The death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis several weeks ago demonstrates once again that racial bias is entrenched in American society. It reminds us that we must do a much better job to improve race relations in our country. How will this be accomplished? I have already discussed some things that will work and others that won’t, see here and here.
Another way to look at it is backward thinking vs forward thinking:
Examples of backward (negative and not especially useful) thinking are:
- Reparations. Suggestions for reparations paid to the descendants of slaves are again being made. A figure of $14 trillion is used to equalize wealth distributions between whites and blacks. The basic problem with this approach (besides the exorbitant cost) is that America stands fundamentally for equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. Despite the slavery of their ancestors, what we owe blacks is an equal opportunity to succeed, not a guarantee of equal success.
- The limits of police reform. Strong police forces are needed to maintain law and order. Most police are not racist but there are a few bad apples. Making it easier to fire bad cops (without interference from police unions) is a very good idea but of overall minor value in improving black lives.
Examples of forward (positive and useful) thinking are:
- Affirmative action. Giving blacks more opportunities to succeed economically is now solidly entrenched in American society and can have a positive effect on a company’s financial success.
- Better educational opportunity. In an opportunity society like the U.S., a good K-12 education is indispensable. Unfortunately, many large metropolitan areas have poor inner city public schools. The answer is to promote both charter schools for these areas as well as early childhood education.
- Economic opportunity. In the U.S. everyone is ultimately responsible for their own welfare and success. What society can and should do is to provide strong economic opportunity by supporting general economic growth as well as training for skilled jobs. Restoring our economy to its pre-pandemic status will be very beneficial to all low-income workers including blacks.
Conclusion. The most effective thing we can do to help blacks achieve a more comfortable niche in American society is providing more and better opportunities for them to work their way up the economic ladder. False promises such as reparations for slavery and unrealistic police reform will only lead to more disappointment and resentment.