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11/26/2019

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Ari SIlverton

1. Hughes puts the "They Say" in his essay right off the bat, beginning with the third sentence of the essay. "The standard portrayal" serves as his They Say. He then articulates the political differences between how the Left and Right feels about the cause of this negativity for black people, which, in my opinion, was unnecessary as the rest of the article pretty much disregards the political position of the views about whether optimism regarding the fate of black people is well placed.

2. Most, if not all of the numbers mentioned in this essay demonstrate either that black people are prospering and on the rise, or that certain numbers are easily framed so as to give the appearance of nasty racism retaining its cold grip on black people. Hughes probably chose blunt statistics because of how difficult it is to argue with them. If, in fact, there was a "72 percent drop in the incarceration rate for black men aged 18–19," then things are looking up, however you slice it. I didn't find any one particular piece of data surprising, as they were all plausible, but I did find the whole picture painted by them to be shockingly optimistic, given what I thought I knew about black incarceration and poverty rates. I would like to know if there are differences between races that don't typically seem to have anything to do with each other, so that we can verify whether people might perform differently if there was no oppression or injustice between them. Something like a control study, some way to prove that two equally un-oppressed races can, in fact, perform differently, proving that oppression isn't the only reason a race can underperform compared to other races. If we knew this to be true (or even false), it would shed some much needed light on the politics of race.

3. The "gap lens" looks at an issue through comparisons. If black people, on average, do worse than white people (be it physically, mentally, economically, whatever), then there must be some form of oppression, residual or otherwise. On the other hand lies the past lens. "Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today." -Jordan Peterson. This quote accurately sums up the past lens, which, instead of making apples to oranges comparisons between different races, compares apples to slightly older apples. Hughes advocates for the past lens, because it can make accurate comparisons about the state of races, by comparing apples to apples at a different time, rather than oranges to apples now. I agree, but for different reasons, such as the fact that the past lens favors a more optimistic view, which fosters efforts from optimists to make it true, so that holding an optimistic view actually increases the likelihood that it will be correct.

4. Hughes claims that a total overhaul of our governmental systems isn't necessary and would actually stymie the progress occurring right now. I suspect Alexander would disagree, arguing that any progress that may seem to appear thanks to Hughes' optimistic statistics is actually a facade, and that mass incarceration still exists in full today. She would most likely cite her personal experiences as a counter to statistics regarding reductions in black incarceration rates. Thus, facing a complete lack of progress, a total system overhaul would actually be applicable. I'm having trouble wrapping my head around almost any of Alexander's arguments, and so cannot generate a second claim to "counter" Hughes without spending a disproportionate amount of time on it. So I won't lol.

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