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Friday, April 2, 2010

White Like Us: The National Review's Black Unemployment Confab

By Sikivu Hutchinson

Not content to be the mouthpiece of the Bell Curve ethos--the insidious 1994 screed which advanced a racist deterministic view of black “underachievement”--conservative icon the National Review hosted an online conference on black unemployment with an all white panel of subject matter “experts” pontificating on the possible causes and implications of the staggeringly high black jobless rate. The National Review session continued the tradition of scholarly imperialism in which white conservatives with academic and think tank backing “explain” the cultural deviance of black folk. Dubbed “Really a Racial Recession?” participants in the white stuff confab concluded that systemic and institutional factors such as racial discrimination were ultimately not to blame for disproportionate black joblessness. Rather, as panelist Stephen Thernstrom boldly pointed out, African Americans just lack sufficient entrepreneurial drive and ingenuity—a cultural deficit that exacerbates the collateral impact of lingering racial discrimination in hiring and promotion. At over 15% black unemployment numbers are simply too high to have anything to do with preferential treatment for white workers by employers confronted with comparably matched white and black job applicants. Or a public education system that is now so deeply and intractably re-segregated that the achievement gap has become the fount of the class divide between blacks and whites. Yet the National Review’s take on black unemployment as aberrant object of investigation not only disdains the very idea of a black work ethic, but represents another example of how the white anthropological gaze influences public policy.

The narrative of the lazy Negro has had a long and illustrious career, from plantation era propaganda about lazy darkies to the gangsta cum minstrel movies of the 1990s.

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