Andrew Young Was Right, Not That Anyone Dare Admit It

One of the recurrent rituals of American life is the public humiliation
of prominent older folks who just can`t keep bottled up
what they really think about race. (My wife calls this
increasing inability to not say exactly what`s on your
mind

"Elderly Tourette Syndrome".
)

Aging white sportsmen are frequently subject to these public
eviscerations. Notre Dame football announcer

Paul Hornung
and Air Force Academy football coach

Fisher DeBerry
both recently got into

all sorts of trouble
for suggesting that their
exclusive colleges should lower admissions standards to
recruit more fast black players. Sportswriters claimed
to be aghast that anyone could possibly believe the
stereotype that blacks tended to be

faster runners
on the field…or

lower scorers on the SAT.

Paradoxically, minorities can get away with more frankness. For
example, the black Chicago Cubs manager

Dusty Baker
easily survived the

brouhaha
following his assertion that black and
Latin ballplayers tend to do better than white players
on humid days.

Last week, though, a famous old civil rights icon resigned his cushy
job promoting Wal-Mart to

black politicians
because he was caught saying what
he—and lots of other blacks—actually believe about

immigrant shopkeepers.

The giant retailing company has often been frustrated obtaining permits
to build stores in the inner city—for example, Chicago
city councilmen blocked a proposed Wal-Mart on the

South Side
. So Wal-Mart hired 74-year-old Andrew Young,
who

once worked for
Martin Luther King Jr., to lobby
local governments for them. Young is the former Atlanta
mayor who

helped capture
the 1996 Olympics and made sure that
blacks got a sizable hunk of the lucrative
contracts—thereby much exacerbating the

notorious incompetence
of the Atlanta Games.

Asked by an interviewer from a black newspaper, the LA Sentinel,
if Wal-Mart displaced mom-and-pop retailers, Young

replied
:

"Well, I think
they should; they ran the `mom-and-pop` stores out of my
neighborhood… But you see those are the people who have
been overcharging us— selling us stale bread, and bad
meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved
to Florida. I think they`ve ripped off our communities
enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now
it`s Arabs, very few black people own these stores."

Ironically, the TV show The Simpsons has similarly satirized its
Hindu character

Apu
, manager of the Kwik-E-Mart, for 16 years:

[Marge
places a tiny bottle of aspirin over the counter
]

Apu: The
aspirin is $24.95

Marge:
 $24.95???

Apu:  I lowered
the price because an escaped mental patient tampered
with the bottle.

Yet, despite protests from Indian-Americans, the show has never backed
down from its caricature of a money-grubbing

middleman minority
.

That`s because there is a major disjunction in American public
discourse between the relatively wide latitude you are
allowed if you claim to be engaged in

"observational comedy"
and the much more limited
set of facts you are permitted to use when seriously
analyzing how the world works. That`s a big reason
America has better

comedy
than

public policy.

But then, most "serious" political discourse doesn`t exist to
tell the truth. Instead, its purpose is to show off
moral superiority.

Needless to say, the fact that mom-and-pop stores in black
neighborhoods are

seldom owned by blacks
has more to do with black
entrepreneurial failings than with the moral failings of
middle-man minority shopkeepers. And the stores` high
prices and poor selection more reflect the risk of
operating in

crime-ridden neighborhoods
and the inherent
inefficiencies of small shops than any nefarious plot
against blacks.

If blacks owned those stores, the bread would presumably be even staler
and the prices even higher.

Conservatives are always advising African-Americans to be
entrepreneurial. But ambitious blacks

seldom have
the

extended family structures
that would allow them to
compete with immigrants. If you are the patriarch of a
Greek immigrant family, for example, you are culturally
expected to

browbeat your children and grandchildren
into
working in the family business. In contrast, poorer
African-American males seldom have strong familial
relationships with anyone other than their mothers.

Still, public-spirited black ministers have argued, quite plausibly,
that having fewer and less efficient liquor stores in
the ghetto would be good for local blacks, because they
would then drink less.

After WWII, most of the

liquor stores
in Los Angeles`s black ghetto were
owned by aging Jews. Then, following the

1965 Watts Riots,
the Jews mostly sold out to black
businessmen. When liquor prices were deregulated in the
late 1970s, reducing profit margins, the blacks sold out
to the harder-working Koreans. The efficient but brusque
and disdainful Koreans came to be hated by their black
customers, especially after a Korean lady shot a

teenage black girl
in the back of the head in 1991.
Thus, the

1992 South Central riots
were in sizable part a
drunken black

pogrom
against Korean merchants.

Since the riots, community activists have succeeded in

diminishing
the number of

liquor stores
in

South Central
.

Nonetheless, even for food and dry goods, Young is right that
African-Americans would have perfectly rational reasons
for preferring a Wal-Mart in their neighborhood to
"vibrant"
immigrant-run corner shops.

Wal-Mart provides a much wider selection at much lower prices. As Matt
Fellowes of the

Brookings Institute
has noted in an op-ed entitled


The High Price of Being Poor
[Los Angeles
Times
, July 23, 2006], in black and Hispanic

Compton
, California,

"Instead of
large, modern grocery stores, there are more than 200
tiny bodegas, which generally charge higher prices."

So it`s a good thing that major retail chains have been expanding to

black neighborhoods
in recent years as the crime
rate has come down.

Another reason: local blacks have a much better chance to rise up the
employment ladder at Wal-Mart than in a Korean or
Lebanese-owned shop.

Immigrant shopkeepers
provide few jobs to local
blacks because they prefer to hire co-ethnics,
especially for management positions.

Why? I can think of five factors:

1. Our
absurd

“family reunification”
immigration policy
provides them with lots of relatives who need jobs
(including, for example, new spouses

imported from the Old Country
, i.e. families that
were never “united” in the first place).

2. Immigrant businesses operate more smoothly when the
employees all speak the same language as the
owner/manager.

3. Most
immigrants come from what Francis Fukuyama calls

"low-trust"
cultures like Latin America, the
Philippines, China, and the Middle East. In those
countries, you can`t count upon the legal system for
justice, so you must depend on your relatives. They
bring this clannish mindset with them.

(Thus my wife once was a waitress at a

Golden Nugget
restaurant in Chicago. This small
chain was beating Denny`s in the local market, so
outside investors went to the Greek family that owned it
and offered to fund their regional expansion. But the
clan turned this opportunity down—because they didn`t
have enough cousins to manage new restaurants…and
promoting non-Greeks to important jobs was just
unthinkable

4. They often come
from patriarchal cultures where the oldest male is
expected to force younger relatives to do his bidding
through threats of ostracism. This management tool
doesn`t work terribly well upon native-born employees. 

5. Immigrant
entrepreneurs are not infected by political correctness.
They feel no guilt over holding caustic stereotypes of
Americans, especially African-Americans. However
unfairly, they tend to see blacks as shiftless, ignorant
pilferers, and thus won`t give black job applicants the
time of day. In contrast, infinitely more visible
Wal-Mart is under constant government pressure to "celebrate
diversity
"
in hiring and promotion (i.e.,

impose racial quotas
on itself).

My personal feelings about Wal-Mart are mixed. I used to fly down to
Wal-Mart`s corporate headquarters in Bentonville,
Arkansas on sales missions. Despite the geniality of
Wal-Mart`s store employees, its corporate staffers were
the coldest, most ruthless sons-of-guns I ever did
business with.

The normal geniality of American business life comes at the cost of a
certain level of corruption—you take your clients`
decision makers out to

fancy restaurants
,

golf courses
, and

NFL games
in the hopes of

developing a relationship
that will cloud their
judgment of what they owe their stockholders. But
Wal-Mart utterly banned attempts to make friends with
their headquarters employees. All meetings between
visiting salesmen and Wal-Mart staff took place in
windowless cells that wouldn`t look out of place in Abu
Ghraib. Their negotiating techniques stopped just short
of

waterboarding
.

Since you couldn`t take Wal-Mart staff out to lunch, there were no
expense account restaurants in Bentonville. Every
lunchtime, the Ponderosa across the street from
Wal-Mart`s headquarters was full of lone men in
thousand-dollar suits, ace salesmen all, big wheels who
routinely took clients to lunch at

The Four Seasons
and

Charlie Trotter`s
, each morosely munching his $4.95

chicken-fried steak
after a horrible morning of
being battered into offering Wal-Mart absurdly low
prices, each wondering

where
in this godforsaken dry county could he get
the drink he desperately needed.

I couldn`t stand the Wal-Mart people. But I also respected them.


Fred Reed
has argued that Wal-Mart is bad for the
once independent souls of

small town Americans
. It ruins both their sense of
community, by wrecking their traditional shopping
districts, and their individual orneriness, by driving

local independent merchants
out of business and
turning them into low-level managers,

dependent on their corporate bosses.

This may well be. But for inner city blacks, it`s irrelevant. They
don`t have much of a sense of community or many
independent-minded legitimate businessmen in the first
place.

A job at Wal-Mart provides them with some of the same valuable things
the

U.S. Army offers blacks
: jobs, order, and structure.

That the advancement of African-Americans, who are our

fellow citizens,
would diminish

immigrants` profits
is just one of those
uncomfortable truths that you aren`t supposed to
mention—even if you are a civil rights icon.

It`s not a comedy—and it means bad public policy.


[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and


movie critic
for


The American Conservative
.
His website


www.iSteve.blogspot.com
features his daily
blog.]