All in all we seem to be on the same page that
(a) poverty can lead to life circumstances that can become self-perpetuating through no fault of the poor person, and
(b) African-Americans are more strongly affected by that than white people.
We are probably looking at a very human problem of looking at a short term gain and finding it preferable to a long term gain that is somewhat abstract and "predictive mathematics". Even without going into political ideologies I am pretty confident that there is a general tendency in humans to favor short term gain over long term prospects. Given that I am sceptical if those data will lead to anything. I'll believe it when I see it.
Except you can't build civilization without looking at the long goal. Consider agriculture - you spend all this time and effort into planting crops, watering them, making sure they grow, and maybe
when the harvest comes around, you'll have enough to feed everyone. We take farming for granted now, but that's because we've done it for thousands of years and know our way around it. When the first civilizations were doing it, it was what you're describing - why do to all this effort when you can just be a hunter-gatherer (short term gain, you know you're not going to starve if you get the food you need for tomorrow today)?
Which ties into one of the big ideas I have: Civilization has rules
. And we ignore those rules at our own peril. One of those rules is: leave behind a better world than what you had when you got hold of it. But no, that would be asking people to 'restrain' themselves.
As you have pointed out earlier, poorness is concentrated among people of color. Once you start herding people into ghettos based on the color of their skin the distinction between poorness and color becomes immaterial - when one becomes a synonym for the other it no longer matters.
I can certainly see why black people are angry. Stick black people into the inner cities, do nothing (or little) to provide new jobs for them when the old inner city manufacturing jobs disappear, then police people based on the poverty of their neighborhood. That the question if a problem arises from poorness or blackness seems rather academic to many blacks when blackness and poorness go hand in hand, thanks to decisions made by white people, strikes me as not entirely surprising.
Point, but there's a key difference to be made there. You can't fix
being black (as much as some racists would like that), you can fix being poor. Yes, poverty and minority status can (and do) go hand in hand. If a problem is had in the black community because they are black
, that's racism and needs to be quashed. If the problem is had because they are poor, the solution is to raise them up out of poverty.
There is a further question I would like to know the answer to, because it can tell us whether or not the war on poverty is working - the current poverty rate in the black community is just over 25%. What was it in 2000? 1990? 1980? Go back as far as you can. One of the arguments I hear from Republicans is that the war on poverty isn't working, more and more people are falling into that economic status. Now, they'll go and blame government policies without acknowledging the role of private industry in it, but I would like to know.
So, essentially, if you are caught up in the justice system for a felony you will not just be discriminated against by employers, you will also be denied support that might help you get through the problems that come from being unemployed?
This whole mess seems even worse then I had initially thought.
Oh yes. Recidivism in the US is crazily high right now, primarily because once you have that record, it becomes impossible to avail yourself of big patches of the social safety net. Which is insane - people coming out of prison need the kind of help and resources that it can offer to you. And expect this trend to get worse if privatization of prisons spreads further, since they only make money when there are beds filled.
The American criminal justice system is one that says one thing, and practices another. It's all couched in very nice sounding language - "paying your debt to society," "rehabilitation," and other such things - but it's sadistic to the core. If the whole goal of prison and all its various attachments is to 'cure' or 'rehab' people of breaking the law, then when they're out, they should be treated like a law-abiding citizen. They're not - it's hard for them to get the resources necessary in order to integrate back into society, to find a job, to become
more. (At least in that sense, the old saw about society being responsible for crime is true.)
This is because we've allowed ourselves to become deluded about the nature of prisons - all a prison can really
do is remove people from general society. Prisons do not deter on a broad scale, and they don't rehabilitate, either. If we actually believed in prison rehabilitation, then why do we treat the people that come out of it no better than when they went in?
One of the smartest opinions I ever heard about criminal justice talked about the need for 'restorative justice.' As opposed to today's system, which practices 'punitive justice.' The idea of restorative justice is probably most famously codified in the concept of weregild
, which is usually associated with the Vikings - the idea of making amends to the victim of your crime, rather than satisfying some nebulous system requirements involving a bunch of people you don't know.
The only time prison should be used, this individual said, is when the crime committed is so heinous that the person can no longer be trusted in society - murder, rape, the really serious offenses - and that removal of the criminal is the best option.
I will be 100% on board with the idea of a social improvement movement the second that movement stops being just 'You're all racist and you need to fix it'.
There's a hefty amount of irony in black people yelling at white people to 'fix their problems.' What happened to we're just as good as you
? And the idea of accusing people of being racist, simply because they're white, is in itself racism.
Poor black communities have less upward mobility than other poor minority communities? Yea, you can definitely blame some of that on racial bias in hiring, school funding politics, and black families that have a lower base income to pay for various services, college tuition, etc. But you know what might also help? If the people in that community actually cared about addressing that problem themselves. I grew up in the deep South and for all the old bitter white racists that did exist there it wasn't them that stopped the black kids from excelling in school.
It was their friends. Their families. Their own freaking parents. The only thing that ever was celebrated was if a kid was good at sports, music, or something else that had nothing to do with anything that resembled a traditional career. And while I understand the underlying basis (these breakout careers were originally one of the only ways for any minority to make it 'big' in a heavily racially stratified society) it doesn't make it right. I had friends that had to borrow my calculator in middle school because their parents wouldn't buy them one, but were 100% willing to drop $500 on sports camp and assorted gear. I watched those same friends get made fun of by other black kids for reading.
And you know what? A few of them did make good. But a lot of them, ones that in middle school showed a lot of talent for math, science, and technology? By the time high school started they just went with the crowd. They stopped reading and putting in the effort because it wasn't cool and nobody at home ever complained. It wasn't a problem if they came home with Cs and Ds as long as they passed.
But if anyone points that out? They're racist. They're insulting 'black culture', flaunting their privilege or a dozen other buzzwords.
I wasn't going to bring this up, but since you did, I figure I should chime in. (Warning, the following is anecdotal experience.)
I taught for a year in a majority-minority school. It was crazy and insane and frustrating because I was having to pit myself up against a system, against a culture that discouraged academic achievement because that meant you were 'selling out.' I had students in my class who would only come up to ask me about improving their grade...if they were failing and needed the class credits to graduate.
The worst of it was the school's policy on athletic eligibility. When I was in school, athletes were required to have a B average. You drop under that, you're out. At this school, you were eligible...if you were passing half
of your classes. So if you were signed up for 6 classes, you could be failing 3 of them, and getting Ds in the other 3, and you were clear to play ball.
I asked my master teacher how it was this came to be, and the story I was basically given was that a number of years ago, a bunch of angry parents came into the school and accused the staff of denying their kids 'the one good thing they have going for them' (a la Coach Carter
), and how could they be so mean?
The school eventually changed its eligibility rules in order to keep attracting excellent athletic talent, and to silence the complaints of the parents - because, you know, it's more important that everything look okay than be okay
You mentioned middle and high school. Social pressures at that age to conform and be 'part of the crowd' are immensely huge - being an outcast is worse than being dead to some of these kids. People talk about how we need to remove those pressures, but I disagree. The pressures aren't going anywhere, because humans are social creatures. What we need to go is change
the pressures into something constructive and worthwhile rather than what we have now, which destroys rather than builds.
Finally, we need to recognize that not all cultures
are equal. You would not say the culture of 12th century France is just as good as the culture of France last century. Multiculturalism has a bright side and a dark side - the bright side is in celebration of heritage, in the understanding that we can learn something from every culture, and that it is a way of self-expression.
We don't have that. We have the dark side, which insists that every culture is valid and fine, that we have to spend equal amounts of time learning about each culture, and that if you don't somehow ascribe to this you are some sort of horrible cultural imperialist, wanting everyone to believe the same things you do.
I'd add this culture is only compounded on by our broken school system that is determined to funnel every child into a 4 year college degree whether they need it, want it, or are qualified for it.
This idea of 'everyone must go to college' is only a recent invention, with...really my
generation. My grandparents were part of the Greatest Generation - in their day, the only people who went to college were those that wanted something big for themselves: doctor, lawyer, something like that. Both of my grandfathers were auto mechanics and they raised families quite adequately on just those salaries. My parents - Baby Boomers - both went to college, but they had plenty of friends who didn't, who found jobs at small businesses or in manufacturing, which didn't require a college degree. College was something you did if you wanted to get ahead.
Cue the Millennials - now everyone
has to have a degree, because the only jobs that get by without one are stocking shelves and flipping burgers. And more and more jobs are requiring people to have Master's degrees instead of the regular old BA or BS. The problem we're eventually going to run into is degree devaluement - when I was in college, I made a joke at my table that the universities had better come up with some new degrees pretty soon, otherwise everyone's going to be running around with a PhD in Burger Flipping. That doesn't seem so humorous anymore.
We need to recognize, as you noted, that college is not for everyone
. Trade schools get a bad rap - they're looked upon as 'college-lite' for those that don't have the talent to make it - but you know what? I'm not calling a guy with an MS in Engineering when my toilet busts, I'm calling my plumber. But I'm fearful that that won't happen, because colleges have become an industry unto themselves these days.