Update: Percentiles corrected.
What to say, what to say...
Everyone is wrong here.
My Bing and MSN news feeds are full of links from liberals commenting on how bad unemployment is, how white people just don't understand the frustration, how endemic the police brutality is, and how unfairly the decent people of Baltimore are being portrayed. The idea that feelings of powerlessness lead to some semi-justification is common. Only a few stories that would be cheered by conservatives sneak in. My FB feed is more mixed, with a lot of the above from my liberal friends, and a lot of complaint from conservative friends that these cities have been run by Democrats for two generations, mayors, councils, police forces, schools, and this is what you get. Lots of blather from all sides about lack of fathers, lack of opportunity, systemic racism, the nonsense they teach in schools these days...
You can summarise all this yourself better than I can, because some of you have TV and are exposed to the popular culture responses more fully than I am. Takle a moment to recall there standard cliches of the last few weeks.
Two things, one on each "side" irritate me most: conservatives who point to something-or-other and say "I too have experienced prejudice." No, you really haven't, not so thoroughly, unless perhaps if you have a severe physical or mental disability. You may have individual incidents of being hated or discriminated against, including prejudice from black people - and you may have lived in an area where some other group was equally ostracised, but the pervasive prejudice experienced by African-Americans is just different. From a hundred meters away people are judging you and you are always trying to get up over.
On the other side, the claim by liberals, especially black journalists, that they understand what the African-Americans in Baltimore are feeling and thinking, is ludicrous. They are projecting what they themselves are angry about, and assuming that the young men of Baltimore must, simply must, be thinking the same thing. They are reinforced in this by the genuine downtrodden of Baltimore, and Detroit, and St. Louis, who nod their heads and say "Yeah, that's it." This gives the journalists the impression that they are giving voice to the voiceless and all that.
It's not true. While there is overlap in the experience of blackness whether you live in inner Baltimore or nicer suburbs, the experience is not the same. Ta-Nehisi Coates does not actually understand that culture. He could potentially understand it better than I do, but he doesn't because he deludes himself into overlooking the obvious. That nearly all my life examples of sub 80 IQ are white, I actually have some advantage. Race is no distraction.
Let me explain what's different. The people who were able to escape the cities and get a leg up in the world are different from those who haven't managed it. There are a lot of qualities that could possibly go into succeeding in life. The Dungeon and Dragons categories (following the necessary virtues for medieval adventure) were Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma. Of these, only three are that measurable: Strength, Intelligence, and Dexterity. All three are essentially genetic. We don't know about the others so well, but the dial is starting to point that way for those as well.
Strength and Dexterity still have their uses, especially in athletics and the arts, but they aren't worth what they used to be.
Charisma can indeed overcome a lot of obstacles, but it's hard to count on. Wisdom may be mostly ability to keep one's temper and delay gratification, plus some empathy. Those are turning out to correlate strongly with Intelligence.
It's not the only good survival quality, but it is enormously necessary in Western culture (and increasingly in worldwide cultures), and it is very measurable.
But inner-city Baltimore hasn't got it. The counties around Baltimore include five of the top nine most affluent areas for African-Americans. Many of those folks came out of Baltimore over the last 40 years. Inner Baltimore, according to its school test scores, has an average IQ of 80 (Black 76, white 86). I don't know much about Baltimore, but I know a fair bit about IQ 80. I don't think most people get how low that is, how limited the abilities of people with those scores are. A hundred years ago, there were still plenty of jobs for them to do.
I believe we are moving into a world where fewer and fewer of us will have (decent) jobs. The citizens of Baltimore are the canaries in the mine.
Remember percentile scores on your gradeschool standardised tests? 86 is 16th percentile. 80 is 10th percentile. 76 is 4th percentile. 80 is about the lowest score where you can graduate highschool - if you have other good qualities like determination, friendliness, resilience. Without those, you aren't graduating without help. Consider this graph, which shows what the range of IQ's are for various jobs. If you have a large housekeeping staff where you work, a few might be grandfathered in who score as low as 76. But usually, the knowledge of chemicals, rules, and techniques require more than that. Restaurant dishwashing is barely in range, bussing tables barely in range. At a construction site, IQ 80 is mostly only able to do what is directly ordered. Being a carpenter is out of range.
Conservatives have to stop saying that it's just a matter of expecting more from people and not rewarding pathology. Incentives do work in the real world, but they have to be attainable. I have no idea what will work in Baltimore in the short or long run, but just being stern and having good role models or higher standards is not going to work. It's just cruelty.
Liberals need to stop pretending that racism is the cause of failure, just because it sounds more encouraging. Racism is real and has some effect, but it's not the main cause. Racism was far worse 50 and 100 years ago, and the more able have benefited from its reduction. But that reduction has not benefited the left half of the bell curve. It just hasn't. I don't know what will. But having more blacks on the police force, teaching in the schools, being on City Councils, or getting elected mayor has not had any noticeable effect anywhere on crime rates or test scores. There are 3000 counties, each with different cultures, demographics, salaries, training, and expectations, and they all have much higher violent crime rates among African Americans. They can't all be equally racist.
Bonus understanding: John Derbyshire got in trouble a few years ago for what he called The Talk: Nonblack Version. Derb is a better mathematician than I, but I think he misread the data and got his numbers wrong. He focused on the 1SD lower score of African-Americans in general, and just assumed that this leftward sliding of the curve applied automatically to the black people he meets. It doesn't. John Derbyshire does not meet that many African-Americans from the left side of the Gaussian distribution. (Ta-Nehisi Coates doesn't meet that many more.) So when he meets a black waitress, she is not, on average, 15 points down the scale from the white waitresses. 5 is more likely, 10 at most. Within range so that other factors, such as charm, experience, attention to detail, and effort could outweigh the disadvantage. And when we are considering individuals rather than populations, even that much assumption is as likely to blow up in your face as prove out.