An Intelligent Conversation About Race

Rick Tyler has a section on his campaign website called “An Intelligent Conversation About Race” where he has collected his combined one-minute radio ads discussing race issues. He is obviously looking to be accommodating on these views, as shown by his graphic:

(from ricktylerforcongress.com)

(from ricktylerforcongress.com)

I am obviously weird, because, while I am offended by his views on race, I am annoyed by his use of the word “conversation” here. A conversation requires listening. A good conversation requires a possibility that one side can persuade the other that their ideas may be incorrect. Since a radio advertisement is a one-way message, there is no conversation. His views on race are obsolete, so I don’t think we can call his ads “intelligent” either. He should just simplify his title to “About Race” and be done with it.

Having said all this, Tyler is right about one thing: We should have a conversation about race. Avoiding talking about race is to ignore what is still a problem in our society.


Conservative pundit and convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza claimed in his 1995 book The End of Racism that racism “no longer has the power to thwart blacks or any other group in achieving their economic, political, and social aspirations.” (p. 182) He was wrong then, and he’s wrong now.

Since I’m running for Congress, I’m going to look at this from a policy standpoint. What policies should we implement to make sure that people of all ethnicities, religions, and economic backgrounds have access to opportunity.

Education

I have mixed feelings on affirmative action in higher education, because I don’t believe that it is sufficient to solve the problem of minority groups getting a substandard education. Admitting an underprepared student into a cutthroat educational environment is leading lambs to the slaughter. I would like to see an intensive summer or gap year academy-type program where underprivileged students who show potential are trained to thrive in college. Ideally, we would staff this program with instructors who came from similar backgrounds who can pass along their experience and survival skills.

Eventually, though, I would like such a program to become obsolete, because we have fixed the problems of inequality in our primary and secondary education systems. I have written about education before, and I think our system needs systemic change. Our public school system divides students by geography, level of parental involvement, and income level, but each school lumps students together regardless of ability. We cannot continue to drive motivated parents away from public schools by basing their children’s education on luck, and we can’t sacrifice children with less capable parents–usually through no fault of their own–to allow others a better opportunity. It simply isn’t fair.

Politics

There are two things that are keeping minority representation down in politics: Money and gerrymandering. The money problem will have to be solved by overturning Citizens United with legislation–probably an amendment–that takes away unlimited political free speech from corporations.

Republicans have effectively used gerrymandering to solidify their control of the House of Representatives. There is no reason that the district containing Chattanooga should be as solidly Republican as it is.

3rdDistMap

The Third District is in green. Tennessee’s districts are drawn so that Republicans have solid majorities in seven of the nine districts. Only the Fifth (Nashville) and the Ninth (Memphis) are Democratic seats. The last statewide election without an incumbent resulted in almost an even split between Republicans and Democrats (Bob Corker vs. Harold Ford, Jr.). With fairly drawn districts, the Congressional delegation should be closer to 5-4 than 7-2. The reason it is 7-2 is that the sizable minority–and, usually, Democratic voting–populations in Hamilton and Knox Counties are diluted through gerrymandering. There’s no fair reason why Hamilton County’s border should be almost completely the Fourth District. If districts are redrawn to create closer elections, minorities will have a much better chance of reaching office.

As a Congressman, I will introduce legislation calling for redistricting to be done by nonpartisan groups in each state to return fairness to House elections.

Economic Opportunity

The cliché is that you have to have money to make money. Donald Trump is rich because his grandfather was a successful businessman, making his money running Yukon gold rush hotels and brothels. Many candidates in this election are pushing for an increase in the minimum wage, and I agree with that in the abstract–I think we need an increase in the minimum wage combined with a cost-of-living adjustment based on the Consumer Price Index like Social Security.

What I think may be more important is addressing income disparities between executive and worker compensation. In 2014, David Zastav, CEO of Discovery Communications, made 1,951 times as much as the median worker with his organization. Larry Merlo, CEO of CVS, made 1,192 times as much. Of the 441 companies in the S&P 500 for which data was available, 336 of the CEOs made more than 100 times as much as their median employees. Some of the CEOs who didn’t make that much were people like Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Larry Page, men who are already billionaires since the initial IPOs of Facebook, Amazon, and Google.

Obviously, CEO pay is just the tip of the iceberg: No corporation has just one highly-compensated executive. I would have to figure out what the proper ratio is, but I would introduce legislation basing the corporate income tax rate on the ratio of executive compensation to median employee compensation. If you pay your workers fairly, you pay less in taxes. This works, because people who make less money spend a higher percentage of their income, generating more economic activity, and correspondingly, even more tax revenue. This should be done with legislation to remove some of the legal loopholes companies use to hide profits in offshore tax havens. If your company benefits from the infrastructure US taxpayers provide, you should be paying your fair share of those taxes.

My hope would be that by raising the pay of low-income Americans, they would have the resources to start their own small businesses. Instead of being net consumers of government resources, they would become net contributors. They would create jobs in their communities. This would, however, require outreach programs, where other successful minority and formerly economically disadvantaged Americans would teach potential entrepreneurs how to succeed.


The key thing I want to do is to make sure everyone has equality of opportunity in politics, education, and the economy. I will address other factors connected with race, notably law enforcement and prisons, in a future post. If you have other ideas or suggestions, please let me know.

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3 Comments

Filed under Racism

3 responses to “An Intelligent Conversation About Race

  1. Jay Kersting

    While the Third District borders are bad, very bad, it is far from the worst in the nation. The Two Party system is a beast, but seems that people are starting to get wise to the corruption that they move forward due to their institutional control. Know that many in Congress don’t want to do the right thing, they only want to do the right thing for “me”.

    As for race, we cannot be “colorblind” but rather we need to see people as PEOPLE first, not as a ______ person or a ______ person. Race is one attribute. Leave it at that. As Morgan Freeman said, stop talking about it. Everyone who brings race up is a racist. Stop it.

    • I would have loved to have a campaign where race wasn’t a major issue. The nationwide press coverage Mr. Tyler’s shenanigans generated took that out of my hands. *Everyone* who talks to me about my campaign wants to talk about it. If I ignore it, I risk being painted with the same brush.

      • Jay Kersting

        It can’t be ignored, but I think you could use Morgan Freeman’s words as a point of wisdom. Add to that what I said, look at the person as being a person first, attributes later…whether size of ears, hair style, sound of their voice, or even race. You can point out that your view is more enlightened with that approach.

        Of course, I am not sure the algebra thing helps you at all…you could be fueling the fire. 😛

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