Thoughts on Racism – 5
Barriers to Social Progress
Some undoubtedly will object to what we have presented so far, maintaining that we fail to understand its continuing structural, or systemic nature. Racism may not be personal. Rather it continues in a more subtle, institutional and therefore more insidious form, it is claimed. While we want to avoid being superficial, we want to ask the obvious question. Where? What structures? What systems? What institutions? It is important to be specific. Where in our society are minorities denied access? Where is bias evident? Where does discrimination continue? What doors are still closed? Yes, there are racists. Yet that does not mean that the nation itself, as a defining characteristic, as an organizing principle, is racist. Indeed, wherever racism is structural, it is in fact prosecutable, with candidates lining up to make the charges. This is the answer to anyone who accuses an institution, a business, a region, a state, or the nation with racism – identify it and let us join with you to expose and prosecute it. Structural, institutional, and systemic racism, by normal definitions, is illegal and has been since the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Inevitably, those making the case for structural racism today appeal to disparities in outcome – in law enforcement (number of minorities arrested, prosecuted, imprisoned, killed by police), in average income, in accumulated wealth, in percentages within various professions, in numbers of minority businesses, etc. These social phenomena are said to demonstrate that the whole structure of society is thoroughly racist, designed to favor whites and suppress minorities, and must be torn down.
However, if the only appeal is to unequal outcomes, this is an overly simplistic explanation (see our “Thoughts on Racism – Part 3”). Outcomes may provide evidence of discrimination. Yet outcomes alone cannot be decisive and may not even be important. The culture of the home, for example, has far more to do with who succeeds in school, or who achieves high monetary income, or who is involved in criminal activity, and as a consequence who succeeds in life.
Are we saying that there are no systemic or political barriers to social progress among minorities? No, but the structural barriers we see are not racial in nature. We can identify several of them, each of which is more important than anything we’ve heard from those most vocal about minority oppression.
First, the breakdown of the family is a major institutional, structural, systemic barrier to equality of outcome. 85% of all men in prison were reared in homes without a father. The vast majority of Americans living near or below the poverty line are in single-parent households. Those looking for explanations for persistent high incarceration rates and persistent poverty must consider the erosion of the family in underclass regions from the inner city to Appalachia.
Second, the breakdown of the public schools is a major institutional, structural, systemic barrier to equality of outcome. Countless minority students are trapped in failing schools, while the successful charter-school movement is opposed by teachers’ unions and politicians. Thomas Sowell has documented the tragedy of this opposition in his latest book, Charter Schools and Their Enemies. Given the direct connection between progress in education and economic prosperity, those looking for explanations for the persistent income gap between blacks and other groups must consider the failure of the public schools to educate.
Third, reduced police presence in minority neighborhoods is a major barrier to equality of outcome. The campaign against “broken window” policing, the campaign to defund the police, the media slander of policing in America as systemic racist (for which there is no statistical support) has had and always will have an immediate effect: robbery, murder, and mayhem in under-policed neighborhoods. Crime rates in the inner cities have spiked everywhere since last summer as a direct result of the anti-policing propaganda.
Fourth, the culture of the inner-city is a major barrier to equality of outcome. J. D. Vance has demonstrated in his book Hillbilly Elegy that today’s social pathologies know no racial boundaries. Appalachian whites suffer from all the same cultural maladies as do inner-city blacks and Hispanics: crime, glorification of violence, drug and alcohol abuse, illegitimacy, single-parent households, contempt for education, a vanishing work ethic, and all with the same result: poverty. Why? Because of the shared values of the inner cities and many Appalachian white communities. The astonishing success of Caribbean and African blacks in America today, educational, professional, and financial, provide further evidence that the problem for many minorities is not racial, but cultural.
These four factors are all but ignored by those presenting themselves as advocates for equality and social progress for minorities. Why? Perhaps because these advocates have a different narrative driving a different agenda. What is that? Simply this: America is so thoroughly oppressed by a white, heterosexual, patriarchal social structure that the entire system must be destroyed. Why should Christians care about this false narrative? Because if this false narrative succeeds, the end result will be the perpetuation and ultimate multiplication of human suffering, particularly that of those the false narrative claims to help.
(to be continued)