Unethical Op-Ed Of The Month, Or Maybe All Time: Theodore R. Johnson In The Washington Post

Well, at least that would explain it...

Well, at least that would explain it…

The essay is titled, “We used to count black Americans as 3/5 of a person. For reparations, give them 5/3 of a vote.” Yes, it’s serious. There is so much wrong with it logically, ethically, historically, legally, and Constitutionally, that it would take more words, time and effort to fully rebut all the nonsense in the article than this oddity is worth. Go ahead, read it. If your first reaction is, “Hey! What a brilliant idea!,” it’s time to seek professional help, and I don’t care what color you are.

Rather than give this perverted, anti-democratic fantasy the dignity of a rebuttal, I’ll just offer a few observations:

  1. Even though the author appears to know the history of the 3/5 representation scheme (it was an anti-slavery, not pro-slavery measure), he still doesn’t get it. “Under the Constitution, an African-American slave was originally counted as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of determining a state’s electoral vote count and House representation. That boosted the power of slave states in the federal government,” he writes. Wrong. The 3/5 ratio weakened the power of the slave states, which were insisting that slaves count as full persons. This isn’t the most ignorant assertion in Johnson’s screed, but its one of the strangest, being completely backwards, and yet the basis of his crackpot theory.
  2.  Why would the Post publish this, since it is completely mad? What value does it add to racial dialogue? His proposal is impossible: Riiiight, Theodore, all non black citizens will voluntarily agree that African Americans should be a privileged class whose votes count 66% more than theirs. Of course, the concept is spectacularly unconstitutional as well a racist to its core. So why publish it, complete with charts showing how recent elections would have turned out if whites submitted to their new black masters? Why is this article more worthy of publication than, say, “Why our monetary system should be based on cheese,” “How eating is unethical and should be prohibited by law” or ” Let’s ban toes”?
  3. Sociologists need to explore the mystery of why the administration of the first black President has apparently rendered black America feeling more isolated, more racially hostile to whites, more bitter, more angry, more desperate and less committed to democracy and the rule of law.
  4.  The author, we are told, is a doctoral candidate in law and policy at Northeastern University. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
  5. The last line of Johnson’s phantasmagoria is this:

“If racism is the culprit, then dismantling it requires the same tools that constructed it.”

This is one of those rhetorical flourishes that makes less sense the more you think about it, until it swells up inside your brain and kills you. Racism is not the sole culprit in the problems of the African-American community ( the self-serving eagerness of blacks to blame racism for every failure, for example, is one of the “culprits”). What “tools” constructed racism, which was not constructed at all.? Not the three-fifths device—that was designed to weaken the power of racism. Does Johnson mean it requires racism to dismantle racism? How does that work, exactly? Does Johnson believe that blacks telling their fellow Americans that they deserve to be super-citizens with special privileges is going to help bring the races closer together?

If so, he’s a fool.  But on the evidence of the rest of the op-ed, he’s a fool anyway.

50 thoughts on “Unethical Op-Ed Of The Month, Or Maybe All Time: Theodore R. Johnson In The Washington Post

    • Nope. They’d never constitute a reliable voting bloc for the Democrat Party. It is, however, vital that the black voting bloc be maintained. If the only way to do that is to promote wacky ideas of blame, race hate and violence among them, then that’s what they’ll do. Ideas of truth and national unity mean little when you have to maintain an increasingly disparate coalition of special interests in order to forward your goal of utter political dominance.

        • Do you see any of the GOP leaders doing that, Michael? After the riots of the past year and the great upsurge of attacks by blacks on whites for little reason beyond race hate, it seems to me that a Republican leader with as few scruples as the Democrats demonstrate could well tap into the natural (and legitimate!) concerns and anger of white citizens. Yet, that hasn’t happened. The miniscule groups of white racists might have been expected to have seen an upsurge in membership after the first Ferguson episode. Yet, they did not. That’s because the real racism and hatred is on the other side. The right side is motivated by love of country and unity with all who share that belief. They despise the criminals and their political motives, but don’t extend that (unlike their adversaries) to an entire race of people.

  1. This one actually made my head explode, like a water balloon. Doesn’t anyone listen to Einstein anymore? “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”

    Path-dependence is inconvenient, but it is real. You can’t just reverse the polarity and expect a growing problem to start shrinking, or undo the past. The only directions are forward right, many different forward wrongs, and stagnation.

    Reparations after so many generations is a silly concept. It’s good to people who need helping. Some people need more help than others. The expectation is that the help will enable them to stop being dependent and start participating like anyone else. This is the only way it can work, and what anyone’s ancestors did is completely irrelevant to what we should do now… unless it concerns cultural relics or something.

    • The Einstein quote above dragged my mind in the following direction.

      I find the situation of the Tuskegee Airmen worthy of thought when trying to work out how best to benefit any minority.

      As best I can determine these men faced a really tough row to hoe in their quest to become pilots. It seems fair to say that they were treated in a highly racist manner, and many dropped out. Those who made it through and qualified as fighter pilots however, were exceptionally motivated and exceptional pilots. Because of this they opened the door for others to follow them and helped to break down racism in the military and the country.

      Had they ‘benefited’, from an affirmative action program they would not have shone as they did, and they would have fuelled ongoing ethnic stereotyping and segregation.

      Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying we should keep oppressing anyone, and especially not whilst using the excuse we are only doing it for their own good or anything even vaguely similar AT ALL. In fact I can’t see how you could work something like that in the broad range of life – the TA being a highly specific situation – even if you did think it the very best way to bring about a full unity.

      I am however totally convinced that affirmative action programs based around lowering the bar and stacking the books will always fail.

      How can it best be done? Colin Powell stands out to me. Recruited into the military with all the situations that make Michael Moore froth incessantly into the gutter, his superiors recognised a man of potential and saw that he got the postings that would allow him to progress. He wasn’t given a free pass, he worked damn hard and he shone; but his superiors put a man of talent in the light – sometimes the light of flares on the battlefield – where he could develop and shine.

  2. Brace yourself. Once he has his degree and passes a bar exam, this guy will be in the Justice Department. Given time, he may even be a solicitor general or an attorney general.

  3. “Don’t confuse me with the facts: I’ve made up my mind.” Ignoramus would be a good way of describing Theodore Johnson.

    • Except that it employs the inapplicable term, mind...

      The Post comments are very entertaining. Only a few genuinely racist or hostile, though I think this sort of thing encourages racial distrust and anger. Fewer still that agree with it, followed by mass attack or jokes by the rest. I like the thread proposing fractions of votes for Fox News and Comedy Central viewers. Many, many questioning the Post’s sanity for publishing it.

        • Very good point! Unlike the case of the developing fetus, we need not speculate—this individual clearly is not capable of thought. And yet he is still 5/5 human, and deserves a chance to live another day despite the burden—utter embarrassment—he places on his mother, not to mention his school and the Navy.

          White House Fellow, eh?

  4. Just one problem. Blacks only show up to vote if a black is on the ballot, which is why Her Thighness and Plugs are going to have a much tougher time than Obummer.

  5. Two questions: Whose theory is worse, Johnson’s or Everett “Let’s let them loot Walmart” Mitchell ? and Why are educated African Americans suddenly making these ridiculous policy arguments?

    • Because they are graduates of American universities where crackpot lefty “historians” and “social and political scientists” have been cranking out this sort of drivel since they got their degrees in the 1970s. They’ve been sitting at the feet of Bill Ayers and Bernadette what’s her name and Saul Alinsky and his other students (you know, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders?) and think all this stuff is gospel truth. I’d call them second wave nut jobs. And they’re everywhere. It’s an existential threat to the nation.

        • Whose father was a big wig at Commonwealth Edison so his buddy who was running Winston and Strawn at the time gave her a job out of law school (saying “we protect our own) even though she couldn’t get a license and now she teaches at Northwestern Law School. These people don’t go away, they just burrow deeper into the culture. It’s scary.

  6. “Whose theory is worse, Johnson’s or Everett “Let’s let them loot Walmart” Mitchell ?”

    I think you gotta go with Mitchell. If private property isn’t protected, votes are nothing but a charade, anyway. There’s sort of an assumption that democracy can vote private property away, but that’s always worked at the margins. It will be interesting to see what happens when multiple democracies make the last-ditch plea for international financing at the same time, and find out there’s nothing left to borrow.

  7. An alternate view:

    For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. Racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives in this place and time. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives here. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices.”

    — Audre Lorde

    In other words – be merely human. As Nietzsche said:

    Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.

    As an activist, I’ve seen far too many fall into this trap. The End does not justify the Means. The first step is to become, and remain, a decent human being. Or you’ve lost the plot, no matter how “righteous” your cause. To look into yourself, and see your own imperfections, to see how most of your opponents are not enemies, but people like yourself who disagree with you.

    “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

    ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

    It also makes sure you’re on the right side, or at least, that your cause is something worth fighting for. That’s at least as important as being effective in the struggle. I think it’s far more so.

    Finally, it makes the world an easier place to live in, inhabited for the most part by flawed, fallible people like yourself, not demons or the inherently evil. They exist – but are rare.

  8. The stupid is strong with this one.

    As a bit of counterpoise, let me offer up a nomination for Ethics Hero: Peggy Hubbard.

    Caution: this video is loaded with NSFW language. But it’s squarely on point.

  9. “The 3/5 ratio weakened the power of the slave states, which were insisting that slaves count as full persons.”

    What nerve! Treat the person as property in actuality, then insist he count as an equal to enhance your own rights. It’s not as if the slave had a real vote; it was as if the same number of white voters who already had 1 and 3/5ths votes now had two apiece. Cute.
    I don’t think it takes a sociologist to answer #3. Shall we say the President has so completely failed to live up to the (totally unrealistic) expectations on the part of the populations that elected him that the resultant disappointment has led to increased disaffection, frustration, violent temper tantrums and, in some cases and places, total breaks with reality.

      • I’d argue that this President hasn’t failed to live up to expectations at all. I’d argue that instead he chose to deliberately ignore many of the core problems of black America – problems that can ONLY be addressed by that community – and instead chose to reinforce perceptions of victimhood.

        Yes, he “failed” to live up to the unrealistic expectations. But he appears to have done so deliberately – an act of commission, not omission. And that’s far, far worse.

  10. His argument also fails mathematically. 3/5 is 40% less than 1, while, as you pointed out, 5/3 is 66% greater than 1. So, letting his completely insane core argument slide for a moment, for his plan to have reciprocity, black people would have to count as 7/5 of a person. Are we not teaching racist liberal arts majors basic fractions?

      • I would say it also fails the basic ethical tenet that children can’t be held responsible for their parents’ actions, but then, so does the basic idea of reparations in my opinion. It seems like something out of a Monty Python skit that people would demand reparations for something that never happened to them personally, from people who never committed the act that they say must be repaid for.

        • I see the logic and justice from the black side. Slavery handicapped the whole race going forward, because there was no wealth to pass along, placing blacks at a permanent disadvantage compared to whites. Reparations is interest on the “50 acres and a mule” that never came to pass.

          • That makes sense, but if people aren’t prepared to be empowered by external agents, they’re not going to maintain said power for very long. This is why winning the lottery usually doesn’t create lasting change in people’s lives.

            Before people can be handed help, they have to have the character to handle it. Otherwise it’s just a waste.

            • Fish for a man and he’ll eat for a day.

              Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for life.

              Give him another man’s fiah and he’ll vote for your for life.

              The old proverb is lacking. You can teach someone all day to do something, but until they want to do it (which is entirely on them) it won’t matter anyway.

              • The last line of that…once you have taught him to fish, YOU’RE DONE! Get out of his life, offer nothing more, leave!

              • That’s why we have fishing parties and build a culture of esteem towards fishing. I’m rather surprised that the anthropologists and the sociologists and the psychologists haven’t put their skills towards changing culture. Then again, they might not have had a powerful vision of what to change it into, or believed it was worth the personal costs.

                I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but it’s not impossible, either.

              • I’ve always preferred this alternate version:

                If you build a man a fire, you keep him warm for one night.
                If you light a man on fire, you keep him warm for the rest of his life.


  11. Sheesh, at this rate, all I have to do is keep commenting here, and the Poshington Waste will come _looking_for_ME_ to write op-eds for them.

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