Sunday, August 17, 2014

Flight from white (Credit: Steve Sailer)

More from the Michael Brown wellspring.

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"Would you rather be born white or black?"

Gavin DeGraw's answer works for me, and I think that's the healthiest answer any person can give. For so putatively secular an age, our societal belief in original sin can really give a person pause, though.

I realize that's a somewhat parochial view on my part. I'm not aware of any contemporary movement in the US towards wanting to be white, but there is definitely a palpable "flight from white" phenomenon occurring, the more "core" the whiteness, the less attractive it is to be identified as such. For example, in the 1980 Census, over 18% of the population reported English ancestry. In 2012, it was less than half of that. The Hispanic and Asian population increases should've taken that figure down to around 16%. The bulk of it's mysterious removal is from people of European descent identifying as other less 'shameful' ethnicities, especially Irish (in truth, the vast majority of whites in the US who are fourth generation-plus are a mix of European ancestries--I happen to identify most with my English heritage since its paternal and therefore easier to trace and because one of my distant ancestors had a neat interaction with William Shakespeare, but that's as much for style as it is for substance).

Our current president is an obvious example of said aforementioned trend--he has benefited enormously from his black ancestry and has adeptly chosen to consistently emphasize it. Sometimes he's presented as black, sometimes as mixed race, but never as white. That impulse is writ large among blacks across the country. African-Americans in the US are, on average, about 80%-plus west African and 15% European by ancestry, yet they reliably consider themselves to be African-American/black rather than mixed race. White Americans, on the other hand, are, on average, about 99% European by ancestry with trace amounts of African ancestry or Native American ancestry rounding out the rest (despite lots of public pronouncements to the contrary about being part Native American, a la Elizabeth Warren, those stories are often apocryphal).

Rather timely, the venerable Pew recently ran a story on the push for Middle Easterners and North Africans (MENA) in the US to be able to identify as something other than white. Currently, the only ethnic (I know, this stuff gets semantically slippery) option for Census purposes is the dichotomous Hispanic/non-Hispanic. MENA groups want a MENA category added. This excerpt pithily gets to the heart of why they want as much:
What’s more, some argue, being classified as "white" prohibits the MENA community from taking advantage of the benefits that come with minority status—including local, state and federal programs that give a leg up to minority-owned businesses in awarding government contracts.
I do wish the General Social Survey would ask your question, though. I suspect the highest percentage of people responding that they would rather be member to a race other than their own would be whites. The World Values Survey shows a pretty striking inverse correlation between traditional measures of a nation's desirability (low crime rates, high per capita income, low infant mortality, low corruption, etc) and its residents pride in their nationality. That is, the 'crappier' places tend to be the proudest and the 'nicest' places the most ashamed.

"Poverty and a range of other issues impact the IQ gap you speak of to the success and failures of governments and municipalities. Associating the failures all with one race is harmful and exactly the kind of thing that makes these gaps grow bigger. Instead of saying 'all these things are associated with black people, they must be the problem' (which is one of the most blatantly racist things a person can say, I think), we need to take a closer look to figure out how all these interact and work together to solve these problems. Let's get out in our communities and try to make a difference."

White kids from families earning under $20,000 a year perform as well on the SAT as black kids from families earning over $200,000 a year do. And of course closing the gap has been a national obsession for over half a century now, yet it remains incorrigibly intractable. Exactly zero progress has been made. Because we're not trying earnestly enough, I suppose!

"I'm just trying to share something I personally find to be important. I think it's important for people to both think about and to attempt at being comfortable discussing race. I'm not looking for a debate."

I'm doing just that--comfortably discussing race. I'm not trying to badger anyone else into debating it. You're the one who posted the link, after all.

1 comment:

ironrailsironweights said...

Religion is a complicating factor in the case of MENA's in the United States. Most of them are Muslim, and there's a common perception that Islam is a brown or black peoples' religion. I'll bet that if most of them were Christian, as in fact was the case not too long ago, there'd be much less pressure for a new ethnic category.

An interesting thing about Hispanics is that something like two-thirds of them listed their race as "white" on the 2010 Census, a percentage that had risen since 2000 and is clearly much greater than the proportion who actually appear white. Of course one may argue that Hispanics are having their cake and eating it too, as even those who racially identify as white still qualify for AA benefits by checking the Hispanic ethnicity box.

Peter