Via Andrew Sullivan, Razib at Gene Expression has posted this speech which Obama gave in 1994. Its not that long so I’m posting the whole thing after the jump because it sums up my views on this. I will say though that I think Obama is being unfair when he accuses Charles Murray of racism.
I think that Murray is one of those rare thinkers who put forward these opinions because he was genuinely searching for the truth. For instance Obama argues against welfare reform which Murray also propagated, but which according to a lot of serious people has played a big role in getting black people in the inner cities out of poverty. The fact it hasn’t been accompanied with health care reform is another matter.
Also in Murray’s favour is the fact that he was one of the few right-wing thinkers/pundits who saw the brilliance# in Obama’s post Rev. Wright speech on Race.
My review of John McWhorter’s book, ‘Losing the Race’ is also relevant. Anyways, the speech is after the jump.
October 28, 1994
SHOW: All Things Considered (NPR 4:30 pm ET)
Charles Murray’s Political Expediency Denounced
BYLINE: BARACK OBAMA
SECTION: News; Domestic
LENGTH: 635 words
HIGHLIGHT: Commentator Barack Obama finds that Charles Murray, author of the controversial “The Bell Curve,” demonstrates not scientific expertise but spurious political motivation in his conclusions about race and IQ.
BARACK OBAMA, Commentator: Charles Murray is inviting American down a dangerous path.
NOAH ADAMS, Host: Civil rights lawyer, Barack Obama.
Mr. OBAMA: The idea that inferior genes account for the problems of the poor in general, and blacks in particular, isn’t new, of course. Racial supremacists have been using IQ tests to support their theories since the turn of the century. The arguments against such dubious science aren’t new either. Scientists have repeatedly told us that genes don’t vary much from one race to another, and psychologists have pointed out the role that language and other cultural barriers can play in depressing minority test scores, and no one disputes that children whose mothers smoke crack when they’re pregnant are going to have developmental problems.
Now, it shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that with early intervention such problems can be prevented. But Mr. Murray isn’t interested in prevention. He’s interested in pushing a very particular policy agenda, specifically, the elimination of affirmative action and welfare programs aimed at the poor. With one finger out to the political wind, Mr. Murray has apparently decided that white America is ready for a return to good old-fashioned racism so long as it’s artfully packaged and can admit for exceptions like Colin Powell. It’s easy to see the basis for Mr. Murray’s calculations. After watching their income stagnate or decline over the past decade, the majority of Americans are in an ugly mood and deeply resent any advantages, realor perceived, that minorities may enjoy.
I happen to think Mr. Murray’s wrong, not just in his estimation of black people, but in his estimation of the broader American public. But I do think Mr. Murray’s right about the growing distance between the races. The violence and despair of the inner city are real. So’s the problem of street crime. The longer we allow these problems to fester, the easier it becomes for white America to see all blacks as menacing and for black America to see all whites as racist. To close that gap, we’re going to have to do more than denounce Mr. Murray’s book. We’re going to have to take concrete and deliberate action. For blacks, that means taking greater responsibility for the state of our own communities. Too many of us use white racism as an excuse for self-defeating behavior. Too many of our young people think education is a white thing and that the values of hard work and discipline andself-respect are somehow outdated.
That being said, it’s time for all of us, and now I’m talking about the larger American community, to acknowledge that we’ve never even come close to providing equal opportunity to the majority of black children. Real opportunity would mean quality prenatal care for all women and well-funded and innovative public schools for all children. Real opportunity would mean a job at a living wage for everyone who was willing to work, jobs that can return some structure and dignity to people’s lives and give inner-city children something more than a basketball rim to shoot for. In the short run, such ladders of opportunity are going to cost more, not less, than either welfare or affirmative action. But, in the long run, our investment should payoff handsomely. That we fail to make this investment is just plain stupid. It’s not the result of an intellectual deficit. It’s theresult of a moral deficit.
ADAMS: Barack Obama is a civil rights lawyer and writer. He lives in Chicago.
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Filed in: Current affairs,Race politics,Science,United States