Thursday, March 13, 2014

White Man's Burden

Yesterday all the past:

Citing Charles Murray, the libertarian academic and pundit who has previously argued that poverty is largely a consequence of low IQ and race, Rep. Paul Ryan told right-wing radio host Bill Bennett on Wednesday morning that poverty in America is largely a product of a “tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.”

“So there’s a real culture problem here,” Ryan continued, “that has to be dealt with.”

 “If you’re driving from the suburb to the sports arena downtown, by these blighted neighborhoods, you can’t just say, ‘I’m paying my taxes; government’s going to fix that,’” Ryan said. “You need to get involved. You need to get involved, yourself, whether through a good mentor program or some religious charity — whatever it is to make a difference, and that’s how we resuscitate our culture.”
"Our culture" is somehow intertwined with "their culture," you see; and it isn't our culture that is at fault, it's the near-death of our culture that is at fault.  That is why it must be resuscitated.   It must be resuscitated by teaching the value and the culture of work.

We must, in other words, make them more like us.  Because their culture is bad, and ours is good; and we must bring our culture to them; before theirs destroys ours.  Besides, when we left the inner city, look what they did with it.

And today, the first rule of holes:

“It was a long talk and he asked about the culture and I just went off of that,” Ryan told Burke. “This has nothing to do whatsoever with race. It never even occurred to me. This has nothing to do with race whatsoever."

“This isn’t a race based comment it’s a breakdown of families, it’s rural poverty in rural areas, and talking about where poverty exists — there are no jobs and we have a breakdown of the family," he explained, repeating "This has nothing to do with race.”

Because it's never about race; it's just about "inner cities" v. "rural areas."  And we all know what kind of people we expect to find in each of those areas; and none of us connect rural areas with "a tailspin of culture...of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work."

But it's not about race; it never is.

UPDATE:  Really, it just never is about race:

Discussing urban poverty, policy responses and race ain't easy. But when you push the idea that the ills of the country's "inner cities" are the product of the intergenerational laziness of the (inner city = black) men in those cities and then cite the work of a purported scholar who argues that blacks are genetically inferior to white people ... well, the chances of your being 'misunderstood' or 'taken out of context' become extremely high.
Or maybe Occam's Razor just says the answer is "racism"?  No, can't be that.
Josh Marshall also says of Charles Murray's work:

...Murray's public career has been based on pushing the idea that black urban poverty is primarily the fault of black people and their diseased 'culture' and even more controversially that black people are genetically inferior to white people and other notional races with regards to intelligence. Yes, that last part should be crystal clear: Murray is best known for attempting to marshal social science evidence to argue that black people are genetically not as smart as white people.

Which I think is a very fair assessment of Murray's oeuvre.  Funny thing, I've seen people cite the Southern Poverty Law Center's declaration that Murray is a white supremacist, and then after citing it quickly aver that they disagree with this assessment.

Because, well, you know....


  1. Good thing we don't have a literal religious "test" to see whether our government officials actually know/follow the religion they claim to follow. Paul Ryan is a Christian? Did Jesus say "You still lack one thing. You need to get involved. Go show the benighted poor folk the value of hard work and resuscitate our culture thereby"? That's not how any text of Luke 18.22 that I've seen reads.

    Also, if there are no jobs, how about, um, providing people with jobs? Perhaps a Ryan, et al, could contact a modern day witch of Endor to speak to the spirit of Harry Hopkins about how to deal with their being no jobs. And once you start talking about the breakdown of social structures and families, like it or not, it's automatically about race: family destroying slave selling and slavery may have officially ended in the USA well over a century ago (which is not that long ago in the sweep of history), but the violent subjugation of African-Americans under Jim Crow ended not that long ago (*) -- and some would say, e.g. in our "war on drugs", the violence still continues -- and the corrosive effects such violence and brutal discrimination have certainly continue to this day.

    * I am young enough to still be considered a "whippersnapper", and I am married to a woman who was born in the Jim Crow South … so Jim Crow was not that long ago.

  2. I grew up in the Jim Crow South. In some ways, all that's changed is that the laws are no longer enforced by the courts.

  3. "..of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work."

    Sounds like the 1% to me. Gore Vidal once said that he was sent to Phillips Exeter where men of his class who were going to have to work were sent. I think he included the other Phillips where the Bushes went. The really rich who would never have to work were sent to Groton.

  4. Ryan's correction isn't really helpful to him. Taking his words at face value, in rural areas it is the lack of jobs that leads to a breakdown of families and poverty. In urban areas it is men not working, not wanting to work, a culture of not working. Nothing about a lack of jobs in urban environments, and nothing about failed culture in rural areas. The poverty is the same in both places, I wonder what great insight Ryan has that he can identify failed culture in cities but only a lack of jobs in rural areas for the same poverty. Maybe as an experiment he can bring his culture to rural communities and see how that works out for him.