Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for January 4th, 2022

Turn-of-the-year wildflowers in my neighborhood

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Ageratina havanensis is a native bush known as shrubby boneset, Havana snakeroot, white mistflower, and fragrant mistflower. Field guides for central Texas note that it blooms in the fall. So it does, including very late in the fall, as confirmed by the buds-and-flowers view above from December 16th in my neighborhood. At the same time that new buds were emerging and opening, some of the flower heads were already going to seed, like the ones in the picture below.

☆         ☆         ☆

Eleven months ago Glenn Loury delivered a lecture. After recounting details of three murders in Chicago on the most recent Memorial Day weekend, he said:

All of the victims were black people. Sixty-three shot, six dead, one weekend, one city. Here’s the thing: reports such as this could be multiplied dozens of times, effortlessly. If a black intellectual truly believes that “Black Lives Matter,” then what is he supposed to say in response to such nauseating reports—that “there is nothing to see here”? I think not.

Violence on such a scale involving blacks as both perpetrators and victims poses a dilemma to someone like myself. On the one hand, as the Harvard legal scholar Randall Kennedy has observed, we elites need to represent the decent law-abiding majority of African Americans cowering fearfully inside their homes in the face of such violence. We must do so not just to enhance our group’s reputation as in the “politics of respectability” but mainly as a precondition for our own dignity and self-respect.

On the other hand, we elites must also counter the demonization of young black men which the larger American culture has for some time now been feverishly engaged in. Even as we condemn murderers, we cannot help but view with sympathy the plight of many poor youngsters who, though not incorrigible, have nevertheless committed crimes. We must wrestle with complex historical and contemporary causes internal and external to the black experience that help to account for this pathology. (There’s no way around it. This is pathology. The behavior in question here is not okay. That one can adduce social-psychological explanations does not resolve all moral questions.)

Where is the self-respecting black intellectual to take his stand? Must he simply act as a mouthpiece for movement propaganda aiming to counteract “white supremacy”? Has he anything to say to his own people about how some of us are living? Is there space in American public discourses for nuanced, subtle, sophisticated moral engagement with these questions? Or are they mere fodder for what amount to tendentious, cynical, and overtly politically partisan arguments on behalf of something called “racial equity”? And what about those so-called “white intellectuals”? Do they have to remain mute? Or, must they limit themselves to incanting anti-racist slogans?

Professor Loury goes on to discuss what he calls unspeakable truths about the situation:

  • Downplaying behavioral disparities by race is actually a “bluff.”
  • “Structural racism” isn’t an explanation, it’s an empty category.
  • We must put the police killings of black Americans into perspective.
  • There is a dark side to the “white fragility” blame game.
  • There is an infantilization of “black fragility.”

You can read his analysis on each of those in the full speech in a Quillette article. In fact it was the most viewed article Quillette had in 2021. You can’t go wrong reading the other top nine as well.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 4, 2022 at 4:41 AM

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