On Friday last Senator James Webb (D-VA)♠ had an OpEd in The Wall Street Journal about race and affirmative action and discrimination based upon race. I haven't heard this kind of frank discussion since the late Representative Shirley Chisholm♥ ran for President, back in 1972 and talked about the "ecology of the poor", both Black and White.
The third and fourth paragraphs from the OpEd sort of sum it up. Note the last sentence.
I have dedicated my political career to bringing fairness to America's economic system and to our work force, regardless of what people look like or where they may worship. Unfortunately, present-day diversity programs work against that notion, having expanded so far beyond their original purpose that they now favor anyone who does not happen to be white.What the Senator is noting is how, over time, most programs morph and stop serving the original purpose and take on a life of their own.
In an odd historical twist that all Americans see but few can understand, many programs allow recently arrived immigrants to move ahead of similarly situated whites whose families have been in the country for generations. These programs have damaged racial harmony. And the more they have grown, the less they have actually helped African-Americans, the intended beneficiaries of affirmative action as it was originally conceived.
Further, the Senator goes on to do a socio-economic examination of the South and concludes that while the "badges of slavery" needed to be eliminated, there were others who also suffered economically from slavery before the Civil War and later suffered economically from the Civil War and its devastation. Like Representative Shirley Chisholm before him, Senator Webb is showing a concern for all who are poor and not reaching up to their potential.
Or, he could be just running for reelection.
Over at the Volokh Conspiracy Ilya Somin does a sort of "fisking" of the Webb OpEd.
Mr Somin notes:
Like Webb, I tend to be skeptical about the “diversity” rationale and at least somewhat sympathetic to the compensatory justice argument. Unfortunately, Webb doesn’t make clear whether his position is that affirmative action preferences should be abolished entirely or limited to African-Americans. If the latter, should they be limited to descendants of victims of slavery and Jim Crow, or should recent immigrants continue to be included (as they usually are now)?One commenter at the Volokh Conspiracy, "Patent Lawyer", takes the discussion in a different direction, asking if the Senator is not looking at class warfare:
Actually, there’s a good, conservative/libertarian reason to bring it up–the narrative Webb is pushing, that poor whites were just victims stirred into racist nuttiness by evil puppetmaster elites, is one which encourages the replacement of race warfare with class warfare. This isn’t surprising, coming from a liberal Democrat, but is something that should be resisted. The remaining points of Webb’s article argue against continued affirmative action and race-based policies; this particular point argues for continued redistribution of income and an alliance of poor whites and poor blacks against rich and middle class whites. I don’t think you want that.My initial thought was that Senator Webb is helping to move the ball down the field, but that he hasn't fully covered the issue—and how can he in the limits of an OpEd? There is little doubt in my mind that poor whites in the rural South were being economically held back in the first hundred years after the Civil War. When I was stationed outside Selma, Alabama, I was not impressed with the industrialization available to provide jobs to anyone. It was really big news when Dan River Mills announced it was opening a mill in the area. As Corporal Q-Ball would say, "It is the economy, stupid". And, as someone in the Volokh Conspiracy threat noted, economically the South was a backwater until the Civil Rights act of 1964. Racial discrimination was holding back the South and as it disappeared the South took off.
But, racism is a powerful accusation that has been used against the Republican Party of late. And, against the Tea Party and Fox News. Look how normally balanced Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi tackles the question of Ms Shirley Sherrod, the NAACP and the Tea Party. I think that the column is a bit snarky. And it doesn't capture the situation, at least here in Lowell. So, if Ms Vennochi herself or an person of color who is opposed to the mounting Federal deficits, or any other person of good will, would like to attend the next meeting of the Greater Lowell Tea Party would contact me, I will advise them as to time and date. I am "crk" at "theworld.com".
To sum up, the discussion is good, but the hard headed thinking is going to be hard. Truth will need to be spoken in all directions. Even to Attorney General Eric Holder. And truth will need to be spoken to the likes of The New York Times opinion writer, Mr Frank Rich♦. And, yes, Mr Mark Williams is a jerk and was rightly rejected by certain elements of the Tea Party—but he didn't represent the Tea Party here in Lowell, although he might have represented the Tea Party in New York City.
Perhaps the catch phrase about definitions and dictionaries applies here. In the dictionary, at the definition of "over the top" there is a picture of Mr Frank Rich.
Regards — Cliff
♠ Before he was a Democrat, Senator Webb was a Republican and served during the Reagan Administration, including as Secretary of the Navy, a position from which he resigned in a fit of pique.
♥ I liked the campaign she ran and was hoping that the Democratic Party would pick Senator Scoop Jackson for President and Ms Chisholm for Vice President. Frankly, I didn't want to vote for Richard Nixon, but in the end he was all that was left, after the Democratic Party imploded in Miami.
♦ Doesn't the "Journolist" explain pretty much everything we might want to know about Mr Frank Rich? It seems that way to me.