Racial Inequality: A ‘fallacious narrative’

Christian Gonzalez/Contributing Writer

Any assessment of the status of race relations in America today will reveal a rather bleak reality. Over the past few years, violent riots and protests have erupted throughout the country — from Baltimore to Minneapolis to Ferguson — objecting to the supposed racism of police practices and other alleged institutional prejudices.

To some, the sheer scale of this outpouring of frustration, along with the publicized instances of police officers shooting black men, reveal the underlying racial injustices at the heart of American democracy. Nevertheless, the narrative of “systemic racism” is severely undermined by a dispassionate look at some facts and statistics.

In order to avoid making generalizations or misrepresenting the opposition, I will take a quote directly from the website of the Black Lives Matter movement, which states that BLM is, “…an ideological and political intervention in a world where black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.”

The language used by BLM to describe the present situation of blacks in America implies their circumstances are similar to that of Jews after the enactment of the Nuremberg Laws. The current reality is nothing like that.

Still, BLM activists and people of their ideological hue often point to disparities in the incomes of blacks and whites as proof of the discriminatory nature of our society. But the conclusions they reach from these statistics are often incorrect and can lead to dangerous misconceptions.

Dr. Thomas Sowell, a renowned and insightful black economist, has produced volumes of books and articles which together provide a devastating critique of this victimization ideology. There are two examples in which he highlights the implications particularly relevant to this discussion.

In “Intellectuals and Race,” Sowell points out that inequities in income among different ethnic groups, racial groups and civilizations have been the norm throughout human history, not the exception. For instance, an article published by The Economist on Nov. 25, 2005 demonstrates that people living in Western Europe were earning significantly higher incomes than their counterparts in Eastern Europe.

Closer to home, Indian-American households were, on average, earning more than twice as much as white households. Asian Americans in general also had considerably higher incomes than whites.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Nigerian Americans, most of whom are black, reported a higher household income than white Americans. They even reported higher levels of labor force participation than the average white American. Somali Americans, on the other hand, had household incomes equal to less than half of those of Nigerian Americans.

The fallacious narrative of racism as an explanation for group disparities would utterly fail to explain this. If we are to gain a thorough understanding of differences in income between groups, we must consider many other factors — such as, for example, the level of education achieved by various groups. Such may be the case with Nigerian Americans, who are the best educated group in the country, according to a study by Rice University.

Sowell also calls attention to the disparities between approval for applications of mortgage loans. While it’s true that blacks are approved for mortgages only half as often as whites, it’s also true that whites are approved for mortgage loans only half as often as Asians.

There can only be two possible explanations for this disparity. The first is that American society discriminates in favor of Asians and against whites and blacks to varying degrees. Or, far more plausibly, Asians simply have the necessary qualifications to acquire mortgages more so than whites and so on for different ethnic groups.

Sowell explains many other disparities in the statistics between racial and ethnic groups, but there is no need to belabor the main point. In such a complex world, it is wholly irrational to expect all sorts of groups, with varying cultures, levels of education, average ages, and skills to magically report no disparities whatsoever in income.

We should not be asking why there are disparities in income between varying groups. As Sowell asks, “Perhaps a more fundamental question might be: What reason was there to expect these groups to be the same in the first place?”

In addition, the negative opinions of majorities are often bad indicators of whether groups will be able to succeed. Sowell points out that the overseas Chinese in Malaysia have become far wealthier than the native Malaysian population despite there being pervasive and even institutional, barriers against their success.

In the United States, the shameful racism and xenophobia shown toward Japanese Americans ― who were even placed in internment camps by a U.S. President ― and Jews, who faced awful anti-semitism, did not prevent either of those two groups from eventually surpassing the majority white population in terms of income and wealth.

To be able to speak honestly and without disrespect about these things is of utmost importance, especially in a school as diverse as FIU.

It does no one any good to say, as the BLM website does, that black lives are being “systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.” Just as many of Donald Trump’s positions breed divisiveness, so does the sort of rhetoric being used by BLM which primarily breeds resentment and indignation. As a community, we would do quite well without the vitriol— regardless of the side of the aisle from which it originates.



The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of FIU Student Media Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.


Image retrieved from Flickr.

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