Does It Matter That Blacks Oppose Marriage Equality?

David Masciotra has a piece at Salon about why white working class people are bad and should not be sympathized with. It’s not particularly well-written and drags on forever, but the basic point is that white working class people are racist and so they should not be sympathized with. The payoff paragraph comes near the end:

The demographics and culture of America are steadily becoming more civil, decent and communal for blacks, Latinos and gays, because of the improvements in ethics among younger people, and because of the shaming of bigots. Knowing is a major factor in the continual enhancement and expansion of American freedom. Those who oppose that expansion – anti-gay, anti-black and anti-women weirdoes – are increasingly unwelcome in civil society, and it is the weight of shame that silences the bigots who are obstinate. It is the tool of shame that declaws and neuters them.

The best tactic of defeat for Donald Trump is to shame his supporters, not sympathize with them. If support for Trump, or anyone with such ignorance and hatred at the center of his vision for the United States, invites public embarrassment, supporters will begin to cower. If they cower, they lose.

Liberals push this argument out from time to time, but it’s not consistently applied. If being a “bigot” on some topic should disqualify a group from sympathy on other topics, then liberals should also apparently have little sympathy for Blacks. After all, the great majority of Blacks do not support gay marriage and are thus, in Masciotra’s words, “anti-gay weirdos.”


One of the most interesting elements of the march towards gay marriage was watching liberals navigate this thorny fact, especially in the aftermath of California’s Proposition 8 in 2008, where the initial exit polls showed 70% of Blacks voting against gay marriage. If my memory serves me right, immediately after the Proposition 8 vote, there were some murmurs about how Blacks were impeding gay equality, but mostly liberals were extremely insistent upon saying we shouldn’t go down that road, and even those who did initially express disdain for how Blacks voted quickly walked it back or pivoted towards focusing on other demographic groups like the olds.

Alternatively, when the topic has been brought up, I’ve seen liberals emphasize (as is true) that Black people are not a monolith. Many support gay marriage. Many oppose it. The upshot of this is supposed to be that it’s kind of unfair (as seems true) to paint them all with the anti-gay-marriage brush just because that describes the majority of them. But obviously this same analysis is true of white working class people, many of whom are anti-racist liberals and leftists even if the majority of them are not.

As far as I know, nobody has argued that liberals shouldn’t sympathize with the plight of Blacks more generally just because most of them were and still are against gay marriage (and even acted on that opposition at the ballot box). Yet this is precisely the tact many liberals seem to take when it comes to the plight of working class Whites just because most of them are racist (and of course the idea that self-styled coastal cosmopolitan Whites aren’t racist is a joke, but we can leave that aside here).

So this leaves us with an interesting question. If a group’s bigotry in one area disqualifies them from sympathy on things they are seriously harmed by, then why are poor and working class Whites disqualified from sympathy while Blacks are not? I have my theories, but I am interested in what the “fuck the white working class” contingent has to say on this matter.

In my view, the fact that a group of people have failings in certain areas (even severe failings) doesn’t mean that you should refuse to sympathize with them in areas where they are genuinely oppressed. But if you want to go down that path, as many liberals seem to when it comes to lower class whites, then why would you stop at lower class whites? Why not refuse sympathy for every other group that can be shown to hold certain bad views?

What Makes Police Reform Racial Justice?

The punditry consensus appears to be that proposals aimed at cutting down on police violence definitely fall under the racial justice umbrella but proposals aimed at cutting down on poverty do not. I’ve eagerly consumed these kinds of arguments for the last six months, but I still cannot figure out why anyone thinks they make sense.

Race Neutrality
One argument against categorizing poverty reduction as racial justice is that poverty reduction is a race-neutral policy that merely indirectly helps people of color. It’s not targeted at uplifting people of color even if it happens to have that effect.

The problem with this argument is that it equally applies to police reform stuff. When you look at police reform platforms (such as Campaign Zero), you don’t see any race-specific stuff except possibly platform planks pertaining to altering the racial composition of police officers. Other than that, it’s just a big slate of race-neutral proposals that merely indirectly helps people of color. Body cameras will help all police victims, not just people of color. Demilitarization will help all police victims, not just people of color. And so on.

If race neutrality disqualifies something as racial justice, then both poverty reduction and police reform are disqualified.

Another argument that shows up in this debate concerns disproportionality. The fact that police violence disproportionately affects people of color is held out as evidence that police violence is a racial justice issue. But, of course, under this logic so too is poverty.

According to the Washington Post police shooting database, last year 514 White people were shot by police and 264 Black people were shot by police. Thus, for every Black person shot by police, 1.95 White people were shot by police.

This ratio exactly matches the official poverty figures. In the last year, 19.652 million White people were in poverty and 10.058 million Black people were in poverty. Thus, for every Black person in poverty, 1.95 White people were in poverty.

Of course, the 1.95 ratio is based on raw levels of poverty and police killings. When you adjust for differences in overall population sizes, you find that there are 2.6 Black people killed by police for every White person killed by police. The same is true for poverty: 2.6 Black people for every White person.

However you want to represent it, the underlying point remains the same: the disproportionality is present in both. If disproportionality is enough to make something a racial justice issue, then both poverty and police reform are racial justice issues. If it’s not, then neither are.

Other Stuff
The equivalence between poverty reduction and police reform expands to basically everything I’ve read on the two topics. Is police violence and the criminal justice system racialized? Absolutely. So is poverty. Is there a reluctance to fix glaring criminal injustices because of the racial composition of those involved? Absolutely. So too with poverty. I could go on and on.

The reason I bring this up is not to stir debate about which of the two issues is more important. Rather, it’s because I am completely bemused by the degree to which uplifting the bottom of the economic hierarchy has been shafted as some kind of aloof All Lives Matter thing, without any coherent justification.

The police reform movement thus far has put together race-neutral policies that would help all victims of police violence, which is disproportionately people of color. Likewise, poverty reduction involves race-neutral policies that would help all victims of poverty, which is disproportionately people of color. There is no difference in the basic form of these two policy agendas. Yet one is somehow the true substance of racial justice while the other is cast as almost offensively ignorant of true racial justice.


Race and Class Part 2

In my last post, I broke down five social indicators — poverty, health coverage, employment, incarceration, and life expectancy — by race and class (using educational attainment to stand in for class). The point was to show that, while the disparities across classes are the biggest, there remains significant racial disparities within classes. This suggests race and class both operate in society as drags on well-being.

Multiple commenters have correctly pointed out that the analysis does not make note of the fact that there is a racial disparity in how people are concentrated in each class. A full account of the racial and class effects needs to include that fact as well. I avoided the concentration point in the prior post because this point is normally the one used to suggest that racial disparity is just about class disparity. I wanted to show that racial disparity remains even after you’ve essentially controlled out the racial disparity in who winds up in what class.

Nonetheless, it’s easy enough to present figures that take into account this concentration effect as well. Below, what I do is compare for each indicator:

  1. The overall black:white disparity. This will reflect both 1) the within-class racial disparity and 2) the racial disparity in class concentration.
  2. The black-low:black-high disparity. This is the disparity between black less-than-high-school (low) and black college-educated (high).
  3. The white-low:white-high disparity. Same as (2), but for whites.
  4. The white-low:black-high disparity. This is the disparity between white less-than-high-school and black college-educated.

1. Poverty
Here is poverty broken down this way.

The first bar says that blacks are, overall, 2.3x as likely as whites to be in poverty. The second bar says blacks in the “lower class” are 10.1x as likely as blacks in the “upper class” to be in poverty. The third bar says whites in the “lower class” are 8.7x as likely as whites in the “upper class” to be in poverty. The fourth bar says whites in the “lower class” are 6.3x as likely as blacks in the “upper class” to be in poverty.

Where the two bars in the middle are higher than the bar on the left, as in this case, that suggests the class effects are bigger than the combined effects of 1) racial disparity within classes and 2) racial disparity in the who winds up in each class. The bar on the right is just kind of interesting to consider.

2. Health Insurance
Here are the same figures for health insurance.

3. Employment
Here are the same figures for employment. Because a higher employment rate is the better outcome in this indicator (unlike the above rates), I have done 1/ratio in order to make the bars visually comparable with the above.

4. Incarceration
Same figures but for incarceration.

So, as you can see, bringing in descriptive stats that reflect the class concentration disparity between races just confirms the basic story in the prior post. In all cases, the within-race class disparity dwarfs the overall racial disparity. Nonetheless, for the reasons explained in the prior post, it would be wrong to say, as some do, that class is the only thing going on here. It does not explain within-class racial disparity and does not explain racial disparity in class concentration, both of which are very significant disparities.

Class and Race

There was a time a great while ago where leftists struggled over the question of whether race or class is the motive force of oppression and suffering in society. These days, with the intervention of intersectionality and considerable progress in sociology, this question has largely been answered by discarding its faulty premise. It needn’t be the case that only one is the force of oppression and, in fact, what you find empirically is that race and class operate separately and together to immiserate large swaths of people in society.

To see this, consider the following social indicators broken down by race and educational attainment, the latter being a common way to identify socioeconomic status or class.

1. Poverty

Using the 2013 ASEC, I produced the following poverty figures.

2. Health Insurance

Using the 2013 ASEC, I produced the following figures for the percentage of people lacking health insurance.

3. Employment

Using the January 2014 through December 2014 CPS files, I produced the following figures for the average percentage of people who were employed that year in a given month.

4. Incarceration

From an analysis of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth discussed in Western & Pettit (2010), here are figures for the incarceration risk of young men.

5. Life Expectancy

From the Appendix of Olshansky (2013), here are figures for the life expectancy of men.

Here are the same figures for the life expectancy of women.


These indicators, and others not featured here, all follow the same basic pattern. Socioeconomic status or “class” (as proxied here with educational attainment) exerts the largest force in determining whether one will be hit with poverty, joblessness, lack of health insurance, incarceration, and a premature death. But, at the same time, class does not explain everything, as very significant racial disparities exist even within socioeconomic groups.

Actually, Breaking Windows Is Good

I wrote a piece in Gawker titled “Actually, Riots are Good: The Economic Case for Riots in Ferguson.” The piece is serious in many ways, but also trollish in a way that is obvious to a certain internet circle, but not others. What has surprised me is how underwhelming the criticisms of the piece has been.

Broken Windows
Outside of the usual one-line criticism about it being “dumb” or “absurd,” the main substantive criticism has been that the piece commits the Broken Window Fallacy (BWF). I have received no fewer than 100 tweets to that effect. It occurs to me now that the Broken Window Fallacy is one of those things dumb people who are sort of smart but not really gravitate towards.

Interestingly, the BWF is not actually a fallacy. Breaking windows can increase production and employment levels when there is excess capacity in the economy due to cyclical events. The little Bastiat fable of the BWF elides this fact because it has assumed in the background an economy operating at capacity. Now maybe you believe the economy will always operate at capacity because of some version of Say’s Law, but in that case the BWF should really be renamed the Fallacy of Believing Recessions Can Happen.

You can see how BWF is such a sweet spot for the sort of smart but not really bunch. Those smart enough to understand that people employed fixing windows can be employed somewhere else, but not smart enough to conceptualize how things change in an economy operating with slack are squarely in the zone of people who think the BWF is deeply profound.

More interestingly, my piece has nothing to do with the BWF. Literally nothing. The economic argument in the piece is not premised upon how many jobs will be created cleaning up and repairing Ferguson AutoZones. It is premised upon the deterrent effect the riots might have on other wealth destruction, namely the wealth destruction of killing human beings. I completely avoid all Broken Windows reasoning, but the half-wits who find that non-fallacy profound were unable to detect that. This is, I guess, to be expected if you buy into my theory that the BWF is natural home of the sort-of-smart-but-not-really crowd.

Crony Capitalism Isn’t Real
The other substantive argument I’ve frequently seen is well presented in this Robby Soave post at Reason.

The piece is desperate right from the start because it’s titled “LOL, Gawker Claims Ferguson Riots Good for Society, Economy, Something” as if I haven’t made a clear argument. This kind of title would make sense if I had made a kind of vague, emotive gesture about why the riots are good. But in fact, my argument for why they are good is brutally clear. I add up the dollar cost of Ferguson damage and the dollar cost of lives, incarceration, and oppression the riots might deter in the future, and then speculate that the latter is greater than the former. It’s as clear as a spreadsheet and has nothing to do with “society” or “something.” It’s literally just adding up figures.

Anyways, the piece believes it found the flaw in my argument:

So what’s the big problem with his argument? For starters, it assumes that riots “impose costs on state authorities.” But the police aren’t the ones getting their shit destroyed; innocent, random store owners are. So that cost is imposed in an extremely indirect manner, if at all.

This argument, which is not just coming from this guy, says that the riots will not deter police across the country because the costs of the riots are not felt by the police. But I deal with this directly in my Gawker piece:

Since state authorities are always and everywhere most concerned about capital and business interests, threatening to impose costs on them via rioting should have a similar impact on police incentives.

The point here is actually the same one that Reason makes when it says we have “crony capitalism.” Under “crony capitalism” (more commonly referred to as “capitalism”), the state acts as an agent for business interests. The state does not directly feel the costs of business, but since business is the state’s principal, the state does its bidding, which includes helping businesses avoid costs. You can believe crony capitalism exists or doesn’t exist (or, in the case of Reason, believe it exists when it flatters your politics and disbelieve it exists when it doesn’t), but my argument clearly has accounted for this apparent “problem.”

As I said at the top, I have been surprised by how weak these responses have been. I could make much better arguments against me than I have seen anyone else make yet.