The persistence of slavery

Yesterday in my political parties lecture I was talking about the Civil War, race, and the realignment of political parties. Today, one of my students posted this on FB– I’d like to think I inspired her to research the subject further.  Anyway, the not exactly surprising, but depressing, findings:

Whites who live in areas of the South once dominated by the plantation economy and slavery are much more likely than other Southerners to express colder feelings toward African Americans, to oppose affirmative action, and to vote Republican.

Those are among the findings of a groundbreaking new study titled “The Political Legacy of American Slavery” by a team of political scientists from the University of Rochester in New York. It was based on a county-by-county analysis of census data and opinion polls of more than 39,000 Southern whites.

“Slavery does not explain all forms of current day racism,” saysAvidit Acharya, who conducted the study along with Matthew Blackwell and Maya Sen. “But the data clearly demonstrates that the legacy of the plantation economy and its reliance on the forced labor of African Americans continues to exacerbate racial bias in the Deep South.”

I thought this analysis was particularly interesting:

The study also compared Southern counties with very few slaves in 1860 to non-Southern counties with no slaves in the same period. It found very little difference.

“Thus, in the absence of localized slavery, it appears that the South would have had a distribution of present-day political beliefs indistinguishable from comparable parts of the North,” the authors write. “This provides evidence that the effect that we see comes primarily from the local presence of many slaves, rather than state laws permitting the ownership of slaves.”

Short version: race still matters.  Just keep telling yourself that all the opposition to Obama (especially the Kenyan Muslim) part has nothing to do with race.

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Quote of the day

You might have already seen this, but it really explains a lot:

In a remarkable concession to the Washington Examiner, Representative Martin Stutzman of Indiana said “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

Yep.  And a little context/analysis from Cohn:

Herein lies the real cause of the crisis. Tea Party Republicans think they have a right tosomething—that, because they have the power to stop funding for the government and prevent the Treasury from paying its bills, they can demand major policy concessions. This is a gross violation of governing norms, for reasons Washington Post columnistE.J. Dionne reminds us today. Republicans got away with this once, in the summer of 2011. Democrats can’t let it happen twice. If the Tea Party thinks this is a legitimate strategy for changing policy, they’ll try it again. Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi understand this as well as anybody, which is why they’ve been united in their refusal to negotiate over anything but a “clean” bill to fund the government and won’t even discuss concessions in exchange for a higher debt ceiling…

But in both cases [agreements], I think, the Tea Party would need to accept some degree of either defeat or disarmament. They still don’t seem ready to do that, which makes recent developments not only baffling but also a little scary.

Yep.  That’s why Cohn’s post is titled “Why the Tea Party has to lose.”  That is, if we want our democracy to actually function half effectively.

Photo of the day

From National Geographic’s photo of the day last month.

Picture of cheetahs on the roof of a tourist vehicle in Masai Mara National Reserve

Cheetahs and Tourists, Kenya

Photograph by Yanai Bonneh, Your Shot

When Yanai Bonneh saw a pair of cheetahs jump onto the top of a tourist vehicle, the Your Shot contributor “didn’t think too much, only realized it was an unusual moment, pulled out my camera, and started clicking.” For Bonneh, it was “the opportunity of a lifetime” during a visit to Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. “Later in the evening, I stopped on this photo, and what came out was only a big ‘wow.'”

Word up

Okay, I need a blog break from the relentless political/shutdown blogging.  Here’s a good one.

By now the famous study that middle-class parents speak literally tens of millions more words to their young children than do lower-class parents is so well known, that probably almost everybody reading this has heard about it already.  Still, it’s fascinating.  And important.  Really interesting Slate piece looking at attempts to redress this difference through programs that work with lower class parents:

So Suskind, a half-dozen staff members, and a rotating cast of student research assistants are developing strategies to get parents to engage their children in rich, meaningful conversation from the moment they’re born.

They’ve completed the first trial of their Thirty Million Words Project, in which Suskind’s staff visited the homes of low-income mothers on the South Side and trained them in a parent-talk curriculum they developed. Every week, a young child in a participating family would spend a day wearing a small electronic device in a shirt pocket to record the number of words heard and spoken, plus the number of “turns” in a conversation—the amount of back-and-forth between parent and child. Words heard on television did not count. The full results haven’t been published yet, but individual participants’ data show dramatic increases in parent-child interaction…

The Thirty Million Words trial took a bigger intervention to a low-income population, following 25 mothers through eight weeks of home visits and recordings. In low-income households, parents commonly speak to their children in simple commands, and participant Aneisha Newell said the week on directives was particularly significant to her. “Instead of saying, ‘go put on your shoes,’ I can say, ‘All right, it’s time to go. What else do you need? … That gives my child the chance to respond, and say, ‘shoes,’ ” said Newell, 25, who has a 4-year-old daughter and a 10-month-old son and works for a company providing recess supervision and after-school activities in Chicago Public Schools.

Newell said many of her friends and relatives think she’s crazy for talking to her daughter as if she’s an adult. “I can quote this: ‘Neisha, no one wants to sit and talk to the kids like they understand’ That’s basically the response I get.” During her time being recorded by Thirty Million Words, Newell became competitive with herself. One day, she spoke an average 2,736 words per hour to her daughter, Alona Sharp, compared with a normal rate of 1,023.

Lots of interesting stuff about related research on formerly deaf children with cochlear implants and interesting anecdotes from parents in the program.  Two things…

1) I still want a better answer for why it is lower class parents talk to their kids so much less.  Why is that?  Is this universal across countries and cultures?  Can we break this cultural difference in some large-scale way that does not rely on home interventions.  Sort of a “back to sleep” campaign for talking to your baby/toddler?  (Of course, this coming from a guy who let his strong-necked babies sleep on their stomachs).

2) I have to admit, that although I suspect the Greene kids get lots of words and conversation from their parents, I have been pausing and interacting a little more this week when I’ve been reading books to Sarah.  Her current favorite’s, if you are curious, Clarabella’s Teeth, and David Goes to School (which all the kids except David love listening to).

Constitutional vandals

And Andrew Sullivan:

But there is something more here. How does one party that has lost two presidential elections and a Supreme Court case – as well as two Senate elections  –   think it has the right to shut down the entire government and destroy the full faith and credit of the United States Treasury to get its way on universal healthcare now? I see no quid pro quo even. Just pure blackmail, resting on understandable and predictable public concern whenever a major reform is enacted. But what has to be resisted is any idea that this is government or politics as usual. It is an attack on the governance and the constitutional order of the United States.

When ideologies become as calcified, as cocooned and as extremist as those galvanizing the GOP, the American system of government cannot work. But I fear this nullification of the last two elections is a deliberate attempt to ensure that the American system of government as we have known it cannot work. It cannot, must not work, in the mindset of these radicals, because they simply do not accept the legitimacy of a President and Congress of the opposing party. The GOP does not regard the president as merely wrong – but as illegitimate. Not misguided – illegitimate. This is not about ending Obamacare as such (although that is a preliminary scalp); it is about nullifying this presidency, the way the GOP attempted to nullify the last Democratic presidency by impeachment.

Except this time, of course, we cannot deny that race too is an added factor to the fathomless sense of entitlement felt among the GOP far right. You saw it in birtherism; in the Southern GOP’s constant outrageous claims of Obama’s alleged treason and alliance with Islamist enemies; in providing zero votes for a stimulus that was the only thing that prevented a global depression of far worse proportions; in the endless race-baiting from Fox News and the talk radio right. And in this racially-charged atmosphere, providing access to private healthcare insurance to the working poor is obviously the point of no return…

I regard this development as one of the more insidious and anti-constitutional acts of racist vandalism against the American republic in my adult lifetime. Those who keep talking as if there are two sides to this, when there are not, are as much a part of the vandalism as Ted Cruz. Obama has played punctiliously by the constitutional rules – two elections, one court case – while the GOP has decided that the rules are for dummies and suckers, and throws over the board game as soon as it looks as if it is going to lose by the rules as they have always applied.  [emphasis mine]

The president must therefore hold absolutely firm. This time, there can be no compromise because the GOP isn’t offering any. They’re offering the kind of constitutional surrender that would effectively end any routine operation of the American government. If we cave to their madness, we may unravel our system of government, something one might have thought conservatives would have opposed. Except these people are not conservatives. They’re vandals.

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