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Race in America
While Dallas Mourns

The tragic racial violence of the last week—from the police killings of Alton Sterling and Orlando Castile to the vicious murders of five Dallas police officers at a peaceful demonstration—forces us to reckon, once again, with some of the most painful aspects of our national history.

The internet, true to form, is teeming with instant reactions and hot takes—which side is to blame, whose pre-existing biases are confirmed, and how these events affect the electoral horse race. We at TAI are going to withhold specific commentary until more facts are known. Until then, we want to offer our readers three of our most thoughtful essays on race, class, and justice in America—first published in 2012, but as relevant as ever today, as families mourn in Minnesota, Louisiana, and Texas:

In Black and White No Longer, Stanford Law Professor Richard Thompson Ford assesses the bifurcation of the black community into a thriving upper-middle class that has come close to achieving the full promise of American freedom and an urban underclass facing conditions arguably worse than Jim Crow:

This divergence in experiences and life chances now divides the black community as sharply as the color line once divided Americans. The fracturing of the black community is a challenge to conventional ways of thinking about race, identity and social justice, even as it opens some new possibilities for human flourishing and for a more just society. Although we still typically think in terms of a single black experience, a unified black community and a common black identity, these assumptions ever more starkly spite the facts of daily life. Our failure to come to grips with the new realities of race in America has distorted our analysis of social problems and undermined our efforts to find viable solutions. Increasingly desperate attempts to cling to outdated ideas of racial identity and solidarity have bred a fundamentally dishonest racial conversation that warps individual psychological development and confounds cross-racial understanding.

In The Last Compromise, TAI editor-at-large Walter Russell Mead traces the series of historical compromises that have undergirded America’s uneasy racial settlement, and highlights reasons to be concerned that the latest compromise is starting to break down:

The election of President Obama marked both the definitive triumph of the 1977 racial settlement and the beginning of its end. A generation of national struggle against the spirit of race prejudice had created the closest thing to a color-blind electorate American politics had ever known. A generation of opening doors to talented blacks provided the opportunity for not just Barack Obama but a galaxy of African-American leaders in business, politics and culture to reach the summit of national life. But the financial crisis that helped Obama win election in time devastated the black middle class and demonstrated the extent to which the core economic assumptions that shaped the new era in race relations were under threat.

And in Down to The Wire, TAI chairman Francis Fukuyama reflects on a critically acclaimed TV-show that illustrates the way dysfunctional politics, institutional failures, ethnic resentments, and personal choices combine to shape life in inner-city Baltimore:

While the world of The Wire is populated by individuals who make moral choices for themselves, the actual outcomes they arrive at are in the end sharply bracketed by the twisted institutions that surround them. The black mayor of Baltimore, his black police commissioner and white deputy chief of operations don’t actually care much about quality of life in the inner city; they focus instead on getting homicide numbers down so that crime can’t be used against them or their bosses in the next election. The white voters in the suburbs think the solution to the problem is more police, more jails and tougher punishments. The schools have teachers who vary from careerists to dedicated individuals who want to do the right thing, but they don’t have the resources they need to operate effectively in a culture shaped by the drug gangs. The white stevedores would like to maintain their traditions of union solidarity, but they can’t prevail in the face of the relentless job loss that is undercutting their way of life. Above all, very few of the politicians have incentives to pay attention to either group.

Take a few minutes away from this horrific news cycle to read one or more of these insightful and original meditations on one of the central and enduring conflicts of American history.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Arguably, the crisis is that the USA has failed its underclass, black, white and every shade between. Surely it’s clear that persons of (any) color can succeed given the opportunity, but that all to many are not. This is absolutely not a racial issue, but a social one.

    • Boritz

      The underclass is too useful as a voting bloc to be allowed to escape the role of fodder.

      • Andrew Allison

        Agreed, but my point was let’s stop pretending that racism is the problem.

    • Nevis07

      Yeah the politicians are making it worse. They enjoy the sound of their own voice way too much.

      I posted elsewhere that I genuinely believe it would be best for the country after incidents like this, for Obama and his administration to simply say nothing. He should be hid away in the WH for a week without any press conferences; make no mention of guns, no mention of police violence, not mention of race. Obama is very simply divisive and he doesn’t speak for everyone – in other words, as someone who holds th office of president, as position that should be of unification for the country he is quite simply not a leader.

      To your point about the failed underclass, I’d also agree with this statement. The troubling thing here is that racial tensions are being viewed as a problem of racism when instead it should debated and addressed in regards to single family households, gang violence and drug use. These are issues that affect all Americans. But note how BLM curiously don’t talk about black on black murder – this is because they view the world through the scope of institutionalized racism and therefore a view that doesn’t allow for solutions to be offered.

  • Beauceron

    The truth is that we gave up on content of your character Americanism for the easy– and for the Left, useful– demagoguery of racial identity movements. The nation is unraveling, and it is unraveling because groups like BLM hold sway in our media and on our college campuses. Whites, as they rapidly become a minority over the next 20 years, will have no choice but to form identity-based groups of their own. It will be the only way to get jobs, get into colleges and ensure political representation.

    It’s depressing, but it is what it is. Too many people are invested in this system– indeed too many people love this system– to turn back now.

  • Anthony

    “We at TAI are going to withhold specific commentary until more facts are known” – a reasonable and intelligent consideration in an agitated environment and all three archived essays highly recommended to the interested. But, WRM (TAI), the diverging narratives of a harmful event (deadly) in the eyes of the aggressor or the victim has to overcome what some psychologists call the “Moralization Gap” (self serving bias).

    “Adversaries are divided not just by their competitive spin-doctoring but by the calendars with which they measure history and the importance they put on remembrance (something in human psychology distorts our interpretation and memory of harmful events – “The Perpetrator’s Narrative and The Victim’s Narrative).” Insight and meditation is only the beginning but given where we are it’s a start positively.

  • Angel Martin

    blacks violently resisting arrest while carrying a gun
    Obama: police are racist murderers

    anti-white, anti-police sniper radicalized by BLM anti-police rhetoric
    Obama: let’s not jump to conclusions… and gunz

  • Nevis07

    I’d add another piece of reading for those interested. Bryan Fischer at the American Family Association has some great comments on the need for our political and social leaders to take responsibility for these types of events:

    • FriendlyGoat

      I went to look at the AFA piece. How does anyone make sense out of them slamming President Obama and calling for a new Martin Luther King, Jr. at the same time? Do they not “get it” that the people who make fun of Obama are still making fun of King too?

      • M Snow

        No, we don’t get it because we admire Dr. King and we believe President Obama has been an abject failure when it comes to promoting racial healing. Every public survey I’ve seen shows people of all races believe the situation has deteriorated over the last 7 1/2 years.

        • FriendlyGoat

          Perhaps YOU admire Dr. King. Perhaps I admire Dr. King. I have met plenty of men in my life who did not and do not now. If I had ten dollars for every reference I have ever heard to a national holiday described as Martin Luther C__n Day, I’d have a lot of money.

          The same people who call Obama “Obummer” and all the other smear names seriously do not revere Martin Luther King or anything King worked to bring about. The same ones who rode the birth certificate horse to death and then switched to the “Obama is a Muslim” horse do not revere Dr. King or anything accomplished for civil rights. It’s okay for you to hold any belief you want, but please don’t ask the rest of us to be naïve.

          • Josephbleau

            You are showing a number of gaps in logical thought, I admire Dr. King greatly, but I also respect C. Thomas as a critical thinker, this makes your statement of dissjunction impossible and probably just emotional.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I guess I would be a little “emotional” over Clarence Thomas’s voting record. Even Scalia thought he was a nut and that’s saying something.
            I guess I would be a little “emotional” about Republicans having a chance to fill a SCOTUS slot, then saying “gee, we need another black for “diversity”, then finding one promising to vote against the interests of black people on every case for the rest of his life, then saying, “look, people, we appointed you a black”. The idea that Thomas is a “critical thinker” does not sell with me. He was a ringer, appointed as a dirty joke. Dr. King, if he was alive for Thomas’s decisions, would have denounced nearly every one of them.

          • Josephbleau

            you are 180 degrees from MLK’s idea of justice, Are you a white cracker?

          • FriendlyGoat

            No, are you a despicable bastard? Careful with the language, Joe

          • M Snow

            Not asking you to be naive. But perhaps your circle of friends and acquaintances could use an upgrade.

          • FriendlyGoat

            They’re not my “friends”. I just live in general society like everyone else and I know what’s out there in workplaces and the public square. So do you.

          • M Snow

            I spent my career as a teacher. Most of my colleagues were liberals but quite a few were Republicans. NOBODY spoke as you have described.

          • FriendlyGoat

            It’s the adults who do it, and for the most part they don’t do it in front of either the kids or peers in a professional setting. There is a reason why there are public surveys, as you reported, indicating many people believe racial relations have “deteriorated in the last 7 1/2 years”. Everyone who believes that our half-black president and his whole-black wife are to blame——well—-where do you suppose they are coming from? “Oh, we would have been delighted to have a black president and first lady SOME DAY, just not THESE——- and NOT NOW”.

          • M Snow

            Where do I suppose they are coming from? From ideological disagreement, that’s where. Is some of the dislike racist? Sure, just like when Barack Obama got almost 90% of the black vote in the Democratic primaries when he ran against Hillary Clinton. Since they had virtually no substantive disagreements, only racism explains his high percentage of the black vote. There are racists in every group. That doesn’t mean anyone can dismiss everyone in the group as a racist.
            Conservative opposition to Obama rests on our dislike of abortion, high taxes, his hostility to the Second Amendment, his too early withdrawal from Iraq, his delay in dealing with ISIS, the fiasco in Libya, his obnoxious EPA, and of course, Obamacare. It has nothing to do with his skin color. Interesting that your little history lesson about LBJ and the Civil Rights laws of the 60’s neglected to mention the fact that a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats supported their passage. You are correct that many, many people did not appreciate MLK during his lifetime. Many, many of them were Democrats.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Remembering here that I would not be talking to you on this subject except for you jumping on my comment to tell me what an “abject failure” Obama has been in “promoting racial healing”. The rest of your GOP talking points NOW SUBSTITUTED for where you started is baloney (that’s the polite word.)

            You and I have been somewhat noted for being “polite” in exchanges, so far. That does not extend to this attempted bamboozle of “bait and switch” nor your faux credit ascribed to Republicans for the existence and maintenance of Civil Rights and Voting Rights for minorities in America at this moment. How can I say this nicely? How about buzz off and hassle someone else who might buy what you’re selling. I’m not.

          • M Snow

            It appears FG believes he owns this website and can tell others whether or not they can post. Fortunately, this is not the case. When he makes unsubstantiated charges of conservative racism, those charges will challenged.

          • FriendlyGoat

            And when you are a rude buttinsky, you will be told that you are. I don’t own the website. It actually is there for mostly the purpose of original comments which make sense and edify others. Get busy.
            You’re behind on that.

  • Arkeygeezer

    This is a criminal problem, not a race problem. How many white citizens are shot by the police? How many Cops have been killed by white citizens? How many black people are killed by black people? Police heavily patrol high crime areas. High-crime areas are determined by the amount of crimes committed in those areas as reported by the people that live in those areas. People in jail are put there by our criminal system.
    The only reason that this is a highly charged racial issue is that the racists, the media, and the politicians want to make it a race problem. Unfortunately they have been successful.

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