Monday, February 12, 2007

Culture is not just for wingnuts

A lawblawg called recently featured a post by Spencer Overton, a professor at the George Washington University School of Law. Professor Overton is most decidedly not a conservative but, from his very different perspective, he wonders, as I and others on the right have, whether advocates for the central city and African-American community are fighting the wrong war. Overton, who is writing a book about how ideologies become outmoded, wonders if there is not what he calls an "echo effect" in which black sensitivity to past discrimination has become counterproductive. He provides the following examples:

1. Academic achievement is deemed to be “White” among some Black folk, is frowned upon, and those who do so are deemed to be “oreos.”
2. When Whites dominated urban cities, public projects often displaced African American neighborhoods (“Urban renewal means Negro removal”). Now that African Americans control many urban cities, similar concerns about regentrification persist, and change and growth has evaded many urban areas.
3. Whites are deemed too culturally insensitive to adopt Black children, and tens of thousands of black children go unadopted.

Those of us in cities like Milwaukee might add a few more, such as adopting an oppositional stance toward law enforcement in response to its past and current wrongs when the far greater threat to the community is from street crime.

I cite Overton because it undercuts the notion that, when conservatives express concern over what they see as a counterproductive culture of alienation in our central cities, we are not being racist. I fully accept Overton's notion that this culture is rooted (not wholly, but to a large degree) in past discrimination and, I would add, in the excesses of the (largely white) counterculture and in the self congratulatory "solidarity" of white elites.


JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

“I cite Overton because it undercuts the notion that, when conservatives express concern over what they see as a counterproductive culture of alienation in our central cities, we are not being racist.”

I’m having a hard time reconciling this post with your last post. There, you state this:

“It is that one cannot help but conclude that she hates - really hates - these people. That this animosity finds a large audience that mistakes it for wit and erudition does say something about our political culture - at least in the blogosphere.”

Both Overton and Marcotte [as well as “conservatives”] are expressing concern over what they see as a conterproductive culture. The only real difference is which counterproductive culture. Admittedly, I am not fully aware of exactly what Marcotte says about Christians or Catholics or whatever. It might be really bad, but I expect that it is the usual stuff about them being homophobic, sexist, hateful, backward, etc. I don’t see how opposing the culture of religion on these grounds is any different than opposing the aspects of black culture that create the notion that academic achievement should be frowned upon.

Rick Esenberg said...

"The only real difference is which counterproductive culture."

It's not. (Overton is a careful academic; Marcotte bellows. But, even if it was, it is the difference that matters. I am not saying that Marcotte does not have the right to say what she wants. She does. But the rest of us have the right to be critical of her and, when Edwards hires her because of her blogging, then we get to wonder why he thought that was a good idea and what that says about him.

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

"(Overton is a careful academic; Marcotte bellows."

I certainly understand the difference between their qualifications and their styles, but I think that's minor to the discussion. Lots of careful academics have made the same criticisms of lots of other counterproductive cultures.

"But, even if it was, it is the difference that matters."

This has me curious? Why is this the differnce that matters? Why is it okay, in your opinion, to be critical of the counterproductive aspects of American black culture and not okay to be critical of the counterproductive aspects of Christian culture?

I understand that you have the right to be critical of her. And perhaps you should be. But you characterized her comments as "hate." I think it's possible, even likely, that she doesn't hate Christians (or was it specifically Catholics?) any more than conservatives (or whoever) who criticize the counterproductive elements of American Black culture are racists.

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

I'm not trying to be snarky here. I'm just really curious about your stance on this. I just can't seem to reconcile these two things. The only thing I can come up with is that you are a Christian (and therefore can't see the counterproductive aspects of that culture as clearly as others can) and you are not black. You seem like a very smart guy, so I find it very hard to believe it could be that simple.

Rick Esenberg said...

It is "okay" to be critical of what one believes to counterproductive elements of Christianity, although there is still a place for decorum and some minimal level of decency. If I - or anyone else - were to use the kind of language that Marcotte uses in reference to the "counterproductive aspects" of black culture, we would be called racists and the charge might well be valid. You said you are not familar with what she writes. You really have to read it to understand what I (and others) are talking about.

Beyond that, I think most of her "criticisms" - however put - are either wrong or exaggerated - and that is a difference that matters. It may be "okay" for her to be critical, but it doesn't mean her criticisms are right. I do not believe that Christianity is misogyny or that misogyny is the animating force behind the pro-life movement (which is, in any event, more or less dominated by women). If you prefer, we can refrain from referring to Marcotte as a bigot (and I don't think I did) but she is foolish and Edwards needs to answer for hiring a fool.

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

Fair enough. If your problem was with her tone or word choice, I can sympathize with that. Since I asked these questions I have done a little digging and she does come off as pretty harsh. Personally, I don't get particularly offended by word choice and find it strange when people do, but I'm admittedly the oddball in that respect.

Of course you don't think Christianity is misogyny. That would be attaching a pretty negative label to a culture you subscribe to. Do you think most people that subscribe to American black culture attach negative labels to doing poorly in school ("acting black" as opposed to "acting white.")? Do you think any American blacks might describe Overton's assertions as wrong or exagerated? If they do, that would lead us back to the difference being that one is your culture and the other isn't....