Saturday, November 30, 2019

Did Adolph Reed Jr. Just Now Call Bullshit on the ADOS Agenda?


newrepublic |  This way of thinking about injustice and what does and doesn’t call for remedial action has its roots in enforcement of anti-discrimination law in the 1960s and 1970s. Identifying disparate treatment or outcomes that correlate with racial difference can be a critical step in validating a complaint. However, the inclination to fixate on such disparities as the only objectionable form of inequality can create perverse political incentives. We devote a great deal of rhetorical and analytic energy to the project of determining just which groups, or population categories, suffer or have suffered the worst. Cynics have sometimes referred to this brand of what we might term political one-downsmanship as the “oppression Olympics”—a contest in which groups that have attained or are vying for legal protection effectively compete for the moral or cultural authority that comes with the designation of most victimized

Even short of that cynical view, a central focus on group-level disparities can lead to mistaken diagnoses of the sources and character of the manifest inequalities it identifies. And those mistaken diagnoses, in turn, can reflect damaging class and ideological biases that ultimately undercut the struggle for social justice and equality. In this column and later ones, I will examine facets of this problem and its entailments. A key point of departure here is the study I published in 2012 with Columbia University public health Professor Merlin Chowkwanyun, explicating how what we call the “disparitarian perspective” has distorted discussion of the impact of the New Deal on black Americans.