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.