Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Coleman Hughes’ Black Optimism

 

The title of this post is shamelessly cribbed from the title of an article by Coleman Hughes, of the Manhattan Institute (and contributor to Quillette.com). Among his concerns is “mass incarceration,” and the way black students are alleged to be in a so-called “school to prison pipeline.” The size of America’s prison population, where blacks are over-represented, is of great concern for Hughes. When countering reparations propagandist Ta-Nehisi Coates, Hughes complained to a House of Representatives panel that the talk of slavery reparations ignored the more pressing problem of the high number of blacks in prison. Despite his concerns, Hughes is eager to point out the good news on the issue. In The Case for Black Optimism, published a few months later, he writes:

To put the speed and size of the trend in perspective, between my first day of Kindergarten in 2001 and my first legal drink in 2017, the incarceration rate for black men aged 25–29, 20–24, and 18–19 declined, respectively, by 56 percent, 60 percent, and 72 percent.

The black prison population will not only continue to shrink, but will shrink at an accelerating rate. To paraphrase the economist Rick Nevin, our prison system may be overflowing today, but the “pipeline” to prison is already starting to run dry.

There is more good news. Black life expectancy in the U.S. has increased, as far fewer black Americans are dying from cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. The numbers of black students earning college degrees are way up, as black women are now more likely to attend college than white men. Those black women have slightly higher incomes than white women from similar backgrounds, and a higher percentage of blacks than whites say they are doing better financially than their parents did at their age. In another article, Hughes tells of how research led him to realize that police in America today are no more likely to shoot an unarmed black man than a white man. The article is worth reading if only for the list of whites shot or killed by police in circumstances similar to the shootings Black Lives Matter protests.

A valuable insight Hughes brings out is that the same data can reveal progress or apparent regress depending on what two numbers are compared. Hughes speaks of the two approaches as looking through the “past-lens” vs the “gap-lens.” If we compare black successes today to the same data for blacks 20 years ago, we see progress. Looking at the same numbers through the gap-lens, if whites have improved much more than blacks, we will see that the gap has widened, leaving blacks behind. But just as the bugbear of income inequality tells us nothing about how much money the less-affluent actually have, this gap-gazing doesn’t tell us how well black America is actually doing.

When we ask whether white Americans have made progress, we compare whites not against some other group but against themselves at an earlier point in time. Why, then, do we treat the analysis of black America differently?

The gap-lens also relies on the dubious presumption that white outcomes are the best benchmark against which to measure black outcomes. One reason this presumption fails is that the median white American is a full decade older than the median black American. Thus, comparing all blacks to all whites on any outcome that varies with age—for instance, incarceration or wealth—is comparing apples to oranges.

Ignorance of how much progress blacks have made in recent years leads many to mistakenly believe American institutions are so racist that nothing short of complete overhaul would suffice to repair them. The fact that those very same institutions have allowed for, if not ushered in, huge amounts of progress for black people in recent years suggests a more sober-minded approach. We should not burn the system down. We should reform it one increment at a time.

Good news, and a messenger that’s worth listening to. I only hope Americans will put the mob violence and left-wing racial division in the rearview mirror, and continue to build on the gains we’ve made thus far.

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  1. Hartmann von Aue Member

    Thanks. I just bookmarked the City Journal article. 

    • #1
    • June 29, 2020, at 12:00 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  2. MarciN Member

    These numbers lend some credence to my theory about the reason for the current unrest, which is that this decade’s success of so many black people is creating a feeling of “Why did I get left behind?” among people in the black community who are not similarly prosperous. 

    • #2
    • June 29, 2020, at 12:33 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. Joshua Bissey Coolidge
    Joshua Bissey

    MarciN (View Comment):

    These numbers lend some credence to my theory about the reason for the current unrest, which is that this decade’s success of so many black people is creating a feeling of “Why did I get left behind?” among people in the black community who are not similarly prosperous.

    If I can find them, I’ll post links to some interviews I’ve heard about this. I think Hughes has discussed that, or maybe it was one of the other non-conformist “Uncle Tom” intellectuals I’ve been tuning into lately.

    Some have suggested that black Americans were led to believe whites’ relative prosperity was due to political power. When the Obama presidency didn’t immediately spell riches and happiness for the black masses, it may have (according to this theory) led to greater despair.

    Another explanation is that social media makes police brutality seem like something more immediate and pervasive than it really is.

    I could buy either of those, but I think the main factor is that the old media and social media are both determined to push racial issues. Without Obama, they need something to push black voters to the polls.

    • #3
    • June 29, 2020, at 2:00 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  4. MarciN Member

    Joshua Bissey (View Comment):
    Some have suggested that black Americans were led to believe whites’ relative prosperity was due to political power. When the Obama presidency didn’t immediately spell riches and happiness for the black masses, it may have (according to this theory) led to greater despair.

    Yup. And also the discouraging of blacks and other minorities that has come from the mass media and public schools. The consistent message has been, “You are surrounded by racism, so don’t even try.” Well, many people accepted that description of the world they lived in and didn’t try. Those who said, “I think I’ll give it a try anyway” were happily surprised. 

    The real crime against black people, in my opinion, is what the mass media and public schools have done to the children. The messages these kids received about life in this country have been completely negative. It’s a tragedy, and I think the messages hurt them terribly. They really are victims–not of racism per se but of being told constantly that there were snakes in the room all around them. It was a recipe for mental illness. Frankly, it is a testament to them and to our country that these kids didn’t turn out worse than they did. So many tried to achieve great things and succeeded in spite of what they were told. 

    • #4
    • June 29, 2020, at 3:02 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  5. Joshua Bissey Coolidge
    Joshua Bissey

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Joshua Bissey (View Comment):
    Some have suggested that black Americans were led to believe whites’ relative prosperity was due to political power. When the Obama presidency didn’t immediately spell riches and happiness for the black masses, it may have (according to this theory) led to greater despair.

    Yup. And also the discouraging of blacks and other minorities that has come from the mass media and public schools. The consistent message has been, “You are surrounded by racism, so don’t even try.” Well, many people accepted that description of the world they lived in and didn’t try. Those who said, “I think I’ll give it a try anyway” were happily surprised.

    The real crime against black people, in my opinion, is what the mass media and public schools have done to the children. The messages these kids received about life in this country have been completely negative. It’s a tragedy, and I think the messages hurt them terribly. They really are victims–not of racism per se but of being told constantly that there were snakes in the room all around them. It was a recipe for mental illness. Frankly, it is a testament to them and to our country that these kids didn’t turn out worse than they did. So many tried to achieve great things and succeeded in spite of what they were told.

    And what’s been going on for the past five years or so is so much worse. Young people are being taught as a matter of fact that they’re either “people of color” in a white supremacist country, or they’re born with white privilege in a white supremacist country, and need to apologize for being the wrong color. I just hope enough of them can look at the obviously non-white-supremacist world they live in, and see the truth.

    • #5
    • June 29, 2020, at 5:15 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Joshua Bissey (View Comment):
    Some have suggested that black Americans were led to believe whites’ relative prosperity was due to political power. When the Obama presidency didn’t immediately spell riches and happiness for the black masses, it may have (according to this theory) led to greater despair.

    Yup. And also the discouraging of blacks and other minorities that has come from the mass media and public schools. The consistent message has been, “You are surrounded by racism, so don’t even try.” Well, many people accepted that description of the world they lived in and didn’t try. Those who said, “I think I’ll give it a try anyway” were happily surprised.

    The real crime against black people, in my opinion, is what the mass media and public schools have done to the children. The messages these kids received about life in this country have been completely negative. It’s a tragedy, and I think the messages hurt them terribly. They really are victims–not of racism per se but of being told constantly that there were snakes in the room all around them. It was a recipe for mental illness. Frankly, it is a testament to them and to our country that these kids didn’t turn out worse than they did. So many tried to achieve great things and succeeded in spite of what they were told.

    The worst enemy blacks have is the teachers’ unions. As Albert Shanker once said about ALL children, “When children pay union dues, I will care about children.”

    • #6
    • June 30, 2020, at 8:45 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Henry Castaigne Member

    Coleman Hughes is great.

    • #7
    • June 30, 2020, at 2:17 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. Joshua Bissey Coolidge
    Joshua Bissey

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Coleman Hughes is great.

    His podcast is worth a listen, too.

    • #8
    • June 30, 2020, at 4:28 PM PDT
    • Like
  9. Danny Alexander Member

    I’m going to throw a caution flag (flash a yellow card, or whatever) on the rejoicing Hughes does in the Quillette article about incarceration-rate declines for the age 18-19 and maybe also the age 20-24 cohorts (don’t know if including the 25-and-above cohorts would be pushing things too much).

     I say this as someone who had already read Hughes’s excellent City Journal article, started becoming a bit of a fan, and thereafter became an even greater fan in going back through his appearances on the YouTube channel “We The Internet.”

    Here’s why I can’t share Hughes’s positive interpretation specifically where this measure is concerned: The declines may reflect the Obama Administration policy, spearheaded via Arne Duncan’s Department of Education (and perhaps also via the Eric Holder and/or Loretta Lynch incarnations of the Department of Justice), and aimed at disabling the functioning of the vaunted School-to-Prison Pipeline through deliberate, ongoing expungements of juvenile criminal records, which in turn may have enabled a non-trivial number of age 18-and-older first-time arrestees to walk without indictments or trials (and *with* valuable lessons in how not to get caught in future).

    We saw a number of horrifying outcomes associated with this policy in the deadly Marjorie Stoneman High School shooting in Broward County, Florida the other year. And most recently, we may have been exposed to a kaleidoscope of impacts derived from the same policy in the course of the looting committed in so many urban areas.

    (My personal impression of the incredible degree of organization and precision in so many Manhattan looting capers was that these jobs were like a 21st-century counterpart to Fagin’s/Artful Dodger’s urchin gangs from Oliver Twist.)

    There’s every possibility that I’m the one doing the misinterpreting here, and unquestionably I’d prefer to share the conclusion that Hughes has drawn in this particular area — but unless and until someone more qualified than I can perform a drill-down on the data confirming Hughes’s basis for good cheer, I’m going to continue to be leery.

    • #9
    • June 30, 2020, at 9:10 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Danny Alexander (View Comment):

    Here’s why I can’t share Hughes’s positive interpretation specifically where this measure is concerned: The declines may reflect the Obama Administration policy, spearheaded via Arne Duncan’s Department of Education (and perhaps also via the Eric Holder and/or Loretta Lynch incarnations of the Department of Justice), and aimed at disabling the functioning of the vaunted School-to-Prison Pipeline through deliberate, ongoing expungements of juvenile criminal records, which in turn may have enabled a non-trivial number of age 18-and-older first-time arrestees to walk without indictments or trials (and *with* valuable lessons in how not to get caught in future).

    We saw a number of horrifying outcomes associated with this policy in the deadly Marjorie Stoneman High School shooting in Broward County, Florida the other year. And most recently, we may have been exposed to a kaleidoscope of impacts derived from the same policy in the course of the looting committed in so many urban areas.

    Three teens buying candy asked Laroy Battle how tall he was. He followed them out of the store and opened fire. Two of them are dead.

    Second City Cop goes on:

    • Police said he had a previous conviction for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, for which he received probation.

    Well, he’s 19 now, so that previous conviction must have been in adult court seeing as how it was public knowledge. 

    Any prior incidents would be sealed.

     

    • #10
    • July 1, 2020, at 3:06 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    The efforts of the Jesse Jackson/Eric Holder interests to pretend black youth violence does not occur will not replace fathers in the home. I doubt any attempt to reverse this destructive outcome of the Great Society will be successful. I see no solution except to arm ourselves and seek safety in the suburbs and rural areas. The most likely outcome will be the emptying of the cities, especially those with high density, like New York City. The virus will help by making mass transit toxic.

    • #11
    • July 2, 2020, at 7:23 AM PDT
    • Like