Observations about two recent opinion pieces addressing blacks in America

baltimore-riotYou’ve all heard, of course, about the professor who calls reason itself a white male construct:

A philosophy and religion professor at Syracuse University gave an interview to The New York Times Thursday in which he critiqued the notion of pure reason as simply being a “white male Euro-Christian construction.”

Prof. John Caputo was being interviewed by fellow philosophy professor George Yancy for the 13th installment of an interview series Yancy conducts with philosophers regarding racial topics.

Given its emphasis on first principles and abstract thought, it may be tempting to view academic philosophy as a turf where the race of participants matters little, but Caputo says that’s entirely untrue. In fact, race is of central importance, and it’s proven by the mundane phrases philosophers use.

“‘White’ is of the utmost relevance to philosophy, and postmodern theory helps us to see why,” Caputo says in the interview. “I was once criticized for using the expression ‘true north.’It reflected my Nordo-centrism, my critic said, and my insensitivity to people who live in the Southern Hemisphere. Of course, no such thing had ever crossed my mind, but that points to the problem. We tend to say ‘we’ and to assume who ‘we’ are, which once simply meant ‘we white male Euro-Christians.’

Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water — reason is what differentiates us from stone age people and blessed us with the longest, healthiest, most productive lives in the history of the world.  But because it’s from white males, it’s bad.

Even Caputo must realize how stupid his idea is.  My strong suspicion is that his utterly fatuous and stupid statement is a front to hide a different reality, one that he can’t reason away: His take is also a pathetic attempt to hide something he dare not acknowledge, which is the shameful fact that sixty years of racial pandering have resulted in blacks incapable of performing at white standards, not because they are in any way inferior to other races, but because they have been trained down to stupidity. Orwell, of course, provided a primer on how to do this.

Since the Left cannot admit that its own policies are what account for blacks’ under-performance in areas calling for traditional reasoning skills, it’s only recourse is to attack The Enlightenment standards by which we once measured our culture as “racist.” It’s all come full circle, hasn’t it?

My second point is about an opinion piece in The New York Times, about an experiment in Richmond, California, an incredibly dangerous city about 20 minutes away from my peaceful little corner of Marin. The author describes a very interesting initiative Richmond has undertaken to control the violence on its streets:

IN 2007, this city of about 100,000 people, north of Berkeley, had the dubious distinction of being the ninth most dangerous in America. That year saw a total of 47 homicides. In some neighborhoods, gunfire was almost a daily event.

At one point, the City Council considered asking the governor to declare a state of emergency and send in the National Guard. Instead, in 2007, the city created the Office of Neighborhood Safety. (I am the founding director.) Our mission was simple: to tackle this epidemic of gun violence that was killing so many young men, mostly in our minority communities.


A police liaison officer told us this startling fact: An estimated 70 percent of shootings and homicides in Richmond in 2009 were caused by just 17 individuals, primarily African-American and Hispanic-American men between the ages of 16 and 25.

We employed street-savvy staff members, whom we called neighborhood change agents. Think of their work as a kinder version of stop-and-frisk, more like stop-and-blend with the profile subjects, to build healthy, consistent relationships with those most likely to shoot or be a victim of gunfire.

Once we’d identified the city’s potentially most lethal young men, we invited them to a meeting (the first was in 2010). Then came the big innovation of the Operation Peacemaker fellowship program. We offered those young men a partnership deal: We would pay them — yes, pay them — not to pull the trigger.

The deal we offered was this: If they kept their commitment to us for six months — attended meetings, stayed out of trouble, responded to our mentoring — they became eligible to earn up to $1,000 a month for a maximum of nine months.


The idea of a cash incentive to change behavior is not hard to grasp. The social context for our prospective fellows was a laundry list of deprivation and dysfunction: high unemployment, fragmented families, inadequate education and a heavy dose of substance abuse. The proportion of families living below the poverty level in the neighborhoods where we focused our efforts was 25 percent — nearly double the average rate in Richmond.

In most other cities, the law enforcement response to high rates of firearm assaults is stuck in a destructive cycle of police sweeps and mass incarceration. That strategy costs taxpayers a great deal, for little return. In many municipalities where gun violence is significant, the city’s public safety expenditure can be a considerable burden on the overall city budget. That is not sustainable.


In contrast, the costs of our program were modest. In practice, we have rarely needed to pay the full amount offered under the terms of our deal: Just over half our fellowship participants receive payments, usually in the $300 to $700 range. So if our program prevented gun deaths, there could be little argument about cost-effectiveness.

It did. In the first year of Operation Peacemaker, homicides in Richmond fell to 22 (from 45 in 2009). In five years of our program, through 2014, we have seen the number of homicides in Richmond, which had averaged 40 a year, more than halved; firearm assaults in general fell by a similar proportion.

In 2014, we celebrated the lowest number of firearm assaults and homicides in more than four decades. Richmond recorded a 76 percent reduction in homicides and a 69 percent reduction in firearm assaults from 2007, when the Office of Neighborhood Safety was created.

In reality, we’ve achieved these results not simply by the cash incentive. Our change agents work with about 150 clients a year, at a cost of about $20,000 per person, which pays for daily mentoring, coaching and companionship. By comparison, it costs our city about $200,000 to hire one new police officer.

Not all of our fellows become model citizens overnight, but the results go beyond fewer shootings. More are in school or in jobs; there is more parenting, less drug use. And some have gone on to participate in other programs that are improving their prospects and our neighborhoods. I hope more cities will copy Richmond’s program. Encouragingly, the city of Oakland is incorporating some elements of our fellowship in its Operation Ceasefire work.

This is a very different program from the gun buybacks, which reward criminals with cash and give them an incentive to buy more guns cheap and then sell them to stupid governments for a profit. Instead, this program recognizes that inner city youth are rational human beings (even if they’re not white males), and that they can respond to incentives to change their behavior.

This program strikes me as a smart idea and one worth experimenting with in other communities. Incidentally, I would try to keep the government as far away as possible from the actual mechanics of such a program. It will only destroy it.