Snake Oil Remedy
More than three months after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis Black Lives Matter protests continue across the country. The protestors are demanding an end to systemic racism. Police departments have been identified by these protestors as centers of systemic racism, resulting in the demands to “defund the police.” Most people agree that more needs to be done to eliminate racism in police departments, but much has already been done.
Police now wear bodycams to record police interactions with civilians and officers are given de-escalation training to reduce the likelihood of interactions turning violent. Many cities have police oversight committees. But when reforming police departments or any other institution, one must correctly identify the problems so that reform efforts are properly focused and will provide beneficial results. But much of the effort to defund the police or to eliminate the police as some progressive mayors have suggested is based on anecdotal evidence and raw emotion.
Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, citing a survey by the Washington Post states in a 5-minute video, that while cops killed 9 unarmed black men in 2019, they killed 19 unarmed white men. Despite this fact, the Poynter Institute has reported that over the last year National Public Radio (NPR) reporting about police killings of civilians mentioned the words “unarmed black man” 82 times but did not say the words “unarmed white man” even once despite the results of the Washington Post survey. I guess that, for NPR and other media outlets, “white lives don’t matter.”
A counterargument could made for the fact that the 32% of police killings of unarmed men that were black, is disproportionate to the number of blacks in the general population. But Ms. Mac Donald points out that these unfortunate events occur during police interaction with criminals and the number of interactions with black men is disproportionate because black men commit a disproportionate number of crimes. Peter Moskos of John Jay College of Criminal Justice states that while blacks and Hispanics make up approximately 55% of the population of New York City, blacks and Hispanics account for 96% of the shooting victims. If Ms. Mac Donald and Mr. Moskos are correct and the anecdotal evidence is misleading, then reforms based on misleading information could be suboptimal. In other words, the unintended consequences could be worse than the problem the reforms were supposed to cure. As police have pulled back in cities disrupted by protests and riots, violent crime has soared. In New York City in the month of July this year, 54 people were murdered compared to 34 last year. Those 20 additional deaths in a single month (most of them black people) were more than double the number of unarmed black men killed by police in all of 2019.
There is, of course, another American institution that can be accused of systemic racism because of the disparity of outcomes for people of color. I am talking about public education in America. But because the police and their supporters tend to be conservative and the teachers and their supporters tend to be liberal, the treatment of these two institutions and how they affect black people is, well, black and white. Rather than demanding reforms to improve the education of minority students, progressives fight against any alternative ideas, such as charter or religious schools (a recent study shows that charter schools have been especially beneficial to black youngsters), that could possibly help students. Instead of defunding struggling institutions, progressives demand more and more money be spent on public education and teachers. While ignoring the rioters burning down police union headquarters, the teachers’ unions that plague our public schools are the darling of the Democratic Party. But the problems that the police have with the black community begins in the inner-city public schools.
I have just been reading Thomas Sowell’s book, The Vision of the Anointed. He wrote it in 1995 but it is as relevant today as when it was written, perhaps even more so. In it he wrote that where the vision of the anointed differs from the vision of the rest of us, “is on the reality and validity of such systemic processes, which utilize the experiences of the many, rather than the articulated rationality of a talented few.” By this he means that the well-made plans of the anointed (by which he means people who think they can run your life better than you can) often go awry because the system, made up of many individuals and their institutions, reacts based on the incentives and constraints of the people within the system. In other words, the result is unintended consequences.
Because systems are complex, as Doctor Sowell points out it is often hard to determine what causes problems to arise. Most accusations of systemic racism point to disparate outcomes, not the causes of the outcomes. The people are crying out that systemic racism is real. Everyone from the Catholic Bishops to Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, point out the disparities in wealth, employment, criminal justices and many other parameters between blacks and whites. They reason that if, after the end of slavery and the repeal of Jim Crow laws, blacks have not achieved success in proportion to their percentage of the total population, then systemic racism and discrimination must be the cause. It must be. It couldn’t be that black attitudes and culture are holding them back. Black people must be the victims of oppression. There is no other acceptable cause for the disparity of their outcomes.
The concept of black people as victims of oppression is the key tenet of Critical Race Theory, which is prevalent among many Black Lives Matters supporters. Critical Race Theory divides the population into oppressors and oppressed. Critical Race Theory states that the basic principles and institutions of Western civilization were created to facilitate and justify the enslavement of black people and that these principles and institutions continue to oppress black people.
Critical Race Theory is, itself, an offshoot of Critical Theory; a theory developed by the so-called Frankfurt School in the 1930s that seeks to integrate the ideas of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. Critical Theory (sometimes called Critical Social theory) is, itself, an offshoot of Marxist theory. So, when the Black Lives Matter organization and their antifa supporters say that they want to end systemic racism they don’t mean reforming the American system in order to eliminate racism. They mean eliminate the American system.
We can all agree with the concept that black lives matter. But how are the constant protests (that often devolve into riots) held by the Black Lives Matters organizations along with their anarchist antifa allies going to improve the lives of black people? Much of the looting and wanton destruction is in black neighborhoods. Many of the destroyed businesses are black owned or hire many black workers. The increased crime and violence caused by pulling police out of minority neighborhoods affects mostly blacks and other minorities. The soaring murder rate claims mostly black victims.
You don’t improve racial harmony by confrontation. But the extremists on the fringes of these protests don’t want greater harmony. They want revolution. They attack public courthouses and police precinct buildings. They attempt to create alternatives to civil authority such as Seattle’s Capital Hill Organized Protest or CHOP. They demand that the police be defunded or even eliminated. They don’t want to reform the system; they want to dismantle it.
Critical Race Theory states that the organization and institutions of Western Civilization are inherently racist. They claim that capitalism was based on slavery and that slavery was the basis for America’s wealth. Based on Critical Race Theory, the only solution to systemic racism in America is the elimination of America by replacing it with an egalitarian socialist system where everyone is equal.
There is only one problem with this perfect egalitarian system they seek. People are not perfect, and their perfect egalitarian vision requires perfect people. If there are greedy people in a capitalist system, they will still exist in an egalitarian system (and they will try to game that system as well). If you have people who lust for power in a capitalist system, they will also exist in an egalitarian system (except that they will be in charge). And nothing in an egalitarian system will make people less racist (the Chinese Communist Party is attempting to wipe out Uighur and Tibetan culture so that those people conform to the Han Chinese version of egalitarianism). The only way to create this perfect egalitarian world is by forcing any recalcitrant person to comply. No wonder all previous attempts to create such a world has resulted in oppression and the murder of millions.
And someone needs to tell the supporters of Critical Race Theory that Western civilization did not create slavery, it ended it. It is Western civilization and the American Dream that offer people of all races the best opportunity of a successful life.