There`s no transcript yet available for Charles Murray`s speech yesterday on "The State of White America," so I`ll post approximate renderings of some key points from the first half of the video.
Murray`s speech (and upcoming book) is about growing class differences in America over the last half century. While Murray is an Emmanuel Goldstein figure to most people who haven`t actually read his books, his political orientation is that of a Jeffersonian egalitarian. He likes a middle class society.
To avoid apples to oranges comparisons, Murray is focusing his analysis of increasing class divides on non-Hispanic whites ages 30-49, contrasting the upper 20% (the upper middle class) to the bottom 30% (the working class), as measured in terms of, I believe, education and occupation.
One bit of good news is that Murray`s 1993 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, "The Coming White Underclass," doesn`t seem to have really happened yet. In 1993, Murray wrote:
An underclass needs a critical mass, and white America has not had one.
But now the overall white illegitimacy rate is 22%. The figure in low-income, working-class communities may be twice that. How much illegitimacy can a community tolerate? Nobody knows, but the historical fact is that the trendlines on black crime, dropout from the labor force, and illegitimacy all shifted sharply upward as the overall black illegitimacy rate passed 25%.
The causal connection is murky — I blame the revolution in social policy during that period, while others blame the sexual revolution, broad shifts in cultural norms, or structural changes in the economy. But the white illegitimacy rate is approaching that same problematic 25% region at a time when social policy is more comprehensively wrongheaded than it was in the mid-1960s, and the cultural and sexual norms are still more degraded.
The white underclass will begin to show its face in isolated ways. Look for certain schools in white neighborhoods to get a reputation as being unteachable, with large numbers of disruptive students and indifferent parents. Talk to the police; listen for stories about white neighborhoods where the incidence of domestic disputes and casual violence has been shooting up. Look for white neighborhoods with high concentrations of drug activity and large numbers of men who have dropped out of the labor force. Some readers will recall reading the occasional news story about such places already.
Murray`s speech seems to suggest that the growth of white underclass neighborhoods hasn`t really happened. There are lots of white people who are basically underclass, but they generally don`t form large blighted neighborhoods, but are more dispersed, being propped up perhaps by family members.
I think a few things have happened to head off his prediction. There was the welfare reform of 1995 that removed a lot of the economic rationality subsidizing an underclass life. Another thing is that there has been so much churning of the population that neighborhoods that could go white underclass tend to go Hispanic, or in the case of Charlestown from The Town, gentrify.
I don`t really know. In the San Fernando Valley, for example, there is a single middle school that`s notorious for white biker types, where parents with prison tattoos show up drunk for conferences with their kids` teachers. But even that school is less than half white these days. In the Valley, the white underclass either leaves or gets Hispanicized, so I couldn`t really say.