol, but you are not clear in the statement above.

  • JimK

    It’s interesting that one big element is missing from WRM’s analysis. The effects of the “Great Society” welfare laws that have so debilitated the black family. The aid to dependent mothers is perhaps the most destructive “charity” ever granted by any society. It simply is not possible to achieve success and wealth accumulation without the nominal two parent household. That certainly must be taken into account when recounting the patterns in any Democratic stronghold.

  • Charles R. Williams

    There was no compromise of 1977. There was a settlement of the civil rights issue in the mid-sixties but it was immediately undermined by affirmative action. The people have never accepted reverse discrimination. Our elites have shoved this fundamental injustice down our throats. They believe that blacks are inferior. They believe the only way to hide the pea is reverse discrimination. This they believe is necessary to buy racial peace. Since their own birth rates are low and they have the money to buy success for their own children they have no reluctance to systematically handicap upwardly mobile whites and Asians.

    Well, yes, affirmative action is unraveling because the economy is becoming more entrepreneurial and intermarriage and high levels of immigration make it harder and harder to justify special privileges for blacks.

  • Kenny

    What I would like to say to ‘Mick The Reactionary’s’ valid comment at post #8 is that as prosperity dims, the white middle class will no longer roll over and accept racial quotas as it quietly did from the 1970s to now.

    That’s because when white middle class kids got discriminated against by racial quotas for either a job or a position in a professional schools, they did not hit rock bottom. There were plenty of other opportunities out there for them, albeit not as good as what was denied, but still pretty good nonetheless.

    That situation is ending and with it so will society’s tolerance for racial quotas.

    If it ever comes to an open contest between the white middle class and the blacks (and their liberal backers), quotas lose.

    The only thing that kept the quota game going so long was unprecedented prosperity.

  • Luke Lea

    Mick the reactionary – “Just because country is becoming poor – poorer really, not poor”

    Our country is not becoming poorer. Far from it. Per capita income has been climbing steadily for decades, in large measure because of the very policies that are eroding the wages of the common people. Thus it comes back to the distribution of the fruits of progress.

  • Luke Lea

    Mick the reactionary again – “There are 150M people in the nation who are below average, so minorities are 1/3 of that number”

    So what are that other hundred million supposed to be, chopped liver?

  • Luke Lea

    Jim K makes a good point about the destructive effects of welfare. That’s why programs like the earned-income tax credit (EITC) make much more sense: they only pay off if you work.

  • Luke Lea

    If the bottom half of society could lead a good life we wouldn’t have to worry about affirmative action. But when the bottom half has poor prospects of a good life, racial disparities become a big problem. People get desperate not to be on the bottom.

  • Luke Lea

    Wage subsidies and progressive taxation are the answer. For whites as well as blacks. This doesn’t have to be about race. A greater measure of human equality is the issue.

  • WigWag

    “The railroad accomplished for the North’s free labor economy what the cotton gin had done for the South: thanks to the railroad, northern agricultural produce and manufactured goods became caught up in the rapidly expanding global economy. By the 1850s, the slave interest felt itself back on the defensive as new patterns of trade and production reduced the weight of cotton in the national economy.” (Walter Russell Mead)

    The history lesson Professor Mead offers to his readers is not entirely correct. In fact, it was not the advent of the railroad that facilitated the North’s economic supremacy over the south; it was the construction of the Erie Canal which was completed in 1825, decades before the railroad era began.

    Even as late as 1852, 13 times more freight tonnage was transported on the Erie Canal than on all of the railroads in the North combined. In the early decades of the railroad era, trains were about moving people, not freight.

    Professor Mead should not underestimate the impact of the Canal on many of the issues that he talks about in this post. In his book, “Wedding of the Waters” (a book blurbed by Professor Mead) Peter Bernstein makes the point that,

    “…the canal changed the face of the nation by transforming its primary axis from north-south to east-west.”

    Interestingly, a similar canal project had been planned for Virginia (based on the Potomac River) but Virginians had no DeWitt Clintons in their midst; instead they had politicians who suffered from the incredulity of the timid and thought construction of a canal represented a boondoggle of massive proportions (just as the proprietor of this blog is absolutely convinced that high speed rail is a boondoggle). The result was that the free state of New York, instead of the slave state of Virginia became the “Empire State” with an economy that became the envy of the world.

    In fact, addressing exactly the point about railroads in the North that Professor Mead makes in his essay, Bernstein says,

    “As the flood of New Englanders and European immigrants moved west on the Erie Canal packets, the momentum of America shifted increasingly from the slaveholding and cotton-producing South to the free labor and Industrial Revolution of the north. Indeed, no comparable network of canals existed anywhere in the South-a disparity that helps explain northern superiority in the Civil War that came two decades later.”

    It is worth noting that the Canal was entirely financed by the taxpayers of New York State. President Jefferson though that the idea of building the canal was complete folly and refused any federal assistance; it was also difficult if not impossible to line up private financing for such a risky venture.

    I can’t help but wonder; did Professor Mead merely forget to mention in his essay the single most important project that insured the North’s economic superiority over the South, or is his affection for the myth of the “blue” model that he’s dreamed up so intense that anything that reminds him of a government infrastructure project needs to be banished from his consciousness?

    Those who want to learn more about the impact of the Erie Canal on the American economy; on the migration from rural America to urban America and about the impact of the Canal on relations between the North and the South should go here,

  • Rand Millar

    Uplifting to find an excellent exchange of ideas on this thread sparked by Dr. Mead’s superb essay. I should respond to Mick the Reactionary’s concerns about the incompleteness or vagueness of my prior comment. Such a deficit comes from fear of the logical consequences of the collapse of the “Compromise of 1977” due to financial reality. If non-blacks will no longer sustain a racial preferences regime in the vastly changed financial climate, then the consequent wailing and gnashing of teeth in a black community dispossessed of their prior assumptions will mean much civil disorder. As the patience of non-blacks with such will be much less than during the outbreaks of 1965 through 1992, the recoil effect surely (?) will cause new thinking and new leadership to arise in the black community. In this regard I pray for a true renaissance of the black church. Again, what the “noise level” will be before this happens is unpredictable but unpleasant to contemplate. I hope this is less vague.

  • Jim.

    The only thing that’s going to solve this problem is integration and assimilation.

    Compromise after compromise won’t cut it.

    Emphasizing our differences won’t help. Even the idea that there should be color-based cultural differences does far more harm than good.

    America’s strength has not been our “diversity” per se, but our ability to co-opt those from any (European or Asian) culture who assimilate into the positive, constructive, Protestant-work-ethic-based power structure of the country.

    In the past, irrational prejudice has prevented us from co-opting African-Americans. Fortunately, that irrational prejudice is a ghost of its former self. (It can still scare people, it can still be used as an essentially superstitious explanation for bad fortune, but it is basically insubstantial.)

    WEB DuBois has won — today, Booker T Washington’s strategy will finish the job.

  • George B

    I think that there are some clues that point toward continued gradual integration of blacks into mainstream American society. First, crime will continue to be fought vigorously, but budget constraints will end disproportionately long prison sentences for things like possession of crack cocaine vs. powdered cocaine. Second, middle-class blacks will continue to spread out of the cities and into the suburbs with a much higher “there goes the neighborhood” threshold. As long as the percentage of blacks in a neighborhood or institution stays at or below the 13% national average, that percentage of blacks isn’t enough to trigger white flight. Third, blacks will rise to political leadership independent of urban enclave political machines. Conservatives fully accept black conservative leaders who rise to prominence as a business owner or military leader. Fourth, interracial couples will produce more racially ambiguous offspring and those children will be just as American as the mixed European whites.

  • Art Deco

    thibaud should at least skim the piece, but he has a point. Not much of significance was occurring around 1977 and the author jumbles sets of events which were ongoing anywhere from a decade earlier to twenty years later into his ‘Compromise of 1977’.

    1. The mass riots occurred over the period running from 1964 to 1971, with a scatter thereafter (in New York in 1977, in Miami in 1980, in Los Angeles in 1992). It is a reasonable inference that they came to an end because of the mysteries of fashion and because police departments acquired some know how about nipping disorders in the bud.

    2. George Wallace’s extension of support into Michigan happened after the era of riots had come to a close, and was contained due to the random factor of Arthur Bremmer.

    3. Controversies over busing were ongoing from 1968 to 1983. IIRC, Congress passed a rider to an appropriations bill inhibiting the U.S. Marshalls’ Service from using federal funds to enforce busing orders. Other judges may also have seen the mess Arthur Garrity made out of the Boston schools and decided to pass up this meddlesome business.

    4. In New York, the offensive against street crime found its point of origin with the prison building program which began in 1983. However, true battlefield success was to be found only under the Giuliani Administration, beginning in 1994.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @George B:

    “As long as the percentage of blacks in a neighborhood or institution stays at or below the 13% national average, that percentage of blacks isn’t enough to trigger white flight. ”

    How do you know that?

    This is a falsifiable hypothesis (, for you LibArts types it means that the hypothesis is testable by empirical evidence and thus conforms to the standards of scientific method.

    So prove your assertion by actual stats or go and clean your room.

  • Mick The Reactionary


    “In the past, irrational prejudice has prevented us from co-opting African-Americans”

    As always it is our (who? Americans? White Americans? White Christians? WASPs?) fault.
    A common knee-jerk unexamined and thoughtless liberal assumption.

    As was pointed out by many thinkers, Af-Americans are not independent actors in classical Liberal Morality Play. In fact they are not actors at all, they just part of stage scenery.

    Actors are racist White Christians – and lately conservative Jews – and angelic White Liberals.
    Racist whites oppress Af-Ams and are root cause of all Af-Ams dysfunction.
    White Liberals are there to feel compassionate towards Af-Ams, feel good about themselves and hate those evil intolerant racist prole whites.

  • Tom Holsinger

    IMO there is no chance of anything remotely resembling WRM’s hopes. The Democrats and liberal elitists have “poisoned the well” with their constant cries of racism. The effects of this are zero chance of any dialog or resolution as WRM espouses. The subject is plain radioactive.

    What has a meaningful chance of happening is erosion by Congress of the Diversity scam and its taxpayer-funded system. Which will be met with screams about racism which in turn will be ignored.

    What has really happened is conversion of the issue of race into another money scam whereby one faction rips off the taxpayers and has glommed onto the ensuing income stream. Which the public can’t afford anymore. So it will end. The ending will be messy. It’s another example of government solutions to anything being perverted by financial interest.

    Politics is like that.

  • Boritz

    ***The heavy police presence and law enforcement crackdowns sent a growing proportion of young black men to prison***

    The good news is there were no crimes or victims of crime. At least none are mentioned.

    And on the white-collar side the politicians who sought to put people in houses they couldn’t afford were “well-intentioned” while the “lending products” of the Wall Street lenders they colluded with were “unscrupulous and irresponsible”. Got it.

  • Mrs. Davis

    Second reconstruction down, three to go. It will not end till 2265. But no one will notice. That’s how we’ll know it’s over.

    And Jim K is absolutely correct. The answer is in the family. Even Coleman knew it 45 years ago.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @Luke Lea:

    “Our country is not becoming poorer. Far from it. Per capita income has been climbing steadily for decades”

    What income you are talking about?
    Do you mean GDP per capita?
    Do you know what you are talking about?

    Even if you take stats produced by corrupt government as a word of God and GDP/capita is growing, subject to how you define it, you still does not prove that general welfare is increasing.

    If government extracts a growing portion of GDP and totally wastes it (whatever happened to $1T in Porculus Bill?), it does not increase general welfare.

    If $2T burned in insane adventures in Dar al-Islam, how different it is if those $2T were never produced (or borrowed) in first place?

    If you are a slightly above average in intelligence Joe, it used to be you could go to work after high school, have good wages and benefits, wife stays at home with 3 kids.

    Today, the same Joe will have to spend 4 years and $100K to get a job paying the same with worse bennies, wife will have to work to pay for care for 2 kids.

    Gov stats will say that Joe and wife contribute more to GDP today, but I doubt that Joe std of living has increased.

    If you want to see countries that are really getting richer, visit HK, Singapore, SKorea, Russia (limited to Moscow and StPetersburg), Czech Republic, etc. If you didn’t visit them for a few years, you will be shocked.

    USA? With exception of a few places here and there, we are running in place. If there is an additional value created, it is wasted on Welfare class (50% of population are on some kind of dole) or brainless wars in Muslemia, etc.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @Luke Lea:

    “If the bottom half of society could lead a good life we wouldn’t have to worry about affirmative action. But when the bottom half has poor prospects of a good life, racial disparities become a big problem.”

    What is good life?
    African immigrants always amazed how well people in Ghetto live compare with hard-working people back in old country.

    Once you removed hunger, people always are concerned with relative standing living, not absolute income, number of TVs and iPhones, etc.

    People with lower human capital will tend to have lower std of living in any society.
    In homogeneous nation, the poor may look for excuse in unjust society, tribal differences, etc.

    In racially diverse society, racial discrimination becomes an easy explanation or easy excuse for under-performance.

    So, if an under-performing group is also racially different from the well performing group, we got a problem that cannot be solved, can only be managed.

  • Jim.


    WEB DuBois’ strategy for improving the lives of African-Americans was to assure they had equality under the law.

    Booker T Washington’s strategy was to pursue economic equality by acquiring marketable skills (with an emphasis in the skilled trades) and building up wealth and respect from there.

    (If I’m misconstruing those points of view, feel free to correct me.)

    A few generations ago, there was a face-off between the two modes of thought. DuBois’ approach won. I think I speak for a large portion of the population of this country that the only thing to regret about DuBois’ victory was it meant Washington’s strategy was unnecessarily (even tragically) neglected.

    In other words… Institutional racism is basically dead in this country, and that is something we should all celebrate.

    However, dependence on government seems in too many cases to have forestalled the same sense of independence and drive that many immigrant groups to this country have brought with them when they chose to leave the Old Country and start anew here.

    The answer is not Affirmative Action. The answer is not more Government. The answer is not, heaven help us, Reparations.

    The answer is for African-Americans to pick up the cultural assets that have made America great, instead of insisting that all cultures are equally effective at achieving human aspirations.

  • thibaud

    Art Deco – you’re not alone. Mead doesn’t know what he means by “compromise” – which two factions gave up which demands, exactly (black vs white? Dem vs GOP? yankee manufacturers vs southern planters?) – but it sure sounds grand, doesn’t it?

    As usual, we have more rambling unfocused efforts to make dry hay out of Mead’s soggy and molting “big gum’mint” conceit. That african-american employment is skewed toward the public sector has long been obvious. But the spike in african-american unemployment since the Bush recession of 2008 is nothing more than a repetition of the pattern we’ve seen for decades whereby a-a unemployment merely tracks the broader unemployment trends.

    It fell precipitously during the Clinton era, spiked under Bush from 200 to 2003 and then began soaring again with the onset of the Bush administration’s recession in 2008. The ratio of unemployed african-americans to unemployed white Americans has been virtually UNCHANGED FOR OVER THIRTY YEARS. So for Mead to offer this as evidence that some ill-defined (but Very Grand) “Compromise” is now coming unglued is silly.

    As usual, Mead loops together all manner of unrelated phenomena, from sentencing laws to gerrymandering to urban industrial decline to subprime lending, while ignoring completely the most important development, by far, in post-1965 race relations, the one that both LBJ and Nixon agreed would realign US politics for decades if not generations.

    Nary a word, in this profusion of them, about the transformation of the GOP from a moderate, pro-safety net, northern and midwestern-led party into one dominated by southern whites and reactionaries whose deep hostility toward the federal government overlaps nicely with the old Dixiecrat states’ rights stance.

    To talk about race relations since 1977 without even a single reference to this race-driven political realignment suggests that the author is deliberately refusing to deal with the elephant, so to speak, in the room.

    If I can parse this mess, Mead seems to be trying to convince us that there was some kind of national consensus whereby the state would use one hand to help deserving african-americans gain a foothold in the middle class while giving the back of the hand to undeserving, underclass african-americans.

    As hard “evidence” in support of the containment part of this loopy notion – who was it, exactly, that argued for holding down the black underclass? What faction or region or party desired and gained from this? – Mead offers high incarceration rates and long sentences.

    Does Mead imply that this was a political concession on the part of – who, exactly? The NAACP? The black caucus in the Democratic Party? Does he seriously believe that africa=americans are not bitterly opposed to our sentencing laws and criminal justice system’s inequities and cruelties?


    It gets even screwier when Mead alleges, as evidence of another compromise, a trade-off between OTOH
    banning discrimination in housing but OTOH no ‘forced integration” of neighborhoods. Who exactly was arguing for the latter in 1977 (or at any time before or since)?

    Which faction, region, party, movement, economic class etc wanted “forced integration”? Where did Mead cook this up? Did an intern slip this in without his knowing?

    Mead gets a little closer to reality in mentioning the creation of “safe” Democratic minority-dominated congressional seats, with a corresponding increase in “safe” white Republican seats.

    But how does the election of an african-american in the biggest constituency of all – that would be the Electoral College, mind you – in 2008 square with this “containment” strategy? How exactly does Obama’s election serve as evidence of a grand, capital-c “Compromise”?

    Does Mead really mean to say that letting a black man enter the front door of the White House was a concession?

    By whom? The Republican opposition? The decent folk?

    Finally, Mead warms to his grand theme, the key to all mythologies – you guessed it, Big Gum’mint in the form of civil service and military promotions and hiring as part of a deliberate policy of creating a black middle class via government intervention.

    But in what sense is this bipartisan, completely uncontroversial policy a “compromise”?

    What did african-americans give up in exchange for being promoted fairly in the military or gaining access to civil service jobs?

    Is this Mead’s opaque contribution to the notorious southern reactionary meme that government represents a new “plantation” for african-americans?

    If so, he should say it directly. But if not, then he should state exactly who traded what for what.

    I suspect that what Mead would dearly like to say, but is either too polite or too muddled (or both) to articulate, is that, big gum’mint being the devil’s drink, the expansion of big gum’mint has meant one step forward, one step back for african-americans and for the nation.

    One could make such a case, but then Mead would have to do without all his beloved rhetorical flourishes and historical allusions.

    It would force Mead to move from the clouds back to earth, and discuss just how it is that big gum’mint is actually holding back african-americans today, or why Grover Norquist’s vision of drowning the government in the bathtub will benefit any American.

  • Mick The Reactionary


    “The answer is for African-Americans to pick up the cultural assets that have made America great, instead of insisting that all cultures are equally effective at achieving human aspirations.”

    You did not get my point. I was offended by your knee-jerk liberal reaction to AfrAmer problem, always blame whitey.

    Always snobbish liberal moral play of treating Blacks as inanimate objects on a side while noble libs feel good about themselves and hate white proles.

    It seems you are trying to look for solutions without understanding of the problem.

    You repeat a standard PC Republican line that says Blacks troubles are caused by deficiencies in their culture.

    It is true, any Repubics, and Mead for this matter, will run thru standard list of Black culture properties that make it difficult to succeed.

    It is true, but it is not complete truth.

    An individual to succeed needs a good character. But it is not sufficient. An individual must be capable of learning reading and writing and basic number manipulation and ability to follow directions, etc etc.

    If an individual with a good character is not capable of learning basic skills, he will not reach even a lower middle-class status.

    What if a group of people have a significant number among them who will struggle to learn how to read and write, much less any number manipulation?

    If individuals in that group have good character, it will help but will not completely solve the problem.

    We don’t know how to improve AfrAmr culture to improve their chances for success. Only they can do that.

    And nobody can snap their fingers and increase their capabilities.

    What we have here is an unsolvable problem no matter how hard it is for Americans to accept that there are unsolvable problems.

    One would think that after Korea and Vietnam and Iraq the concept of unsolvable problem will become easier.

    And the only thing you can do with a problem for which there is no solution is to manage it.

    No brilliant grandiose plans. A few small well understood steps.
    Pols will hate it.

  • Art Deco

    Maybe we all ought to lock Mick & thibaud in a room so they can talk past eachother at great length.

  • WigWag

    Whatever the relative merits of Professor Mead’s essay might be, the issue of the American Interest that it appears in (August 11, 2012) is really quite good. The issue focuses on race and includes a number of thought provoking articles. Francis Fukuyama’s review of the HBO show “The Wire” was fascinating if a bit belated. While I have mixed feelings about him in general, Robert Woodson’s essay, “Transcending the Poverty Industry” was quite excellent. My guess is that people on all sides of the contentious race debate would find a lot to agree with him about. Woodson’s “ten commandments of effective grass-roots ministration” seem particularly insightful to me.

    The issue is not perfect; there is a banal analysis of everything wrong with urban education by Rhena Catherine Jasey. It reads more like an undergraduate essay in an intro to educational policy class at a lackluster community college. There’s also an article by the terminally dimwitted Michael Barone which is as forgettable as it’s author is irritating.

    Nevertheless, as a whole the issue is excellent. Damir Marusic, Adam Garfinkle and everyone who works for AI should be very proud of what they’ve produced. I have been subscribing for about 18 months; in my opinion it’s the best issue yet.

    My only suggestion to Damir would be that its time to get a little more high tech. For example how about a discussion or debate between Mead and Fukuyama about the race issue or a panel discussion between Mead, Fukuyama and Woodson. The whole thing could be done in print, but even better, the discussion be be taped and made available as an audio or video pod cast. Does AI even have a You Tube channel?

    In his review of “The Wire,” Fukuyama had a number of unflattering comments about acolytes of the Tea Party and how they reacted to the race question. Mead may be America’s foremost anthropologist of Jacksonian populism and it’s current manifestation, the Tea Party. Whatever one thinks of Mead’s analysis in the August issue of AI, I can’t believe that anyone would doubt that his Foreign Affairs article of a few years back describing how Tea Party afficianados views America’s role in the world was anything other than brilliant.

    It would be fascinating to see Fukuyama and Mead engage in a conversation about the manner in which American populists view race. Anyway, it’s only a suggestion.

    Congratulations again to the AI staff for a great issue. We can get the run of the mill arguments anywhere; it’s the nuance that AI readers keep coming back for.

  • thibaud

    Can anyone who read this mess define Mead’s “compromise”?

    What are the two parties to this compromise?

    What did each give up, and each gain?

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