America’s worst race riot

by Chris Bertram on February 19, 2005

Today’s Financial Times has “a remarkable article about the Tulsa riot of 1921”: — essentially a bout of ethnic cleansing — its disappearance from official memory for over fifty years and the long struggle of the survivors and their descendants for recognition and compensation:

bq. Historians call the firestorm that convulsed Tulsa from the evening of May 31 into the afternoon of June 1 the single worst event in the history of American race relations. To most Tulsans it is simply “the riot”. But the carnage had nothing in common with the mass protests of Chicago, Detroit and Newark in the 1960s or the urban violence that laid siege to Los Angeles in 1992 after the white police officers who assaulted Rodney King were acquitted. The 1921 Tulsa race riot owes its name to an older American tradition, to the days when white mobs, with the consent of local authorities, dared to rid themselves of their black neighbours. The endeavour was an opportunity “to run the Negro out of Tulsa”.

The whole thing is worth reading.

Global fund appeal

by John Quiggin on February 19, 2005

I’m running another ‘cash for comment’ appeal, over at my blog. For each comment on this post on my blog I’ll give $1A to Medecins Sans Frontieres, and express a preference for projects related to the The Global Fund to fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The appeal closes 6pm Sunday, Queensland time. To be clear, you have to comment on my blog, not on CT to get counted

Minding the Kids, Again

by Kieran Healy on February 19, 2005

Now that Larry Summers has begun to live up to his putative commitment to open, freewheeling inquiry by finally releasing a “transcript of his infamous remarks”:, various people are commenting on it. “Matt Yglesias”: says

bq. I don’t think you can reasonably expect any given university (or corporation, or person) to singlehandedly shoulder the burden of changing a set of social expectations that’s become very well entrenched over a very long period of time. At the same time, you can’t just do nothing about it, either.

“Bitch, PhD”: addresses this issue pretty well, as does “a correspondent of Mark Kleiman’s”: The main point is the first step toward addressing what Matt properly calls “a set of social expectations that’s become very well entrenched over a very long period” is — contrary to what Summers did in his remarks — to _stop_ treating it as a more-or-less simple result of the expression of individual preferences. Now, in other social-policy contexts, economists will jump all over you for not properly considering the incentives that shape people’s choices and smugly wheel out one-liners like “People respond to incentives, all else is commentary.” There’s a lot to that observation. But in contexts like gender and the labor market, the emphasis instead gets put on individual preferences as the mainspring of choice, rather than considering the social origins of the incentive structure.

“Here is an old post of mine”:, written in response to something “Jane Galt”: (aka Megan McArdle) wrote. It addresses this issue a bit, with some pointers to accessible and practical discussions of it by specialists — some of the literature that Summers just baldly ignored, or was inexcusably ignorant of. As I said “back then”:,

bq. Jane’s initial question — “Should we [women] stay home, or shouldn’t we? It’s a difficult question for professional women” — effectively concedes the case as lost from the get-go. It frames the problem as wholly belonging to the prospective mother. Dad has no responsibility towards his potential offspring, is not required to make any work/family tradeoffs, and indeed has so much autonomy that a woman who chooses kids over career is “taking a huge financial bet on her husband’s fidelity.” … The institutions that structure people’s career paths may have deep roots, but that’s not because they spring naturally out of the earth. Cross-national comparison shows both that there’s considerable variation in the institutionalization of child care, and that this variation can have odd origins. … [They] aren’t immutable, either. In fact, in the U.S. they’ve changed a great deal since the early 1980s … Looking at the problem this way makes one less likely to fatalism about tragic choices, wanting to have it all, and the inevitable clash of work and family. … It also has the virtue — as C. Wright Mills put it forty years ago — of letting us “grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society,” rather than forever being stuck at the level of individual women facing insoluble work-family tradeoffs.

None of that is particularly original, by the way. It’s a well-developed perspective with plenty of empirical evidence and theoretical elaboration, and even a little bit of reading in this area would make that evident. That’s why Summers’ audience was so ticked off. In fairness to the guy, at this stage his perilous position has little to do with the remarks themselves anymore, and has become an ouster by opponents dissatisfied with his Presidency in general.