In the wake of a report showing how No Child Left Behind has failed to close the black-white performance gap, John McWhorter and William Saletan went back and forth over Saletan's notion that racial data should not tabulated in the first place. In the latest salvo, McWhorter makes an important point:
Now, I take it Saletan is still worried that just such people, such as [openly racist blogger] Steve Sailer, are still a force to be feared. Respectfully, however, I am still not sure why.
Think about it: our public discourse is at a point where when Saletan even entertains the data that makes us so uncomfortable he is excoriated endlessly. Where is the space in this discourse for people like Sailer to acquire any kind of meaningful influence? ... What legislation would have Steve Sailer's imprint? What steps can we imagine [where] we would get to a point where black people were routinely herded apart as mental deficients? Or whatever dystopian horror we are supposed to be worried about.
And if you have more imagination than I do, then specify: how would the steps to the scenario you envision initiate from the back-of-the-class mutterings of people like Steve Sailer, given the now deeply-rooted cultural revulsion towards open bigotry in our society?
Yes, it's still "out there"--but not to an extent that can keep a black man out of the White House, despite what I was repeatedly told all last year all the way up to the second Obama won the election. The issue is not "whether," but "how much" it's out there.
I'd much rather see how far we can get with addressing what kind of schools poor kids go to. My money is on poor black kids looking better decade by decade if we do the right things--but that will mean assessing how the kids are doing by race, and publishing the data for all to see including Big Bad Steve.
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