Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Four hard questions for people who want reparations for slavery

1. How do you justify giving money to poor black people while ignoring 3/4 of the people in poverty?

2. How does a person prove they're ADOS (American Descendants of Slavery)? The historical records are incomplete, especially for people who were freed before the Civil War.

3. Does the one-drop rule apply? If so, a great many white people will be having DNA tests to see if they can get free money.

4. Do the descendants of rich black slaveowners like William Ellison get reparations?

Related: Answering #ADOS: The problem with reparations and King's better solution

What Americans Think About Reparations And Other Race-Related Questions | FiveThirtyEight. Reparations are unpopular with every group except for black Americans, and even a large minority of black people reject the idea.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Anna K’s observaton applies to Racefail 09 (aka RaceReductionistFail 09)

Anna Khachiyan wrote on Instagram:
The problem with allowing identity politics to overtake class politics is not just that progressive iconography has come to stand in for actual progress, but also that the mandate to honor the “subjectivity” of one’s “oppression” means that we are routinely held hostage by mental illness and personality disorder masquerading as a messianic fervor for social justice.
This especially applies to Racefail 09: perhaps the first person who attacked a white writer’s work and was then supported by the identitarians was a woman who admitted she had mental issues.

Now, I think the main problem with her critique was she hadn’t finished the book that she attacked—context matters—but her bad reading was reinforced by her mental problems, which was then validated by her “allies”.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Captain Marvel, the greatest Mary Sue ever? And a little bit racist?

As I hope my previous post made clear, I liked the movie and will probably see it again.

But, dear God, is the character a Mary Sue.

1. She's retconned as one of the most powerful characters in the universe. (Yes, it is a problem that Fury never called her before, though a later writer can always say he did and she was too busy to take the call.)

2. She is so important that she gave the Avengers their name. (Why she was called Carol "the Avenger" Danvers, we haven't a clue, because we never saw her do anything that would inspire anyone to call her the Avenger.)

3. She immediately becomes Nick Fury's pal. (She and Fury are shown laughing together in scenes that seemed wrong to me. If I'd been directing, I would've told the actors to play the scenes more subtly.)

4. She doesn't seem to have any lovers in her past. (Perhaps because she's too amazing for any ordinary boy or girlfriend.)

5. Everything we know about her past is about things she did for herself instead of anyone else. We are supposed to believe she was a great friend because her cool black friend says she was, but we have no idea what she ever did that made her a great friend.

6. She gets her abilities not because she earned them like Wonder Woman or Batman or deserved them like Green Lantern or Captain America, but because she's the one who's standing there when the experimental power source explodes—and unlike many of the characters who have a similar origin, she wasn't even responsible for creating the thing that transformed her. She simply gets awesome powers because the writers wanted to write about someone with awesome powers.

As for how her story is a tiny bit racist, her awesomeness is established with the testimony of Nick Fury and Maria Rambeau—she's so cool, black people look up to her.

Okay, that all sounds like I didn't like the movie. I did. But I really hope the next Avengers movie manages to make her less of a Mary Sue.

ETA: Extra point on the little bit racist: Marvel had a black female Captain Marvel for a few years, but they sidelined her in favor of the white woman.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Captain Marvel—fun movie, but she didn't have to be a neoliberal Mary Sue (spoilers after first paragraph)

Lightly edited things I said elsewhere: Fun. Brie Larson is only okay, perhaps hindered by a character who's a bit of a Mary Sue, perhaps miscast. Good use of Samuel Jackson. Wanted more Coulson and Hill. Last act is the weakest. Would see it again.

I suspect both Jackson and Larson would’ve been better with a stronger script. Carol seems like a Mary Sue because she doesn’t have a well-defined character—she’s just a girl who gets up when she’s knocked down. It’s all about her, unlike my favorite, Steve Rogers, for whom it’s all about others. Or if the writers had been willing to give her some weakness, they could’ve gone with the egocentric hero, like Stark. She’s just a good pilot who got her powers by accident.

It's a neoliberal idea of strength. Stark has the virtue of being a guy with a problem. Unlike Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel didn't even have to earn her powers. And unlike Green Lantern, she did not get them because she was deserving. She just got them.

Which may be enough, of course. We’ll see how she does in the next Avengers movie.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Answering #ADOS: The problem with reparations and King's better solution

Anyone who knows US history knows black people were treated abominably. Today, as a group, they are almost as poor as Native Americans. After the Civil War, the plantations should've been broken up and the land given to homeless people.

But implementing reparations is impossible now.

1. If you give a cash payout to all American Descendants Of Slaves (ADOS), you will give money to well-off ADOS and the 1/4 of poor people who are black. No one who wants to end poverty can support ignoring 3/4 of the poor.

2. If you give an equal cash payment to all ADOS, you will create a new racial hierarchy in which all black people are richer than poor white, Asian, Hispanic, and Native Americans, but the rich are still disproportionately white.

3. There is no practical way to establish ADOS credentials. Should reparations go to anyone who has DNA linked to Africa? To anyone who can pass the brown paper bag test? To anyone who meets the one drop rule? To octoroons? To quadroons? To anyone who can submit a genealogy that proves an ancestor was a slave? Do the descendants of rich black slaveowners get reparations?

4. If you create a form of reparations that does not consist of cash payments, the primary beneficiaries will be the administrators, who will come from the black middle and upper class.

Reparationists insist justice calls for a race-specific solution, yet even fans of reparations admit that universal solutions are racial solutions:
"Because black families on average have considerably less wealth than white families, this kind of system or scheme would disproportionately benefit blacks." —William Darity
Martin Luther King had a better solution:
"...there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike. ... I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective—the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income." —Martin Luther King

Baby Bonds Only Modestly Reduce the Racial Wealth Gap – People's Policy Project:
It is not the middle that owns the wealth, but rather the very top. In 2016, the median white quintile owned just 3.7 percent of white wealth. For black families, the same figure was 2.8 percent. ... the top quintile owned over 85 percent of each group’s wealth.
The Reparations Puzzle:
Because wealth is distributed very unevenly within every racial group, any race-specific wealth transfer regime will either 1) open up massive racial wealth disparities going in the opposite direction of current disparities or 2) provide the vast majority of its benefits to the upper class.
On Reparations by Adolph Reed

Cornel West and Cedric Johnson on Ta-Nehisi Coates

Sorry Ta-Nehisi Coates, The NAACP’s Reparations Plan Looks Exactly Like What Bernie Sanders Is Proposing by Yvette Carnell

Bonus! An earlier post on the subject:
Two questions about reparations that no one will answer

Ta-Nehisi Coates' The Case for Reparations won't tell you that even slaves looked down on "white trash" or that Mississippi's poll tax law reduced the number of qualified white voters from 130,000 to 68,000, but it's well-written and well-researched. Yet, despite the title, Coates doesn't address the two most important questions:

1. How do you institute reparations for slavery in the 21st century? Coates mentions Conyers' bill, HR 40, that calls for studying how to institute reparations, but neither he nor Conyers actually offer a specific suggestion. I suspect the reason is in the answer to the next question:

2. How do you justify instituting reparations for generational black poverty while excluding the descendants of indentured servants, the American Indians and Mexican-Americans whose land was taken from them, the Japanese-American, German-American, and Italian-Americans who were put in concentration camps when the US fought the countries they came from, and the working class people of all hues who have been exploited by the rich for as long as this country has existed?

Jamelle Bouie tried to answer the first question in Reparations should be paid to black Americans: Here is how America should pay. I commented there:
One question is whether the descendants of black slaveowners, from Anthony Johnson, the first black slaveowner in English-speaking North America, to William Ellison, who may have been the richest at the time the Civil War began, should be rewarded for owning slaves.

The problem with using the census for reparations is that it's self-reporting. For example, "An estimated net 1.2 million Americans of the 35 million Americans identified in 2000 as of “Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin,” as the census form puts it, changed their race from “some other race” to “white” between the 2000 and 2010 censuses." If there are reparations available for being black, an awful lot of us who've been "white" will happily correct our forms to show we're "black".
Henry Louis Gates Jr. did a fine rebuttal of the rationale for reparations in How to End the Slavery Blame-Game (NYTimes.com):
While we are all familiar with the role played by the United States and the European colonial powers like Britain, France, Holland, Portugal and Spain, there is very little discussion of the role Africans themselves played. And that role, it turns out, was a considerable one, especially for the slave-trading kingdoms of western and central Africa. These included the Akan of the kingdom of Asante in what is now Ghana, the Fon of Dahomey (now Benin), the Mbundu of Ndongo in modern Angola and the Kongo of today’s Congo, among several others.

For centuries, Europeans in Africa kept close to their military and trading posts on the coast. Exploration of the interior, home to the bulk of Africans sold into bondage at the height of the slave trade, came only during the colonial conquests, which is why Henry Morton Stanley’s pursuit of Dr. David Livingstone in 1871 made for such compelling press: he was going where no (white) man had gone before.

How did slaves make it to these coastal forts? The historians John Thornton and Linda Heywood of Boston University estimate that 90 percent of those shipped to the New World were enslaved by Africans and then sold to European traders. The sad truth is that without complex business partnerships between African elites and European traders and commercial agents, the slave trade to the New World would have been impossible, at least on the scale it occurred.

Advocates of reparations for the descendants of those slaves generally ignore this untidy problem of the significant role that Africans played in the trade, choosing to believe the romanticized version that our ancestors were all kidnapped unawares by evil white men, like Kunta Kinte was in “Roots.” The truth, however, is much more complex: slavery was a business, highly organized and lucrative for European buyers and African sellers alike.
Eric Williams noted, “Slavery was not born of racism: rather, racism was the consequence of slavery.” So the real question is not whether there should be reparations for slavery. It's whether there should be reparations for capitalism. I say yes, and I agree with Martin Luther King. The only viable reparation is Basic Income for everyone.


1. Coates says in the essay, "In the contest of upward mobility, Barack and Michelle Obama have won. But they’ve won by being twice as good—and enduring twice as much." But neither Obama's academic or political record suggests he was twice as good or endured twice as much as his rivals, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Class-first quotes: Du Bois, King, Malcolm X, Black Panthers

“...back of the problem of race and color, lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellowmen.” —W.E.B. Du Bois

"...there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike." —Martin Luther King

"I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation. ... but I don’t think that it will be based upon the color of the skin." —Malcolm X

“we believe our fight is a class struggle, not a race struggle.” — Bobby Seale, co-founder Black Panther Party

"First of all, we say primarily that the priority of this struggle is class. That Marx, and Lenin, and Che Guevara, and Mao Tse-Tung—and anybody else that has ever said or knew or practiced anything about revolution, always said that revolution is a class struggle. It was one class—the oppressed—and that other class—the oppressor. And it's got to be a universal fact. Those that don't admit to that are those that don't want to get involved in a revolution." —Fred Hampton, Black Panther