Tuesday, October 02, 2007

McAdams Shows His True Colors

There is a moderate Buzz on the Blogs this week about Marquette Prof. John McAdams' pre-emptive "study" about the disparity of black Americans who find themselves behind bars. Besides writing about it myself in my last post, the usual suspects have piped up about the "good" professor and he was just trying to get behind the numbers and blah de blah blah.

You'd think, to read the defenses, that McAdams is just some honest social scientist, reviewing the raw data with studious virtue, not seeking a desired result, but stumbling upon it anyway.

You would be wrong.

Sometimes, I join the comment thread on Rick Esenberg's "Shark and Shepard" blog just to get my two cents in and engage a little bit with Rick and some of his readers. We get some ideas out there for a couple of days and then let it go until we engage on another issues on another post on his blog or mine.

I was so engaged earlier this week over the Bill O'Reilly dust-up, where the Fox News Bully said on his radio show that he "couldn't get over" the human behavior in a Harlem restaurant that not only had black patrons but was run by blacks! Esenberg provided the usual excuses for this now-we-know-what-he-thinks-about-blacks comment, for some reason coming to the defense of O'Reilly the Blowhard. We have to start to "presume good faith" on the part of all those who enter the discussion on race in this country, he said. I disagreed that everyone gets a presumption of good faith in a comment:

You know what, Rick, I don't accept that O'Reilly, Limbaugh, Sykes or Belling come to racial issues in "good faith". They have built their careers on stirring up the "angry white male" -- it is Nixon's Southern Strategy brought to the radio marketplace. When Sykes calls black leaders "pimps" (unfathomably alright with you) and when Belling talks about black women "popping out babies" (you say you don't listen to the show, but the podcasts are readily available), they are using not even thinly veiled code words for well-understood racist concepts.

As for O'Reilly, I don't know why anyone would assume "good faith" on the part of someone who stirs up racial anxiety on purpose and then complains when it's pointed out. He's a big dumb jerk and proud of it. He has as much legitimate to offer on race relations as I do with who gets the GOP nomination (oh, please nominate Romney, please!).

People who want to be accepted in "good faith" have to do something besides tear down. They have to accept that there is a race problem in America. They can't just sit on the sidelines, throw spitballs, and call people trying to make a difference "pimps".

And O'Reilly knows what he said is wrong. That's why he can only attack those who point it out. He has yet to address the substance of his "can't get over" comment. He thinks he can hide behind Juan Williams unfortunate skirts forever, which, given Williams' pro-Fox disposition, he probably can.

And then there are people like you, Rick, who think that O'Reilly is acting in good faith and Jesse Jackson is a "pimp". You've got that exactly backward.

Esenberg responded:

The problem, I think, is that you come close to assuming that people who don't agree with your take on the race problem and what to do with it are racist or are trying to stir up white people. But, you know, reasonable people can and do disagree with you.

I suppose that I could go and listen to Belling's podcasts but, since I didn't defend him (just didn't attack him), I see no need to do so and, as you know, life is short. I said that I disagree with you about Sykes and O'Reilly's comments about Sylvia's. I stand by that.

OK, fine and that was that, I figured. Then I checked the thread again today and found this gem from Prof. John McAdams himself:

To Mike Plaisted: Jackson and Sharpton are pimps.

Failure to recognize that poisons any discussion.

As for this:People who want to be accepted in "good faith" have to do something besides tear down. They have to accept that there is a race problem in America. They can't just sit on the sidelines, throw spitballs, and call people trying to make a difference "pimps".

You are begging the question.

You are assuming that the racial hustling of Jackson and Sharpton is "trying to make a difference."

In fact, those guys are self-aggrandizing clowns.

"Throwing spitballs?"

As long as you guys preach nonsense, knocking it down is an honorable enterprise.

You've played the race card too long. It's not 1963.

Wow. Stunning, isn't it? Forget the racist name-calling and code words (pimps, hustlers, clowns). As long as you guys preach nonsense, knocking it down is an honorable enterprise. Well, I guess we know how you'll be using your credentials, don't we, professor?

I can't wait for McAdams to show up and be interviewed by Mike Gousha in another of Marquette's "Listening to the Wing-nuts" lunchtime seminars to discuss his "learned" findings.

But here's the question for Esenberg (also on the Marquette faculty): how do you "presume good faith" with a fire-breathing lunatic like John McAdams, for whom "knocking down" civil rights heroes like Jesse Jackson is an "honorable enterprise"? Am I really "poisoning any discussion" of the issue by not recognizing legitimate civil rights leaders as "pimps"? Is it "playing the race card" to point out the continuing legacy of slavery and racism in America?

We know where McAdams, O'Reilly, Sykes and Belling stand. They approach the problem of race in America in the opposite of good faith; as a manufactured "race card" that needs to be "knocked down". As usual, we will have to work around them and in spite of them to find any solution to continuing America's racial divide.

18 comments:

illusory tenant said...

Jackson and Sharpton are pimps.

Failure to recognize that poisons any discussion.


lol@teh irony.

Classic McAdams.

Anonymous said...

And for this, parents are paying $30,000 a year to send students there -- when they could have their kids get such wisdom for free just by reading his blog.

Jim C. said...

The word "pimp" has been a replacement to the word "coon" ever since minstrel performers changed the song "All Coons Look Alike to Me" to "All Pimps Look Alike to Me." To say, as Esenberg does, that "pimp" isn't a racist epithet is to willfully ignore language and history.

Of course, Esenberg has been defending white supremacists on his blog for quite some time, even going so far as to declare that Dixiecrats were working not against African Americans, but on behalf of poor whites. His latest affront, all but calling Renee Crawford paranoid for her perception of subtle racism, demonstrates a deep-seated and bigoted outlook on the word: one in which his worldview trumps all others.

McAdams, of course, is more explicitly racist than Esenberg (though Esenberg's studied denials of racism are perhaps more insidious). Unlike Esenberg, McAdams can't claim ignorance of his invocations of minstrelsy in order to wage his white supremacist battles. His use of the word "clown" in reference to Sharpton and Jackson clearly invokes minstrel vocabulary and imagery. He doesn't just disagree with their conclusions and policy proposals; he hates them. And he doesn't hesitate to use all the racism he can feasibly get away with in order to express this hatred.

Racism deniers like Esenberg and McAdams are right to complicate under-analyzed liberal ideas about the factors behind continued racial disparities. Such disparities, of course, cannot solely be solved by correcting institutional and social forms of racism. (Though that would go a hell of a long way.) But their denials of racism in even the most obvious circumstances suggests dangerous, narrow forms of thinking and removes any credibility their titles might bestow upon them.

Anonymous said...

Posted the following on Esenberg's blog. thought I'd put it up here too:

If O'Reilly really cared about the issue - why is there absolutely no discussion about the obligation of WHITES to address their racist attitudes? In the segment everyone's talking about, O'Reilly explicitly admitted that most African-Americans have been subjected to racist attacks - but then who does he throw the burden of fixing it on? African-Americans!

I might have taken the claims of good faith more seriously if, after making his statement about African-Americans being subject to racist attacks, he'd gone on to say that he and his white listeners needed to do something to help stop that from happening.

But you didn't hear that, did you?

patrick said...

And there's the great question: What can white listeners and readers, like myself, do to solve the problem. I can check myself and reflect on attitudes and actions and habits that might be racist. I can call out instances of racism where I see them.

And part of the problem here is the sheer emotion. Whites feel defensive, speaking in broadly, of course. Few things disturb us more than an accusation of racism because we know it is such a dreadful "habit of the heart." I imagine that racism has a similarly destructive outcome for its victims, but they can and have spoken of it from a more honest and genuine perspective than I could.

But the emotions cloud the way both sides view the world. They prevent us from genuine study of the issues--such is the case with the Doyle and McAdams studies. Sine they don't want to consider the implications of the data, we on the right will mock Doyle while on the left the usual "feelers" will call McAdams a racist. This is a real disadvantage since anecdotes about the municipal courthouse don't substitute for logic and reason. So what can we do?

What we do notice is that government programs don't do much to change attitudes, economic realities, or achievement gaps. (though NCLB has forced school districts to begin a process of change) Conservatives are frustrated that despite billions spent on diversity and social-welfare programs, the situation seems ever more gloomy. Liberals, who assume they have the interests of minorities solely in their hearts haven't been able to make a convincing argument for the benefits of increased spending. There's the deadlock.

If there ever is a change in attitudes--a time where peoples of different races cease to consider race itself when looking at eachother--it will be the result of vast ecomomic improvements for african americans and other minorities. And as far as I can see, corporate america is alone in a position to provide real help. Driven by greed, the corporate system cares more about what one can achieve than what color their skin is. I assume that the desire for profit is their primary motivation. If the goverment is to be involved, it should help those who are already motivated to help minorities.

Of course, all of this has been said before.

gnarlytrombone said...

don't want to consider the implications of the data

Are you claiming that the "implications of the data" are that it's it is not racist to call black activists "pimps?"

Conservatives are frustrated that despite billions spent on diversity and social-welfare programs, the situation seems ever more gloomy.

The situation only gets more gloomy under Republican presidents. who prefer to cut and run when it comes to the war on poverty. Under LBJ, the poverty rate fell from 21.9% to 14.7%, and under Clinton it fell from 15.1% to 11.3%. Under Bush II, it has increased to 12.6%.

Rick Esenberg said...

I don't recall that I called or implied that Rene Crawford was paranoid. In fact, I said that I "had no doubt" that some of what she experienced did reflect racial stereotypes which was, you know, her point. My argument was that it is very hard to objectively distinguish that from similar comments that do not reflect those stereotypes.

In this, Jim C. makes my point. Just as some conservatives accuse people who depart from their preferred orthodoxy on the war of being unpatriotic, folks on the left too often call those who indulge even the slightest departure from their orthodoxy on race or urban issues or crime "racist." It's getting boring.

Mike Plaisted said...

So sorry to bore you, Rick, with this annoying habit we have of pointing out racist code words and attitudes.

The difference between us and the wing-nuts accusing everyone against the war of being unpatriotic is that their claim is silly tripe and isn't true. Our concerns about racist language used by McAdams and Sykes (with your stamp of approval) are real, with a historical basis in fact (see John C again, if it's not too boring for you). In addition, these slurs are being used by people who are not addressing these issues in good faith. If they were, they wouldn't be so proud of their racist name-calling. Or, as McAdams says, namecalling!

Those who fight for and support social justice efforts through community and government programs and individual awareness about racial issues will never have much to discuss with those on the right who have no interest in racial justice or in programs of any kind (except military) and are in denial about racial attitudes -- and language -- that continues to keep us from understanding each other.

If you don't agree that we should blame the victims or, as your friend McAdams laughingly says directly, if we don't agree that Jackson and Sharpton are "pimps", the right is refusing to engage in any way, much less in good faith.

I'm sorry this all bores you, Rick, as the angry white male makes his last stand on the ashes of the Republican party and goes off to hide in the ivory towers of Marquette's right-wing faculty lounge. You'll be there, bored, I suppose, while the rest of the developed, diverse world continues to pass you by.

Rick Esenberg said...

Mike

I can assure you that Marquette's faculty lounge is not right wing. What bores me is substituting name-calling for argument. I agree that if you really can't conceive of the notion that there might be more to an issue than you have alreday decided that there is then there probably isn't much to talk about. But, ironically, I'm off to a discussion about poverty and, in preparation, have read a bunch of stuff on domestic and international poverty from all perspectives. These arguments about culture and the ineffectiveness of transfers are not just the domain of "wing nuts" but of serious scholars. The idea that disparities in black incarceration rates might not be completely - or even mostly - explained by bias in the system is not a question that is beyond the pale of reason. And there are ample reasons in the history of both men to suggest that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson (more the former than the latter) have more than a little demagogue in them. I am sorry, but MLK they ain't.

I don't generally refer to people as "pimps" and "wingnuts" and "moonbats." It's not my style and since I believe, contrary to Joe C., that life is paradoxical and people with whom I disagree sometimes have a point, I don't think it furthers any of the things I work on to do so.

But other people - like, say, you -are more combative and I am not going to conclude that they are, for that reason, racists, communists, traitors, or worshippers of Baal. That's the part that is boring.

Mike Plaisted said...

"Serious scholars" like who? Like John McAdams?

Rick, I know there's more to an issue than I can imagine -- that's why we need an active discussion among those who really have a good faith interest in addressing any problem. But people like McAdams and Sykes are not that. They refuse to admit there is a problem with racism in this country (what did McAdams say? "It's not 1963 anymore?") Any discussion any of them have had on the subject has focused on the supposed pathology of the victims themselves -- the tired old saw of whether they have too many kids, etc. Then they make things worse by calling distinguished leaders "pimps". Or, "pimps!"

When they do that, they take themselves out of legitimate consideration of having something to offer. Sykes is one thing -- he's just a radio comedian, albeit with Marquette's (and your) unfortunate imprimatur. McAdams, though, pretends to be serious. And, after what he wrote to me on your comment thread, he can't possibly be.

Combative, maybe. But your while your mild-mannered prose and relatively open mind is appreciated, I'd rather have someone call it straight up than dance around and come to the same conclusion. One man's demagogue in another man's hero. But the definition -- "A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace." -- fits McAdams and the radio blowhards much more than leaders who have been in the civil rights trenches for decades.

Rick Esenberg said...

As far as what I was reading, it was synopses and book reviews relating to people working in the area of domestic and international poverty from a variety of perspectives chosen by someone who is probably well to the left of me, but nevertheless reflective of the diversity of opinions on the question. If you really think that the cultural aspects of poverty are the exclusive concerns of the far right, you need to get out more.

As far as whether it is still 1963, do you think that there is really no difference between now and then?

Mike Plaisted said...

What McAdams wrote is "You've played the race card too long. It's not 1963." I took that to mean that he thought all racial issues were settled by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and anyone who tries to say there are still problems are "playing the race card".

Of course there is a difference between now and 1963. The problems of racism in our society are much less stark than "white" and "colored" bubblers. They can be seen in, as only a couple of examples, in, yes, Jena, and, yes, in the racial disparity that permeates the criminal justice system.

Just because the problems are taking different forms doesn't mean they have gone away. Besides, racism in northern cities like Milwaukee has always been more subtle than in the South. At least the Southern racist were honest about it.

Read the post I put up today. You and I live in a different world than black Milwaukeeans, and not all of that difference is a result of our economic class.

Jim C. said...

Rick said: I don't generally refer to people as "pimps" and "wingnuts" and "moonbats." It's not my style and since I believe, contrary to Joe C. [sic], that life is paradoxical and people with whom I disagree sometimes have a point, I don't think it furthers any of the things I work on to do so.

Nothing in my original comment supports Rick's claim that I believe this. Indeed, I wrote: "Racism deniers like Esenberg and McAdams are right to complicate under-analyzed liberal ideas . . ." I agree wholeheartedly with sophisticated critics of Sharpton and Jackson such as Orlando Patterson. And I also agree that states of injury are overly nurtured by both the left and the right in order to secure political power.

But any conversation about racism has to begin with an acknowledgment that racism has been and continues to be a prevalent force. We can disagree on the extent of this force. But to consistently deny racism, and to do so with persistence in the face of even obvious evidence, is to divorce oneself from reality.

In this, Jim C. makes my point. Just as some conservatives accuse people who depart from their preferred orthodoxy on the war of being unpatriotic, folks on the left too often call those who indulge even the slightest departure from their orthodoxy on race or urban issues or crime "racist."

My argument obviously was not about conservative policy suggestions. It was about racist name calling that, if anything, weakens conservative policy positions. And it was about people like Rick who go out of their way to defend racist name calling as somehow not racist.

McAdams uses racism and minstrel imagery to vilify people he clearly loathes. He does so, ironically, in postings that all but deny the existence of racism. Rick goes out of his way to deny even obvious racism. In his comments on Renee (note the proper spelling of her name) he downgrades what she calls racism to the more neutral "racial stereotypes. He studiously avoids naming Imus's comments what they so obviously were: racist. And he insists that, despite all historical and cultural evidence to the contrary, a white man can call a black man a "pimp" absent racist connotations.

My objection, then, isn't to the message. I wholeheartedly agree that liberals too often put forward oversimplified diagnoses and, hence, incomplete prescriptions. And I agree that recourse to victimization all too often prevents progress.

My objection, simply, is to racism and to those who condone racism.

Rick Esenberg said...

Jim

I apologize for mistating your name. You write:

We can disagree on the extent of this force.

But apparently we can't because, if we do, we become what you call a "racsim denier." To say that it's not 1967 (or, as McAdams did, 1963) is not to deny that there is still racism but to state the obvious. If you still think it's 1967, then you weren't there.

I don't know why referring to racial stereotypes was an offense since Renee (sorry about that, too) was talking about them, i.e., the notion that she felt people were complimenting her for not acting like they think black people act. I said that I figured that she was right about some of them, but that the problem is, if you are quick to presume bad faith because you think it's still secretly 1963, you have no way to tell the false from the true positives. Given that it's not 1963, a presumption of good faith might be a better way to live.

If you really think this amounts to defending white supremacists and being a racism denier, then I may have to rethink McAdams' argument about political discourse being a prisoner's dilemma.

Jim C. said...

Rick,

Feel free to agree with McAdams and partake in his theater of victimization. If I lead you to so behave, then I wonder at the influence of a single commenter.

My claims about your denials rest on accumulated evidence. Others can return to your posts on race, your comments on Renee's post (especially your recasting of her critique), Imus, O'Reilly, your defense of McAdams' use of "pimp" as racially neutral, and the persistent avoidance of any criticism leveled toward racism. Let them make up their own minds.

Jim C. said...

One more comment, just to make sure we're not talking around one another ---

Me: We can disagree on the extent of this force.

Rick: But apparently we can't because, if we do, we become what you call a "racsim denier." [sic] To say that it's not 1967 (or, as McAdams did, 1963) is not to deny that there is still racism but to state the obvious. If you still think it's 1967, then you weren't there.

Now me again:

You're right: I wasn't there in 1967. But why even make this point? I didn't mention 1967 as an example anywhere. And nowhere did I claim it still is 1967. You're changing the subject.

Here's the thing: we can and should disagree on the existing extent of racism. But that's not what we're disagreeing on. We're disagreeing on the role of historically racist discourse in that conversation. I'm saying it has no place, and that those who use it should be called on their egregiousness. I'm also saying that such discourse actually harms conservative positions. And I'm finally saying that your defense of such racism as somehow un-racist makes you too a bad spokesperson to defend a position on the relative insignificance of contemporary racism.

guilty conscience liberal said...

Mike "slip and fall" Plaisted cares about black folks.
The rest of white society is bigoted.
Not Mike, he cares.
Seriously. Mike cares, you don't. Mike weeps openly when blacks have to go to the courthouse and fight small claims actions and evictions.
Mike is the champion of American negroes. He also wrote the Plaisted code word dictionary.

Jim C. said...

For the record, g.c.l. exemplifies another way not to proceed with a conversation about how to end racial disparities.