Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for April 20th, 2022

Two interesting clouds

with 11 comments

In southeast Austin on April 14th I photographed the oval cloud formation shown above.
Right afterwards I noticed the formation below that reminded me of a feather.



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White guilt has influenced many of America’s racial policies toward a paternalism that makes it difficult for blacks to find their true mettle or to develop a faith in their own capacity to run as fast as others. The most vivid examples of this are the many forms of preferential treatment that come under the heading of affirmative action—an escapist racial policy, I believe, that offers entitlements rather than development to blacks. A preference is not a training program; it teaches no skills, instills no values. It only makes a color a passport. But the worst aspect of racial preferences is that they encourage dependency on entitlements rather than on our own initiative, a situation that has already led many blacks to believe that we cannot have fairness without entitlements. Here one falls into Orwellian doublespeak, where preference means equality. At the heart of this confusion, I believe, is an unspoken black doubt about our ability to compete that is covered over by a preoccupation with racial discrimination. Since there are already laws to protect us against discrimination, preferences only impute a certain helplessness to blacks that diminishes our self-esteem. The self-preoccupied form of white guilt that is behind racial preferences always makes us lower so that we can be lifted up.

Recently Pennsylvania State University launched a program that pays black students for improving their grades—a C to C+ average brings $550, and anything higher brings $1,100. Here is the sort of guilty kindness that kills. What kind of self-respect is a black student going to have as he or she reaches out to take $550 for C work when many white students would be embarrassed by so average a performance? What better way to drive home the nail of inferiority? What more Pavlovian system of conditioning blacks to dependency than shelling out cash for grades? Here black students learn to hustle their victimization rather than overcome it, while their patrons escape with the cheapest sort of innocence. Not all preferential treatment is this insidious, but the same dynamic is always at work when skin color brings entitlement.

That’s from Shelby Steele‘s book The Content of Our Character, published in 1990. Elite white guilt, entitlements, and the claims of perpetual victimization have increased massively in the 32 years since then. During the same period, black students’ objective academic performance has on average remained abysmal. If you want to know how abysmal, check out my commentary from last September, which gives the statistics.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 20, 2022 at 4:30 PM

Posted in nature photography

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Two kinds of curls

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In Robert Kamper’s side yard in Round Rock on April 11th two kinds of curls made themselves known to me. The more obvious even had the word in their common name: blue curls (Phacelia congesta). The other curls—smaller, much more tightly wound, and harder to see—were tendrils of a Passiflora species, either incarnata or lutea; further development will reveal which one.


UPDATE: From the flowers that emerged on the vine shown in the bottom picture, Robert Kamper is able to say the plant is Passiflora incarnata.


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The most obvious and unarguable source of black innocence is the victimization that blacks endured for centuries at the hands of a race that insisted on black inferiority as a means to its own innocence and power. Like all victims, what blacks lost in power they gained in innocence—innocence that, in turn, entitled them to pursue power. This was the innocence that fueled the civil rights movement of the ’60s, and that gave blacks their first real power in American life—victimization metamorphosed into power via innocence. But this formula carries a drawback that I believe is virtually as devastating to blacks today as victimization once was. It is a formula that binds the victim to his victimization by linking his power to his status as a victim. And this, I’m convinced, is the tragedy of black power in America today. It is primarily a victim’s power, grounded too deeply in the entitlement derived from past injustice and in the innocence that Western/Christian tradition has always associated with poverty.

Whatever gains this power brings in the short run through political action, it undermines in the long run. Social victims may be collectively entitled, but they are all too often individually demoralized. Since the social victim has been oppressed by society, he comes to feel that his individual life will be improved more by changes in society than by his own initiative. Without realizing it, he makes society rather than himself the agent of change. The power he finds in his victimization may lead him to collective action against society, but it also encourages passivity within the sphere of his personal life.

That passage is as pertinent today as when Shelby Steele wrote it in 1988—actually even more pertinent because it’s 34 years later and many people still haven’t gotten his message. You’re welcome to read the full Harper’s article, “I’m Black, You’re White, Who’s Innocent? Race and power in an era of blame.”

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 20, 2022 at 4:27 AM

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