Don’t Blame Racism

 

Lawrence Mead had no idea he was going to be the center of a raging controversy about his lack of support for the “systemic racism” narrative. He had written for years about poverty and culture and was a professor at New York University, well-respected in his field.

But this is 2020: he made the serious mistake of writing about the difficulties the poor encounter due to their cultural understandings from countries outside of the west. He never wrote anything about racism as a cause of poverty, because he didn’t believe it; thus, he needed to be vanquished by the never-satisfied Left.

I first learned about Professor Mead on a First Things podcast. He has studied the subject of poverty for over 40 years. The piece he wrote for the Society journal was based on his 2019 book, Burdens of Freedom: Cultural Difference and American Power. The article in part stated:

 . . . that poverty in the U.S. can’t be blamed on racism or policy failures. Rather, the long-term poor themselves — namely Black and Latinx people — are lacking the individualism, ambition and ‘enterprising temperament’ of descendants of European immigrants.

In the podcast, he explained that other groups besides black and Latino, such as Asian groups, also have this cultural liability but have learned to adjust.

America is the most successful country in the world due to its cultural focus on individualism. No other country celebrates the individual who, in this country, commits to taking responsibility for pursuing the opportunities that are offered. Individualism was a vital characteristic in determining survival and success of those who first came to this country.

* * * * *

Several petitions were submitted to Society journal demanding that Mead’s article be retracted. Even though Society had published several of Mead’s articles with a similar theme in the past, and they had all passed the peer review process, this article was singled out for condemnation. One petition stated:

‘That this paper was accepted raises serious questions about the editorial process and the credibility of your journal,’ the petition continues. ‘The author makes extreme claims about the causes of poverty but does not back these up with empirical evidence. He also makes sweeping statements about the capacities and virtues of entire racial and ethnic groups, again without attempting to evidence them.’

None of these claims are valid.

Although Mead has offered to write an update of the article, explaining that he is only writing about the poor and about culture, not race, Society is not interested; they have retracted the article. He is being attacked by NYU; his colleagues at the university are calling for his firing, and hundreds of people are venomously attacking his article.

Meanwhile, colleagues who support his ideas have supported him privately but won’t speak out publicly.

Professor Meads refuses to apologize and stands by his research.

Clearly, he practices what he teaches.

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  1. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Yes, I love the crowd gathered about the guillotine with a wink and nod of support from some number in the crowd, none of whom are going to aid you in avoiding your execution. And we your corpse is sent to potters field they will gather in quiet and out of the way locations to raise a glass to you, but no headstone or memorial.

    • #1
  2. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    No doubt, this guy will be on the same tumbril as Charles Murray and Heather MacDonald.

    Off with their heads!!!

    • #2
  3. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Susan, there is a contradiction here:

    Susan Quinn:

    The article in part stated:

     . . . that poverty in the U.S. can’t be blamed on racism or policy failures. Rather, the long-term poor themselves — namely Black and Latinx people — are lacking the individualism, ambition and ‘enterprising temperament’ of descendants of European immigrants.

     

    ….He also makes sweeping statements about the capacities and virtues of entire racial and ethnic groups, again without attempting to evidence them.’

    None of these claims are valid.

    Although Mead has offered to write an update of the article, explaining that he is only writing about the poor and about culture, not race, Society is not interested;

    But he DOES identify the “long term poor” as being Black and Latino in the excerpt above. Is that not a sweeping statement about the capacities and virtues of entire racial and ethnic groups?

    • #3
  4. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    I prefer academic honesty:

    Yes, there is something broken in the culture of the poor in America. It has to do with no long-term planning, no ambition, no hope, no value in education or marriage or the family. 

    And yes, those traits are more common in some groups than in others. Of course.

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    iWe (View Comment):

    Susan, there is a contradiction here:

    Susan Quinn:

    The article in part stated:

    . . . that poverty in the U.S. can’t be blamed on racism or policy failures. Rather, the long-term poor themselves — namely Black and Latinx people — are lacking the individualism, ambition and ‘enterprising temperament’ of descendants of European immigrants.

    ….He also makes sweeping statements about the capacities and virtues of entire racial and ethnic groups, again without attempting to evidence them.’

    None of these claims are valid.

    Although Mead has offered to write an update of the article, explaining that he is only writing about the poor and about culture, not race, Society is not interested;

    But he DOES identify the “long term poor” as being Black and Latino in the excerpt above. Is that not a sweeping statement about the capacities and virtues of entire racial and ethnic groups?

    @iwe  –He pointed to them as examples. Other non-Western groups who may not be individualistic have other cultural beliefs that help them adjust. Several Asians are not individually oriented, but have strong ethics about personal success and maintaining face.-

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    iWe (View Comment):

    I prefer academic honesty:

    Yes, there is something broken in the culture of the poor in America. It has to do with no long-term planning, no ambition, no hope, no value in education or marriage or the family.

    And yes, those traits are more common in some groups than in others. Of course.

    @iwe,  I’m not clear. Do you disagree with Professor Mead’s premise? Or do you think it is too simplistic? My dilemma is that I don’t know if he discusses those traits you list under “individualism” so I can’t speak for him. But I do agree that the success or failure of the poor doesn’t depend on the color of their skin.

    • #6
  7. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):

    I prefer academic honesty:

    Yes, there is something broken in the culture of the poor in America. It has to do with no long-term planning, no ambition, no hope, no value in education or marriage or the family.

    And yes, those traits are more common in some groups than in others. Of course.

    @iwe, I’m not clear. Do you disagree with Professor Mead’s premise? Or do you think it is too simplistic? My dilemma is that I don’t know if he discusses those traits you list under “individualism” so I can’t speak for him. But I do agree that the success or failure of the poor doesn’t depend on the color of their skin.

    I think he is being cute. It is impossible to diagnose the illnesses of the chronic poor without understanding the cultural inputs. Those inputs are certainly linked to race. Recall the “Attributes of Whiteness” displays – if being black is the opposite of being white, then there is a racial component to poverty, at least the way America handles race. 

    We cannot fix problems without admitting they are there.

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    iWe (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):

    I prefer academic honesty:

    Yes, there is something broken in the culture of the poor in America. It has to do with no long-term planning, no ambition, no hope, no value in education or marriage or the family.

    And yes, those traits are more common in some groups than in others. Of course.

    @iwe, I’m not clear. Do you disagree with Professor Mead’s premise? Or do you think it is too simplistic? My dilemma is that I don’t know if he discusses those traits you list under “individualism” so I can’t speak for him. But I do agree that the success or failure of the poor doesn’t depend on the color of their skin.

    I think he is being cute. It is impossible to diagnose the illnesses of the chronic poor without understanding the cultural inputs. Those inputs are certainly linked to race. Recall the “Attributes of Whiteness” displays – if being black is the opposite of being white, then there is a racial component to poverty, at least the way America handles race.

    We cannot fix problems without admitting they are there.

    I think we are making two different arguments. And having heard Prof. Mead interviewed, I’m quite certain he doesn’t mean to be cute.

    Let’s say that people from certain cultures are not individualistic. Their values center on communal activities, tribal successes, and not individualism. Whether they are black, purple or orange doesn’t affect their thinking, except as determined by their culture of origin. For example, Koreans are community oriented, especially in business (helping to fund each other), but they expect people to be entrepreneurial and take advantage of their opportunities if they lend to them. If a person passes on acting on these opportunities, it may include the color of their skin which is connected to the culture they came from. But here’s the big thing: the Left in this country has always said it is only the color of their skin, and only that, that causes white America to be racist. Instead, I think Mead is saying that their lack of success doesn’t come from their being black, or yellow or red, but from the cultural constraints they grew up with and did not learn how to transcend. The big question is: is their lack of success due to how we treat people with their skin color, or is it from the cultural beliefs they hold onto? I think if you think it’s the color of their skin, then it’s white society’s racist beliefs that hold them back. And I don’t think you believe that.

    • #8
  9. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):

    I prefer academic honesty:

    Yes, there is something broken in the culture of the poor in America. It has to do with no long-term planning, no ambition, no hope, no value in education or marriage or the family.

    And yes, those traits are more common in some groups than in others. Of course.

    @iwe, I’m not clear. Do you disagree with Professor Mead’s premise? Or do you think it is too simplistic? My dilemma is that I don’t know if he discusses those traits you list under “individualism” so I can’t speak for him. But I do agree that the success or failure of the poor doesn’t depend on the color of their skin.

    I think he is being cute. It is impossible to diagnose the illnesses of the chronic poor without understanding the cultural inputs. Those inputs are certainly linked to race. Recall the “Attributes of Whiteness” displays – if being black is the opposite of being white, then there is a racial component to poverty, at least the way America handles race.

    We cannot fix problems without admitting they are there.

    I think we are making two different arguments. And having heard Prof. Mead interviewed, I’m quite certain he doesn’t mean to be cute.

    Let’s say that people from certain cultures are not individualistic. Their values center on communal activities, tribal successes, and not individualism. Whether they are black, purple or orange doesn’t affect their thinking, except as determined by their culture of origin. For example, Koreans are community oriented, especially in business (helping to fund each other), but they expect people to be entrepreneurial and take advantage of their opportunities if they lend to them. If a person passes on acting on these opportunities, it may include the color of their skin which is connected to the culture they came from. But here’s the big thing: the Left in this country has always said it is only the color of their skin, and only that, that causes white America to be racist. Instead, I think Mead is saying that their lack of success doesn’t come from their being black, or yellow or red, but from the cultural constraints they grew up with and did not learn how to transcend. The big question is: is their lack of success due to how we treat people with their skin color, or is it from the cultural beliefs they hold onto? I think if you think it’s the color of their skin, then it’s white society’s racist beliefs that hold them back. And I don’t think you believe that.

    What the heck is “white” or “Asian” or “Africa?” these are all grossly over-broad categories, which is part of why the professor is out on a limb. To say people succeed despite coming from an “African” culture is to show ignorance of Nigerian-Americans producing the highest percentage of graduate degrees of any ethnic group in this country. To hear earlier generations tell it, southern Europeans did not qualify as “white” and were subject to tribal/communal impulses reinforced by their Catholicism. So, are we really back to WASPs and the “Protestant work ethic?”

    • #9
  10. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    It would have been helpful if the author or someone else had grabbed a copy of the article in PDF form, because it has been thrown down the memory hole  by the leftist publication.

    • #10
  11. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Clifford, that’s interesting information about the high education levels of Nigerian immigrants. I found an article about this, and it appears to be based on Nigerian immigrants, not all Americans of Nigerian ancestry.

    There could be a demographic explanation. It may be that many (perhaps most) Nigerian immigrants come to the US for college. So this could be a selected group of unusually talented people.

    Hooray for them, though. Achievement is a good thing.

    • #11
  12. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and
    @Misthiocracy

    iWe (View Comment):

    Susan, there is a contradiction here:

    Susan Quinn:

    The article in part stated:

    . . . that poverty in the U.S. can’t be blamed on racism or policy failures. Rather, the long-term poor themselves — namely Black and Latinx people — are lacking the individualism, ambition and ‘enterprising temperament’ of descendants of European immigrants.

     

    ….He also makes sweeping statements about the capacities and virtues of entire racial and ethnic groups, again without attempting to evidence them.’

    None of these claims are valid.

    Although Mead has offered to write an update of the article, explaining that he is only writing about the poor and about culture, not race, Society is not interested;

    But he DOES identify the “long term poor” as being Black and Latino in the excerpt above. Is that not a sweeping statement about the capacities and virtues of entire racial and ethnic groups?

    That excerpt isn’t a direct quote of Mead’s article, but rather Colleen Flaherty’s description of what she thinks his article was trying to say.  Mead’s actual article is not available for comparison, because it was retracted.  Convenient, no?

    • #12
  13. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    What the heck is “white” or “Asian” or “Africa?” these are all grossly over-broad categories, which is part of why the professor is out on a limb. To say people succeed despite coming from an “African” culture is to show ignorance of Nigerian-Americans producing the highest percentage of graduate degrees of any ethnic group in this country. To hear earlier generations tell it, southern Europeans did not qualify as “white” and were subject to tribal/communal impulses reinforced by their Catholicism. So, are we really back to WASPs and the “Protestant work ethic?”

    Yes.  To those who hold to a genetic racial nature to IQ and poverty and socialization, you bring up a good point.  Some people seem to assert that blacks are genetically inferior to other “racial” populations.  But the Nigerians have for half a century regarded highly academic education, and it seems that they largely come to America for the purpose of post-graduate education.  To segregate all “races” into one of a few categories and to make, of all things, sweeping genetic assertions as to intellect, personality, and racial superiority or inferiority goes against moral as well as rational reasoning.

    • #13