Monday, January 16, 2006

Abandoning the Saga

Local conservative bloggers love to beat up on Eugene Kane and, to a large degree, he asks for it. At times it seems that there is little that Gene won't racialize and, in a city that local activists once liked to call the "Selma of the North," indiscriminate playing of the race card is just as sinful as ignoring legitimate racial issues.

On the other hand, Kane has become more thoughtful and less predictable since he has his Bill Cosby moment. His column yesterday calling for outrage against gangster wannabes, rather than the cops, in the wake of increased inner city violence is a case in point. I thought it tracked nicely with a piece earlier in the week by one of my wife's favorite conservative commentators. To be sure, Kane is still capable of embracing awful ideas like Mike McGee's slavery disclosure ordinance. Still it seems that he has found a few other notes to play and occasionally says useful things that a white commentator would have difficulty saying.

On the other hand, Gregory Sanford's King Day column subscribes uncritically to what John McWhorter calls "the Saga", the notion that the black underclass is a product of racial discrimination and fewer low skill manufacturing jobs. The problem with the Saga, as McWhorter points out, is that it fits uneasily with the facts. While no one should doubt the continued existence of racial discrimination, it is undeniable that the level of discrimination has significantly declined (and a large black middle class created) at the same time that the pathologies of the underclass have exploded. While it is certainly harder to earn a middle class income without education or skills, there certainly seem to be economic opportunities for unskilled immigrants and billions upon billions spent on education in the inner city has apparently had little effect in imparting those skills that today's economy requires.

Something else - apart from the Saga - is going on here. The tragedy is that those who ask what that may be, are too often accused of "blaming the victim" (a code word for racism) or if (like McWhorter) those asking the questions are black, are called race traitors. Yet asking that question - and getting the answer right - is the key to ending the miseries in our inner cities.

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