An Adolescent Conceit

 

The new national pastime of decrying the sins of our predecessors brought these remarks by Dr. Robert George of Princeton to mind:

Undergraduates say the darnedest things. When discussing the history of racial injustice, I frequently ask them what their position on slavery would have been had they been white and living in the South before abolition. Guess what? They all would have been abolitionists! They all would have bravely spoken out against slavery, and worked tirelessly in the cause of freeing those enslaved. Isn’t that special? Bless their hearts.

Of course, it is complete nonsense. Only the tiniest fraction of them, or of any of us, would have spoken up against slavery or lifted a finger to free the slaves. Most of them—and us—would simply have gone along. Many would have supported the slave system and, if it was in their interest, participated in it as buyers and owners or sellers of slaves.

So I respond to the students’ assurances that they would have been vocal opponents of slavery by saying that I will credit their claims if they can show me evidence of the following: that in leading their lives today they have embraced causes that are unpopular among their peers and stood up for the rights of victims of injustice whose very humanity is denied, and where they have done so knowing (1) that it would make THEM unpopular with their peers, (2) that they would be loathed and ridiculed by wealthy, powerful, and influential individuals and institutions in our society; (3) that it would cost them friendships and cause them to be abandoned and even denounced by many of their friends, (4) that they would be called nasty names, and (5) that they would possibly even be denied valuable educational and professional opportunities as a result of their moral witness.

In short, my challenge to them is to show me where they have at significant risk to themselves and their futures stood up for a cause that is unpopular in elite sectors of our culture today.

Theodore Dalrymple has observed that there are few feelings more congenial than a sense of moral superiority.  It’s both easy and pleasing to feel superior to people from the past. It’s especially easy, in part, because the dead can’t defend themselves. The old admonition not to speak ill of the dead came about for a reason.

All of this came to mind recently on the heels of David French’s johnny-come-lately embrace of hereditary racial moral culpability. In short: he has decided that the majority of Americans are complicit in the racial sins of the past primarily on the basis of sharing the same skin color as some of the perpetrators from days gone by. If that rationale comes across to you as flimsy and outrageously unjust, well, you would not be David French.

Others on Ricochet have posted very useful responses to French, most notably @arizonapatriot here and @bryangstephens here.

I’m not writing here to rehash the actual arguments of French and his ilk. I’m primarily writing to observe that I have yet to witness French or anyone else in the hairshirt brigade take any concrete action that might suggest that they themselves are guilty of the inherited racism they accuse the rest of us of. They may say “we must atone” but apparently, any actual atoning will start somewhere else.  For all of the mau-mauing about inherited racial guilt being done by white writers and white leaders of corporations, I have not observed a rush for the exits by any of them. It seems that the louder the assertion of collective guilt, the more unlikely the accuser is to actually lead by example in personal sacrifice. David French may say that we are systemically guilty, but his fingers are pointing outward, and he himself remains comfortably ensconced in his privileged sinecure.

The result of all of this is that French and others come across to me as primarily engaging in an adolescent conceit. French is like the 16-year-old boy who looks down on his father for working too much but who nevertheless expects to maintain his own comfortable living arrangements, and to borrow the car keys on Saturday night. French eagerly accuses his country and his neighbors, but without any expectation that his own comfortable circumstance should change.

I suspect that in reality, when the David Frenches of the world allege that America is systemically racist and marred by the unremovable stain of a racist past, they intend to direct the accusation at the rest of us but not really at themselves. It is a pose, or maybe as poker players would say — “a tell.” It primarily reveals that they view themselves as set apart — as the moral betters of the hairy unwashed around them. They apparently don’t intend to make any actual sacrifices themselves. They only intend to accuse. They expect the consequences for the collective guilt they imagine to fall entirely on someone else.

Perhaps rather than letting his feverish moral condescension get the better of him, French would do well to remember there are moral failures more heinous than the figments he imagines. If he can bring himself to take a break from his moral preening and grandstanding, he might recall that on the larger list of things God hates are two practices that French’s own writing unhappily brings to mind:

There are six things that the Lord hates,
Seven that are an abomination to Him:

A false witness who declares lies,
And one who spreads strife among brothers.

— Proverbs 6:16-19

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Beautifully said, Keith. Thank you for calling out not only French, but all of those who point fingers at others, but don’t see their own arrogance.

    • #1
  2. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    An adolescent conceit? Or a conceited prostitute?

    The Frenches are just whoring Their wares to Whoever will pay Them or pay Them more. 

    • #2
  3. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    David French seriously considered running for President as a third party candidate to cause no one to win a majority and push the vote into the House of Representatives. The plan was than that GOP controlled House would then vote for him, the candidate with the least number of votes of the top three, over the votes for Clinton and Trump. 

    Let that plan sink in for a moment. French considered that the best course of action for the United States of America, was that we would be voted President by the House of Representatives over Clinton or Trump. 

    I said when that plan was floated (and actually tried and failed with McMullin), I would have rather Clinton be elected than this sort of nonsense happen. It would have been devastating to the Constitutional Order. Though, I dare say, it would have united Blue and Red states in a way not seen since 9-12-01. Trump and Clinton voters alike would have been side by side against this. 

    Of course, in the long run, it would have wiped out the GOP at the national level, and rightly so. I’d have voted for anyone other than a representative that helped make this stunt happen, even Stacy Abrahams. 

    What this shows of David French’s character is exactly the idea that he thinks he knows better than everyone else. He is not interested in the Will of the People, he is absorbed with his own brilliance. For someone that talks so much about his faith and Christianity, the man is ruled by pride in his own piousness. 

    • #3
  4. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Keith Lowery:

    The new national pastime of decrying the sins of our predecessors brought these remarks by Dr. Robert George of Princeton to mind:

    Undergraduates say the darnedest things. When discussing the history of racial injustice, I frequently ask them what their position on slavery would have been had they been white and living in the South before abolition. Guess what? They all would have been abolitionists! They all would have bravely spoken out against slavery, and worked tirelessly in the cause of freeing those enslaved. Isn’t that special? Bless their hearts.

    I would have asked them, “What if you were a slave owner in the Antebellum South?”

    • #4
  5. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Stad (View Comment):

    Keith Lowery:

    The new national pastime of decrying the sins of our predecessors brought these remarks by Dr. Robert George of Princeton to mind:

    Undergraduates say the darnedest things. When discussing the history of racial injustice, I frequently ask them what their position on slavery would have been had they been white and living in the South before abolition. Guess what? They all would have been abolitionists! They all would have bravely spoken out against slavery, and worked tirelessly in the cause of freeing those enslaved. Isn’t that special? Bless their hearts.

    I would have asked them, “What if you were a slave owner in the Antebellum South?”

    Jordan Peterson also talks about this. “You would have been a Nazi!”

    • #5
  6. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Stad (View Comment):

    Keith Lowery:

    The new national pastime of decrying the sins of our predecessors brought these remarks by Dr. Robert George of Princeton to mind:

    Undergraduates say the darnedest things. When discussing the history of racial injustice, I frequently ask them what their position on slavery would have been had they been white and living in the South before abolition. Guess what? They all would have been abolitionists! They all would have bravely spoken out against slavery, and worked tirelessly in the cause of freeing those enslaved. Isn’t that special? Bless their hearts.

    I would have asked them, “What if you were a slave owner in the Antebellum South?”

    Jordan Peterson also talks about this. “You would have been a Nazi!”

    • #6
  7. D.A. Venters Member
    D.A. Venters
    @DAVenters

    Well, we’re all hypocrites at some point or another.  It has no bearing on what’s true and what’s not true.  I keep a hidden stash of m&m’s in my house, one of those giant bags of them, and whenever I can I sneak away and gobble down a handful.  And yet, I keep warning my kids about eating too much sugar, and limiting their supply.  The fact that I ignore that problem in my own habits doesn’t mean I’m wrong to try to keep my kids’ sugar consumption down.

    I agree with French, for the most part, that there is an obligation to remedy the effects of slavery, jim crow, etc… I also think it’s virtually impossible to figure out what that obligation means in a practical sense, and what any particular individual can and should do to bring that remedy about.   I admit to having done very little in that regard aside from not discriminating in my personal life and teaching my children the same.  You can call me a hypocrite for not living up to my own standards, but that’s nothing I didn’t already know, and it doesn’t do anything to convince me I’m wrong on the subject. 

    I’d rather try to conform my behavior to my beliefs, than conform my beliefs to my behavior.  

    With respect to French, who knows what he has done to walk the walk on this issue?  Maybe nothing.  Maybe a lot.  Would it change your opinion on the subject if you discovered he had make a lot of personal sacrifices to bring change about?  I don’t think it should. And if that’s right, what’s the point of discussing it, other than to avoid the main topic?

    • #7
  8. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Keith Lowery: I’m not writing here to rehash the actual arguments of French and his ilk. I’m primarily writing to observe that I have yet to witness French or anyone else in the hair shirt brigade take any concrete action that might suggest that they themselves are guilty of the inherited racism they accuse the rest of us of.

    Well, David French and his wife did adopt a black girl from Africa* — into a “systemically racist” America for which she is due reparations — ‘er somethin’. 

    *I do consider that act a worthy sacrifice and don’t mean to belittle it. It’s the incoherence of the second part I’m having trouble squaring with the first part. 

    • #8
  9. Keith Lowery Coolidge
    Keith Lowery
    @keithlowery

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):
    Well, we’re all hypocrites at some point or another. 

    Indeed we are, but we don’t all wander the land like David French, pointing the accusatory finger at others. You may gobble your M&M’s in secret while telling your children to manage their intake of sugar, but I doubt you write accusatory posts from a national platform, tarring an entire nation as guilty of moral complicity merely because a minority of their predecessors gorged themselves on candy. 

    I agree with French, for the most part, that there is an obligation to remedy the effects of slavery, jim crow, etc…I also think it’s virtually impossible to figure out what that obligation means in a practical sense

    You are suggesting that there is a moral obligation to remedy an offense that cannot even be identified. If you cannot perceive the fundamental injustice of this position I’m afraid I can’t help you.

    Are the disparities and pathologies we observe today in the black underclass an artifact of slavery and Jim Crow?  If so, why does the white underclass in Great Britain exhibit the same disparities and pathologies but without the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow? (For more on this you should read Theodore Dalrymple’s book, Life At The Bottom.) Why did black Americans, immediately on the heels of slavery and during Jim Crow, not exhibit these pathologies to the degree we see today (e.g. fatherlessness)? To blithely suggest that the pathologies we observe are provably the result of ancient injustices is to wave away human agency and to replicate the injustice of the past in the present.  Frankly, it is a form of paternalism and carries a tinge of racially infused low expectations. 

    Here’s what the David French brigade is essentially communicating: they are telling a lot of young black men and women that the reason they won’t quit smoking dope, get out of bed, and hold down a job is because there were some mean white people in the 19th and early 20th century. IMO, such a low view of the moral agency of black human beings, who bear God’s image, is dehumanizing and – not to put too fine a point on it – racist.

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):
    I also think it’s virtually impossible to figure out what that obligation means in a practical sense, and what any particular individual can and should do to bring that remedy about.   I admit to having done very little in that regard aside from not discriminating in my personal life and teaching my children the same.

    I’d suggest, @daventers, that you’ve pointed to major weaknesses of French: first, I almost always get annoyed when people say I have an obligation, but they can’t tell me what it is. Second, you have done a great deal about the issue, just as you point out: not discriminating is a very big commitment, and even more important is what you’ve told your children.

    • #10
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Keith Lowery (View Comment):
    Here’s what the David French brigade is essentially communicating: they are telling a lot of young black men and women that the reason they won’t quit smoking dope, get out of bed, and hold down a job is because there were some mean white people in the 19th and early 20th century. IMO, such a low view of the moral agency of black human beings, who bear God’s image, is dehumanizing and – not to put too fine a point on it – racist.

    Aside from this being a brilliant comment, you beat me to the points I made in my own comment.

    • #11
  12. Quintus Sertorius Coolidge
    Quintus Sertorius
    @BillGollier

    Keith Lowery (View Comment):

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):
    Well, we’re all hypocrites at some point or another.

    Indeed we are, but we don’t all wander the land like David French, pointing the accusatory finger at others. You may gobble your M&M’s in secret while telling your children to manage their intake of sugar, but I doubt you write accusatory posts from a national platform, tarring an entire nation as guilty of moral complicity merely because a minority of their predecessors gorged themselves on candy.

    I agree with French, for the most part, that there is an obligation to remedy the effects of slavery, jim crow, etc…I also think it’s virtually impossible to figure out what that obligation means in a practical sense

    You are suggesting that there is a moral obligation to remedy an offense that cannot even be identified. If you cannot perceive the fundamental injustice of this position I’m afraid I can’t help you.

    Are the disparities and pathologies we observe today in the black underclass an artifact of slavery and Jim Crow? If so, why does the white underclass in Great Britain exhibit the same disparities and pathologies but without the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow? (For more on this you should read Theodore Dalrymple’s book, Life At The Bottom.) Why did black Americans, immediately on the heels of slavery and during Jim Crow, not exhibit these pathologies to the degree we see today (e.g. fatherlessness)? To blithely suggest that the pathologies we observe are provably the result of ancient injustices is to wave away human agency and to replicate the injustice of the past in the present. Frankly, it is a form of paternalism and carries a tinge of racially infused low expectations.

    Here’s what the David French brigade is essentially communicating: they are telling a lot of young black men and women that the reason they won’t quit smoking dope, get out of bed, and hold down a job is because there were some mean white people in the 19th and early 20th century. IMO, such a low view of the moral agency of black human beings, who bear God’s image, is dehumanizing and – not to put too fine a point on it – racist.

    Thomas Sowell has proven this beyond a doubt in several books

    • #12
  13. Keith Lowery Coolidge
    Keith Lowery
    @keithlowery

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    Keith Lowery: I’m not writing here to rehash the actual arguments of French and his ilk. I’m primarily writing to observe that I have yet to witness French or anyone else in the hair shirt brigade take any concrete action that might suggest that they themselves are guilty of the inherited racism they accuse the rest of us of.

    Well, David French and his wife did adopt a black girl from Africa* — into a “systemically racist” America for which she is due reparations — ‘er somethin’.

    *I do consider that act a worthy sacrifice and don’t mean to belittle it. It’s the incoherence of the second part I’m having trouble squaring with the first part.

    I’m aware of French’s adoption. I’m a big fan of adoption. Two of my own four children were adopted. Two of my eight grandchildren were adopted. None of my grandchildren would be classified as “white” by the demographic obsessives at the U.S. Census department.

    But I don’t credit French’s decision as a “sacrifice”. He has been given the privilege of loving a child and (likely) being loved in return. Whatever sacrifice in material goods might be involved is more than compensated for by love. When we adopted our children, we did so not with a mindset of undertaking a charitable project – what child wants to be a project? – but with the mindset of multiplying love in our family by adding daughters. I realize people often look at adoptive families and think there’s something admirable there.  And there is in one sense, but the blessings far outweigh the sacrifices.  And I would hate to think that French’s daughter comes to see herself as primarily a demonstration of her father’s virtue. 

    • #13
  14. D.A. Venters Member
    D.A. Venters
    @DAVenters

    Keith Lowery (View Comment):

    D.A. Venters (View Comment)

    I agree with French, for the most part, that there is an obligation to remedy the effects of slavery, jim crow, etc…I also think it’s virtually impossible to figure out what that obligation means in a practical sense

    You are suggesting that there is a moral obligation to remedy an offense that cannot even be identified. If you cannot perceive the fundamental injustice of this position I’m afraid I can’t help you.

    I think the offense can be identified, and the present effects identified to a certain extent. What is much harder to figure out is how to address it. I’m not asking for your help, by the way.

    Are the disparities and pathologies we observe today in the black underclass an artifact of slavery and Jim Crow? If so, why does the white underclass in Great Britain exhibit the same disparities and pathologies but without the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow? (For more on this you should read Theodore Dalrymple’s book, Life At The Bottom.) Why did black Americans, immediately on the heels of slavery and during Jim Crow, not exhibit these pathologies to the degree we see today (e.g. fatherlessness)?….Frankly, it is a form of paternalism and carries a tinge of racially infused low expectations.

    Here’s what the David French brigade is essentially communicating: they are telling a lot of young black men and women that the reason they won’t quit smoking dope, get out of bed, and hold down a job is because there were some mean white people in the 19th and early 20th Century. IMO, such a low view of the moral agency of black human beings, who bear God’s image, is dehumanizing and – not to put too fine a point on it – racist.

    But I don’t hold a low view of “the moral agency of black human beings.” The point is not what people are capable of overcoming; it’s the fact that some are confronted with more to overcome than others.  That’s true for people of all races, for all kinds of reasons across the board, but one of those reasons for many of your fellow countrymen is that their ancestors were held as slaves and/or second class citizens. (The word “mean” as you use it there is doing a lot of work.)  One can recognize the injustice of that while still affirming that a person so disadvantaged still has the ability and obligation to be a productive responsible citizen. 

    Like so many other comments I’ve seen on the topic, you’re leaping to conclusions about what is being argued. I haven’t said, nor has French to my knowledge, that slavery and racist structures are the only cause of problems among African Americans, or for any person in particular. Nor has anyone said that disadvantaged people are absolved from taking responsibility for their own lives.  

     

    • #14
  15. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Keith Lowery (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    Keith Lowery: I’m not writing here to rehash the actual arguments of French and his ilk. I’m primarily writing to observe that I have yet to witness French or anyone else in the hair shirt brigade take any concrete action that might suggest that they themselves are guilty of the inherited racism they accuse the rest of us of.

    Well, David French and his wife did adopt a black girl from Africa* — into a “systemically racist” America for which she is due reparations — ‘er somethin’.

    *I do consider that act a worthy sacrifice and don’t mean to belittle it. It’s the incoherence of the second part I’m having trouble squaring with the first part.

    I’m aware of French’s adoption. I’m a big fan of adoption. Two of my own four children were adopted. Two of my eight grandchildren were adopted. None of my grandchildren would be classified as “white” by the demographic obsessives at the U.S. Census department.

    But I don’t credit French’s decision as a “sacrifice”. He has been given the privilege of loving a child and (likely) being loved in return. Whatever sacrifice in material goods might be involved is more than compensated for by love. When we adopted our children, we did so not with a mindset of undertaking a charitable project – what child wants to be a project? – but with the mindset of multiplying love in our family by adding daughters. I realize people often look at adoptive families and think there’s something admirable there. And there is in one sense, but the blessings far outweigh the sacrifices. And I would hate to think that French’s daughter comes to see herself as primarily a demonstration of her father’s virtue.

    Well, that’s for sure! But, I do think raising children, whether biological or adopted, is an act of self-sacrifice, even if you don’t set out thinking that’s what you’re doing. Parenting is kind of the definition of self-sacrificial love. Children are a great blessing and simultaneously the source of great pain, as you and I know all too well. Both/and.

    • #15
  16. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Keith Lowery (View Comment):

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):
    Well, we’re all hypocrites at some point or another.

    Indeed we are, but we don’t all wander the land like David French, pointing the accusatory finger at others. You may gobble your M&M’s in secret while telling your children to manage their intake of sugar, but I doubt you write accusatory posts from a national platform, tarring an entire nation as guilty of moral complicity merely because a minority of their predecessors gorged themselves on candy.

    I agree with French, for the most part, that there is an obligation to remedy the effects of slavery, jim crow, etc…I also think it’s virtually impossible to figure out what that obligation means in a practical sense

    You are suggesting that there is a moral obligation to remedy an offense that cannot even be identified. If you cannot perceive the fundamental injustice of this position I’m afraid I can’t help you.

    Are the disparities and pathologies we observe today in the black underclass an artifact of slavery and Jim Crow? If so, why does the white underclass in Great Britain exhibit the same disparities and pathologies but without the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow? (For more on this you should read Theodore Dalrymple’s book, Life At The Bottom.) Why did black Americans, immediately on the heels of slavery and during Jim Crow, not exhibit these pathologies to the degree we see today (e.g. fatherlessness)? To blithely suggest that the pathologies we observe are provably the result of ancient injustices is to wave away human agency and to replicate the injustice of the past in the present. Frankly, it is a form of paternalism and carries a tinge of racially infused low expectations.

    Here’s what the David French brigade is essentially communicating: they are telling a lot of young black men and women that the reason they won’t quit smoking dope, get out of bed, and hold down a job is because there were some mean white people in the 19th and early 20th century. IMO, such a low view of the moral agency of black human beings, who bear God’s image, is dehumanizing and – not to put too fine a point on it – racist.

    Amen!

    • #16
  17. Keith Lowery Coolidge
    Keith Lowery
    @keithlowery

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):
    The point is not what people are capable of overcoming; it’s the fact that some are confronted with more to overcome than others.  That’s true for people of all races, for all kinds of reasons across the board, but one of those reasons for many of your fellow countrymen is that their ancestors were held as slaves and/or second class citizens.

    You apparently have a narrative running around your head that presupposes that historic injustice accounts for contemporary observable disparities. I would challenge you to offer generalizable, empirical evidence for that point of view.  I’m saying such perspective is mythological and is debilitating for the very people it ostensibly proposes to help. There is ample evidence for the fallacious nature of your belief, both in history and in data.  For reasons I won’t go into here, I have been unexpectedly drawn in to the lives of people in the urban community who exhibit the kinds of personal pathologies that undermine any possibility of success. I have worked to help many of them, ranging from bailing them out of jail to paying their traffic tickets and propping them up so they are in a position to actually hold down a job.

    Here is what I have learned: Almost without exception, the people I have tried to help have failed to take advantage of the help I have offered. The young men usually end up back in jail. The drug addicts usually end up back on drugs. It has nothing to do with their race. Zero. It has everything to do with their character and with their culture. They love and value the wrong things. Their understanding of the world is at odds with what is true. Their culture denigrates the very commitments and disciplines that could otherwise alter the trajectories of their lives. They do not value work. They do not accept the benefits of delaying gratification. They are literally dying, not because of white privilege, but because they have embraced deadly ideas. 

    Now, you may believe that all of this is substantially the result of the sins of our predecessors. But to be completely honest, the popular notion that the problems of the people I have tried to help has anything at all to do with the fact that someone in 1950 had to drink at a blacks-only water fountain, or that someone in 1850 was enslaved, is absurd.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

     

    • #17
  18. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):
    Nor has anyone said that disadvantaged people are absolved from taking responsibility for their own lives.

    Oh, yes they have. Democrats and the Left say it all the time. “You’re a victim. You’re helpless in the face of all this racial hatred. We’re here to help.” And French foolishly plays into the narrative with no solutions to unidentifiable “systemic” problems. 

    • #18
  19. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    My favorite antipoverty program is Northeastern University:

    In May 1896, directors of the Boston Young Men’s Christian Association, the first in the U.S., established an Evening Institute for Younger Men, to merge, coordinate and improve its classes that had evolved over the past 40 years. Included among roughly 30 courses offered were algebra, bookkeeping, literature, French, German, Latin, geography, electricity, music, penmanship and physiology. In addition, a banjo club, camera club, orchestra, and weekly parlimentary debates and discussions were promoted. A good education for “any young man of moral character” with a YMCA membership was promised. Located in a new headquarters building at the corner of Boylston and Berkeley streets in Boston, the institute held its first classes in 1898. After a fire, a new YMCA building was constructed on Huntington Avenue in 1913.

    The Christians who founded the school had a clear purpose, and that purpose guided every decision they made. Today, one is struck by the amount of real estate the school owns in the very posh Huntington Avenue (Avenue of the Arts) part of Boston. The current enrollment is around 19,000 undergraduate students and 8,000 graduate students. :-)

    The Northeastern coop program, the second school in the country to try it and for which it ultimately became famous, isn’t for everyone, but it has helped an enormous number of people gain skills and build a life.

    I believe poverty can be greatly alleviated. I am impatient with its existence because I see no need for it in this country.

    The way I look at it is that there is large group of people who currently need help. However, within that group there is a range of problems that vary with geography mostly, and we have to tackle the problems with Christian optimism. We won’t be able to help everyone. (And one person may be able to help only one other person. As far as God is concerned, sometimes that’s a lot and it’s enough, I think.) But we must try.

    The founders of Northeastern couldn’t help everyone in Boston living in dire straits. They zeroed in on one group of people they thought they could help.

    It’s true of our hospitals. Every single one of the great hospitals in this country was started by Jewish or Christian people committed to helping a subset of the poor. And because they were driven by a crystal clear purpose, they succeeded far beyond their initial expectations.

    The point is that it seems to me that it is having a clear Judeo-Christian purpose that leads to success.

    • #19
  20. D.A. Venters Member
    D.A. Venters
    @DAVenters

    Keith Lowery (View Comment):

     

    Here is what I have learned: Almost without exception, the people I have tried to help have failed to take advantage of the help I have offered. The young men usually end up back in jail. The drug addicts usually end up back on drugs. It has nothing to do with their race. Zero. It has everything to do with their character and with their culture. They love and value the wrong things. Their understanding of the world is at odds with what is true. Their culture denigrates the very commitments and disciplines that could otherwise alter the trajectories of their lives. They do not value work. They do not accept the benefits of delaying gratification. They are literally dying, not because of white privilege, but because they have embraced deadly ideas.

    I agree with this entirely.  I just think centuries of slavery and racial discrimination might have something to do with those cultural problems.  It’s a similar story in those white subcultures where those same problems fester – such as the Appalachian culture in my own family’s history.  Their history of dysfunction is not so much racially related, but due to other craziness that gets passed down the generations.

    But for many, race was a major factor.  When, for many generations of people, things like ambition and hard work go completely unrewarded, when families are deliberately broken up, when there is no such thing as working to improve your life in any meaningful way, when people are literally owned and controlled by others – and then after the slavery ends, the same soul-crushing lessons are taught in a million other ways (it’s not just separate drinking fountains, you know) – that long history of injustice is going to affect the lessons that are passed down from generation to generation.  A little cynicism about entrepreneurialism, suspicion of institutions and authority, and the ability to control your life, are going to creep in  (I’m not saying they should creep in.  I’m just saying they will.)  If not for slavery, if not for jim crow, these cultural problems would not be nearly so bad now.  Made worse by progressive attempts at solutions? Yes, of course.  That happened in Appalachia, too.

    Like you, I’m just calling things the way I see them. Virtually my entire career has been helping poor people, black and white, dealing with their poor decision making.  I’m well aware that those are, in fact, actual decisions and that they could have made different ones, and they bear responsibility for them.  But it’s a plain fact that nobody makes those decisions in a moral or cultural vacuum.  As you seem to agree, people heavily influenced by the culture they come from.  My point is that culture has been shaped by history, including, for African Americans especially, the structural racism of the past. 

    • #20
  21. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):

    Keith Lowery (View Comment):

     

    I agree with this entirely. I just think centuries of slavery and racial discrimination might have something to do with those cultural problems. It’s a similar story in those white subcultures where those same problems fester – such as the Appalachian culture in my own family’s history. Their history of dysfunction is not so much racially related, but due to other craziness that gets passed down the generations.

    But for many, race was a major factor. When, for many generations of people, things like ambition and hard work go completely unrewarded, when families are deliberately broken up, when there is no such thing as working to improve your life in any meaningful way, when people are literally owned and controlled by others – and then after the slavery ends, the same soul-crushing lessons are taught in a million other ways (it’s not just separate drinking fountains, you know) – that long history of injustice is going to affect the lessons that are passed down from generation to generation. A little cynicism about entrepreneurialism, suspicion of institutions and authority, and the ability to control your life, are going to creep in (I’m not saying they should creep in. I’m just saying they will.) If not for slavery, if not for jim crow, these cultural problems would not be nearly so bad now. Made worse by progressive attempts at solutions? Yes, of course. That happened in Appalachia, too.

    Like you, I’m just calling things the way I see them. Virtually my entire career has been helping poor people, black and white, dealing with their poor decision making. I’m well aware that those are, in fact, actual decisions and that they could have made different ones, and they bear responsibility for them. But it’s a plain fact that nobody makes those decisions in a moral or cultural vacuum. As you seem to agree, people heavily influenced by the culture they come from. My point is that culture has been shaped by history, including, for African Americans especially, the structural racism of the past.

    How do you change a people’s culture from the outside? Answer: you don’t.

    • #21
  22. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):

    Keith Lowery (View Comment):

     

    I agree with this entirely. I just think centuries of slavery and racial discrimination might have something to do with those cultural problems. It’s a similar story in those white subcultures where those same problems fester – such as the Appalachian culture in my own family’s history. Their history of dysfunction is not so much racially related, but due to other craziness that gets passed down the generations.

    But for many, race was a major factor. When, for many generations of people, things like ambition and hard work go completely unrewarded, when families are deliberately broken up, when there is no such thing as working to improve your life in any meaningful way, when people are literally owned and controlled by others – and then after the slavery ends, the same soul-crushing lessons are taught in a million other ways (it’s not just separate drinking fountains, you know) – that long history of injustice is going to affect the lessons that are passed down from generation to generation. A little cynicism about entrepreneurialism, suspicion of institutions and authority, and the ability to control your life, are going to creep in (I’m not saying they should creep in. I’m just saying they will.) If not for slavery, if not for jim crow, these cultural problems would not be nearly so bad now. Made worse by progressive attempts at solutions? Yes, of course. That happened in Appalachia, too.

    Like you, I’m just calling things the way I see them. Virtually my entire career has been helping poor people, black and white, dealing with their poor decision making. I’m well aware that those are, in fact, actual decisions and that they could have made different ones, and they bear responsibility for them. But it’s a plain fact that nobody makes those decisions in a moral or cultural vacuum. As you seem to agree, people heavily influenced by the culture they come from. My point is that culture has been shaped by history, including, for African Americans especially, the structural racism of the past.

    How do you change a people’s culture from the outside? Answer: you don’t.

    Well, you can destroy it by paying them money to not be married and still have kids. 

    • #22
  23. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):

    Keith Lowery (View Comment):

     

    I agree with this entirely. I just think centuries of slavery and racial discrimination might have something to do with those cultural problems. It’s a similar story in those white subcultures where those same problems fester – such as the Appalachian culture in my own family’s history. Their history of dysfunction is not so much racially related, but due to other craziness that gets passed down the generations.

    But for many, race was a major factor. When, for many generations of people, things like ambition and hard work go completely unrewarded, when families are deliberately broken up, when there is no such thing as working to improve your life in any meaningful way, when people are literally owned and controlled by others – and then after the slavery ends, the same soul-crushing lessons are taught in a million other ways (it’s not just separate drinking fountains, you know) – that long history of injustice is going to affect the lessons that are passed down from generation to generation. A little cynicism about entrepreneurialism, suspicion of institutions and authority, and the ability to control your life, are going to creep in (I’m not saying they should creep in. I’m just saying they will.) If not for slavery, if not for jim crow, these cultural problems would not be nearly so bad now. Made worse by progressive attempts at solutions? Yes, of course. That happened in Appalachia, too.

    Like you, I’m just calling things the way I see them. Virtually my entire career has been helping poor people, black and white, dealing with their poor decision making. I’m well aware that those are, in fact, actual decisions and that they could have made different ones, and they bear responsibility for them. But it’s a plain fact that nobody makes those decisions in a moral or cultural vacuum. As you seem to agree, people heavily influenced by the culture they come from. My point is that culture has been shaped by history, including, for African Americans especially, the structural racism of the past.

    How do you change a people’s culture from the outside? Answer: you don’t.

    Well, you can destroy it by paying them money to not be married and still have kids.

    Yes, I meant to add that. There’s a lot you can do to damage a people’s culture by convincing them they’re victims of some “system” and that without government redistributing someone else’s earnings to them, they’ll never get ahead. It’s not their own effort and morality which leads to success. It’s someone else’s: a white savior, like David French.

    Prior to the Great Society welfare state, the sexual revolution, and limitless taxpayer funded abortion, blacks were moving up in this country. Now over half of all black babies conceived are aborted in NYC. Listen to Sowell. 

    • #23
  24. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    Prior to the Great Society welfare state, the sexual revolution, and limitless taxpayer funded abortion, blacks were moving up in this country. Now over half of all black babies conceived are aborted in NYC. Listen to Sowell. 

    And these toxic, destructive policies came from the Democrat Left, not white Christian America. It’s always projection with the Left. Whatever they accuse others of causing, they’re the originators with their overweening self-regard and supposed moral superiority. 

    • #24
  25. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I think the only way to prove David French right or wrong would be to compare outcomes for two exactly identical people who attempted to do the same things. Since each of us is unique, that can’t happen.

    In the dysfunctional family literature, there is something called “the survivor.” Psychologists do not understand it. These are people who for all intents and purposes should not have succeeded given their childhood circumstances. I am a tiny bit in that category.

    Survivors are people who, for whatever reason, take advantage of the resources around them. Without those resources, it’s unlikely they would have succeeded. So it is good that our healthy society puts them there–libraries, public schools, and so on.

    Like everyone else here, I’ve known two types of people: those who allowed their difficulties in life to stop their progress toward achievement and those who did not. In my experience, the differences don’t follow a person’s racial makeup.

    That said, most of us who succeeded had someone along the way who believed in us. I certainly did.

    Knowing the exact role of nature versus nurture will always elude us, I think.

    • #25
  26. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I think the only way to prove David French right or wrong would be to compare outcomes for two exactly identical people who attempted to do the same things. Since each of us is unique, that can’t happen.

    In the dysfunctional family literature, there is something called “the survivor.” Psychologists do not understand it. These are people who for all intents and purposes should not have succeeded given their childhood circumstances. I am a tiny bit in that category.

    Survivors are people who, for whatever reason, take advantage of the resources around them. Without those resources, it’s unlikely they would have succeeded. So it is good that our healthy society puts them there–libraries, public schools, and so on.

    Like everyone else here, I’ve known two types of people: those who allowed their difficulties in life to stop their progress toward achievement and those who did not. In my experience, the differences don’t follow a person’s racial makeup.

    That said, most of us who succeeded had someone along the way who believed in us. I certainly did.

    Knowing the exact role of nature versus nurture will always elude us, I think.

    The role of survivor is not a mystery in dysfunctional families. Actually, most children survive. They engage in behaviors that get them to adulthood. The problem is those behaviors often are counterproductive.

    I think what you are talking about is more the person that comes out and appears not to have taken on the dysfunction. While that is true, and those people can succeed, I can say from personal experience in my practice that these people still carry the wounds from the experience growing up. They may not stop them from work or school, but they often cause problems in their intimate relationships.

    As you say, often, there was someone to step into the role of mentor or surrogate parent who helped that person succeed. It can be significant. I am glad you had that.

    • #26
  27. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I think the only way to prove David French right or wrong would be to compare outcomes for two exactly identical people who attempted to do the same things. Since each of us is unique, that can’t happen.

    In the dysfunctional family literature, there is something called “the survivor.” Psychologists do not understand it. These are people who for all intents and purposes should not have succeeded given their childhood circumstances. I am a tiny bit in that category.

    Survivors are people who, for whatever reason, take advantage of the resources around them. Without those resources, it’s unlikely they would have succeeded. So it is good that our healthy society puts them there–libraries, public schools, and so on.

    Like everyone else here, I’ve known two types of people: those who allowed their difficulties in life to stop their progress toward achievement and those who did not. In my experience, the differences don’t follow a person’s racial makeup.

    That said, most of us who succeeded had someone along the way who believed in us. I certainly did.

    Knowing the exact role of nature versus nurture will always elude us, I think.

    The role of survivor is not a mystery in dysfunctional families. Actually, most children survive. They engage in behaviors that get them to adulthood. The problem is those behaviors often are counterproductive.

    I think what you are talking about is more the person that comes out and appears not to have taken on the dysfunction. While that is true, and those people can succeed, I can say from personal experience in my practice that these people still carry the wounds from the experience growing up. They may not stop them from work or school, but they often cause problems in their intimate relationships.

    As you say, often, there was someone to step into the role of mentor or surrogate parent who helped that person succeed. It can be significant. I am glad you had that.

    Makes me think of Clarence Thomas and his very strict grandfather. He really did experience racism in America, but managed to thrive.

    • #27
  28. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Keith Lowery (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    Keith Lowery: I’m not writing here to rehash the actual arguments of French and his ilk. I’m primarily writing to observe that I have yet to witness French or anyone else in the hair shirt brigade take any concrete action that might suggest that they themselves are guilty of the inherited racism they accuse the rest of us of.

    Well, David French and his wife did adopt a black girl from Africa* — into a “systemically racist” America for which she is due reparations — ‘er somethin’.

    *I do consider that act a worthy sacrifice and don’t mean to belittle it. It’s the incoherence of the second part I’m having trouble squaring with the first part.

    I’m aware of French’s adoption. I’m a big fan of adoption. Two of my own four children were adopted. Two of my eight grandchildren were adopted. None of my grandchildren would be classified as “white” by the demographic obsessives at the U.S. Census department.

    But I don’t credit French’s decision as a “sacrifice”. He has been given the privilege of loving a child and (likely) being loved in return. Whatever sacrifice in material goods might be involved is more than compensated for by love. When we adopted our children, we did so not with a mindset of undertaking a charitable project – what child wants to be a project? – but with the mindset of multiplying love in our family by adding daughters. I realize people often look at adoptive families and think there’s something admirable there. And there is in one sense, but the blessings far outweigh the sacrifices. And I would hate to think that French’s daughter comes to see herself as primarily a demonstration of her father’s virtue.

    “Privilege” is the key to a proper understanding. 

    • #28
  29. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    Keith Lowery: I’m not writing here to rehash the actual arguments of French and his ilk. I’m primarily writing to observe that I have yet to witness French or anyone else in the hair shirt brigade take any concrete action that might suggest that they themselves are guilty of the inherited racism they accuse the rest of us of.

    Well, David French and his wife did adopt a black girl from Africa* — into a “systemically racist” America for which she is due reparations — ‘er somethin’.

    *I do consider that act a worthy sacrifice and don’t mean to belittle it. It’s the incoherence of the second part I’m having trouble squaring with the first part.

    Isn’t that Cultural Appropriation or something?

    • #29
  30. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    And, love seeing another great post from Keith!

    • #30