Why Does Racial Inequality Persist?

Let us acknowledge that there are many racial disparities in the United States today, from the academic achievement gap, to incarceration rates, to household incomes.  I personally do not consider racial disparities to be an indication of personal or systemic racism in our society but many people do.

For me, it is far more important for society to figure out how to eliminate, or at least greatly reduce, these major disparities.  In fact, much progress is being made along these lines, even though, of course, much remains to be done.

My last two posts discussed the book “Woke Racism” by John McWhorter, who believes that the antiracism movement has betrayed black America.

Today I discuss an essay, “Why Does Racial Inequality Persist?” by the social scientist, Glenn Loury.  According to Mr. Loury:

  • There are two main narratives about the cause of racial inequality. The bias narrative holds that racism and white supremacy are the culprits and that blacks can’t get ahead until they end.  The development narrative holds that what is most essential is how a person comes to acquire the skills, traits, habits, and orientations that foster successful participation in American society.  This puts the onus of responsibility on African-Americans themselves to develop their own human potential.
  • Some 70% of African-American children are born to a woman without a husband. Is this a good thing?  Is it due to anti-black racism?  It is implausible to imagine how this would be reversed by government policies.
  • Young black men are killing one another at extraordinary rates. The young men taking one another’s lives on the streets of St. Louis, Baltimore and Chicago are exhibiting behavioral pathology.  Is this due to white racism?
  • How about the “mass incarceration” of blacks. Is this due to white racism or because black men more often break the law and therefore violate the basic rules of civility?

  • Of course, if teachers, principals, guidance counselors, and school-based police officers are discriminating by race when they discipline students, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice should get involved. But what if there is a racial disparity in the frequency of disruptive behavior which causes a difference in suspension statistics?  If behavior, not racism, is at the bottom of racially disparate suspension rates, think of all the disservice that is being done by not enforcing the rules.

Conclusion.  You cannot help the hand you were dealt, but you can decide how to play it.  To cast oneself as a helpless victim, to overlook what you have control over, while leaving the outcome to invisible, implacable historical forces: this is a self-defeating posture.
Take the poor central-city dwellers who make up about a quarter of the African-American population.  The dysfunctional behavior of many in this population accounts for much of their failure to progress.
While we cannot ignore the behavioral problems of this so-called black underclass, their fate is a national and not just communal disgrace.  We should discuss and react to these problems as if we were talking about our own children.  Our failure to do so is an American tragedy.  To progress will require adjusting ways of thinking on both sides of the racial divide.

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5 thoughts on “Why Does Racial Inequality Persist?


  1. It is likely that two global, social-economic-political (SEP) trends are in play. Our nation’s level of state-by-state poverty incidence has not changed in the last 40 years, other than in association with a recession. Importantly, women living in neighborhoods associated with adverse SEP conditions will give birth to children who are preferentially likely to express adverse capabilities to be self-sufficient at the end of adolescence. AND, epigenetically, these adolescent persons will endow their children with the same developmental adversities. Once enshrined, the epigenetically formed process will not reverse its endowment process for up to least 3 generations.

    The other global, SEP trend may be most identifiable by our nation’s loss of social cohesion. My own assessment, ? biased, is that this problem is generated by our nation’s evolving tendency to depend on the Federal government to resolve our day-day problems of SEP survival. Not surprisingly, the sociologists-anthropologists-economists have no agreed-upon definition for SOCIAL COHESION. Here is my own currently tacit definition: “a general expectation among the resident persons of a nation’s communities that the resident persons of each other’s municipal community are trustworthy and that the prevalence of these trustworthy persons improves when each municipal community persistently collaborates with their adjacent municipal communities to enhance each other’s Survival Commons (aka augmented safety net) by their reciprocating contributions of social capital.

    As a reminder, there is an economic ROI of more than 7:1 for enrolling children, who live in SEP adverse neighborhoods, in an advanced early childhood education center beginning at 6 months of age. See James J. Heckman, 2013, GIVING KIDS A FAIR CHANCE. Omaha’s “Buffet Early Childhood Institute” has a national presence within the national priorities for promoting early childhood education.

    We lack only the community WILL to make it happen. Its INTELLECT is already knowable. Something about social cohesion, I suspect.

  2. But don’t such community health centers already exist under the Affordable Healthcare Act? For example, in Omaha, we have the Charles Drew Center in north Omaha and the One World Health Center in south Omaha

    • The Community Health Forum encapsulates a broader array of collaborative efforts to reduce the generational traditions underlying the adverse expression of lifelong health survival. The value of equitably available Primary Healthcare is its ability to reduce national health spending as the ultimate basis for investing in early childhood education and family leave.

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