From time to time, someone who blogs at The Atlantic named Conor Friedersdorf, self-identified as a Venice Beach writer, critiques columns that I write. His commentary is usually illogical and sometimes puerile — and his latest post about my prior essay on the fallout from the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case is unfortunately no exception.
But before offering a reply to Friedersdorf, I might offer some advice. The way to reach our goals of racial parity is not to downplay black urban male youths’ statistical underperformance in terms of test scores and GPA records, or statistical overrepresentation in criminal activity, but to reverse the equation — statistical overrepresentation in matters of academic excellence and underrepresentation in matters criminal. As someone who taught Classical languages for over two decades to mostly minority youths, both goals are achievable. In that regard, I would advise Conor Friedersdorf that he might be more successful in achieving racial parity by spending more time tutoring in Huron or Sanger and less offering the now-tired liberal hysterics from the Santa Monica–area beaches.
Friedersdorf is obsessed over the idea of a “glaring contradiction” — indeed “an exception!” — between my past (“last year”) skepticism over affirmative action, and one’s practical awareness that young black urban males who approach one in a city are statistically far more likely to commit violent crimes than those outside their age, gender, racial, and geographical categories (e.g., other racial groups or females, older blacks, rural blacks, etc.). For these observations I am supposedly a hypocrite or worse.
Of course, there is no such contradiction, despite Friedersdorf’s accusation that “colorblindness is his sacred ideal, group statistics be damned.”
On the contrary, he somehow fails to see that it is precisely affirmative action that is emblematic of “statistics be damned”: Grade-point averages and test scores are often nullified by considerations of race — on logic that is so poorly articulated and incoherent that it is rarely published or transparent (e.g., Which particular group is entitled to how much preference? How can we assess racial lineage in an increasingly multiracial society? Does class or race better illustrate diversity or privilege and advantage? How are we to weigh competing historical claims from various groups on the need for compensation? Etc.).
Most Americans (cf. a younger Jesse Jackson’s infamous assessment) assume that a particular profile can be connected to an increased likelihood of criminality — without automatically assuming that all who might fit that profile are statistically likely to commit a crime, or that one need necessarily to do anything about those statistics other than to be mentally aware of the troublesome percentages.
Does Friedersdorf understand that basic concept?
Students compete for slots on the basis of their records — in other words, those statistics calibrating how they performed both in class and on tests. To ignore numbers consistently would be to assume other factors should outweigh (rather than be a consideration in) students’ recorded achievement in college admissions, and to assume that a group of young urban black males approaching you is no more likely to commit a crime than, say, are four elderly Asian women or three African-American seven-year-olds.