Opinion | Morgan Liddick: A national shrug on racism in America?
On your right
There have been a spate of reports recently that black and white Americans generally have come to agree that the former has gotten a raw deal. To quote a headline from the Associated Press: “Racism a national problem.” The subhead reads “Group seeks solutions for ending racial inequality.”
The “group” in question is the W. K. Kellogg foundation, the nation’s seventh-largest philanthropic organization, which has for years devoted itself to the question of racial equity. Note: not “equality.” Equity. It is a difference with an important distinction.
Equality as conventionally defined means “likeness in magnitude or degree, dimensions, value; being neither superior nor inferior.” Equity, on the other hand, deals in “fairness” and has about it the whiff of restorative treatment for wrongs real or imagined based on class, social standing or other criteria. Reparation for slavery is potentially a question of “equity.”
Definitions aside, there are problems with the facile assertion that we are in agreement about the history and status of racial relations in America. If one wades deep into the weeds of the various public opinion surveys the Kellogg Foundation and the Northeastern School of Journalism used as the foundation of their assertions, one finds data that suggests satisfaction, not outrage. It also indicates that for most, race relations are an afterthought.
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A December 2015 Wall Street Journal/NBC poll breathlessly sourced by the AP story actually showed that Americans were most concerned about national security and terrorism — 61 percent of those polled chose these either first or second out of ten possible topics. The economy and job security came next, at 41 percent. The federal deficit came next, at 28 percent. Immigration and climate change rounded out the top five, at 15 percent each. “Race relations” didn’t even make the top tier.
Asked about the most important new stories of the year, respondents chose terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino as numbers one and two. “Mass shootings” — including the Charleston, S.C. church attack — were third. “Use of force by police” was next but barely ahead of the Iran nuclear deal and immigration.
Significantly, 73 percent of respondents indicated that the next president should take a drastically different approach to race relations than Barack Obama. This percentage is similar to that rejecting George W Bush’s policies in November of 2007. Remember “If I had a son, he’d look like Treyvon” and “the Cambridge police acted stupidly” when considering this. Respondents did.
Perhaps this is why whites when questioned in a recent Gallup poll, 45 percent said racial relations in the US were good or very good, opposed to 51 percent of blacks. Two years ago, figures were 72 to 66 percent, respectively. When Barack Obama was inaugurated, figures for both were higher than at present — which should cause us to reflect on his effect on the question of racial comity. He promised to unify; apparently, he has divided instead.
Other salient points in the Gallup poll are worth considering: more black Americans than white consider their lives satisfying or very satisfying – 88 to 87 percent. More blacks than whites think police “treat them unfairly” (77 to 65 percent), although when specific examples of “unfair treatment” were requested, numbers plummeted to 20 percent — a level almost unchanged since the 18 percent of 1999.
And a significantly larger percentage of blacks than whites want more police in their neighborhoods — 38 to 18 percent. Evidently, an “occupying force” is okay if it keeps peace and order.
Then there is the crux of this problem: Although blacks, whites and Hispanics agree that one’s well-being has less to do with discrimination than with other factors including one’s capabilities and work ethic, many more blacks than whites or Hispanics think that “more government programs” are the answer to their plight. This is the opening the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and others of similar mind will use to argue that success is not the result of one’s own efforts, one’s character, education or experience but has instead everything to do with the color of one’s skin. And in consequence, that programs to “redress past wrongs,” or other such appealing language, are necessary in the name of “fairness.”
This position has been wrong since its fallacious foundations were pointed out in the 1960s. It is wrong today. It has brought economic failure, family dissolution, resentment and despair. It will be wrong tomorrow as the results of its errors multiply. So now is the time, and this the place, to call a halt, ere the siren call of “equity” sinks us all for good.
Americans want no Platonic guardians to decide who will prosper and who not; who will lead and who follow; who will inspire and who will be forgotten. We’ll do that ourselves, thanks.
Based on the content of our character.
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily.
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