June 22, 2011

Why is Elie Mystal so annoyed at the Stanford lawprof who wrote a book called "Is Marriage for White People?"?

I'm reading this blog post over at Above the Law because Instapundit linked to it.  Instapundit did one of those ultra-sleek posts shorn of all opinion: "ELIE MYSTAL has a question for Stanford." That points us to a question that is the post title — "Stanford Law School: Why Are Your Professors Writing Books That Sound Like They’ve Been Written By Bloggers?" — but the post isn't mainly a challenge to Stanford to do something about lawprofs writing books that are insufficiently larded with citation and sober rumination. Mystal's post is mainly about the specific content of a book written by Ralph Richard Banks and aimed at general readers and — it's pretty obvious — TV and radio talk shows. Want to talk about black people and marriage? Bring on Professor Banks. He'll say some provocative things in language that will charge up the audience.

Maybe Mystal is a little jealous:
Now, if I were a blogger looking to make a quick buck, that’s exactly the kind of book I’d write. In fact, look for my upcoming book, “Why White People Can Afford To Piss Away Time & Money in Law School, But Blacks Can’t.”

But Ralph Banks isn’t a blogger, he’s a Stanford Law professor. Shouldn’t we expect less sensationalized bullcrap from him?
Here's Ralph Banks, who is, like Mystal, a black male writer with an elite legal education, and he's writing a book about marriage and black people, and he's also a Stanford law professor, while Mystal is writing for a blog. Moreover, Banks — if we're to believe an advance review (the book's not out until September) — is arguing that black women can "shift the power balance" by marrying white men. Mystal states more than once that he is married to a black woman, but:
For what it’s worth, I have no problem whatsoever with interracial marriage...
So whether or not Professor Banks has a worthwhile point, my objection rests with the way it was stated. I do this every day. I know a sensational headline when I’m looking at one. I’m familiar with how one writes generally reasonable arguments for 90% of a piece interspersed with ten percent of barely coherent hyperbole. We live in a culture where getting heard over the white noise sometimes requires you to shout a little bit. I get that.

I just don’t see why we need that from Stanford Law School, and I don’t see why we need it on a topic where there has been so little top-notch scholarly work.... Couldn’t the Stanford Law professor give us something a little bit more than Is Marriage for White People? Couldn’t the SLS prof tell his publisher (who, dollar-to-donuts, is the one who came up with this title): “Come now, that’s dumb. After the initial shock value, people will just say I’m being dumb, and that’s not going to be good for sales.”
Look, it's a great title, and people are going to stop and pay attention — in part because of the title and in part because of Banks's status as a high-level lawprof. Now, maybe that feels unfair to Mystal, who toils as a blogger unassisted by lawprof status. (But Mystal didn't build his own blog traffic; he stepped up onto a writing-platform built by David Lat.) Maybe it also seems unfair that lawprof-bloggers get some initial attention as bloggers because they are lawprofs. (But the information superhighway is littered with little-read blogs written by lawprofs who thought lots of people would want to know what they had to say about this and that because they are lawprofs. It's not that easy!)

I think it's fine for lawprofs to speak to the general public about a variety of public issues. We need smart and interesting people contributing to the national dialogue. And some of these people are law professors. I wouldn't want to say to law professors — especially to the lawprof named Althouse — you need to crawl back into the stereotypical lawprof box and write books and articles that look more like something conventional people can glance at and say: Scholarship!


Richard Dolan said...

"We live in a culture where getting heard over the white noise sometimes requires you to shout a little bit."

You would think someone like Mystal would be more sensitive to the semiotics of race. All decent people now refer to green noise, except perhaps for the eco-freaks who prefer the color purple.

Shame on him.

YoungHegelian said...


At least Mystal didn't call it "cracker" noise.

Automatic_Wing said...

Shorter Mystal: "You, a law professor!"

Carol_Herman said...

It's not for white people, either.

When I was growing up, girls had the fantasy wedding in their heads, even before you could buy bridal magazines.

The Catholic Church terrorized young women who had fallen in love. By checking, of all things, religious credentials.

So getting married to someone you loved involved either losing your Catholic faith. Or carting in the mate that wasn't, with false promises, that they'd adhere to the "religion." Some did. Some didn't. Some don't.

In today's world we've seen the shift. More obvious in france, because over there civil unions are legal. And, because they are legal, it's something a good 50% of heterosexuals are choosing to do as well.

The real erasure has been to shame.

Where, at one time, a teenager who got pregnant was forced to put her kid up for adoption. And, then NEVER to admit to this, either.

Then you can add in the modern technology where a woman can get pregnant with a bulb baster. From a donor. Where it's best for all involved for it NOT to be from a friend. Why? Because the male would be prone to support lawsuits.

But it's just the other side of the adoption coin. Where kids were taken away and palmed off as belonging to others.

Which just means that we're letting light in. And, lying isn't the card it once was. Where an adopted child heard the truth ... spit out ... as an insult ... by some bat. A cousin. Or an aunt. (Or by seeing the papers in the vault. Because the mom was an illiterate immigrant. And, needed help finding papers of another sort. So a 17 year old daughter saw the truth staring at her from the box.) She didn't ask her mother one single question.

Shock? Courtesy? Bullshit? You choose.

The real song and dance is that the old religion got some competition when the movies came along.

Orwell had a category: Group Think.

He didn't say if what it meant would shift over time.

One good way to kill marriages ... is to show so many unhappy old people who had tried it.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Sour grapes.

Trooper York said...

I think you missed the point.

You got popular because you blogged about American Idol and reality television.

The law stuff is just boring drivel for a few law geeks.

You have lost your way.

YoungHegelian said...

It's really sad to see the utter lack of wedding rings on the fingers of American black women on the DC metro.

I put in the qualifier "American" because, from my limited observations, the marriage gap isn't true for Caribbean and African blacks, of which there's no shortage around here.

Trooper York said...

Soon there will be a whole new bunch of reality shows for you to blog about.

I saw one last night after "Hard Core Pawn." The new one is called
"Storage Hunters" which is a low rent carbon copy of "Storage Wars.'
This is hilarious with a couple who are about twenty years older than the one in the original "Storage Wars."

But the best part of the show is the auctioneer who is a foul mouthed wise ass Irish guy who mocks all the people bidding on the storage units. His best line:
"This is gonna be a great unit because my balls are itchy and that is always a good sign."

Now that's what America is all about right there.

Shouting Thomas said...

The law stuff is just boring drivel for a few law geeks.

Come on, Althouse, the law stuff bores you to death. Hell, I worked in that arena, and it bored me to death, too.

Law is money and a lot of paper. Nothing more. To the extent that money and paper are interesting, the law is interesting. And, that's a lot less than you want to pretend.

I've been a software programmer for 40 years. Software programming is interesting for as long as it pays the bills.

And, that's about it.

Carol_Herman said...

As long as the dress is white, black women will choose wearing one.

What's missing from the story is that a good marriage isn't about a dress.

And, what people see are either happy couples. Or unhappy ones.

To know happily married black people. Or fill in the blank ... People who are not culturally assimilated to you ... defies what you really know!

Are you assuming blacks aren't loyal?

Marriages last even when they're terrible. So that's no guide.

Wealth and fame interfere with marriages because the couple is constantly assaulted from the outside.

Let alone being the mate to someone who knows he's more famous than you are. And you can turn on him on a dime.

Add travel time. Fame, to a lot of people, means venues. Where drugs are present. And, bimbos.

Life's always got tradeoffs!

I remember being on a train ride with my mom from New York to Boston. Looking out the window ... when we were passing farms ... I said it looked like such a wonderful place to live. And, my mom said, "you know, if there are kids who get beaten in those homes, no one would hear their screams."

She also shared such an opinion when we were walking down Park Avenue. And, I wondered, aloud, if it meant everyone in those palatial homes were happier than other people. Well, kids think the darnedest things.

Experience is a much better teacher.

Trooper York said...

Well I think the profesor realizes that since most of the posts are about waving Weiners, wheelchair races and Sarah Palin's daughter's drunken twat.

Wait is that redundant? Or is that a homophone? Or is it a marriage of homophones? Or is that not allowed in Wisconsin so we need a homophones poll?

This is very confusing.

Unknown said...

Shouting Thomas s--

"I've been a software programmer for 40 years. Software programming is interesting for as long as it pays the bills.

And, that's about it."

For some people. Others, like myself, program apps for the sake of doing so. Like crosswords, it's a mental puzzle.

Paddy O said...

This issue isn't black and white.

Marriage is also for brown people, and other supposed colors. And as YH notes, it's not even a black thing. It's a specific culture thing.

Marriage is very strong in hispanic cultures, middle-eastern cultures, asian cultures. Indeed, probably stronger than in white cultures. I think parts of Europe have some of the highest rates of cohabitation.

So, I think he has a point to make, but to make this a "white" issue is missing the target.

If Crack were awake, he'd blame Oprah.

Carol_Herman said...

Bidding on old storage units?

Isn't that what Heraldo Rivera did with Jimmy Hoffa's old vault? And, then, when it was blown open, it was empty.

Maybe, they should do a show about that vault just before it got emptied out? Hoffa's not around to sue.

Lucius said...

"I wouldn't want to say to law professors — especially to the lawprof named Althouse —"

Purloining Sullivan's ghost-bloggers? What do they know about blogging the law!

Shouting Thomas said...

For some people. Others, like myself, program apps for the sake of doing so. Like crosswords, it's a mental puzzle.

OK, I'll give you that. Programming is just about as important as crossword puzzles.

Trooper York said...

I blame Oprah. She's kept her lover waiting for years and years without getting married.

I bet Gayle is just about fed up.

Chip Ahoy said...

As for professors writing scholarly books, I sure did enjoy that book on Rhetoric by Farnworth that was so promoted lately 'round these parts, mostly on Insta. Now I have words for things I see you do. (Greek words so presumptuous I don't dare speak them least I promptly isolate myself even though the pronunciation is provided)

Chip Ahoy said...

And the thing is, it didn't even pop up!

Sal said...

If it's a book about marriage and black people, then why does the word "white" appear in the title? What bullshit is that?

A better title: "Is Marriage for Non-Black People?" An even better title would leave out the "Non-."

Trooper York said...

Well Chip you can just wait for Anthony Weiner to publish his autobiography.

That is sure to be a "Pop-up."

Carol_Herman said...

It would be a hoot to think "only lawyers can get married," because they're the only ones licensed to practice law.

But they need something involving wafers.

Culturally speaking. Americans have undergone a shift. Plenty of long term marriages were formed in the 40's and 50's. That didn't break up.

Alas, that's when you started to get "First Wives Clubs"

Heck they told Ronald Reagan he could never be president because he was divorced.

And, the told John F. Kennedy, he culdn't be president, because he was catholic.

It's also sad to note John F. Kennedy, Jr., was given a pilot's license. Even though he couldn't fly a plane.

Licenses, just by themselves, can't land your plane.

My mom said the only reason monogamy was good is that it kept you away from sexually transmitted diseases. She also told me not to believe women who said they got the clap from toilet seats.

It's just an amazing thing ... the excuses that pass as observations on culture.

And, "culture" is really all about doing as much as you can to keep up with the Jones.

Politicians are also big screw ups. We wouldn't have had a real estate bubble disaster, if Dubya didn't honk his horn that "everybody has a right to own a house."

Shoddy marriages?

Doesn't tell the half of it. Shoddy Title Deeds ... and the toxic paper the banks are waving around as legitimate ... that's where the damage got done.

Marriage works only if two people can work within its financial boundaries. Without one trying to take advantage of the other.

Label this anything you like. Even LUV works sometimes.

KLDAVIS said...

From each according to their ability...

We can get trash writing from anyone, but we can't get scholarly work from the average trash writer. So, in the liberal mindset, the law prof has a duty to provide a higher level of product.

Trooper York said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Shouting Thomas --

"OK, I'll give you that. Programming is just about as important as crossword puzzles."

Remember that the next time you sample, or maybe go to the bank.

Henry said...

There is some lovely stuff to unpack in Mystal's quote.

Start here (my emphasis):

We live in a culture where getting heard over the white noise sometimes requires you to shout a little bit.

White noise? Clever pun or Freudian slip. Your call.

But I'm also reminded of this:

You know you make me want to
(SHOUT) / Kick my heels up and
(SHOUT) / Throw my hands up and
(SHOUT) / Throw my head back and
(SHOUT) / Come on now

I also like this:

...I don’t see why we need it on a topic where there has been so little top-notch scholarly work.

Ah, what would we do without scholars? In truth, I agree with Mr. Mystal's annoyance. I'm not going to read Mr. Banks book and have no time for intellectual pool skimming. Mr Mystal is right! You want to shoot the bull, try out some jokes, tell some stories, enjoy others' personal experiences, then a blog is perfect (or a bar or a barbecue for that matter).

But book-form pseudo-sociology is a waste of my time. Unless Mr. Banks is very good at asking questions and reticent at providing answers, the topical book exchanges the valuable back and forth of personal exchange (in a blog or bar discussion) for the deadening pretense of authority.

edutcher said...

He's mad because Banks is writing something other than the pretentious goobledygook that comes out of academia these days and it actually has something to say from a non-Leftist point of view (that white men may treat women (all women) better than black men (an offshoot of the Lefty welfare culture)).

SunnyJ said...

The smarmy, back-biteing, pretentious academia elites behavior is revealed. Is this news? The first time I saw this most extreme example of competitivness, yes they are more capitalist than any capitalist you'll ever know, the scorched earth...take no prisoners, blood in the water antics in the ivory tower of academia...well, I laughed my ass off. I thought working as a stockbroker, I'd seen unbridled greed and ego without benefit of ethics...but, no, what I've seen in higher education academia is over the top. The most hilarious part of the theatre, is their complete denial and PC beliefs of themselves. It's ugly in there...stealing from each other, manipulation of data, lie, cheat and misuse their assistants. There is nothing "higher" about higher education.

Reminds me of how proud my dad was when I was the first woman broker in the EF Hutton office where I worked...and how sad he was when I told him they were just bums in suits.

The Crack Emcee said...

“Why White People Can Afford To Piss Away Time & Money in Law School, But Blacks Can’t.”

Wait - I'd buy that. Seriously, I'd want to read that. Replace the words "Law School" with Whole Foods and I'd buy copies for my friends. Which all leads me to repeat that there's nothing wrong with our economy - we can get through this - there's just a multitude of things wrong with our perspective, and where we've been putting our money. Elie Mystal needs to shut up and get to work on his own book:

He can hire the other guy to ghostwrite it for him.

Anonymous said...

A question for Carol -

How do you do it? How can you make all of your posts take up exactly the same amount of space in the comments column?

Fred4Pres said...

So let me get this...marriage is an absolute necessity for gay people, but not for non-white people? But what the author seems to be engaged in is a bit of hyperbole to sell his book, which is really about over all anti marriage trends. With blacks being the canaries in the coal mine so to speak.

Blue@9 said...

It's pretty messed up that marriage is largely a fading institution for blacks because it's a relatively recent development. The left still wants to blame slavery, but family life and marriage were vibrant and healthy after abolition. Marriage and families were important and treasured because they were so cruelly denied to blacks under slavery.

Heck, look at black culture in the cities during the diaspora and the rise of such communities in Harlem, Chicago, SF... What do you see? Men who were husbands and fathers. Intact families.

The real decline happened after the 60s. I wonder if liberals (and black liberals especially) think about how they've totally destroyed the black community. It's not as bad as slavery, but the destruction of the family is almost as bad.

G Joubert said...

Is it legal scholarship at all? Seems much more sociological. Is Banks's masters degree in sociology?

Milwaukee said...

Gee, Ann, you make it Look Easy.

dbp said...

...the information superhighway is littered with little-read blogs ...

This made me think, littleredblog would make a great name for a blog and indeed there is one. Though it appears to have no fresh content.

Milwaukee said...

Before the "War on Poverty", Blacks had a higher marriage rate, lower divorce rate and fewer illegitimate babies than Whites. But AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) required an absent father. So we got absent fathers, and a host of other problems. The percentage of incarcerated men who grow up without a father is 80 or 85%. We get what we subsidize, we lose what we tax.

Now there are school lunch programs, breakfast programs and after-school meal programs, and backpack programs for weekends, as well summer lunch programs for those not in school during the summer. Why are we giving moms so much in welfare if we are feeding their children most meals? When did neglect, as in not feeding your children, stop being grounds for removing the children?

Ralph L said...

So which came first:
The collapse of marriage and family
The large number of young black men in prison?

Is the latter why he suggests black women marry non-black men--so they don't have to put out for nothing because of the scarcity of young black men?

The Dude said...

It's gettin' real in the Whole Foods parkin' lot.

You know the deal with those little shoppin' carts they got.

Marriage is a sucker's bet, if you are a man.

Geoff Matthews said...

FWIW, the description makes it sound like a series of stories, with little quantitative analysis.
Which makes me less interested.
Best comment? Paying back students loans is for whitey.

Fred4Pres said...

Whole Foods can afford those little pussy shopping carts because mom's with kids don't go there (or if they have a kid, her partner has the squirt in a baby wrap) and, more importantly, WF charge you five times the value of anything they are selling. With margins like that, WF can afford to have small volumes per customer.

WF is further proof that P.T. Barnum was a genius.

mariner said...


The real decline happened after the 60s. I wonder if liberals (and black liberals especially) think about how they've totally destroyed the black community. It's not as bad as slavery, but the destruction of the family is almost as bad.

It's a dirty, rotten job but somebody's gotta do it.

I'd say the leftist destruction of the black community is far worse than slavery.

Milwaukee said...

What role did Planned Parenthood play? Not only does the Black mom not need a husband, she doesn't need the product of their relations. They aggressively recruited Black clergy to promote the message of birth control and abortion. I'm sure those are factors as well. Talk about participating in self-hate.

Cincinnatus said...

"Scholarship" ? Well, when Mystal is done looking up that word in the dictionary, I'm sure he'll have a snappy rejoinder ... oh, damn, now he'll have to look up "rejoinder" too ...