Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Racist Who Wants To Be Vice President!

The Racist Who Wants To Be Vice President!

An editorial from the October 25, 2007 Washington Post discusses Joe Biden's theories of race and education:
Biden also stumbled through a discourse on race and education, leaving the impression that he believes one reason that so many District of Columbia schools fail is the city's high minority population. His campaign quickly issued a statement saying he meant to indicate that the disadvantages were based on economic status, not race.
After a lengthy critique of Bush administration education policies, Biden attempted to explain why some schools perform better than others -- in Iowa, for instance, compared with the District. "There's less than 1 percent of the population of Iowa that is African American. There is probably less than 4 or 5 percent that are minorities. What is in Washington? So look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you're dealing with," Biden said. He went on to discuss the importance of parental involvement in reading to children and how "half this education gap exists before the kid steps foot in the classroom."
The Biden campaign moved quickly to clarify the senator's remarks in a statement: "This was not a race-based distinction, but a discussion of the problems kids face who don't have the same socio-economic support system (and all that implies -- nutrition, pre K, etc.) entering grade school and the impact of those disadvantages on outcomes."
Huh? He didn't say that the problem of Washington's school was because the kids were poor, but because they were black.

Now, it is sometimes difficult to tease out whether the problems of ghetto blacks are tied to race, or tied to poverty. There are desperately poor whites in America as well, and they have serious problems too. Sometimes, it is difficult for social scientists to gather data that lets them compare equivalent populations. Where do you find large groups of poor whites living in crowding, substandard housing in an urban area? You get the problem that social scientists call collinearity, which makes it difficult to figure out whether the characteristics of a group are because of race, because of poverty, or perhaps some other factor.

As an example: blacks are very disproportionately violent criminals (usually against other blacks). But because blacks are, on average, much younger than whites, and violent crime is strongly correlated with youth, you may be seeing a consequence of there being a disproportionate percentage of blacks in the peak violent crime years. You may be seeing the consequences of limited job opportunities, or of racism. I've long suspected that lead paint exposure may be a factor as well, since lead poisoning increases aggression and causes retardation, and blacks are disproportionately in older urban centers where there is still a lot of lead paint. There is probably some connection to the absence of fathers; black families have been shattered far more than white families, and again, it is difficult to tease out the exact causes.

Unless the evidence is very clear that race really is the determining factor (for example, sickle cell anemia), it is highly questionable, and incredibly bad politics, to assume that race determines this. Biden isn't too bright, I'm guessing.

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