The Outstater

June 29, 2020

REACTING IN PART to protests hundreds of miles away, our Republican county chairman has asserted his “wokeness” by welcoming the resignation of a county councilman rebuked for a racial comment and nominating a black female lawyer as the replacement. And he pulled the name from an affirmative-action hat, a bipartisan one if that makes any sense.

Does this heal our wounds, as they like to say?

First, this is not how it’s supposed to work in a democratic republic. The electorate exists to decide such matters, not to be nullified by fiat. The district caucus took that into account when it voted against the chairman’s attempt at slating (the first such attempt here in a couple of generations).

Second, neither skin pigment nor gender magically ensures either justice or wisdom. A casual survey of the most miserable race and crime situations in the nation finds a number of black, female officials in charge — and they have been in charge for a good stretch of years, for better and for worse.

Third, the nominee reportedly has never voted in a Republican primary, voted for Barack Obama and donated to Bernie Sanders — actions the chairman says should be “overlooked.”

The goal, then, is not straightforward, not to simply solve a problem. It is to make a white middle-aged apparatchik feel more politically comfortable. He calculates correctly that such race pandering improves his standing among the local elite, men and women who have grown comfortable applying 1970s thinking to whatever problems might bubble up from below.

It is a strategy wearing thin with thoughtful young blacks, not to mention the Republican rank and file. Here is Charles Love writing last week in City Magazine:

“Since the protests began, woke whites have clamored to find a way to do their part. Since they don’t have many blacks in their social circles, and having conversations with blacks — the most constructive course of action — is awkward and can take time, they opt for easy, feel-good actions, most of which will have no effect on police brutality, on the quality of black schools or neighborhoods, or on black lives generally.”

Love, a native of Gary and the executive director of the nonprofit Seeking Education Excellence, concludes that woke whites aren’t saying that his life matters. They are saying that it’s up to them to make his life matter, a different thing entirely and a contention that can be rejected as condescending and superficial.

There are more substantive approaches, several of them suggested in a recent essay by our Dr. Eric Schansberg. He expands the definition of “systemic” racism to include government programs, something for which the chairman of a political party holds at least nominal responsibility.

“Government certainly has considerable power over all of us, especially the poor and the marginalized,” Schansberg begins. “And government is the most obvious part of the ‘system.’ So, efforts to deal with racism and systemic racism should start by looking at public policy and addressing government.”

He goes on to list policies that are damaging in this regard:

This last policy, Schansberg notes, hits black families hard. Their two-parent households were 80 percent in every Census from 1890 to 1960. In 1965, though, 24 percent of black children and 3 percent of white children were born into single-parent households. By 1990, the percentages had risen to 64 percent of blacks and 18 percent of whites. In 2016, it was 70 percent and 28 percent. 

All of which recommends reforms that a county chairman could push to really wake things up.

— Craig Ladwig


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