In Defense of Amy Wax: Why Culture Optimization Is Not A White Thing
Liberal extremists are attacking University of Pennsylvania Professor Amy Wax for her research and views on cultural and economic decline in the United States.
In an Aug. 9, 2017 op-ed for Philly.com, Wax argued, with Larry Alexander, a law professor at the University of San Diego, that the decline of “bourgeois values” since the 1950s has contributed to a host of what she calls social ills, including this:
“Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more are raised by single mothers.”
Most of Wax’s critics won’t bother to read her brilliant book, “Race, Wrongs, and Remedies: Group Justice in the 21st Century” (2009).
I have read her book and I reached out to her in 2013 to participate in a documentary, 72%. The film looked at the statistic that approximately 72 percent of Black babies are born outside of marriage.
Wax concluded in her recent op-ed that instead of bashing the bourgeois culture, the arbiters of culture — the academics, media, and Hollywood — should return to the 1950s posture of celebrating it.
Here is the most recent extremist liberal attack on Wax, signed by 54 current and former UPenn students in the Daily Pennsylvanian:
“These cultural values and logics are steeped in anti-blackness and white hetero-patriarchal respectability, i.e. two-hetero-parent homes, divorce is a vice and the denouncement of all groups perceived as not acting white enough i.e. black Americans, Latino communities and immigrants in particular.”
Notice how the extremist liberal left is crafting marriage and two-parent homes as a “white thing” and now even as a bias in favor of heterosexual couples.
Is this twisted cultural sentiment from the radical liberal left related to the dangerous “acting white” attacks many Black kids hear when being very serious about good grades and reading?
The extremist liberals on the left are now calling for Wax to be fired for promoting these outrageous values in the op-ed:
“That culture laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.”
If people are angry at Wax’s point of view, what do these same people say about the values expressed in the Quran, Bible, and Torah? A lot of these values are also promoted in Elijah Muhammad’s book, “Message to the Blackman In America.”
The extremist liberal left presents a threat for Black America — a threat that one day, the churches, mosques, and African cultural centers that don’t fall in line with white radical liberalism could be persecuted.
On Jay-Z’s “4:44” album, he was broadly praised for promoting financial literacy and generational wealth within Black culture and for being committed to his marriage and family.
Is Jay-Z trying to get Black people to be white people by promoting positive cultural traits? Jay-Z’s lyrics were seen by many as “culture optimization” — promoting smart things within the culture, according to The Atlantic:
“Jay-Z deftly connects his desire to achieve more than a quick buck with the album’s other themes, like fatherhood. “A man that don’t take care his family can’t be rich,” he raps on “Family Feud,” and for “Legacy” he bequeaths his daughter Blue Ivy his stake in the record company Roc Nation.
Thinking about his offspring’s long-term prosperity also deepens his discussion of infidelity. On “4:44,” he imagines a difficult conversation with his kids about what he put their mother through, and the pain isn’t only in his betrayal of Beyoncé, but in the gambling of his daughter’s future: “You did what with who? What good is a ménage à trois when you have a soulmate? You risked that for Blue?”
Black America needs to be very careful with the recent radical movements on the left. Anything religious and African in its core could be weaponized against us and set Black people up for persecution in the future.
Where is all this radical liberalism taking us? And what does it mean for the African Americans who look towards the Bible, Quran, or African-centered culture for their template, and turn their backs on the radical left?
Where are the trends going for Black people who put African values and their faith ahead of the enlightenment of the radical, liberal left?
Wrapping up radical liberalism in anti-racist themes doesn’t make it pro-Black or pro-African.
Radical liberalism isn’t only threatening academic professors and business leaders who don’t play along. It is also threatening to cut off foreign aid to countries in Africa if they don’t bow down to the cultural imperialism of the radical liberal left.
It is only a matter of time before Black preachers and imams have their nonprofit status challenged if they don’t water down their message with secularism. In the future, if the fanaticism on the left is left unchecked, Black media companies who don’t fall in line with the radical liberal left will have their advertising revenue stream cut off.
Nigerians — a significant number of American slaves came from Nigeria — believe in marriage and two-parent homes.
The extremist liberals should go to many African countries, where they’ll learn that having babies within the context of marriage is desirable. It is certainly not a white thing.
The extremist liberals can go tell the billion-plus Muslims in the world that having babies within marriage is a white thing. If two-parent homes and the values Sax
If two-parent homes and the values promoted by Sax to support better life outcomes are about white “hetero-patriarchal respectability,” then someone forgot to tell the Europeans in France, Denmark, Iceland, and Sweden, where out-of-wedlock births are all over 50 percent.
Wax clearly states that her “bourgeois values” are not owned by whites. She says that many white people are falling off a social-economic cliff by rejecting the same values she is promoting.
What has always been baffling with the arguments of many liberals is they want the same outcomes for Black America without the same inputs.
They want to embrace all the defective inputs as part of being “Black.” Some on the left want Asian academic outcomes without the Asian culture that prioritizes academics. You want Asian academic and professional outcomes with a materially different family dynamic.
Can you get to the same place in life outcomes with materially different inputs? Possibly, but you wouldn’t want to bet your culture and the well-being of your people on exceptions. You want to bet on the rule which produces a much higher statistical probability of success.
The argument that financial disparities, racism, and government policies explain everything is now statistically bankrupt. Governments can’t optimize Black culture at scale. Leaders and people can. If the extremist liberals are angry at Wax for speaking the uncomfortable truth, they should also attack Barack Obama who said similar things:
“We know the statistics – that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.
“The foundations of our community are weaker because of it.
“We need them to realise that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child — it’s the courage to raise one.”
Based on the twisted logic of two-parent homes being a white thing, does this mean getting good grades is an Asian thing? Does it mean being smart with money is a Jewish thing? Is working multiple jobs an immigrant thing?
No culture owns desirable traits, and yes, some cultures are superior to others at certain things — not genetically but culturally. Some cultures value and prioritize specific things related to life outcomes more than others.
In her book, Wax concluded that Black people have reached a point with government programs and welfare where they will offer minimal utility going forward:
Here is one review of Wax’s 2009 book from Amazon:
Prof. Amy Wax’s book is provocative in that it attempts to shed more light than heat about systemic racism, its effects, and potential ways to change cultural thinking in both whites and blacks. She provides a fresh perspective, but one that will challenge conventional thinking by well-meaning people.
Wax believes that structural systemic efforts by government or other external entities to eliminate racial inequality have both helped and hurt the black community. After fifty years of major racial progress in many areas, there has been backsliding in others.
She argues that although emphasis on law and policy may have once made sense, the time has come to assign priority to self-improvement through behavioral, cultural, and moral reform. She never advocates abandoning the former, but believes there is now more progress to be made in the latter areas.
Through the simple “parable of the pedestrian,” Wax defines the situation succinctly. A pedestrian crosses the street at the crosswalk and with the light. A driver runs a red light, hitting the pedestrian, causing major physical damage. Under the law and common sense, the driver should be responsible for returning the pedestrian to his previous status by paying for medical care and rehabilitation. But what if that rehab requires physical therapy that the pedestrian refuses to participate in? The pedestrian’s injured status is not fair and was not his fault. Nonetheless, the driver is powerless to return the pedestrian to his former status without some effort by the pedestrian. So it is with the racial victim. Not his fault, not fair, but requires some additional effort on his part to return to a “normal” status.
It seems Jay-Z recognizes his role as being an agent of cultural change to uplift his people via culture optimization. Jay-Z, Barack Obama, and many Black religious leaders shouldn’t be the only ones allowed to promote cultural values of the “bourgeoisie” or enlightened Africans.