This excellent article is very worth the read. The writer, Samuel Kronen takes on the ideas of those like Ibram X. Kendi and others who claim that all white/black disparities arise from past and present racism. It’s ground that’s been plowed many times, but Kronen is uniquely thorough and convincing in his refutations. I won’t go into a lot of detail (read his article for that), but, for me, the greatest value of the piece lies simply in certain facts it taught me.
Kendi, et al attempt to draw an unbroken line from slavery to Jim Crow to today’s racial disparities. It’s an approach that’s only convincing if you haven’t read its many takedowns that, unsurprisingly, demonstrate that American history is far more complex than the “systemic racism” crowd would have us believe. So for example, during the worst of the Jim Crow era, certain black high schools in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere outperformed white high schools, even those with kids from privileged families. How was that possible if racial bias alone explains those disparities? At the same time, white and black marriage rates were roughly the same and now of course they’re vastly different. According to CRT, that’s not possible, but the facts remain.
Kronen adds that, from 1940 – 1960, i.e., when Jim Crow was in full effect and before any major civil rights legislation, increases in black economic prosperity outstripped those of whites.
[B]etween 1940 and 1960, the percentage of black families with income below the poverty level was almost cut in half, from 87 percent to 47 percent. In key skilled trades, the income of blacks relative to whites more than doubled between 1936 and 1959,1 while black income rose absolutely and relative to white income across the board from 1939 to 1960.2 The rise of blacks into professional and other high-level occupations was greater during the years preceding the civil rights movement than in the years afterwards,3 and blacks began closing the gap between themselves and whites in years of schooling over the same period.4
Kronen points out the obvious: “the fact that black Americans were making progress over a period of rampant overt racism contradicts the assumption that racial disparity reflects the scale of bias in society.” So do countless other facts that have been exhaustively related by scholars like Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, Glenn Loury, Coleman Hughes, etc. Kendi, et al prefer to overlook those inconvenient facts.
Kronen takes down claim after claim and provides interesting data in the process. Was the New Deal’s exclusion of agricultural and domestic workers from the new social security regime intended to target and exclude black Americans? The CRT crowd of course says “yes,” but again the reality was quite different. In fact, some 82% of those workers were white, so their exclusion from the Social Security Act can hardly be called “racist.”
Two other sets of facts included in Kronen’s essay intrigued me. The first deals with redlining, a favorite punching bag of the CRT crowd. For years we’ve been told that white governmental and banking officials, bent on keeping black people down, allowed banks to draw red lines on maps indicating predominantly black neighborhoods and then deny home loans to the residents of the redlined areas. That’s the Claim No. 1. Claim No. 2 is that the practice of redlining prevented wealth accumulation by blacks even decades after the practice was outlawed. Kronen shows that “neither claim withstands scrutiny.”
Indeed they don’t. Two separate studies, one by the Bureau of Economic Research and the second by the Brookings Institution find that the inhabitants of redlined areas were overwhelmingly not black. The former finds that 85% of redlined households were white and the latter that 72% of the residents thereof were non-black. Not only that, but the financial well-being of whites in redlined areas was overall better than that of blacks in the same places, so whites who were, on average, better credit risks were denied credit. Again, it’s hard to square those facts with a racist motivation for redlining. Plus, CRT advocates never compare the financial status of redlined whites and blacks and their descendants, a rather telling omission.
Second, the wealth disparities between whites and blacks are routinely held up as proof of systemic racism, but Kronen offers a couple of highly pertinent facts that tend strongly to refute the claim.
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.
So, when the wealth gap is offered as proof of systemic racism, it’s worthwhile to remember that, for the great majority of both whites and blacks, essentially, there is none. Yes, Jeff Bezos is wealthier than, say, Oprah Winfrey, but should we bewail her plight? Many people of all races, would be happy to have her $3.5 billion net worth. And, when we’re thinking about the likes of Winfrey or private equity billionaire Robert Smith, let’s not forget that they started with little or no money and yet made it to their lofty perches high atop the wealth pyramid and, in Winfrey’s case, became one of the most influential people in the country. Again, it’s hard to rationalize those facts with a society and culture bent on keeping black Americans as second-class citizens.
The more we learn about the factual realities of race in the United States, the harder it is to justify Critical Race Theory. Indeed, education is CRT’s greatest foe. Thanks to Samuel Kronen for his contribution to that valuable effort.