Obama Hits the Third Rail

Well, he couldn’t leave well enough alone.  He has definitely started high-stepping on the 30 yard line:

“I personally would want to see our tragic history, or the tragic elements of our history, acknowledged,” the Democratic presidential hopeful said.

“I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it’s Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds.”

This video should be seen.  And I hope that the GOP plays that video over.  And over.  And over again.  The “post-racial” candidate just hit the racial third rail.  Obama just gave the GOP everything they need to put him in the same basket as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

Would you like to create a bunch of white racists?  Start cutting people checks simply for being black.  Most people don’t support racial preferences and believe that racism has less to do with the problems in the black community than the black community itself.  Right now, AA isn’t really much of an issue.  It irks people in principle, but it doesn’t really effect most white people.  Even the suggestion of a direct payout (even when Obama refused to go that far when questioned) will cause massive pushback.

“Dealing with some of the legacy of discrimination is going to cost billions of dollars…”

And that gives the GOP a price tag to put in the commercial.  Play those two clips, and you can fit the whole thing in a 30 second spot.

There is a giant blind spot that I see over and over when talking to black people about racial issues.  (Obama, by the way, doesn’t seem to have this blind spot, but still occasionally says foolish things like the above.)  Black people often seem to lose sight of the basic truth that nothing is going to happen on the issue without the cooperation of white people. White people are going to have to agree to go along with any sort of solution that relies on anything but the black community itself.

White people really do want to end the consternation — but only at a certain price, economically and socially.  No plan that pushes beyond those fuzzy limits is going to work.  When it came to ending Jim Crow, the equation was:

the social cost of having to “be around” black people


the guilt of having to actually see black people abused on TV

It worked because before the civil rights demonstrations, the injustice being done to black people out of sight, and out of mind.  When they were forced to look at it, then the cost of “having coloreds around” didn’t seem quite so high.  (In fact, reality eventually showed them that it isn’t a cost at all, but that takes time.)

Affirmative action happened because the equation shifted to:

guilt over the past injustice of Jm Crow


the risk of possibly under qualified black people in a small number of positions + the risk of having to come back with more later

Again, the cost was low, and the gain was high.  White people stopped feeling so bad about Jim Crow (and I don’t think that black people properly valued that part of the equation.)

Now, the equation for something like reparations is:

the straight economic loss + the social cost of admitting AA as a failure + the social cost of an implicit admission of lingering racism


guilt over the past injustice done to black people – the guilt that was assuaged by the civil rights movement – the guilt that was assuaged by AA

That equation is pretty lopsided in the minds of most white people.  It’s a non-starter, and a pipe-dream to anyone who wastes any time even thinking about it.  In fact, many white people (myself included) see it as more of a shakedown move than any sort of real reimbursement for damage.  People don’t like being hustled.  This looks like a hustle.

And the really sad part?  It won’t help.  It would probably do more damage than good.  Windfalls generally don’t help people.  There is a lot of knowledge and training that goes into handling big amounts of money.  Ask the people who got home equity loans and are now upside down because of that sudden influx of cash.  Ask the lottery winners that end up on welfare 10 years down the road.  You acquire the skills you need to manage wealth as you accumulate the wealth.  Get it too fast, and you end up with the wealth and not the skills you need to keep it.   And the same skills you need to manage wealth are the ones you use to legitimately earn it.  If you have the skills, you will end up with the wealth.  If you don’t have the skills to get the wealth, you wouldn’t be able to keep it anyways.

If we really want to help the black community, we can teach them the skills they need to both acquire and keep wealth.  Unfortunately, all the programs we have in place right now do the exact opposite.

(Hat tip: Q&O)

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