Addressing Racism in the U.S.

The brutal death of George Floyd during an arrest by a white police officer in Minneapolis has tripped off widespread protests and race riots around the U.S.  There is a general consensus that black/white racism is still pervasive in the U.S.  How should we deal with it?  First, we have to separate myths from facts.

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For example:

  • Myth #1. There is strong evidence of widespread racial bias among police.  In 2019 police officers fatally shot 1004 people, most of whom were armed. African-Americans were about a quarter of those killed by cops (235), even though they commit 53% of homicides and 60% of robberies.  Of course, officers who use excessive force should always be held accountable.
  • Myth #2. Police departments should be investigated for systemic racism and reformed.  When police departments have been investigated following incidents of deadly force that went viral, police activity declined and violent crime spiked.  In Chicago there was a 90% drop in police-civilian contacts immediately after the announcement of an investigation.

If more thoroughly monitoring police behavior will do little to decrease racism, then what will work?  Consider:

  • Fact #1. Blacks have been making big gains in employment in recent years, but unfortunately these gains have not yet begun to close the income gap between black families and white families.  The very low unemployment rates for both blacks and whites as recently as February 2020 have now been at least temporarily wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.Capture131Capture132
  • Fact #2. Poor education is a large barrier to Black progress.  There is a huge academic achievement gap between middle class kids and kids from lower-income families.  Unfortunately the gap gets worse as kids progress through the K-12 grades.  It is very difficult to land a good job and hold on to it without a decent education.Capture133

Conclusion.  Black/white racism is endemic in American society even though much progress has been made.  Removal of bad cops is needed but systemic police reform will be counterproductive.  What really is needed in more and better economic opportunities for blacks, aided by more effective K-12 education.  More on economic progress next week!

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7 thoughts on “Addressing Racism in the U.S.

  1. Over the years, I have occasionally seen data on testing scores for OPS (not unusual for any urban-suburban school district) that most children progress similarly through the first 2 or three grades. By third or fourth grade, the children (not all) from families living in low socio-economic neighborhoods begin to achieve lower testing levels, especially in connection with reading. This is compounded by the fact that educational progress after 5th or 6th grade becomes increasingly dependent on the capability to read. Ultimately, the only long-term remedy will involve high-quality early childhood education, as in nearly mandatory early childhood education for every child as in Sweden where it is taught by teachers with M.S. credentials.

    For our nation’s long-term survival, the level of early childhood education will be impossible without a signicant decrease in health spending (the excess is now @$1 Trillion annually). Ultimately, preparing young children to succeed in grade school for most children requires some-one to read to them every day. If both parents are working 1-2 jobs each to survive, you get the picture. If they have no capability in reading while entering Junior High, they then pursue other interests unless guided by a mentoring process. Hopefully, the mentoring would occur from within their family’s “convoy” or a coach or a “great” teacher. Ultimately, the outcome eventually occurs with improved social mobility for everyone, less social isolation, and a nationally improved level of social cohesion.

    • You’ve given an excellent analysis of the problem, anticipating what I will say in my next post about the academic achievement gap. However, I think that middle class families will always give their own children the intellectual (reading) stimulation that they need to be ready for school at age 5 or 6. It’s the low-income kids who need the intervention of early childhood education provided from outside.

  2. Jack, I appreciate your article on addressing race, but are you saying racial problems are just inherent in the American society and we should ignore how it is pervasive in police culture? Only to shift the responsibility to a more educated more conforming society where blacks are less of a problem for the police? I’ll be fair and admit you have not said that explicitly, but to think that systematic police reform isn’t necessary is just another delay in the process for growth. This country needs systematic reform as a whole as it relates to dealing with race. Ending slavery didn’t end the problem, the Civil Rights Act didn’t end the problem, the death of George Floyd will not end this problem.

    Throwing distorted statistics around is not how we are going to gain a better understanding about race, as I have a few ridiculous stats of my own that some can view through the lens of racism. While you have had the benefit of seeing the repulsive killing in Minneapolis on camera, Colin Kaepernick effectively had his career taken from him for standing up for these similar occurrences that date back to a time long before I was born; and only after seeing it yet again on camera did the NFL decide to say they got it wrong after Kaepernick’s protest to draw attention to the problem was mischaracterized as a show of disrespect to the flag, military or our coveted veterans.

    So again, I appreciate your effort on the article, and I must say, I agree that what is needed is better economic opportunities for blacks and better K-12 education, but these aren’t black people arguments, these are poor people arguments. Everyone wants better jobs, higher wages, better education, and more opportunity. What makes this worse for black and brown people is the systematic stereotypical assumptions that effect relationships with their white counterparts.
    Affirmative action did not fix it, and in my estimation, it will not be any one program that will fix it, but a blatant intolerance for racism must become principal to heal and provide for better outcomes for our society.

    Our precious babies aren’t born racist. So please don’t make excuses for those that engage or tolerate it.

    • I’m not excusing racism and, for sure, American society should try to develop a “blatant intolerance” for racism as you say. What I am saying is that better economic and educational opportunities for poor blacks would give them a better chance of overcoming racism.

      • And my point is exactly right! Do you really believe that a better economic condition and educational opportunities will allow blacks to overcome racism? This is what amazes me about the state of the world now, how are we missing the point so aimlessly.

        So are you suggesting that educated blacks don’t get discriminated against? I am saying clearly, that racism is not an economic issue. Being poor or not educated obviously exacerbates the issue as these people may be seen as undesirable to some, but to think that “better economic and educational opportunities” would give blacks a better chance as if it is their fault for being discriminated against is unfortunate and a topic for a larger conversation.

        Read this article, smart successful blacks get discriminated against too.

        https://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=8131953&page=1

  3. I’m familiar with the Gates incident from 2009. We’ve all been stopped by police officers. I certainly have been, both black and white. You don’t argue with a police officer in uniform. Gates should have provided the requested identification.
    I would say that racism is partially an economic issue, at least its solution is. I suspect that educated people, black or white, almost always have more calm and congenial interactions with police officers.

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