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Are Hard Work and Persistence Really “White Things?”

 

A few days ago, NRO reported that law professors Amy Wax and Larry Alexander started a firestorm by writing an opinion piece that extolled bourgeois values such as education, employment, hard work, marriage, and charity. Worse, the co-authors pointed out the fact that all cultures are not equally beneficial and constructive. Worst of all, they criticized “the single-parent, antisocial habits, prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-‘acting white’ rap culture of inner-city blacks; the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants.”

Inevitably, the two professors were accused of racism by some on the left. Apparently, things like valuing hard work, grit, and persistence is something only white folks do. Well. I wonder what minority football, basketball, and baseball players think of that. Would they agree that they got where they are by avoiding hard work? Would they agree that grit and persistence are “white” traits?

Two of the world’s greatest living economists, Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell, happen to be black. Did they succeed by avoiding hard work and education? American physician and surgeon, Charles Richard Drew (also black), developed improved techniques for storing blood. Did he do that after dropping out of school?

Isn’t claiming that only white people care about things like learning, honesty, jobs, and kindness sort of, well, racist?

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There are 34 comments.

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  1. Member

    Richard Fulmer: Inevitably, the two professors were accused of racism by some on the left. Apparently, things like valuing hard work, grit, and persistence is something only white folks do.

    I know its only a TV show and the quote was likely more reflective of our culture than the period it was portraying, but the AMC show Turn had a male slave confront a female slave who was looking for her Bible. He held it up for her to see, having stolen it from her bed prior, and basically told her “We know what you’ve been doing, we know you are learning to read. What? You think your better than us or something?”

    It flipped a switch for me. Its pride and envy wrapped into one that seeks to tear down those who find success rather than creating or inspiring betterment in oneself. Its a human condition and blacks are not the only ones who do it.

    • #1
    • September 5, 2017 at 9:31 pm
    • 13 likes
  2. Member

    Richard Fulmer: Inevitably, the two professors were accused of racism by some on the left. Apparently, things like valuing hard work, grit, and persistence is something only white folks do.

    Richard Fulmer: Isn’t claiming that only white people care about things like learning, honesty, jobs, and kindness sort of, well, racist?

    I read their piece but didn’t see any conclusions like listed above. I read the background report from Penn U and I would conclude that IDEAL and GET UP exhibit racism.

    I’m surprised you missed Dr. Ben Carson in your notes. I don’t consider professional sports an appropriate model for this kind of analysis because of unique aspects involved.

    • #2
    • September 5, 2017 at 9:32 pm
    • 1 like
  3. Member

    Richard Fulmer: Isn’t claiming that only white people care about things like learning, honesty, jobs, and kindness sort of, well, racist?

    Sort of? No, it’s full out racist idiocy, and those complaining need to be tarred, feathered, and ridden out of town on a rail.

    • #3
    • September 5, 2017 at 11:08 pm
    • 8 likes
  4. Member

    I found that op-ed very poorly and unpersuasively written (even though I generally agree with its underlying message). The quality of its writing and thinking sounded like that of a college sophomore, not tenured professor(s).

    The authors started bashing nearly every major American constituency except upper-class whites straight out of the gate. They then moved to the “let’s turn back the clock to the ’40s/’50s!* (*except for that whole WWII, racial inequality, and gender inequality stuff)”. It ended with “everyone would be happier if they would just act like rich white people”.

    Again, while the argument has great merit, it takes chutzpah to write an essay in that style and then complain when people interpret it as identity politics.

    Bottom line: this article isn’t a hill worth dying on.

    • #4
    • September 6, 2017 at 3:04 am
    • 3 likes
  5. Member

    Stina (View Comment):
    It flipped a switch for me. Its pride and envy wrapped into one that seeks to tear down those who find success rather than creating or inspiring betterment in oneself. Its a human condition and blacks are not the only ones who do it.

    An old Russian joke tells about a poor peasant whose better-off neighbor has just gotten a cow. In his anguish, the peasant cries out to God for relief from his distress. When God replies and asks him what he wants him to do, the peasant replies, “Kill the cow.”

    • #5
    • September 6, 2017 at 3:32 am
    • 9 likes
  6. Member

    Of course it’s racist, what should we expect from Democrats? They have always been racists. Put aside that minimum wage laws were aimed at blacks, the arguments used to sustain them now are racist, that the underclass won’t learn and climb, they’ll be stuck in the same job forever. Affirmative action assumes minorities can’t compete? Public housing has always been a way to keep blacks in their own neighborhoods, sub prime lending assumes blacks can’t save and become qualified for housing loans, even immigration policies assume blacks couldn’t do the jobs, or that people wouldn’t hire them, small business loans assume minority business need government subsidies, the war on drugs is carried out in black neighborhoods where these things are sold not on the middle class kids whose demand for them drives the business, black kids are moved through inferior schools without learning because the system assumes they can’t learn, welfare was aimed at creating dependency and succeeded beyond Democrats wildest dreams. The notion of the legacy of slavery assumes that blacks unlike every other group that has suffered discrimination can’t recuperate and climb out of the heritage that ended 150 years ago. Well correction, there is a legacy that has profoundly and negatively affected American blacks, it’s called Democrat party faux liberalism. They sustain a public narrative and a monopoly of power over all of these programs and viciously attack anyone who suggests otherwise as being racist.

    Oh I forgot to mention the obvious one that blacks are too stupid to get themselves a photo I.D. Why aren’t blacks outraged by that? Because the urban black political machine uses it to harvest votes. It must be very lucrative.

    • #6
    • September 6, 2017 at 3:40 am
    • 5 likes
  7. Member

    “Isn’t claiming that only white people care about things like learning, honesty, jobs, and kindness sort of, well, racist?”

    Indeed, and no “sort of” about it.

    Yet numerous professors signed a statement attacking Wax and Alexander. Seems to me that by doing so these professors have openly stated their racist beliefs and their unfitness to teach nonwhite students. Certainly no grade given by any of the signing professors can be given any credence by any future employer of a student.

    • #7
    • September 6, 2017 at 5:30 am
    • 4 likes
  8. Thatcher

    Stina (View Comment):

    Richard Fulmer: Inevitably, the two professors were accused of racism by some on the left. Apparently, things like valuing hard work, grit, and persistence is something only white folks do.

    I know its only a TV show and the quote was likely more reflective of our culture than the period it was portraying, but the AMC show Turn had a male slave confront a female slave who was looking for her Bible. He held it up for her to see, having stolen it from her bed prior, and basically told her “We know what you’ve been doing, we know you are learning to read. What? You think your better than us or something?”

    It flipped a switch for me. Its pride and envy wrapped into one that seeks to tear down those who find success rather than creating or inspiring betterment in oneself. Its a human condition and blacks are not the only ones who do it.

    It all crab bucket. Race is not really a factor though it does seem that tribe (which race can be a component of) is part of it.

    • #8
    • September 6, 2017 at 5:43 am
    • 3 likes
  9. Member

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):
    does seem that tribe (which race can be a component of) is part of it.

    Only in so much that the tribe as a whole is lacking in something and a few of the tribe seek to alter that state.

    If you seek the improvement, it must mean there is something to improve. If there is something to improve, you must think your tribe is deficient and inferior. Traitor!

    • #9
    • September 6, 2017 at 5:54 am
    • 4 likes
  10. Member

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    …Race is not really a factor though it does seem that tribe (which race can be a component of) is part of it.

    That sums up the entire point the authors were trying to make.

    • #10
    • September 6, 2017 at 5:57 am
    • Like
  11. Coolidge

    Mendel (View Comment):
    The authors started bashing nearly every major American constituency except upper-class whites straight out of the gate. They then moved to the “let’s turn back the clock to the ’40s/’50s!* (*except for that whole WWII, racial inequality, and gender inequality stuff)”. It ended with “everyone would be happier if they would just act like rich white people”.

    What part of this is incorrect? Don’t tell me it’s rude, tell me how it’s wrong.

    By associating bourgeois values with “act[ing] like rich white people” you’re accepting the premise of the racists who attacked the article: That hard work and self restraint are “white” things.

    • #11
    • September 6, 2017 at 6:16 am
    • 6 likes
  12. Member

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    I don’t consider professional sports an appropriate model for this kind of analysis because of unique aspects involved.

    I do. Someone (can’t remember who at the moment?) pointed out that black Americans have enjoyed disproportionate success in two industries—- professional sports and entertainment—that are pure meritocracies. Nobody holds a “slot” for a black comedian, or a place on the team (until recently at least) for a black quarterback. The competition is fierce and the calculus is merciless. You can either do it (make us laugh, throw a touchdown pass) or you can’t.

    Talent is required, but talent is not enough. When I was at Georgetown, the basketball players were not seen hanging out in the student lounge, or lolling on the quad; they were at the gym, practicing, for hours and hours every day. They exerted far more self-discipline and demonstrated far more ability to endure and transcend disappointment than I (an A student, presumably talented-ish) ever did. Did they work as hard (or at all) in their English Lit class? Of course not. They didn’t have to. (Exhausted, they slept.)

    My stepson was aware that no “slot” was being held open for a middle-class white kid at Yale Law. He’s a bright kid, but there was a whole lot of very bright competition. He outworked them.

    There are so many counterproductive effects of affirmative action. One is that it (paradoxically) increases the real value of a Yale Law degree held by a white or (especially) Asian graduate.

    • #12
    • September 6, 2017 at 6:32 am
    • 9 likes
  13. Member

    By the way, I’ll bet that the most successful drug dealers in the inner city are the ones who imitate rich white people—that is, they don’t use drugs themselves and demonstrate hard work, grit and persistence.

    • #13
    • September 6, 2017 at 7:10 am
    • 5 likes
  14. Member

    Peel back the whole onion … this is a direct attack on:

    Western Civilization (because it was just TOO white)

    • #14
    • September 6, 2017 at 7:15 am
    • 4 likes
  15. Member

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):
    Talent is required, but talent is not enough. When I was at Georgetown, the basketball players were not seen hanging out in the student lounge, or lolling on the quad; they were at the gym, practicing, for hours and hours every day. They exerted far more self-discipline and demonstrated far more ability to endure and transcend disappointment than I (an A student, presumably talented-ish) ever did. Did they work as hard (or at all) in their English Lit class? Of course not. They didn’t have to. (Exhausted, they slept.)

    So nice to see this argument presented. Most of my family are brainiacs, so when my brother pursued being a professional athlete, he was derided as less than intelligent. He is actually quite the opposite and I’m sure as he ages out of sports, books will find a way into his “free” time. For the last 20 years, his free time has been gym, clinics, drills, repeat.

    • #15
    • September 6, 2017 at 7:21 am
    • 4 likes
  16. Member

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    I don’t consider professional sports an appropriate model for this kind of analysis because of unique aspects involved.

    I do. Someone (can’t remember who at the moment?) pointed out that black Americans have enjoyed disproportionate success in two industries—- professional sports and entertainment—that are pure meritocracies. Nobody holds a “slot” for a black comedian, or a place on the team (until recently at least) for a black quarterback. The competition is fierce and the calculus is merciless. You can either do it (make us laugh, throw a touchdown pass) or you can’t.

    Talent is required, but talent is not enough. When I was at Georgetown, the basketball players were not seen hanging out in the student lounge, or lolling on the quad; they were at the gym, practicing, for hours and hours every day. They exerted far more self-discipline and demonstrated far more ability to endure and transcend disappointment than I (an A student, presumably talented-ish) ever did. Did they work as hard (or at all) in their English Lit class? Of course not. They didn’t have to. (Exhausted, they slept.)

    My stepson was aware that no “slot” was being held open for a middle-class white kid at Yale Law. He’s a bright kid, but there was a whole lot of very bright competition. He outworked them.

    There are so many counterproductive effects of affirmative action. One is that it (paradoxically) increases the real value of a Yale Law degree held by a white or (especially) Asian graduate.

    My reason for thinking it’s not a good fit, particularly the sports, is that this pursuit exists in large part because of the perceived lack of other pathways to success. It applies to urban blacks for basketball but even more so in baseball for Hispanics from Central and South America and the Caribbean. Major league baseball has an outsize proportion of players from the Dominican Republic. These players have never done or considered anything else from childhood because there was nothing there and they have spent yearround developing in the worst conditions to attain quality performance. There are a hundreds or thousands times as many there who strive but don’t make it. It is a meritocracy, but physical skill based, more than from just effort and determination. Finally, there are just as many ‘whites’ who could play sports for a livelihood but have available to them other lucrative opportunities. This is just as true for blacks and Hispanics but the Democrats prefer a system that keeps those groups dependent on government. There is nothing in any of this that indicates minorities are in anyway incapable of hard work and determination in pursuit of personal success.

    • #16
    • September 6, 2017 at 7:42 am
    • Like
  17. Member

    Mendel (View Comment):
    Bottom line: this article isn’t a hill worth dying on.

    Well in our modern political climate every hill is worth dying on if the “Enemy wants it”.

    • #17
    • September 6, 2017 at 7:43 am
    • 1 like
  18. Member

    Columbo (View Comment):
    Peel back the whole onion … this is a direct attack on:

    Western Civilization (because it was just TOO white)

    I’m using American Civilization mostly now.

    • #18
    • September 6, 2017 at 7:49 am
    • 3 likes
  19. Member

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):
    By the way, I’ll bet that the most successful drug dealers in the inner city are the ones who imitate rich white people—that is, they don’t use drugs themselves and demonstrate hard work, grit and persistence.

    This one I will agree with you but it’s like in a different world. The part that makes sports and entertainment areas a bit different from what most people end up doing for a living is the fun, competition, and ‘real innate talent’ involved. And sports, of course, has a short productive timeframe where arts and entertainment last through a lifetime.

    • #19
    • September 6, 2017 at 8:04 am
    • Like
  20. Member

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Finally, there are just as many ‘whites’ who could play sports for a livelihood but have available to them other lucrative opportunities. This is just as true for blacks and Hispanics but the Democrats prefer a system that keeps those groups dependent on government. There is nothing in any of this that indicates minorities are in anyway incapable of hard work and determination in pursuit of personal success.

    Ah, I get you. We agree, I think. Some white athletes like @Stina’s brother have to push against the family/subcultural expectations. Musicians, too—my son Peter had to persist in his drumming despite my indifference (at best) or (at worst) skepticism. Why not divinity school, dear? Or policing? You know, something normal?

    I’d add one little note, sparked by Stina’s anecdote about the Bible-reader: basketball and entertainment are both pursuits that other people can join in on.

    Reading is exclusionary. I’ve noticed that any relationship between a reader and a non-reader tends to be difficult (and marriages between them are often doomed). I think it’s because of the individualistic nature of reading. Even a little kid knows that when Mom is quietly reading, as opposed to, say, quietly folding laundry, she has slipped off into another world that they can’t share. Like an anxious/ belligerent inner-city peer, that kid will do his loud best to force Mom to put the book down.

    Even if the goal of becoming a basketball star that drives an inner city kid to practice shooting hoops, and his inner city parents to support his efforts would, if reached, pull that kid out of the inner city and into another world, the process of getting from here to there isn’t exclusionary. He will play with other kids. His dad can shoot hoops with him. His mother can watch and kibbitz from the sidelines.

    There’s a funny, illustrative scene in the movie “Matilda” in which the father tries to force his nose-in-a-book daughter to join the family around the television.

    • #20
    • September 6, 2017 at 8:31 am
    • 2 likes
  21. Member
    Richard Fulmer Post author

    Short of being really lucky (winning the lottery, being born into a wealthy family, etc.) the only way to success in any field is through “bourgeois values” like education, persistence, grit, and hard work. The only way to a happy life is through “bourgeois values” like honesty, charity, gratitude, and respect for others. To implicitly (or, in the cases of some on the left, explicitly) relieve people of the need to acquire these values because of the color of their skin or their “otherness” is to encourage them into paths that will lead them to failure and unhappiness. In what sense is this “progressive, or “caring,” or “inclusive”?

    • #21
    • September 6, 2017 at 8:54 am
    • 7 likes
  22. Member

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):
    Musicians, too—my son Peter had to persist in his drumming despite my indifference (at best) or (at worst) skepticism. Why not divinity school, dear? Or policing? You know, something normal?

    Exactly. We have two daughters who finished their formal educations , got married, had their families, and go about life in a somewhat traditional manner. Our son, also Peter but he goes by Bobby, would not consider anything seriously except his music. In his mid-forties now, I think his talent for songwriting and performance is showing. He tours now up to New England and into Canada about twice a year with his group Revelator Hill. We are doing our best now to reduce our support as his patrons of the arts since we will not always be here and he is doing much better now. He works really hard at it. In his formative years we were resistant as you describe but it didn’t take because he was determined.

    • #22
    • September 6, 2017 at 9:01 am
    • 1 like
  23. Member

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):
    Reading is exclusionary. I’ve noticed that any relationship between a reader and a non-reader tends to be difficult (and marriages between them are often doomed). I think it’s because of the individualistic nature of reading.

    This is a really important point, and relates the Neal Stephenson’s concept of the distinction between the text-based way of knowing and the graphical or sensorial way of knowing. I discussed this at my post Metaphors, Interfaces, and Thought Processes

    • #23
    • September 6, 2017 at 9:07 am
    • 3 likes
  24. Member

    I would imagine the choice between individualistic reading versus non-exclusionary (to use Kate’s term) activities is largely driven by…

    –the value that a subculture places on literacy

    –the size of families, and their living conditions…harder to focus on a book if there are 6 kids in a small apartment, though not impossible

    –the number of ‘role models’ (personally-known or media-driven) who have achieved noteworthy success by doing something that involves reading/writing

    • #24
    • September 6, 2017 at 9:11 am
    • Like
  25. Member

    David Foster (View Comment):

    I would imagine the choice between individualistic reading versus non-exclusionary (to use Kate’s term) activities is largely driven by…

    Do you think this is really a choice for those with personal characteristics that place them towards the margins at either end of the scale? I know people on the sensory end for whom reading is an ordeal not to be endured. I, OTOH, get most of what I require from the external world that way. Perhaps it is a choice for those who are centered in that distribution between the extremes.

    • #25
    • September 6, 2017 at 9:30 am
    • 1 like
  26. Member

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    David Foster (View Comment):

    I would imagine the choice between individualistic reading versus non-exclusionary (to use Kate’s term) activities is largely driven by…

    Do you think this is really a choice for those with personal characteristics that place them towards the margins at either end of the scale? I know people on the sensory end for whom reading is an ordeal not to be endured. I, OTOH, get most of what I require from the external world that way. Perhaps it is a choice for those who are centered in that distribution between the extremes.

    To use my own (fictional) example, Matilda was absolutely on one end of the scale—driven to read. Like her, I am very text-based—yup, I can hear y’all gasping in surprise.

    Probably most of us here at Ricochet, self-selected, are written-word-oriented and so reading and writing seem like normal, ordinary behaviors that anyone with any brains at all would be drawn to. So not only does reading not seem like a threatening activity when our spouses engage in it, a disinterest in reading (especially in someone we think of as “smart”) strikes us as incomprehensible?

    On the other hand…I have to say, I’m surprised by how anxious progressive family members become if they see me reading, say, Milo Yiannapoulous….and this, too, perhaps, serves as an illustration of the peculiarly estranging power of the written word.

    If I’m reading Milo, that means Milo—that terrible racist/sexist/self-hating homophobe/Islamophobe— is inside my head! He is talking to me in my own voice… what if I’m becoming more like Milo and (more important) less like them?

    Perhaps they—or maybe all of us?—have more in common with inner-city book-bashers than we know?

    • #26
    • September 6, 2017 at 9:37 am
    • 1 like
  27. Member

    David Foster (View Comment):
    I would imagine the choice between individualistic reading versus non-exclusionary (to use Kate’s term) activities is largely driven by…

    –the value that a subculture places on literacy

    –the size of families, and their living conditions…harder to focus on a book if there are 6 kids in a small apartment, though not impossible

    –the number of ‘role models’ (personally-known or media-driven) who have achieved noteworthy success by doing something that involves reading/writing

    I wonder if it works the other way, too—that a desire for social cohesion in the face of actual or perceived oppression makes (sub) cultures emphasize activities that are group-based and therefore group-affirming rather than solitary and individual-affirming?

    • #27
    • September 6, 2017 at 9:51 am
    • 2 likes
  28. Member

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):
    Musicians, too—my son Peter had to persist in his drumming despite my indifference (at best) or (at worst) skepticism. Why not divinity school, dear? Or policing? You know, something normal?

    Q: What do you call a drummer who just broke up with his girlfriend?

    A: Homeless.

    • #28
    • September 6, 2017 at 9:55 am
    • 7 likes
  29. Member

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Kate Braestrup (View Comment):
    Musicians, too—my son Peter had to persist in his drumming despite my indifference (at best) or (at worst) skepticism. Why not divinity school, dear? Or policing? You know, something normal?

    Q: What do you call a drummer who just broke up with his girlfriend?

    A: Homeless.

    Yeah. I told him that joke… luckily, he really likes his girlfriend.

    • #29
    • September 6, 2017 at 10:08 am
    • 3 likes
  30. Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Richard Fulmer: Isn’t claiming that only white people care about things like learning, honesty, jobs, and kindness sort of, well, racist?

    Sort of? No, it’s full out racist idiocy, and those complaining need to be tarred, feathered, and ridden out of town on a rail.

    Let me know if you need someone to help carry the rail.

    • #30
    • September 6, 2017 at 11:19 am
    • 1 like
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