That Veggie Tales Guy

Phil Vischer, the guy who created Veggie Tales, posted a video a few months ago making an argument for systemic racism.

I posted some of my thoughts about the video which you can find below.

Now Phil has posted an update/response based on feedback he got from the first video. I have some thoughts about his new video, which I'll include in another post. But here's the original video and what I had to say about it when he originally posted it.

I keep seeing people posting this video. On a private Facebook forum I made comments about this video that are similar to what follows in this post although these remarks are somewhat expanded.
I think the video is a very mixed bag, to be honest. It's very well made and winsome. But Phil is highly selective in his use of data.  You might even say he picked the data that fit the story he wanted to tell rather than following ALL data wherever it led.Anyway, here are some thoughts I had as I watched:
1) I'm not sure Christians should be trying to make wealth accumulation a proxy for justice. That seems far afield from any really biblical worldview. (He skates pretty close to superstitious materialism throughout, IMO, in the way he reasons about these things.)
2) The entire explanation he offers for disparate outcomes is rooted in materialistic assumptions about economic conditions and opportunity. He would come across as more even-handed if he also addressed questions of cultural beliefs, attitudes, habits, and priorities, and how those things have affected the outcome he decries.
3) He reasons backward from outcomes to causes, and this is kind of a mistake of reasoning. Here's what I mean. There's a disparate outcome in wealth accumulation between whites and blacks. He just assumes this is rooted in a legacy of discrimination and goes hunting for support (it isn't hard to find evidence of discrimination in the world.) But Japanese Americans have far more wealth than Puerto Rican Americans. No one just assumes that the explanation for this disparate outcome has to be that the Japanese have been sticking it to the Puerto Ricans. I'm not saying the guy in the video is wrong, I'm saying he hasn't proven much by cherry picking his data. As an aside, isn't the implicit assumption he makes throughout kind of disparaging, assuming as it does the hapless passivity and incapacity of the entire black community? He exhibits a mindset of "all this stuff happens to them and there's nothing they could have done about it." Any notion of human agency seems missing from his analysis. But of course, this point of view is silly. In 1960, with all of the immediacy of Jim Crow and less than 100 years removed from slavery, almost 80% of black children lived in 2 parent homes. This is a stunning achievement and a tribute to the astonishing fortitude of the black community of that time. Just 30 years later, though, the vast majority of black children were being raised without fathers. The poverty rate among blacks fell from 87% in 1940 to 47% in 1960. The rate of income growth among blacks actually exceeded the growth rate among whites during this period. The murder rate among blacks, immediately on the heels of Jim Crow, was half what it was just 20 years later. You could go on and on with this kind of thing. (e.g. Crime statistics in public housing projects in the 1950's versus just 20 years later.)What happened, then, during the decade in which congress passed the widely supported Civil Rights act, that caused this total shift in the trajectory of prospects for the black community? How should we explain the fact that the mostly white underclass in Great Britain exhibits many of the same social pathologies as the mostly black urban community in the U.S., when the British underclass has never been on the receiving end of racial discrimination?
4) I think his points about redlining are very interesting, although an alternative conclusion COULD be that having the federal government with its hands all over mortgages was a bad idea from the start.  They're incompetent at best and often actively malevolent. In doing such things they're way outside their constitutional boundaries. But the Democrats of that day just had to have the New Deal and so we got what we got.
5) You might want to notice that, throughout the video, his story interprets practically everything that has gone on through the lens of government. It's as if culture, worldview, morality, faith and values don't exist as variables in any of these equations. Everything should be understood as an artifact of unjust government policies, regulations regarding economics, and unequal outcomes.  He never really tries to demonstrate causality, he just assumes it.
6) His seemingly preconceived story line is that racial conflict and economics are the magic decoder rings for understanding everything that has led up to our current moment. There is more than a whiff of critical theory to that kind of analysis. (Also, see observation #5 above)
7) He understandably laments mass incarceration but ties that mostly to drug policy beginning in the 1980's. I was struck, as I listened to this, that though he is certain the incarceration is unjust, he never once (that I can recall), even mentioned the victims of drug crime. I'm not a policy czar and certainly don't know how to address the incarceration problem.  But I do have intimate first-hand experience with the full extent to which drug use leads to catastrophic consequences, and victimizes the innocent lives of anyone close to the drug user and dealer.  It is as far from a victimless crime as anything can be.  This is most especially true for children, who are invariably ravaged by being in the wake of a drug abusing parent.  Drug users are not innocent victims.  They have far more actual moral agency than the sentimental mythology about them would have you believe. I'm writing as someone with deep, real-world experience on this particular issue.
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Keith Lowery

Follower of Christ. Husband. Father. Grandfather. Maker. Consumer of Data. Reader of Books. Writer of Code.


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