Elizabeth Warren: if blacks are less successful than whites, it’s because of racial discrimination

Patrick Howley writing at the Washington Free Beacon tells us that in addition to giving a well-received speech at a 2004 symposium on Critical Race Theory, Elizabeth Warren
also published an article in connection with the symposium in the Fall 2004 issue of Washington and Lee Law Review entitled “The Economics of Race: When Making it to the Middle Is Not Enough.”

Warren’s piece discusses the economic disparity between whites and nonwhites in the context of home foreclosure and bankruptcy.

Warren wrote, “A growing body of work examines how black families are having much greater difficulty accumulating wealth and how tax codes or other seemingly neutral statutes systematically disadvantage black families.” [LA replies: You know, the way seemingly neutral statutes on murder and armed robbery disadvantage blacks, and the way seemingly neutral exams for firefighters disadvantage blacks, and the way seemingly neutral tests for math and reading ability disadvantage blacks. Basically the whole universe is a white racist conspiracy to keep the black man down.]

“Hispanic and black homeowners face sharply increased risks of filing for bankruptcy as compared to their white counterparts,” Warren wrote. “These data reinforce the view that middle class Hispanic and blacks are far more vulnerable to the financial difficulties facing every family.”

University of Texas Law School professor A. Mechele Dickerson also attended the event. Dickerson quoted Warren’s book The Two-Income Trap in her 2005 paper “Caught in the Trap: Pricing Racial Housing Preferences.”

Dickerson argues in that paper that middle-class parents exhibit racial bias in determining whether schools for their children can be deemed “safe.” [LA replies: Aha! Middle-class parents’ seemingly neutral concerns about safety and order in their children’s schools disadvantage blacks!]

Middle-class parents prefer “nonminority” schools for their children, Dickerson argues. Thus all school assignments, Dickerson writes, must be made “without regard to the student’s street address.”

Now Dickerson’s proposal sounds pretty radical, right? But don’t all Republicans and mainstream conservatives, through their support for school vouchers, want the same thing? Vouchers means that the government will give nonwhite families the money to send their child to any public or private school they choose. Meaning that good private and public schools will be swamped by black and Hispanic pupils, turning them into “failed” schools. Ordinary white parents tacitly understand this, though of course they never say it aloud, and probably don’t even say it in the privacy of their own minds. Which is why school choice and vouchers have consistently been rejected wherever they’ve been proposed. Only Republican politicians and movement conservatives believe in them.

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Paul K. writes:

I wonder whether Republican politicians and movement conservatives really believe in school choice and vouchers, or if it’s just a talking point, a policy they can propose as an alternative to the status quo. They know it won’t pass, but they have to say something besides “Blacks will always do poorly in school—what do you expect?”

It strikes me that much of the political debate in this country is over similarly bankrupt policies. For example, when challenged about the poor performance of the economy, Obama responds that the Republicans won’t pass his Jobs Bill. But what is this “Jobs Bill”? It’s just another stimulus package that even his own party doesn’t support. Obama came up with it just to have something to say when campaigning.

Jake F. writes:

While I think your blog post overall is very good, I think you miss the mark when you claim that the conservative position on vouchers is the same as Ms. Dickerson’s proposal that “all school assignments… must be made ‘without regard to the student’s street address.’”

I send my children to a small Catholic school. The school is about half-white. The parents (of any race) who send their children to this school are motivated; they want to keep their children out of the public schools, either for religious or educational reasons. As a result, the black students who attend seem to be much less problematic, on average, than black students at the local public schools.

Voucher programs usually wouldn’t pay all of the tuition for a private school, but they pay a fair amount. Motivated parents will put a little skin of their own in the game, and use them; non-motivated parents won’t. This by itself will prevent the general black population from entering voucher-accepting schools, so they’ll really receive the upper crust of the black population. In addition, if blacks don’t like various aspects of the school, the schools can tell them to take their vouchers elsewhere, which means that some of the racial issues that harm public schools will be mitigated somewhat in the voucher-accepting schools.

We recently had a lot of discussion about this in my community, and it seems to me that what makes parents of all stripes reject vouchers is that they know this will hurt public schools; if the best students from the most highly motivated families go elsewhere, the public schools will be even worse than they are now.

Of course, that means they’d like to drag their own families down in the name of equality rather than have better and worse schools in their district.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 15, 2012 10:28 AM | Send

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