Friday, May 7, 2010

Quote of the Day (David Brooks, on the Impact of Exile)

“If you take tribes of people, exile them from their homelands and ship them to strange, arid lands, you’re going to produce bad outcomes for generations.”—David Brooks, “The Limits of Policy,” The New York Times, May 4, 2010

The immediate antecedent for Times columnist Brooks (tipped off by the word “tribes”) is the case of Native-Americans, which he supports with this statistic: “The average Asian-American in New Jersey lives an amazing 26 years longer and is 11 times more likely to have a graduate degree than the average American Indian in South Dakota.”

However, it’s not hard to find similar cases of exile—and similar multi-generational traumas—in other groups that did not go to “arid lands,” notably African-Americans (many exiled twice—initially from Africa, then, as noted in Nicholas Lemann’s The Promised Land, from the South to the North, following the mechanized picking of cotton, beginning in the 1940s) and Irish-Americans (the archetypal immigrant group, in terms of traumas suffered and coping mechanisms pioneered, following the Great Famine of the 1840s).

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