The other day somebody asked a question about the statistical basis for the views of 'racial realism', which in this (typical) case indicts young black males for a propensity towards crime. I wrote the following:
There is a statistical basis for proving that young black males are arrested for crimes in zipcode 90805 (aka 'the LBC') at higher than the national average rate. There is only human prejudice in the assumptions that young black males everywhere else will behave the same way. 'young', 'black' and 'male' are only three factors among hundreds, and they are not causal. I always like to throw geography into the mix when such questions are asked with a mind towards evoking that sense in the questioner.
You can safely assume that research done at this 'big data' level of detail has not been done, and that once it will have been done, that it will not substantially alter the popular prejudice, especially as long as Snoop Dogg remains famous.
This is a species of debunking the fallacy 'Every place is just like Compton', but I didn't want to talk about Ice Cube again. Nevertheless, I still hold to my fetish with geography's primordinate effect on ones ability to intake social information. Viz my old Neighborhood Project, and 'Racial Geography is Destiny'. But none of this speaks direct to the fundamental understanding that I thought everybody had which was essentially that 'controlling for SES, racial and ethnic differences are statistically insignificant'. But right now I'm missing an authoritative publication on that matter, which is particularly annoying because I just saw that spelled out very well in the same poorly cross-referenced place where I was asked that question.
So, like a splinter in my mind, the next time I come across something at Pew or Rand or perhaps in the archives here or at Booker Rising, I will know to search my own blogsite for 'controlling for SES'. Then I will append the proper citations here.
Somewhat tangential to this, in the air of ridiculous pessimism on race, it is interesting to take a peek at Pew's survey during the Obama honeymoon.
Despite the bad economy, blacks’ assessments about the state of black progress in America have improved more dramatically during the past two years than at any time in the past quarter century, according to a comprehensive new nationwide Pew Research Center survey on race.
Barack Obama’s election as the nation’s first black president appears to be the spur for this sharp rise in optimism among African Americans. It may also be reflected in an upbeat set of black views on a range of other matters, including race relations, local community satisfaction and expectations for future black progress.
In each of these realms, the perceptions of blacks have changed for the better over the past two years, despite a deep recession and jobless recovery that have hit blacks especially hard.
The telephone survey was conducted from Oct. 28 to Nov. 30, 2009 among a nationally representative sample of 2,884 adults, including 812 blacks. (For details see page 67 in the full report).
I suspect all of that perception is reversed and imaginary Republican legislation is to blame. Just saying. Still, if you want to look closely at the reasons these stereotypes have legs, IE naming the failures in black communities, you will find the same set of problems. I will quote Glenn Loury from two decades ago to give a litany with the understanding that this was an operating theory of my sourjourn in the Race Man's Bucket.
Today's Race Problem
Nevertheless, as anyone even vaguely aware of the social conditions in contemporary America knows, we still face a "problem of the color line." The dream that race might some day become an insignificant category in our civic life now seems naively utopian. In cities across the country, and in rural areas of the Old South, the situation of the black underclass and, increasingly, of the black lower working classes is bad and getting worse. No well-informed person denies this, though there is debate over what can and should be done about it. Nor do serious people deny that the crime, drug addiction, family breakdown, unemployment, poor school performance, welfare dependency, and general decay in these communities constitute a blight on our society virtually unrivaled in scale and severity by anything to be found elsewhere in the industrial West.
What is sometimes denied, but what must be recognized is that this is, indeed, a race problem. The plight of the underclass is not rightly seen as another (albeit severe) instance of economic inequality, American style. These black ghetto dwellers are a people apart, susceptible to stereotyping, stigmatized for their cultural styles, isolated socially, experiencing an internalized sense of helplessness and despair, with limited access to communal networks of mutual assistance. Their purported criminality, sexual profligacy, and intellectual inadequacy are the frequent objects of public derision. In a word, they suffer a pariah status. It should not require enormous powers of perception to see how this degradation relates to the shameful history of black-white race relations in this country.
Moreover, there is a widening rift between blacks and whites who are not poor--a conflict of visions about the continuing importance of race in American life. Most blacks see race as still of fundamental importance; most whites (and also many Asians and Hispanics) think blacks are obsessed with race. This rift impedes the attainment of commonly shared, enthusiastically expressed civic ideals that might unite us across racial lines in efforts to grapple with our problems. The notion of the "beloved community"--where blacks and whites transcend their differences and cooperate in universal brotherhood to foster racial integration--has never achieved broad appeal. As sociologist William Julius Wilson stressed 20 years ago in his misunderstood classic, The Declining Significance of Race, the locus of racial conflict in our society has moved from the economic to the social and political spheres.
Indeed, standing at the end of the 20th century, one can almost see Du Bois's "problem of the color line" shifting before one's eyes. An historic transformation on race-related issues in the United States is taking place. Arguments about black progress are but one part of the broader endeavor to recast our national understanding of racial matters--an undertaking of enormous importance. It has been a very long time since the civil rights movement constituted a force able to mold the nation's moral sensibilities. A struggle that succeeded brilliantly to win legal equality for blacks after a century of second-class citizenship has for the most part failed to win a national commitment toward eradicating the effects of this historical inheritance. The civil rights approach--petitioning the courts and the federal government for relief against the discriminatory treatment of private or state actors--reached its limit more than a decade ago. Deep improvement in the status of many blacks has taken place, even as the underclass has grown, and there seems to be no politically effective way of mobilizing a national assault on the remaining problems.
What is more, there has been profound demographic change in American society since the 1960s. During this period, nearly 20 million immigrants have arrived on our shores, mostly from non-European points of origin. Hispanics will soon be the nation's largest ethnic minority group. Asian-American college students and urban entrepreneurs are more numerous and more important in the country's economic and political life than ever before. This development is making obsolete the old black-white framework, though blacks must occupy a unique position in any discussion of the nation's ethnic history. But nowadays, as a political matter, to focus solely on the old tension between blacks and whites is to miss something of basic importance.
It is against this backdrop that statistical analyses of the status of African Americans are being conducted. Assessing how much or how little progress has taken place for blacks, and why, is one of the most fiercely contested empirical issues in the social sciences. For years, liberal advocates of blacks' interests tried to deny that meaningful change was occurring. That assessment has always had problems, in my view. In any event, it is no longer tenable. Now the dominant voices on this subject come from right of center. They seem decidedly unfriendly to black aspirations. With great fanfare, these conservatives declare the historic battle against racial caste to have been won. They go on to say that, but for the behavioral dysfunction of the black poor and the misguided demands for affirmative action from a race-obsessed black middle class, our "problem of the color line" could be put behind us. Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom, with their new book, America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible, offer a prime example of this mode of assessment. This line of argument should not be permitted to shape our national understanding of these matters. Permit me briefly to say why.
No matter whether you agree or disagree with Loury, he's certainly not putting the cause on this on any genetic thing. Rather it is cultural and political.