Historical Racism Is Not the Singular Cause of Racial Disparity

Originally published at: Historical Racism Is Not the Singular Cause of Racial Disparity – Quillette

Even before the crescendo of Black Lives Matter last summer, the operative view among progressives was that historical racism is the overriding cause of racial disparities between black and white Americans today. The progressive ethos on race is neatly conveyed by the novelist William Faulkner’s remark: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”…

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Our racist liberal friends have a little problem. All their government programs, especially their race programs, tend to Make Things Worse.

Of course they do, because government is loot and plunder, and loot and plunder subtract from wealth and productivity. Thus almost all government programs tend to Make Things Worse.

The author comments on the universal discrimination against the new migrants to the city, whether black or white. (Not to be forgotten is the current discrimination by high-caste Indians in US tech against Dalits.)

Really, people are right to discriminate against the new migrants. Almost always they have a pre-urban culture that is ill-equipped to function in the market economy and typically the migrants form urban gangs (all except the Germans, as far as I can figure). The Brits invented modern policing to deal with the urban gang problem.

But if our racist liberal friends are Making Things Worse, what are they to do? Exactly, blame ordinary Americans who have no power to change anything, even to stop the mad rush towards wind and solar power. No ruing class ever blamed itself.

Mircea Eliade observed that it is typical of primitive religious belief to account for all suffering as somebody’s fault. So I guess our racist liberal friends are not just racists, but primitives too.

If we are talking about slavery, how about voluntary slavery? Back in the day a Brit could go to his lord, place his head in his lord’s hands and become a “head-for-food” slave. Hello modern welfare.

You will notice that I am not conceding the normal conventional wisdom about race and discrimination. That’s because I think that accepting ruling-class conventional wisdom almost always Makes Things Worse.

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Great essay, Mr Kronen. Packed full with great sources and empirically-based arguments. I was recently watching Glenn Greenwald on the Coleman Hughes podcasts. He was asked what advice he had for the budding journalist and writer- his was response was to seek out a few areas of specific knowledge which brings value to your readership greater than that of a generalist encountering a new topic for the first time. By that measure, you succeed.

If I do have a criticism, it stems from observations of my own scribblings. I have been to wonder about the possibility of interjecting the occasional element of humour or pithy sarcasm into my own data-driven pieces. It might promote reader attention, because there is a tendency, when confronted with a growing preponderance of evidence (complete with your laudable occasional concession to the countervailing point of view), to drift off a little as a reader, because one has begun to anticipate what will come next- more evidence.

A good example of such humour is to be found in events from across the Pond, here in the UK. Recently, the government has published a report it commissioned on the subject of race and racism in the UK. The report concludes that although racism is still a problem in the UK, especially in relation to the online space where anonymity provides a shield for racist trolls, it found little evidence of what one would call institutional, structural or systemic racism. The details of the report can be found here: Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparity: The Report.

Obviously, this caused a great of controversy and outrage here in the UK, mostly on the Left. In response, The Runnymede Trust has produced a hastily cobbled together report which contradicts the Sewell report. A link can be found here in the opening line of this UnHerd Article by David Goodhart, author of the highly culturally salient The Road to Somewhere, and more recently, Head Hand Heart: The Struggle for Dignity and Status in the 21st Century. Whilst the Sewell report is replete with empirical evidence and data, the Runnymede Report seems to consist mainly of stated assertions, anecdotal evidence, and evidence to the effect that any inequality of outcome whatsoever between ethnicities must be steeped in systemic racism.

However, if we look down to the detail line of policy within institutions, in an area like education, for example, then it is true to state that the Afro Caribbean British demographic underperforms relative to the White British group. But is this evidence of systemic racism? Well, it neglects to mention that the White British ethnicity is the second worst performing group of all in the UK, or that the more recent population of African British cohort outperforms the White British group, by a degree. It’s a funny sort of White Supremacy which places white people close to the bottom.

Are we really to believe in a structural racism so deviously planned and carefully executed that it manages to disadvantage Afro Caribbean British pupils, whilst leaving African British schoolchildren alone? This is government-run education we are talking about, after all. Many more cynical UK citizens have come to doubt the British Government’s ability to successfully run a bath, let alone a vast and all-pervasive conspiracy, which successfully favours one group over another.

I would interject the occasional dramatic flourish or humorous set-piece to keep you readers rapt- although I’ve only recently thought of the necessity myself, and am having problems recognising when to add the humour- it’s difficult because it disrupts the flow. I am hoping that when I have a well-stocked inventory of flourishes or humour, I will be able to use them like a practised routine, breaking up long stretched of evidence-based text.

As usual, my comments are to be found on my Substack, which is free to view and comment:

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An excellent article —well researched and very analytical.

And this superb quote: “Coates’s argument assumes that it’s possible to right the wrongs of history. Frankly, it’s an insult to all those who came before us to selectively appropriate their suffering to fulfill our own moral needs in the present.” I might change the quote slightly: “It’s an insult to all those who came before us to selectively appropriate their suffering to ‘fill their pockets with reparations payments.’ ”

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But it’s by no means obvious how the government marking an area in red on a map would promptly turn a thriving community into a social hellscape that would continue for decades after the policy was ended.

Racist housing discrimination, or redlining, was a great injustice and certainly the worst example of northern racism. The author is correct, however, to question exactly how this grave injustice translated into depressed economic conditions, especially when considering the redlined areas were in close proximity to thriving central-downtown areas generally considered to be highly desirable locations.

This is especially puzzling considering the American phenomenon known as “gentrification” where well-to-do young urban citizens relocate to the economically depressed areas and thereby revive them, only to be denounced by liberals as colonialists of sorts. We have diametrically opposed narratives here.

The gap between the wealthiest 10 percent of the white population and the wealthiest 10 percent of the black population accounts for 77.5 percent of the total wealth gap. And although the racial wealth gap exists to some degree across class lines, if we were to eliminate the disparity between the bottom 50 percent of blacks and whites in terms of wealth, a full 97 percent of the total gap would remain. Only three percent of the racial wealth gap is explained by the disparity between the poorer half of each population, while the vast majority of the gap is explained by the disparity between the top 10 percent of the wealthiest white and black Americans in the population.

In other words, America’s liberal tech oligarchs like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates dramatically skew the phony racial wealth gap statistic. In fact, very few people inherit significant amounts of wealth. It is a myth that wealth is passed on from generation to generation.

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I don’t think you understand “redlining.” I was born in a neighborhood of Boston that was redlined in the 1950s. There were literally no blacks in the Dorchester I was born into. What redlining meant was that the banks would not approve a mortgage for housing in my neighborhood without a down payment substantially above what was required in neighborhoods with better prospects. The banks were right. All of the buildings in my old neighborhood were wood framed three apartment structures (triple deckers, we called them) built between 1870-80 on lots with 50 foot frontage on the street and 120 feet deep that were reaching the end of the useful life. Wager earning renters couldn’t get mortgages to buy property in the neighborhoods they grew up in and owners couldn’t get mortgages to improve or expand their holdings in the neighborhood.

Between 1955-60 my family and most other families took the loss by selling cheap and moving to a better neighborhood. We were replaced mostly by black families. From the “white” perspective redlining was understood as “block busting."

There were very few racially restrictive deeds in the north. The first one I ran into was in Denver in 1990 and I never saw a racial restriction in any deed in Massachusetts in my 5 years working in for a law firm that specialized in conveyancing in the eastern counties of Massachusetts.

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The article addresses the conflation of class and race when it comes to past housing discrimination. There is a lot of overlap. Most of the time it is simply rich people wanting to keep out newcomers who they see as socially inferior, economically unreliable, or culturally undesirable. How much did race come into play? How could we ever really know? I am pretty sure there was plenty of genuine racism in play in Chicago. Just a gut feeling. I base that on my reading of history. I was not there.

In any case, my point was that given the redlining, it does not in any way explain how these areas became economically depressed as a result of redlining. This is critical. Assume the worst is true. It costs nothing to make this assumption. Many sincerely believe it to be true. What matters is there seems little to support the claim that redlining was a cause for future disparities in wealth. It is simply a very bad thing to happen for its own sake; but it is not relevant to discussions of the putative racial wealth gap.

While there’s no question that slavery produced a great deal of wealth in colonial America for plantation-owners and northern industrialists, if wealth were an exclusive byproduct of slavery and conquest, the world would be a much wealthier place.

Or it’d be a much poorer place. China, India, Korea, Japan…all experienced rapid economic growth post 1945 with no slavery or conquest. It also ignores the fact that the US itself became significantly wealthier after the abolition of slavery, in particular during the gilded age, the roaring twenties, the post war economic boom. Coates’ attempt to play amateur economic historian and paint American prosperity as a product of slavery and other forms of exploitation are either based in ignorance or a cynical desire to inflate the supposed debts owed to the descendants of slaves. Or a combination of both.

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Is America (the United States) systematically racist? There are a number of ways of looking at this, but they all yield the same answer. No.

  1. The US and Canada have very different racial histories. However, the black/white income gap is remarkably similar. See “Black Canadians and Black Americans: Racial income inequality in comparative perspective” (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233008532_Black_Canadians_and_Black_Americans_Racial_income_inequality_in_comparative_perspective). The abstract reads.

“Using census data, we compare the economic status of blacks and whites in two neighbouring countries - the USA and Canada - examining the effects of international migration of people of colour upon systems of racial hierarchy. At first impression, the racial income gap is markedly smaller in Canada than in the USA. However, this is largely due to the relative sizes of first-, second- and third-plus-generation immigrants in each country. Once this is taken into account, we find that racial income and wage gaps are quite similar in the two countries, raising the puzzle of why nations with such divergent institutional histories produce similar levels of racial inequality.”

  1. One clue is to look at societies where ‘racism’ (the white kind) hasn’t existed for a very long time. The Haitian Revolution was 217 years ago. If ‘white racism’ was really such a powerful force, then Haiti should be highly successful. That does not seem to be the case. The following is from the CIA World Factbook.

“Currently the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with close to 60% of the population living under the national poverty line, Haiti’s GDP growth rose to 5.5% in 2011 as the Haitian economy began recovering from the devastating January 2010 earthquake that destroyed much of its capital city, Port-au-Prince, and neighboring areas. However, growth slowed to below 2% in 2015 and 2016 as political uncertainty, drought conditions, decreasing foreign aid, and the depreciation of the national currency took a toll on investment and economic growth. Hurricane Matthew, the fiercest Caribbean storm in nearly a decade, made landfall in Haiti on 4 October 2016, with 140 mile-per-hour winds, creating a new humanitarian emergency. An estimated 2.1 million people were affected by the category 4 storm, which caused extensive damage to crops, houses, livestock, and infrastructure across Haiti’s southern peninsula.”

  1. In World War II, Japanese-Americans were interned in various camps and typically lost everything. Yet, by the middle 1960s, they were more successful than whites in America. Back then, racism towards Japanese-Americans wasn’t hypothetical or limited to the internment camps. See “ALIEN LAND LAWS IN CALIFORNIA (1913 & 1920)” (Alien Land Laws in California (1913 & 1920) - Immigration History). Quote

“Japanese Americans responded to anti-Asian hostility by focusing on agriculture as an economic endeavor that would be less threatening to whites. Japanese Americans succeeded in establishing farms supported by ethnic networks that facilitated purchasing of supplies and equipment, transportation, and marketing. The governments of many western states targeted Japanese Americans by passing legislation that banned “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning or leasing land. Japanese Americans circumvented these laws by placing land under the names of U.S.-born children or under corporate ownership, practices restricted by later versions of these laws. Although these laws were clearly based on racially discriminatory categories, the Supreme Court upheld them as constitutional in the early 1920s. Many Japanese Americans were forced to relinquish their farms and moved elsewhere, a practice that became formal U.S. policy with incarceration during World War II.”

It should be noted that the Japanese-Americans in question were hardly elite. They were brought to America as farm laborers. However, even after the Word War II camps, they were highly successful. See “"Success Story, Japanese-American Style” (New York Times (1923-Current File); Jan 9, 1966)

““Asked which of the country’s ethnic minorities has been subjected to the most discrimination and the worst injustices, very few persons would even think of answering: ‘The Japanese Americans,’ … Yet, if the question refers to persons alive today, that may well be the correct reply. Like the Negroes, the Japanese have been the object of color prejudice … When new opportunities, even equal opportunities, are opened up, the minority’s reaction to them is likely to be negative — either self-defeating apathy or a hatred so all-consuming as to be self-destructive. For the well-meaning programs and countless scholarly studies now focused on the Negro, we barely know how to repair the damage that the slave traders started. The history of Japanese Americans, however, challenges every such generalization about ethnic minorities.””

  1. It turns out that all of the most successful ethnic groups in America are non-white. Some are wildly more successful than white. Some statistics. Median Household income for Indian Americans ($107,390), Jews ($97,500), Taiwanese ($85,566), all Asians ($74,245) is greater than Whites ($59,698). As can you see, non-white ethnic groups are at the top and Jews earn (far) more than non-Jewish whites.

These numbers are real, but have two major problems. First, Asian households tend to be larger than non-Asian households. Using personal income provides a better measure than household income. Asian personal income is also higher than non-Asian personal income. However, the positive gap is not as large as the household income gap. The second problem is the nature of the 1965 Immigration Act. The 1965 Act favored (rightfully so) highly educated immigrants over less educated immigrants. The cliché Indian-American immigrant to the US is a doctor. Of course, that is a cliché. However, it is a cliché because it has some element of truth to it.

  1. It turns out the school funding is not equal across the United Sates. New York state spends the most (over $24K per-student, per-year) and Utah spends the least (around $7K per-student, per-year). However, the results almost exactly the opposite of what ‘white racism’ theory predicts. Utah has higher test scores that New York state. Of course, ‘white racism’ theory would predict the Utah would spend more than New York state. That isn’t even remotely true.

  2. Police fatalities are not equally distributed by race. In 2019, just 17 Asians were killed by the police. For whites the number was 406, and blacks 259. ‘White racism’ can not possibly explain the amazingly low number of Asians shot by police. For a typical factoid, in one year, two Japanese-Americans were arrested for murder. Not 200, or 200,000. Just two.

  3. The Asian incarceration rate is 74.5% lower than the white incarceration rate and 95% below the black incarceration rate. ‘White racism’ can not possibly explain these astounding differences.

  4. It turns out that schools discipline rates are tracked by race. See Figure 15.3 of “Indicator 15: Retention, Suspension, and Expulsion” (Indicator 15: Retention, Suspension, and Expulsion). ‘White racism’ can not possibly explain these astounding differences.

  5. That statistics for SAT scores, college enrollment/completion, arrests, etc. are all readily available by race. You can even find COVID-19 vaccination statistics by race. Invariably, you will find racial disparities and invariably Asians will be on top. So much for the mythology of ‘white racism’.

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“There’s no such thing as ‘White racism’ keeping Black people down. But seeing as though they can’t get it together, they are seemingly unable to overcome some innate tendency towards failure.”

Whew…

What you fail to take into account is the baleful effects that white liberals have on African ethnicity populations, through debilitating patronage and god awful policies- both of which are to be found in abundance in both Canada and the US.

Here are the Success Academy SAT scores for 2019, which, it should be noted, came from an intake generated by lottery from poor, high crime communities.

Average SAT Scores

Population Average Math Score** Average Verbal Score** Average Total Score**
Success Academy 654 614 1268
All Students Nationally* 531 536 1068
Black Students Nationally* 463 483 946
Hispanic Students Nationally* 489 501 990
White Students Nationally* 557 566 1123

The things that mark Success Academy out are strict, structured low-level discipline, insistence on hard work and application both amongst students and parents and peer groups which exclude negative influences- because the bad eggs depart early in the process, of their own accord (although incentives keeps this figure low).

Similar results can be found across the Pond:

Let-leaning liberal or Leftist patronage is incredibly toxic to the more socially conservative working poor. We see the same thing with the White Working Class who have been their beneficiaries for decades. White Working Class boys attend university in the UK at a rate of 9%- for girls it is 14%.

It’s feedback racism (a form of structural racism)- predicated on the desire to help, gone disastrously wrong. I should have really called it matronage though, given that it’s borne of the smothering embrace of an all-consuming mothering instinct.

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