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Two Wands—Race, "Racism" And Culture In America
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October 03, 2006, 05:00 AM
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October 03, 2006

Peter Brimelow writes: Richard D. Lamm, the former Democratic Governor of Colorado, now Co-Director of the University of Denver`s Institute for Public Policy Studies, is one of the most interesting figures in the immigration reform movement. His recent book, Two Wands, One Nation: An Essay on Race And Community in America, is an expanded version of a response that he wrote to an article in a UD school paper The Source by Jesus Trevino, who is something called "Associate Vice Provost of Multicultural Excellence" in UD`s Center for Multicultural Excellence.

Lamm describes Trevino`s article as

"hysterical…finding white America guilty of `prejudice, racism, and systemic racial oppression`…He claims that whites as a group `perpetuate racism in conscious or unconscious ways` and that examples of white racism at work can be found in high poverty rates among American Indians, the lack of minority professors at a university level, large percentages of minorities in janitorial and landscaping positions, and the high school drop-out rates of minorities. He urges more emphasis be place on `systematic racial oppression` of minorities by whites: `This definition moves away from individual behavior and focuses on large-scale patterns of group discrimination.`"

(This definition also, of course, removes from the accuser any obligation to provide proof).

The University of Denver refused to publish Lamm`s response to Trevino on the extraordinary grounds that it was "too controversial". And, all too significantly, Jesus Trevino denied Lamm permission to reprint the original article in Two Wands.

Lamm`s argument is staggeringly moderate by VDARE.COM standards. He focuses exclusively on the cultural disabilities of minorities and explicitly denies the unpleasant possibility that deeper factors may be at work. His experience is further evidence that American universities are becoming bastions of totalitarianism. If it was up to Jesus Trevino (we decline to use the "ñ" he is apparently attempting to impose on the English language) VDARE.COM would be closed and we would all be in the gulag. [send him mail] [Send UD Chancellor Robert Coombe email]

We post here Lamm`s original column.

Let me offer you, metaphorically, two magic wands that have sweeping powers to change society. With one wand you could wipe out all racism and discrimination from the hearts and minds of white America. The other wand you could wave across the ghettoes and barrios of America and infuse the inhabitants with Japanese or Jewish values, respect for learning, and ambition.

But, alas, you can`t wave both wands. Only one.

Which would you choose? I understand that many of us would love to wave both wands; no one can easily refuse a chance to erase racism and discrimination. But I suggest that the best wand for society and for those who live in the ghettoes and barrios would be the second wand.

This metaphor is important in correctly diagnosing one of the most significant problems facing contemporary America: the large economic, educational, and employment gap between black/Hispanic America and white/Asian America.

The problems of crime, educational failure, drugs, gangs, teenage pregnancy, and unemployment that burden certain groups threaten our collective future. They form a nation-threatening social pathology that must be addressed in broader terms than we have done to date.

Most discussion of minority failure blames racism and discrimination. I`m an old civil rights lawyer; and such racism and discrimination clearly still exists.

But the problem, I fear, is deeper than the current dialogue. We need to honestly think about these problems, with a new sophistication. One of these new areas is to recognize that, increasingly, scholars are saying that "culture matters."

I`m impresses, for instance, that minorities that have been discriminated against earn the highest family incomes in America. Japanese Americans, Jews, Chinese Americans, Korean Americans all outearn white America by substantial margins and all have faced discrimination and racism. We put Japanese Americans in camps sixty years ago and confiscated much of their property. Yet today they outearn all other demographic groups.

Discrimination and racism are social cancers that can never be justified, but it is enlightening that, for these groups, they were a hurdle, not a barrier to success.

The Italians, the Irish, the people from the Balkans—America has viewed all these groups and many more with hostility and suspicion, yet all have integrated and succeeded.

Hispanic organizations excuse their failure rates solely in terms of discrimination by white America and object vociferously when former education secretary Lauro Cavazos observes that Hispanic parents "don`t take enough interest in education." But Cuban Americans have come to America and succeeded brilliantly. Do we discriminate against Hispanics from Mexico but not Hispanics from Cuba?

I suggest that those groups whose culture and values stress delayed gratification—education, hard work, success, and ambition—are those groups that succeed in America, regardless of discrimination. I further suggest that, even if discrimination were removed, other groups would still have massive problems until they developed the traits that lead to success. Asian and Jewish children do twice as much homework and get twice as good grades. Why should we be surprised?

A problem well defined is a problem half solved. We must recognize that all the civil rights laws in the world are not going to solve the problem of minority failure. Ultimately, black and Hispanics are going to have to see that their solution is largely in their own hands. Lionel Sosa, one of America`s leading Hispanic businessmen, in his book The Americano Dream, titles his first chapter "Escaping the Cultural Shackles."

Daniel Patrick Moynihan has insightfully observed, "The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself."

Thus, morally, I would want badly to wave both wands; if I had to choose, I would wave the second wand.

A Confucian or Jewish love of learning would gain minorities far more that any affirmative action laws we might pass.