||[Jul. 25th, 2010|12:28 am]
I expected something a bit more, well, intelligent. The articles basic premise is that white privilege is a myth, and that special programs to aid immigrants and blacks are discriminatory against whites. My comments here apply to the United States. The basic principles likely apply in other mixed race societies, but probably manifest in somewhat different ways.
Immigrants... Hmm. So we let them come, and then leave them to fend for themselves? Isn't it kind of a smart idea, even ignoring the immigrants welfare, to help them get established? Just for our own damn benefit, it would be good to help them become productive members of society. "Ok, your paperwork is in order, good luck!" just sounds like a terrible idea, and it seems like that is what he is advocating we do with immigrants.
You know why some people turn to crime? Because they can't get on their feet with a legal way to support themselves. They get desperate. This happens to people born and raised in our culture with roots going back centuries. How much harder is that going to be with cultural and perhaps linguistic barriers in the way? I want to stress that I'm not saying immigrants are bad or stupid people. But when our own people go down a bad path due to difficult circumstances, I can't imagine that immigrants would be any less likely to follow that path as well.
What seems strange is that he recognizes that there is a cultural inertia at work. We might achieve 100% equality before the law for all racial and ethnic backgrounds, but that isn't enough. Culturally our society would still be built on the old order of things for quite some time after we get the laws fixed. But isn't that an argument in favor of affirmative action and other support programs? There may be a point where the expected benefits of such programs are outweighed by the expected costs, but that's not what he's arguing. He's arguing that the programs should simply end.
He had an interesting point about white culture not being monolithic. This would have been good if he was writing a Sociology paper discussing the cultures that form the United States. But he misses a huge, huge point. If someone of Swedish or French or Italian descent wants to get ahead, and their cultural background might cause a problem... They can simply decline to mention it. They can even pretend to be a more accepted form of white if they want to. While it is horrible if someone has to do this, the fact is that they can. Yes, cultural inertia might play a role, but white people don't have obstacles to participating in the collective culture based on their skin color.
Ok, and to drive him down even more, let's say we got all the laws in order. Full equality before the law. And let's even banish racist thoughts and actions from everyone in society. There's still a problem. Webb isn't taking the cultural inertia far enough here. Black people will still be disadvantaged relative to white people. White people got to positions of power over two centuries ago. Their families have vast fortunes and influence in many segments of society. Sure, we might have a situation where, all else being equal, a black person and a white person have an equal chance of getting ahead. But it's not equal. Powerful people nearly always get that way in part due to family connections. Maybe a huge inheritance, help getting a CEO position, daddy helping you with your presidential campaign strategy. These things go to help family first- most people would even argue that it's good that you help your own family first. Bill Gates- while he wasn't super wealthy, his family was well off enough that he could quit Harvard and get right back in if that whole Microsoft thing didn't work out. His family had connections and money, that was quite helpful in getting him started.
The problem of that, with respect to race and cultural inertia? Black people don't have family members in positions of power. Sure, there are occasional exceptions, but by and large the positions of power are already taken up by white people. Given the importance of family connections to rising up to the top tiers of society, and often even the middle tiers, how are black people supposed to actually do anything with the theoretical equality I've pretended they have for these last two paragraphs? They might be allowed and encouraged to break the cultural inertia Webb discusses, but they simply don't have the tools. Until they advance, they won't be able to advance. I'm at a loss to think of anything other than some form of affirmative action that might be able to break this dilemma.