Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Blacks Prefer Police To Social Workers

A recent poll revealed that 81% of Blacks wanted the same level or more police protection; only 19% wanted less.

This is not surprising.  In 1971, The Department of Housing and Urban Development solicited proposals from Local (Public) Housing Authorities (LHAs) for grants to improve their housing management systems and cut costs.  This was part of HUD’s Management Improvement Program (MIP).

The MIP added special funding to the normal operating budget of the LHA.  But a condition of the grant was that the management changes were to be planned and implemented with the participation of public housing residents.

Thirteen large LHAs (1,250 or more units under management) were selected from the 72 applicants.  One was the Wilmington Housing Authority (WHA) in Delaware, which had nearly 2,000 tenant families and elderly residents.

TransCentury Corporation, founded by the deputy director of the Peace Corps Warren W. Wiggins, was selected to assist with the design of the program and evaluate its success or failure.  I was retained as a consultant.

In early 1973, we set out to interview the nearly 2,000 largely Black residents about their problems, not to find out if they had problems.  Our task was to identify and count them in pursuit of a well-designed information and referral program.  To our surprise the tenants would not own up to all the problems they were supposed to have based on prior research of the “crisis” literature in public housing.

We had anticipation that tenants would cite problems with obtaining much needed social services such as day care, urgent need for food, jobs, and money, that they felt trapped in public housing, and that they were contemptuous of the WHA’s management.  Because one study team member had interviewed in Watts, we rather incidentally also asked about crime and the police.

Only a handful of the nearly 2,000 residents we interviewed cited difficulties with obtaining social services.  Moreover, most liked their housing.  Most rated the management in positive terms.  But they wanted police protection.  More than anything else, they wanted security for themselves and their possessions.

In response, the WHA set up a housing security force, hiring off-duty Wilmington police, largely White, to provide after-hours security for the tenants.  When a panel of the same residents was interviewed a year after the initial set of baseline interviews, it testified overwhelmingly in favor of the new security force.  Though it had been in operation only a few months, a majority of respondents knew of the force and wanted it continued or expanded.

Because the survey showed that almost nobody had problems obtaining needed social services, the management reduced by three-quarters the resident social services staff during the same period.  Tenants reported that satisfaction with social services actually increased during the project period.

Interviews were conducted with a sample of tenants in each of the three succeeding years.  Tenants continued to speak highly of the benefits of management decisions designed on the basis of tenant preferences.

Tenants were disappointed that the security force was disbanded after the money for the MIP was exhausted.  As is all too common in government programs, policies change with changes in administrations and political objectives.  It was back to business as usual with social welfare workers, not police, despite the reduction in crime and drug dealing in the community.

The study is reported in detail in my coauthored (with William G. Weissert) book, Caseworkers or Police (free download).

Please take some time to look at the data in this book, rather than draw inferences of Black preferences from observing urban street riots.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Teaching Race And Ethnic Relations: 1975 vs. 2020

On August 17, 2020, California’s Governor Newsom signed into law a requirement that every student enrolled in any of the 23 California State University Campuses take a course on ethnic studies as a graduation requirement. Options include courses on Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latina and Latino Americans.

All major universities have Centers for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations. They have become umbrellas for departments and centers on African and African-American Studies, Latin American Studies, Asian Studies, Jewish Studies, Russian Studies, South Asian Studies, Middle East and North African Studies, and so forth.

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policy that prevails in every American university has placed more emphasis on research and teaching race and ethnic relations in America.

I began studying race and ethnic relations partly by accident. I switched from Engineering to Asian Studies after my junior year (1961) at Washington University. I crammed in two years of Chinese language study in summer (1961) and the following academic year (1961/62). Then I spent two years at the East West Center on the campus of the University of Hawaii, of which one was in Hong Kong studying Chinese.

When the time came to fix a dissertation topic, I looked for a country where I could put my Chinese to use. The Federation of Malaya (peninsular Malaya excluding Sarawak, Sabah, and Singapore), which gained independence from Britain on August 31, 1957, was an ideal choice with populations of Chinese, Malays, and Indians.  I proposed to study the political, economic, and social “integration” of the three disparate communities in a newly-independent country.

I subsequently revised my dissertation, publishing it under the title Race and Politics in Urban Malaya (free download). This led me to pursue comparative ethnic/racial studies. I subsequently traveled to Singapore, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), Cyprus, Belgium, Gibraltar, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic and Slovakia), Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia (Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia), Trinidad and Tobago, and South Africa. I read widely on Sudan, Nigeria, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Zanzibar, Mauritius, Lebanon, and Guyana. I coauthored (with Kenneth A. Shepsle), Politics in Plural Societies: A Theory of Democratic Instability (second edition, 2009, free download).

I taught a course on Comparative Ethnic Politics at the University of Rochester in the 1974/75 and 1975/76 academic years. The timing was ideal. The scholarly literature had substantially increased during the 1960s and early 1970s with the granting of independence by Britain, France, and Belgium to many multi-ethnic countries in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Living in and traveling to these countries adds depth, insight, and understanding to history, stories, and folklore in books and articles.

As an outside scholar, I found that members of different ethnic/racial groups were willing to share with me their perceptions of rival communities. Most comments consisted of negative stereotypes, explicit prejudice, and harsh jokes (e.g., characterizing rival groups as ignorant, illiterate, lazy, filthy, greedy, selfish, ruthless, crude, ill-mannered, hostile, untrustworthy, and having undesirable animal-like traits).

In the mid-1970s, a teacher could use those critical ethnic remarks as a pedagogical tool, in class anthropology, to illustrate the depths of hostility and anger rival groups felt toward each other. This information enabled students to understand why civil wars and violence broke out among rival ethnic and racial groups after the lid of colonial governance was removed. The first generation of post-independence leaders urged members of all ethnic/racial groups to practice harmony, respect, and civility towards each other to sustain democracy. What is today termed “identity politics” transformed multi-ethnic political parties into exclusive ethnic/racial political groups, destabilizing the multi-ethnic political coalitions.

Today’s identity politics preclude even the slightest effort to add folklore depth to current research and teaching. The consequences are that students, professors, and policy makers, especially those interested in international relations and foreign policy, are woefully uninformed. They have been trained to mistakenly advance the American doctrine of Diversity and Inclusion in countries that tried and emphatically rejected it (e.g., Libya, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan).

The destruction of an academic career in 2020 only takes a single student to complain that an instructor disparaged a member of an ethnic or racial group, or assigned reading that does so, thereby creating a hostile educational environment. The instructor will, at a minimum, receive a severe warning from the Dean or Provost, be possibly suspended from teaching while under investigation, or even dismissed from employment. Academic freedom is no match for Madame Defarge.