Stalking Systemic Racism
One of Joe Biden’s first acts as president was to rescind former-President Trump’s order to stop anti-racist sensitivity training that Trump described as a malign ideology in departments of the federal government. Trump’s order, just before the presidential election, was described by the New York Times as “transparently political.” But Trump’s executive order threatened to put an entire new industry of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) consultants out of business.
On his first day in office, President Biden rescinded Trump’s executive order (to the great joy of the DEI consultants who, unfortunately, do not look like America). He also ordered all the heads of federal agencies to conduct equity assessments and created a new Equitable Data Working Group that would parse all government statistics based on race, gender and all the other identities in order to root out systemic racism and inequity within the government.
But what is this systemic racism that the Biden administration is intent on wiping out? Systemic (or institutional) racism is racism that is embedded as normal practice in a society or an organization that can lead to disparate outcomes in housing, employment, criminal justice, healthcare and every other aspect of society. Disparate outcomes are defined by many people on the left automatically as evidence of racial discrimination, rejecting the possibility of any other reason. The term was coined by Stokely Carmichael in his book, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation which he wrote with Charles V. Hamilton. Carmichael, who was a leader in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and later the Black Panther Party, asserted that institutional racism is less perceptible because of its “less overt, far more subtle” nature.
The reason that the federal government, the progressive left and the Black Lives Matter organization are so focused on stamping out systemic racism is that overt racism, racism that can be readily observed, has been greatly reduced in America. Jim Crow laws, separate but equal schools, poll taxes, and most other forms of overt racism are prohibited and have been made illegal. White supremacists and racists still exist but are a small (and I think shrinking) minority of the US population. Even the far-right Proud Boys send mixed messages on white supremacy as the chairman of the group is of afro-Cuban descent.
There remain sporadic tragic events such as the murder of George Floyd by a white cop and the murder of Ahmaud Arbery by a trio of white men. But, although tragic, these incidents are becoming statistically rare although anecdotally prominent through social and mainstream media. And, although the wheels of justice are slow, the perpetrators of these hate crimes will likely be severely punished for their crimes.
One example of disparate outcomes supposedly caused by racism and discrimination is the fact that home ownership is much lower for blacks (41%) than whites (73%). But there are many factors that can explain this outcome. Whites have better credit scores than blacks, which makes getting a mortgage easier. The better credit scores for whites can be at least partially explained by age, the median age for white Americans is 44, for blacks it is 34 according to Pew Research. Credit scores are highly correlated to age because older people of all ethnicities usually make more money than younger people, so their credit scores are better. Another factor is the fact that fewer blacks than whites are married, and the stability of married life improves credit scores (as do two-income families).
So, there are a number of reasons why blacks have a lower home ownership percentage than whites. Some factors may have a link to racism or discrimination, others may be explained by cultural differences. But you cannot resolve the discrepancy in home ownership (and many other statistical differences between races) without addressing the underlying causes of the problem and racism (institutional or overt) is only one of them.
By the anti-racist line of thinking, requiring good credit in order to get a mortgage to buy a house is systemic (or institutional) racism. You could try and change the system in order to close the black/white home ownership gap. But the 1968 Fair Housing Act (making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race) and the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act (requiring banks to lend into the communities where they get their deposits) hardly made a blip in the gap. In fact, between 1950 and 1970 the percentage of black home ownership grew by 20% before they eliminated systemic racism by law.
The mortgage lending market responds to incentives just like other markets. Unfortunately, the black community suffers from some disincentives that have held back black home ownership. Credit scores as discussed previously are not that high which means higher default rates and foreclosures. Plus, homes in poor neighborhoods have lower prices, which means that the cost of underwriting a mortgage are higher as a percentage of the total amount of the loan, reducing profits. But what are low profit (and therefore low priority) markets for some lenders are niche markets to other lenders. Black banks and mortgage lenders are thriving in many cities across America. This is how blacks made progress before the Civil Rights Era, by creating their own institutions and associations. And it is one way how they can make progress in twenty-first century America.
The progressive left is not happy with this market-based solution and radical black leaders will accuse black bankers and borrowers of acting white. But the free market offers all of us the best opportunity of a truly colorblind economy. Racism is unprofitable. But the goal of the anti-racism promoters isn’t reform of the system or the adoption of productive characteristics to achieve the American Dream, but the end of the American Dream.
On June 17, 2020 (Juneteenth), Duke University president Vincent Price sent a letter to the Duke Community declaring a day of reflection “out of respect for the anger, sadness, exhaustion, and courage of our Black friends and neighbors,” and outlining a series of steps to be taken to “take transformative action now toward eliminating the systems of racism and inequality that have shaped the lived experiences of too many members of the Duke community.” These steps included “anti-racism and anti-bias training for every member of our faculty, student body, and staff in an effort to foster a more inclusive environment for all members of the Duke community.” North Carolina DEI consultants were overjoyed.
Duke University psychology professor John Stoddard responded to Price’s letter saying, “Structural racism is one of the most ill-defined concepts in the current debate. The law is race-neutral and scrutiny does reveal examples of individual racism. Evidence of ill-defined systemic or structural racism is slight.” DEI consultants and their progressive promoters focus on systemic or institutional racism because, as Stokely Carmichael noted, it is now hard to find specific examples of overt racism in twenty-first century America.
Peoples’ attitudes and actions have changed. Expression of racist attitudes are met with outrage and public shaming. Violent racist acts still occur but are now rare and the criminals are usually punished severely. Bias is now measured in microaggressions. Even acts with no racial animosity can be done unknowingly by well-intentioned people (as if we all aren’t recipients of microaggressions and outright aggressions on a daily basis). Innocent actions and race neutral institutions are labeled as racist based on the feelings of the victims or the disparate outcomes between blacks and whites.
How can an institution be reformed if the problems to be resolved are ill-defined or unidentifiable? Professor Stoddard laments that scientific inquiry of the problems we face has been distorted by reliance on “a factor that is basically unmeasurable” when there are other potential causes to investigate. Causes that are ignored because they don’t fit the racial justice vision of blacks as victims. The greatest fear of the advocates of systemic racism is that, if whites are not totally responsible for the problems of the black community, blacks themselves may bear some responsibility for their own fate.
The point of all this mandatory anti-racist training, anti-racist curricula, annual reviews to enforce anti-racist progress, is not to reform America but to eliminate America and replace it with government enforced race-based equality. It is not sufficient that our actions are not racist, our thoughts cannot be racist either. This is exactly what the Communist Party of China is doing to the Uighur ethnic minority through reeducation camps, destroying Uighur cultural icons and suppressing their religion. This is also what the Chinese are trying to do to Falun Gong and to the Tibetans. There can be only one culture in China and the CPC will define what that culture is and enforce adherence to it.
And this is what our far-left progressives and social justice warriors have in mind for the United States. There will be no diversity of thought. The equity of our Enlightenment principles will be ignored. The inclusion of unfavored ethnicities will be denied. Our reeducation camps are our public schools and universities, such as Duke. The 1619 Project is the curricula and Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States is our version of Mao’s little red book.