The Real Issue behind the George Floyd Tragedy

Sane voices are rightly asking us to ignore the antifa and looters terrorizing our cities in the last few days, and urging us to focus instead on the circumstances of George Floyd’s death. It is not completely clear yet what happened, but the details behind the horrific image will have very troubling truths. Are there that many rogue police officers out there? Do they have unacceptable attitudes concerning race? Are the police unions overly powerful, keeping bad cops from being fired?

But to me, there is a much deeper, fundamental question people are overlooking. On the one hand, our nation has made amazing strides. I believe the vast majority of US police officers are appalled by Officer Chauvin’s actions. The socioeconomic status of African-Americans is hugely better than in the 50s and 60s. We elected a black president, absolutely unthinkable when I was a kid. My own boss, the head of a major university, is African-American, in a way also unthinkable years ago.

And yet…the status of the black underclass is as dire as ever. How can it be, in the year 2020, more than 50 years after Martin Luther King , that we still have a substantial number of George Floyds, poor, poorly educated, poorly housed, in trouble with the police, often the victims of same?

Indeed, we stopped making progress on this segment of our society in the 70s or 80s. Politicians, including the Democrats, no longer truly care about the black underclass. What changed? African-Americans are no longer THE minority. They must compete for attention with two minorities who’ve had huge growth since the 70s — Latinos and Asians. And as I wrote in a rather long Public Interest article back in the 90s, those “new” minorities have needs different from, and to some degree in conflict with, blacks, in addition to diluting the attention the latter used to get.

Though the various pro- and con-immigration economists can debate on the numbers, even the most ardent of the pro- side concede that high levels of immigration have hurt low-skilled African-Americans, not only in the direct form of immigration but also in the importation of temporary workers. Incidents like the one after Hurricane Katrina, in which African-Americans employed for the rebuilding were suddenly told they were being replaced by “Mexicans” (not clear whether they were Americans, undocumented or on visa), are very troubling.

A few days ago I saw some very startling data, concerning rates of high school graduation. Which states have the best and worst records regarding high school graduation for African-Americans, and for the black-white gaps in those numbers? Amazingly, several states doing well in that respect are in the Deep South, and some of the worst are “progressive” states such as California, New York, Wisconsin, Illinois — and Minnesota. How could this be possible?

All those those latter states have large numbers of immigrants. Cause and effect? In general I am skeptical of state-by-state comparisons, but the pattern is disturbing.Note too my taking the 70s and 80s to be the time in which our government lost interest in the black underclass — and is also the time when immigration rose sharply.

To be sure, we could have high levels of immigration AND improve conditions for the black underclass, but in these days of “compassion fatigue,” that would be a tall order, especially since the various minorities sometimes have conflicting demands.

For example, I believe strongly in the use of Affirmative Action programs to provide role models for blacks and Latinos. But some very militant Chinese immigrants are demanding that Affirmative Action programs be disbanded.

My father was an immigrant, and my mother the child of immigrants. My wife is an immigrant. The fact is that I’ve been living in immigrant households my entire life, with different languages, strange foods and colorful holidays. Frankly, it’s where I feel comfortable.

Yet the plight of the black underclass has also been a major lifetime concern of mine. And I do believe these two passions of mine are in some conflict.

Whatever the cause, in this modern year of 2020, we should not still have a black underclass. This problem COULD be solved, and should have been solved long ago. I hope the “silver lining” of the Floyd tragedy might be a resumption of the quest of the 60s to wipe out poverty.

 

62 thoughts on “The Real Issue behind the George Floyd Tragedy

  1. Agree 100%. The good news is our Constitution enables us to hold a peaceful, at least not dangerous, revolution every 4 years which keeps us close to the center of the road.

    The bad news is the the Constitution permitted us to degenerate from a federal democratic republic to the dictatorship of the 51%. Not percentile! The animals are gaining control of the zoo.

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  2. Good point about the effect of immigration on African-Americans socioeconomic status.
    One does have to look at family structure for part of the causes too – way too many single parent families.
    However, I cannot agree about “rightly” ignoring the looters. They are causing far more damage both in the short and long term than the few police fatalities of unarmed blacks that occur each year (the death of any unarmed civilian is a tragedy). Of note, the number of police killings of blacks (armed and unarmed) has decreased 4-fold over the last three or four decades.

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    • You are completely missing the point. WHY are there so many single-parent families? This has roots that go way, way back. WHY has that no changed since the 70s and 80s? WHY does no one in DC really care about it?

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      • Dr. Thomas Sowell: “We are told that such riots are a result of black poverty and white racism. But in fact — for those who still have some respect for facts — black poverty was far worse, and white racism was far worse, prior to 1960. But violent crime within black ghettos was far less.”

        https://www.pennlive.com/opinion/2015/05/poor_blacks_looking_for_someon.html

        Drs. Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, both respected and well-published economic historians, argue that the Federal government replaced the Black Father. Illegitimacy exploded along with a massive expansion of welfare programs, driving the Father out.

        I believe it was Dr. Tony Brown in Black Lies, White Lies (book), who asked a provocative question. He noted the close relationship between Black and Jewish leaders 60, 70 years ago. He claimed divergent advice.

        He claimed Jewish leaders stressed government programs for the black family; but when they went home, they stressed to their children education and starting a business.

        Clearly, African Americans who get an education and get married do well. Another author argued that when Italians, Irish, and Jewish-Americans succeeded in the past, they stayed in the neighborhood. They were role models and mentors. Successful individuals now often move to the suburbs.

        In his provocative book Black Rednecks & White Liberals, Stanford University’s Dr. Sowell examines the black “ghetto culture”, and other ethnic groups in America. I kick myself for not reading it. My understanding is that his research revealed that negative cultural traits were the result of slaves copying the uncouth behavior of their slave handlers (I don’t know the exact name). That these ‘handlers’ were from the low class in London, so some slaves copied these traits. (The slave owners being more educated and removed.)

        Dr. Sowell has also chronicled the above-average success of Ethiopian-, Nigerian-, and British (black) Americans. Higher rates of family formation, businesses, education, etc. Self-selection & “voluntary” immigration comes into play.

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        • Read most of Dr. Sowell’s “Black Rednecks & White Liberals”. it says there was a group of immigrants from Southern Scotland and Northern England that immigrated to the South. The low cultural morals they brought created the stereotypical white Southerner. The books says black Southerners copied their lifestyle and spread across the nation when they left the South. Recommend it highly.

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          • The people you are talking about are the Scots-Irish. The historian David Hackett Fischer wrote an important and influential book, Albion’s Seed, which identifies the Scots-Irish as one of the four culturally distinct waves of English immigrants that founded America (the others being the Puritans in New England, Royalists in Virginia, and Quakers in the mid-Atlantic region). It’s an amazing book, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand why America is the way it is. For example, the Civil War makes a lot more sense once you realize the the Puritans and Royalists hated each other before they even came to America, having been on opposite sides in the English Civil war. Other books have explored this theme as well, for example American Nations by Colin Woodard, but Albion’s Seed is the deepest and most scholarly.

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          • So the Scot-Irish are so trashy that their horrible ways rubbed off on others?

            Well, that’s not racist/bigoted is it?

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    • “One does have to look at family structure…”
      True. US has been busy felonizing black men for decades, intentionally.

      John Ehrlichman, counsel and Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs under President Richard Nixon
      “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.”

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      • The only source I can find for your Erlichmann quote is a Harper’s magazine article in 2016. What is the primary source? New quotes popping up in 2016 are not reliable.

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  3. I wanted to share your post on Twitter, but your share button is configured to tag @wordpressdotcom instead of your Twitter handle. Do you have a Twitter account?

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  4. Well sure, there are many factors for single parent families, including well-intentioned social welfare policies, and economic difficulties of African-American men. Racism can play a factor in the latter particularly, which is what I suppose you are getting at. However other ethnic groups have gone through extreme economic circumstances without similar rates of single parent families. And growing up in single parent families often (not always) leaves children less well-prepared for economic advancement – so becomes chicken and egg problem.

    Why does no one in DC care? Why does no one care about what H1B and other visas have done to job prospects generally?

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  5. The unintended (or perhaps INTENDED) consequence of LBJ’s “War On Poverty”? As means-tested welfare benefits were expanded, welfare served as a substitute for a husband in the home – thus a disincentive for marriage among lower-income Americans.

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  6. Dr. Matloff, great to see you publishing again. I’ve spent hundreds of hours with my African American friends, and also spent plenty of time in Latino barrios.

    Senator Barbara Jordan suggested a 5-year moratorium on all immigration to allow poor Americans to ‘catch up’ in the 1980s. (Jordan was black, and we learned at her death, lesbian. I know this is important to the under-25 crowd.)

    The labor Supply Curve is blown out when 25 – 40 Million illegal immigrants (see recent Ivy League study) come to our country. My family was in the trades. I’ve seen it first hand.

    Additionally, everybody ignores why wages have stagnated for decades! Duh. Illegal immigrants from Mexico, used to working for $1 an hour in the blazing sun, can make $10, $15, $20, $25 an hour, often tax free … and pickup free furniture, TVs, etc. from middle class Americans on job sites or Craigslist. And maybe some free health care, child care, Head Start and food.

    Let’s get very practical. An illegal immigrant from Central or South America is often young, strong, and complaint. They’ll work 5, 6, 7 days a week, for cash. An American, black or white, wants Superbowl Sunday, his Mom’s birthday, and other days off. They think about overtime and benifits. They might know some labor laws, and might get high at work, lunch, or in the truck. Some have behavioral problems, which is dicey, because if employers were paying a union wage with benefits (lets say, $35 an hour), they’d get higher quality people. Or maybe the guy would get married and improve his life.

    Who benefits? Remodeling is still horribly expensive. (A standard kitchen remodel job and new flooring $80,000 – $150,000 in California.) Cities get huge fees for simple construction projects, and General Contractors often drive exorbitantly expensive trucks. The immigrants that become the patron (boss) do OK (typically bilingual). I’ve read fast food is the number one employer of illegal immigrants.

    Tangentially, Americans have lost low income housing. Be it in the Marin Canal District, SF Mission, Monument Blvd in Concord or countless other places. Who loses? American low-skilled workers.

    But this discussion never happens as we obsess over race. Ugh. Thank you for your insight.

    P.S. Chismosas (women that gossip) in Concord has solid street tacos, right off Monument, and Mi Officina has great pastis (like empanadas) on the weekend.

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  7. I think the more direct problem is joblessness. One cause of joblessness is immigration of course, and another is globalization. (Contrary to the common narrative, I don’t think automation is an issue here.) The jobs being outsourced or “taken” by immigrants are precisely the jobs that are most useful to and needed by the “underclass,” black or otherwise: decently-paying manual and manufacturing jobs to help support a working class family and hopefully to put a couple kids through college. Note that this adverse effect is not limited to blacks; whites are receiving the blow, too. The difference is that whites are not becoming urban underclass; they simply do drugs and commit suicide in countryside (See Case and Deaton new book).

    Here we are getting into the central hypocrisy (or some would say a central conspiracy) of the so-called neo-liberalism: the left-wing elites love to talk about identity politics; the right-wing elites love to talk about market fundamentalism — both are working in the same direction, also known as big corporation/wall street progressivism. Their modus vivendi is as follows: we are outsourcing your jobs, weakening labor unions, monopolizing market power, but hey, our bathrooms are gender-neutral and we are donating to libertarian DC think tanks so we are good! It’s almost as if they are intentionally dividing the country with identity politics and other useless talking points, and then hiding themselves behind this divided country, laughing and profiting while underclass whites and underclass blacks are hating each other. Trump seemingly semi-gets this (which is where his “anti-establishment” vibe comes from) but he is so incompetent that all he is doing is to sit behind his Oval Office Resolute Desk and shout on twitter like a drunken moron. And, our only hope is a dementia-stricken 80-year-old clueless dude. Good luck America.

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    • I think automation will be the primary issue in the next few years. Machines have worked harder and longer since the machine age began. In the century, machines have more dexterity and less physical limitations than humans . . . and never “retire.” They die with their boots on.

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  8. I always find it strange that in 20+ years of working in the SF High Tech industry I almost never found any blacks or Hispanics working in decent jobs at the very progressive and righteous high tech companies. I met a few, who had degrees in CS from good colleges but they were in support roles such as the help desk or marketing. The good work went to the H1-Bs.

    The disgusting part was all the hand-wringing that the execs did about the lack of minority applicants and the diversity posters showing black women and men having a great time in their cubes at work, yet I never met any of those people in the posters.

    After reading about the diversity problem in the late 1990s I wrote a long letter to the NAACP detailing out the numbers of employees by race, educational background, experience in the area I was working along with how the hiring process worked. It was basically, “I need a resource”, “OK, I will call the H1-B body shop and get somebody”. Whether that person was qualified/experienced or not, they would be doing the work. They would be allowed to learn on the job.

    Americans or permanent residents of any race didn’t need to or have a chance to apply.

    Never heard back from the NAACP. When I was writing the letter, my black co-worker told me I was wasting my time since “they don’t care”. Maybe nobody really does…

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    • You are partially right.
      It’s not exactly “nobody cares”, because you care, I care, many, many people care.

      The people who don’t care are the professional servants of the global elite, who are out to destroy the American middle class, and the political freedoms implied by “the American Way of Life”.

      And you can bet that every person in the NAACP is part of that global hegemony.

      As are the people in every organization who gets money from corporate charity and foundations.

      There are trillions of dollars going into the coffers of NGOs of all sorts, and all that money and all those organizations are dedicated to destroying American and Western European middle class values, morality, lives and businesses.

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      • Part of that is that few African Americans or Latinos studied CS, Math, or related fields. Off the top of my head, I can recall meeting / knowing three.

        Interestingly, I knew several people in technology who swore that Music and Language majors could excel in technical fields. Hi tech required risk taking. It was also interesting that of women who excelled, many were Asian- or Jewish-American.

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          • I read somewhere that there are a paltry number of African American high school students who take calculus in the Bay Area; and that its the gateway class into the STEM careers. The number may have been 100.

            Dr. Ugbu, former anthropologist at UC Berkeley, conducted a famous study outside Cleveland, Ohio (Shaker Heights) a couple of decades ago. Middle class black parents there wanted to understand the racial achievement gap. His conclusion was that black students studied far less than their peers; and that while parents distrusted the school system, they still left their children’s education in their hands.

            About 15 years ago I also started witnessing a trend with young Bay Area HS students, specifically Asian Americans. Some would take calculus, chemistry, at the local JC *before* they took it in HS, to get a leg up. My assumption was that they audited the classes.

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  9. The reason there are so many single parent families is because of Senator Teddy Kennedy’s bills he introduced in the 60’s and 70’s offering generous welfare to poor single parents. So, the fathers moved out to take advantage of such lucrative offers for the mothers. Thus, the breakdown of mostly African American families. He was a total menace to society. Plus, he helped pass legislation to prefer poor, illiterate immigrants over highly educated immigrants from Europe. Oh, the unintended consequences we end up creating! Stupid congressmen and women. All they are truly good at are giving speeches. And being charismatic. Nobody with brains need apply.

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    • Yes, the issue of welfare structure has been discussed over the years. But now with a lifetime limit on welfare it should be less of an issue. And as I said, the whole situation goes back years and years. At any rate, though, the bottom line is that there are severe problems that no one is trying to fix.

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    • You think those people who voted and sponsored the legislations were unaware of the results?
      You think they were really trying to make life better for lower class Americans?
      You need to read some history.
      You could start with Cricis of Democracy, put out by the Trlateral Commission in the mid-70s, when this was going on. It’s still available on their website as a free pdf, or you can pick up a copy of the used book for pretty cheap at an online book dealer.

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      • Personal opinion: Those on the Left that think human intelligence and civility is genetically evolving and that laws and training can produce a more civilized humanity. Right wingers and some middle of the roaders like accept the Protestant Christian thesis that we are all “born sinners” and/or that Darwinian evolution favors the strongest, not the most civilized.

        Civilized people daily fight their human nature. “Angels” are not born. Pun intended.

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  10. The late 70’s also marked a sharp turn away from New Deal-Great Society policies to our current neoliberal market-based orthodoxy. The political framework in the 60’s and 70’s acknowledged that “we all do better when we all do better” (at least in principle). That framework created policy space to start dealing with inequality.

    With the rise of market orthodoxy and neoliberalism, the dominant social value became, “Greed is good. I can succeed at your expense.” That new political framework put highest priority on money and influence, which smothers efforts at social justice.

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  11. You pointed out the Democrats don’t care about black poverty. I agree, and will point out that this compounds the problem because blacks are associated with the Democratic Party. Like Joe Biden said, if you vote for President Trump, you ain’t black.
    The Democratic Party would gain nothing by lifting blacks out of poverty. After all, if blacks become too successful, they’ll start voting Republican.
    As a result, their elected Democratic officials do nothing for them. When the election season rolls around, there is racial unrest, then they are reminded that whites are racist then they vote Democrat again.
    Stupid Republicans just want them to have jobs and be independent.

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  12. I recall a PBS episode of NOW (with David Brancaccio and Maria Hinojosa), in which they reported on the replacement of African American electricians with Latino immigrants, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

    They interviewed one black guy “Sam Smith” and also a Nicaraguan guy “Pablo”. Sam Smith was making $28 per hour with benefits, when he was forced to train his immigrant replacements, who were being paid $14 per hour without benefits.

    Here is the full transcript of the show:
    http://www.pbs.org/now/transcript/transcriptNOW146_full.html

    We only create about 2 million jobs per year, but we bring in roughly 1 million people per year. (I’m not sure what the actual numbers are, when you consider illegals, TPS, J1, OPT, H1B, etc). Harvard labor economist George Borjas estimates that these labor imports cost American workers a half-trillion a year in lost wages.

    IMO, we should aim for steady-state immigration, which would mean the worker inflow is no greater than the outflow. I think this would put us at about 200k immigrants per year.

    Also, there is a big white underclass as well. I think that it would be more productive to come up with ideas that help all groups, rather than focus so much one ethnic group. Nearly twice as many whites are killed by cops every year than blacks, including a recent case in white a white woman from Minneapolis was shot by a black cop. Yet, no one presumed the black cop was being racist.

    [blockquote]The inflation-adjusted hourly wage of the typical black worker rose 30.5 percent between 1968 and 2016, or about 0.6 percent per year. … Even slower real wage growth (about 0.2 percent per year) for the typical white worker—albeit starting from a higher initial wage—meant that African Americans did modestly close the racial wage gap over the last five decades.[/blockquote]
    https://www.epi.org/publication/50-years-after-the-kerner-commission/

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  13. Getting rid of most foreign students could conceivably free up slots for Black students…

    On the other hand, at the undergraduate level these foreign students pay large sums of money for tuition so maybe that subsidizes potential slots for undergraduate Black students. So, maybe this line of reasoning then works for graduate programs, which currently have almost no Black students.

    Maybe the recent EO on Chinese graduate students will help. It’s got good potential, as there are a LOT of Chinese graduate students.

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      • Yes, that is what I meant in my comment. Sorry I didn’t say it explicitly.

        Get rid of the F-1s to help rebuild America. I hope the Chinese graduate student EO is interpreted in the broadest possible terms by the consulates. Chinese nepotism is rampant in US academia, and it certainly hurts and denies opportunities to potential Black graduate students.

        F-1 visas should be limited only to developed, multicultural countries that share America’s values.

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  14. I can see both of your points. You can’t blame children for being part of a single-parent family. You can’t just automatically blame the parents either. You need to look at the causes more closely. It may be that a part of the cause is the tremendous pressure and lack of support for lower-wage workers and the changing dynamics of the work environment.

    Regarding Steve A’s points, I agree that the looting is counter-productive. If I am a business-owner, the protests may motivate me to think that I need to do more to think about and help solve the conditions that led to George Floyd’s death. But as important as those actions are, it’s unclear how much and how quickly that will have an effect. The most immediate effect of the looting may be the ruin of many small business owners and the motivation of other business owners not to start businesses in cities, especially in areas that are likely to be targets of future looting. Also, I was very interested in Steve’s contention that “the number of police killings of blacks (armed and unarmed) has decreased 4-fold over the last three or four decades”. Of course, that doesn’t make Floyd’s death any less horrendous but it is important to have a larger perspective to better identify the possible solutions. Can you provide a link the original study and/or data that reported that finding?

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    • The Washington Post database on police shootings https://washingtonpost.com/policeshootings
      has collected data since 2015. In 2019 there were TEN unarmed blacks killed (and 28 whites). In the same year 48 policemen were killed in the line of duty.
      The FBI National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) records older data but earlier years are thought to be incomplete.

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    • Have met some problem cops. The profession attracts Alpha males. That being said, the vast majority of cops and police departments are good and well-meaning. The last thing they want to do is kill an innocent minority and be found guilty of murder. It a no-win situation on so many levels.

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      • How many of the “good and well-meaning” cops would report the actions of the problem cops?

        It’s one thing to say the most cops would not engage in bad activity, but my sense, from reading the media and my life experience, tells me that all those good cops would be willing to lie to cover up for their buddies.

        Maybe I’m wrong? maybe your experience is different, and you’ve seen those good cops reporting their fellow cops?

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  15. The American economic imperative since Colonial times has been to import wage-busting minorities instead of building the economic strength of the white underclass. This plantation mentality included cycles involving indentured servants, African slaves, Chinese coolies, Mexican farm workers, and now East Asian tech workers. This is not some recent development but rather an integral part of America’s elitist ruling class’s approach to business. What is recent is the gouging out of not just low-wage jobs, but solidly middle and even upper-middle class jobs requiring college or equivalent training.

    Those who are left behind include not just the plantation “sharecropper” (white underclass) and urban black citizens, but also Native Americans. There is a huge untapped talent pool that lacks training and connections…. And the elites like that. It makes the labor force a buyer’s market.

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  16. Norm, you mentioned the 1970s, my favorite decade – at least musically (oh the poor kids of today!)

    I was there. My parents moved to South Sacramento in the early 1960s. Then it was roughly 75% white / 25% minority. It “was” a great place to live. Cheap homes on large lots. Quick access to Hwy 99 and later I-5. Hwy 80 and downtown were just miles away. 90 minutes to the Bay Area and about the same to Reno/Tahoe, the foothills and the Sierra Nevadas.

    There was lots of parent and family involvement. We had Boy and Girl Scouts groups, really good little leagues and a brand new MLK city library. Our schools were relatively new and state-of-the-art for the time. Our elementary school was similar to most in the nation. Very safe and slightly diverse but everyone came out with a decent education.

    Over the years, I noticed a common thread among the kids that were doing good in school and staying out of trouble – white or minority. The parents had some of the following characteristics:
    • Married
    • Military Veterans
    • Professionals
    • Small Business Owners
    • Church-going or devoutly spiritual

    Early 70’s, I started junior high. Things changed radically. The racial balance was now about 50/50. As far as why blacks aren’t making it economically, the first thing I witnessed was the desire to challenge white authority. While mouthing off was common, two incidents stood out:
    • My white gym teacher punched in the face by a black classmate
    • Our white principal jumped in the restroom by black males

    Second was the frequency and level of violence. One classmate got on the wrong side of several black males. That group jumped him as he left a Sunday service at the nearby Catholic Church. Another female classmate got attacked by a group of black females at a bus stop and had her hair cut off. Both incidents were unprovoked. Admittedly, these were extreme examples. However, by the time I graduated high school, every white male (and many white females) that I knew, had been attacked by blacks. There were two local incidents of hate crimes that were white on minorities. However the vast majority were the reverse.

    Third was career path. For the majority of blacks I met, their main priority in school was athletics, entertainment or crime. While that seems stereotypical, very few seemed to have viable education paths. Our junior high was on the high school attendance border. We would see our old classmates when out two rival high schools played football. We asked about one black former classmate, “Billy”. Billy wasn’t violent and had stood up for me against black bullies. We were shocked to find out he was in prison for armed robbery. This was 1975. We weren’t living in Watts! We had just started our junior year of high school!

    Fourth was the “mis-leadership” – Jesse Jackson, Rev. Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, etc. These guys are nothing but race baiters that have done very little for the black community. I doubt that any of them helped any black to get a job, increase their income, start a business or increase their economic independence. They make any racial incident turn from bad to worse. Their record, over the years, has been abysmal.

    A black female activist came to our junior high to speak. She started the assembly by asking us to say the “Black Pledge of Allegiance”. We were all dumbfounded. Many of the white kids were pretty pissed off. Funny, how I never asked for the reaction of my Asian and Hispanic classmates. Incidentally Cornel West, whom I detest, attended, one of the high schools that our junior high fed: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornel_West

    Fifth was the “pot boiling over”. Years later, I remember seeing a video about the Iranian revolution. The US had helped the Shah keep Iran dissidents under wraps. Once we withdrew support, it was like removing the lid from a boiling pot. The water expands and overflows. This was the era of the “blacksploitation” and Kung Fu films. Both genres were extremely popular with minority audiences. The former encouraged blacks to get revenge on “The Man”, while the latter showed them how. However, when it led to violence, the side-effects were drastic: stores close up, small businesses relocate, employment opportunities decrease and white flight increases.

    High school wasn’t much better. After personally experiencing several violent attacks, my parents gave up and moved us to a safer South Sac neighborhood.

    Don’t know the exact demographics of my old stomping grounds but it’s probably the reverse from my 1960s estimates. About 90% of my friends have left. Most have left the area or the state. Many of us have seen this coming for decades. No one can build a business or a life in a city where your neighbors see you as the enemy.

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    • Pablo, yes, we had some jams in the 70s! Play that Funky Music White Boy, Rapper’s Delight, and Lowrider are classics.

      Similar events in South Central LA, San Francisco, etc. I met a man who moved his family from The City to Walnut Creek in the 70s. “My kid was getting beat up several times a week, having his lunch stolen, coming home every day hungry. Karate lessons 2x a week doesn’t tough a kid up equal to the Projects. So we got a similar house, twice the land, warm weather and my child was never beaten again. Problem solved.”

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  17. Good point about the status of the black underclass being as dire as ever. A few years ago, I read a book by George Borjas titled “We Wanted Workers – Unraveling the Immigration Narrative”. I read the book chiefly due to my interest in H-1B visas and their affect on STEM jobs. However, the book did make me much more aware of the problems faced by lower-skilled workers, including many blacks. Taking a quick glance back at it, he seems to mention some examples that match your observance of blacks being negatively affected by high immigration. As just one example, he mentions cabbies in New York City in which blacks had dropped from 20 percent in 1970 to just 6 percent by 2010. But just 100 miles south in Philadelphia where only 10 percent of the population is foreign-born, natives still make up 73 percent of cabbies with black natives accounting for a third.

    The current COVID-19 pandemic has been a big reminder of how much manufacturing has left the country. This may be a simplistic example but it seemed like it used to be possible for a person who was willing to do honest work to go to the local plant manufacturing autos or some other products and immediately start earning reasonable wages. Now, a young person much more likely needs to go to college, run up a huge debt, and hope that all of the supposed unfilled tech jobs are still there when they graduate. There is, in fact, strong evidence that the supposed unfilled tech jobs are largely a myth pushed by tech corporations wanting a larger labor pool. In any event, a young person now needs a great deal of support, financial and moral, to get those jobs. Many of those in the underclass simply don’t have that support.

    Yet the U.S. continues to be one of the few developed countries that provides little support for education or safety-nets for healthcare. What the U.S. does seem to lead the world on is in having developed a winner-takes-most system. If you are very skilled at something, especially business, and you are very motivated to play the winner-takes-most game, the U.S. is definitely the place to go. If you are a member of the underclass, it very likely isn’t the best place to be, at least in many parts of the U.S.

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  18. So let me try to wrap my head around this.
    There are GOOD immigrants like your father, your maternal grandparents, your wife.
    And there are BAD immigrants like my husband and me – as we came on H-1B/H-4 visas.

    Yes, that makes perfect sense.

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    • I don’t know any critic of the H-1B program who has resentment against the holders of that visa themselves, or who considers them “bad immigrants.” The critics’ problems are with the employers and the politicians. And note, even among the politicians, virtually all of them, in both parties, agree there are problems with the visa. Do you believe otherwise?

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  19. Here is a two-part discussion between Dr. Sowell and Dr. Tony Brown from 1984 re “The Ethnic Flaw”. What makes Dr. Sowell interesting is that he extends his studies to other countries & groups, and he also grew up in Harlem (when it was safe). While it is dated, there are some interesting assertions & facts.

    Overview:
    – culture plays a huge role
    – skills, hard work, & savings are key
    – the Chinese were (are?) hated in Malaysia, a minority, but succeed
    – African Americans started far behind (most illiterate), and in the depressed South
    – East Indians are black & highly successful
    – Germans, Jews, Chinese came to America and had marketable skills

    PBS has more recent specials with Dr. Sowell (and viewership spikes). He’s about 86, his delivery is a little slower, but he still has vast knowledge.

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    • I understand all that, but you’re missing the point I think. Yes, Chinese culture is such that they can overcome poverty and prejudice, while the culture of the black underclass is not like that. THAT IS THE PROBLEM WE MUST SOLVE, instead of ignoring it. You don’t have to be altruistic, as the problems of the black underclass affect all of us.

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      • I agree. But frankly, the majority of Liberals are conditioned to label the majority racists for even attempting an open discussion not dominated by discussing racism. (Trump refreshingly made it simple – “What do you have to lose?”)

        There are so many common sense observations. African Americans seem to prosper in law (many in civil rights); why not in quantitative fields? Why do few African American students (seemingly) take HS calculus, a supposed gateway subject?

        Dr. Sowell mentions a similiar observation to Dr. Ogbu at UC Berkeley, a now deceased anthropology professor. Dr. Ogbu studied middle class black students in Shaker Heights (Cleveland), who scored substantially lower than their white counterparts. I didn’t read his book, but he reportedly found two main reasons: black students spent much less time studying; and while the parents didn’t trust school administrators, they still abdicated their children’s education to the same administrators. (None of the parents gave him feedback on the draft. Once published, they called him an Uncle Tom.)

        I think ten people like Dr. Sowell, yourself (Dr. Matloff), and some on-the-ground business people could add insight. (Bill Clinton had a stacked committee that regurgitated all the same tired cliches.)

        New York Post: ““There’s this enormous cohort of black and Latino males aged, let’s say, 16 to 25 that don’t have jobs, don’t have any prospects, don’t know how to find jobs, don’t know that the — what their skill sets are, don’t know how to behave in the workplace, where they have to work collaboratively and collectively,” the billionaire said in the 2011 interview with “PBS NewsHour.” ” No, I don’t think Bloomberg is a racist.

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      • Norm, here’s what I see is the problem. It is a problem we all must solve. There are moral and personal reasons and benefits. But to solve a problem between 2 parties, you have to have a dialogue.

        Over the years I’ve continually heard the Left and Minority activists say “We need to have a conversation about race!” But when we attempt to, we find out its a one-way street. Its a lecture on “White Man Bad”, “Whites Bad, Minorities Not”, “Orange Man Bad”, etc. Anytime a white disagrees with them, we get labeled as racists. I don’t deny all of the racist acts that white society had done against minorities. But if we can’t point out things they are doing wrong or actions they might want to take, then the “conversation” is a waste of time.

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    • I think it is an important part of the answer. I’ve written on this extensively. BTW, do I take it you support AA based on gender but not on race?

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      • What’s funny is that, even though I’m on the right, I’m receptive to AA in STEM employment, especially in regards to the H1-B and OPT visas. As long as they have a category for us older, white males.

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  20. Hi Professor Matloff. I give up! Underneath “the 60s to wipe out poverty.” is an image of you followed by “Norm Matloff” and some Chinese writing. What does the Chinese writing say?

    Using Google, I am getting words like “all”, “world”, “circles”, “plus”, and “oil” (right to left).

    The exclamation point seems to have made its way into Chinese writing, interesting!

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  21. I wonder what do you have to say about the Jamaican, other west Indian, Kenyan, Nigerian, Ghanaian especially recent arrivals from Africa and their relative success and their overwhelming usage Affirmative Actions programs, college admissions and other perks that are meant for the descendants of the unfortunate African American slaves from 18th and 19th centuries?

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    • Obama, son of a Kenyan, once said that if he is on a corner hailing a cab, drivers don’t care if he is not a descendent of slaves. They just see that he’s black.

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