When the British Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities published its report, its members, nine of 10 of whom are either black or of an ethnic minority, were publicly assailed as racists. Tony Sewell, who is black and a life-long educator of black children, was called “Uncle Tom,” a “race traitor” and likened to Joseph Goebbels. Because the Commission had the audacity to speak the truth, backed up by reams of data, that the U.K. is not a particularly racist place, that opportunity is generally open to all and that the best way to achieve greater equality is to ignore the woke narrative and for all, including working class whites, to work hard and take advantage of that opportunity, no racial slur was too absurd, too unhinged to be directed at its members. Rather than make cogent arguments refuting the Commission’s report, the woke fell back on slander, libel and defamation.
As I said in my posts on the Commission’s report (here, here and here), much of its message could be applied to the United States. And it turns out that, when good news on race is delivered here, the response is much the same as in the U.K. When Senator Tim Scott gave the Republican response to President Biden’s State of the Union speech, like the Commission, he spoke the unspeakable: “America is not a racist country.” To emphasize the fact, he prefaced those words with “Hear me clearly.” The man wasn’t kidding.
Now, Scott is no naïf on the subject of race. He is, after all, a dark-skinned black man from South Carolina, the state that once virtually defined the Deep South, the first state to secede from the union, triggering the Civil War. He took pains to say that racism still exists in this country and that he’s experienced discrimination himself.
But Scott understands and made clear that racism on the part of some benighted individuals does not a nation make. And, like the U.K. Commission, Scott is backed up by abundant factual information. And, again like the Commission, Scott was immediately attacked by those whose ideology on race renders them impervious to applicable facts, principled debate and the impact of their own disgraceful behavior. “Uncle Tom,” “Uncle Tim,” and, yes, the N-word were hurled at Scott for his blasphemy.
The senator of course is far from the only highly intelligent, well-educated black person to hold the views he expressed. People like Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, Glen Loury, Jason Riley, Candace Owens, Hayaan Hirsi Ali, John McWhorter, Robert Woodson, Larry Elder and others have been raising awareness of the reality of race for decades.
What we have then is the starkest of divides in public discourse on the subject of race. Now, tellingly, those who claim the U.S. to be forever and irredeemably racist are far more given to shouting epithets (as they did at Scott and the British Commission) than they are to making reasoned, fact-based arguments. And it’s almost invariably true that anyone who resorts to those tactics does so because he hasn’t anything better to say. Slurs and ad hominem attacks are a thin cover for the lack of a convincing argument.
Still, whatever the deficiencies of the woke, the question persists: Is Senator Scott right? His of course is an opinion, not a fact, but surely we can look at facts and make a judgment about whether his words accurately describe the U.S. or whether BLM or, say, Ta-Nehesi Coates has the better claim on our attention.
The “America is racist” argument holds that the many racial disparities that continue in this country stem from two things – past and present racism. After all, isn’t it telling that so many negative outcomes (and almost no positive ones) are to be found among a population that just happens to be the descendants of people who underwent centuries of the brutality of slavery and the barbarity of Jim Crow? Can anyone seriously claim that disproportionate incarceration rates, unemployment rates, workforce participation rates, educational outcomes, life expectancies, etc. would exist today absent our racist past and present?
To that, black conservatives and others respond: The United States has changed dramatically over the past sixty years. Barriers to black achievement have been taken down and replaced by their opposite, affirmative action. Attitudes on the part of whites toward blacks bear little resemblance to the frank racism of the past. The sine qua non of black achievement rests squarely in the hands of blacks who can and must do for themselves. Relying on whites for help ironically places power over black welfare in the hands of whites, very much as in the past. And besides, if America is such a racist place, who and where are all the racists?
I’ve read my share of both sides of the issue and come down squarely on the side of the black conservatives. I’ll begin to flesh that out next time.