In I've suffered from racism in N.J. Here's one way to fight it, White recounts an encounter with racism as a little girl, with a group of white brats yelling racial epithets at White, who is black.
White casts substantial blame on the media; specifically, how it gives disproportionately large coverage of blacks who commit crimes as opposed to whites. There may be something to it. White is a “media studies professor”. I’m in no position to question this expert. But I think the problem of racism is much deeper than media coverage. I left these comments, citing quotes from White’s article along the way:
“Put simply, racism is the belief that one racial group is superior to another . . .”
That’s a good start. Fundamentally, racism is about group identity.* But then the message gets lost in a swamp of groupism:
There are a lot of measures in society where white people do better than black people - health, education, housing, intelligence tests -- all sorts of measures where whites fare better than black Americans.
Why is that? If you believe that whites do better than black people because there's something wrong with black people -- either culturally, that the way black kids are raised or their parents' values, or if you think that there's something biologically inferior about black people that makes them genetically inferior to whites -- that's just the very definition of racism.
Statistical measures tell you nothing about racism. Statistics are an average drawn among many individuals. I’ve been around long enough—worked with, played with, associated with and observed people of all races and backgrounds in my 69 years—to learn that you can learn nothing about any individual’s racial views by studying statistics. Not everyone is a racist and not everyone experiences racism—or experiences it the same, or deals with it the same. Likewise, you can learn nothing about any individual’s character by looking at statistics. You can learn nothing about the reasons for any individual’s achievement, or lack thereof, by looking at statistics. Or his intelligence, or education, or other “societal measures”. Any judging of individuals according to “paint-with-a-broad-brush” racial group affiliation is racist but, more practically, utterly illogical and useless. Yet that is the implied worldview of the “measures in society” standard the author uses.
I’ve been wondering if the writer is just so indoctrinated into collectivism that she innocently never considered any approach other than groupthink. Or, more is the writer cynically using racism to sneak in a socialist/egalitarian agenda? This statement hints at the latter:
Either you believe all people are equal and there’s something very wrong in our society that makes it so one group fares much better than the rest, or you don’t believe in equality at all.
Groups don’t “fare”. Groups don’t do anything. A group is only a number of individuals. The individual, not the group, is the unit of humanity that actually exists. Only individuals “fare”—think, choose values and goals, work or not, ambitiously apply themselves or not, succeed or fail, flourish or stagnate—each according to her unique personal circumstances, attributes, and above all content of character.
Equality is not a matter to “believe in” or not. It is a matter of recognizing facts. Human nature is such that inequality is an irrevocable natural fact, like the law of gravity. People, as individuals, are unequal in ability, ambition, values, interests, upbringing, moral character, looks, associations, even luck, to name just a few of the myriad respects that people are unequal. Like a huge global blizzard with no two snowflakes alike, what we refer in the abstract as “humanity” consists of autonomous individuals no two of whom are exactly alike. Existentially, humans are unequal. This natural inequality does not mean that people are, qua individual, morally unequal. “All men,” regardless of race, gender, genetic or cultural heritage, etc., “are created equal”—equal, that is, in our basic humanity as beings of reason. But beyond the basics, people differ, starting with the choice to use their reason or not, to think or not. This is why people can only be equal in one respect—the individual rights that guarantee legal freedom to pursue one’s own happiness and to keep and control whatever one achieves in life, so long as one’s actions don’t violate the same rights of others. When left free, their rights protected by government and law equally and at all times, people will always achieve unequally based on myriad factors that have nothing to do with race. Inequality in how we each “fare”—in outcome of whatever efforts we exert—is not wrong. It is a sign of justice.
To believe that groups should fare equally is to effectively dismiss as insignificant the lives and achievements of each individual; it’s to say that none of us had anything to do with our station in life. To equalize individual outcomes requires the cutting down and destruction of individual achievers, because by definition, anyone who achieves anything, on any level, in any area of human endeavor, is unequal to those who didn’t achieve it. To equalize racial groups is to cut down individual achievers, based solely on the color of skin. That, by definition, is racism. We should protect individual rights equally before the law. Any attempt to equalize group outcomes, and thus equalize individual outcomes, is utopian—that is, contrary the the laws of human nature—and thus destructive, unfair, and inhuman.
Eradicating racism, however overt or subtle, is a worthy fight—and the subtle kind is the hardest. To identify and oppose overt racism, such as harassment by name calling, is the easy part. To root out and oppose the subtle racism that people won’t openly admit to, maybe not even to themselves, but which may be hinted at in group statistics can not be fought with socialistic or egalitarian outcome-equalizing coercive government policies (We can and should, however, eliminate economic policies that stifle individual upward mobility). The fight against racism is philosophical. If “racism is the belief that one racial group is superior to another,” then individualism is the belief that all individuals should be judged by individual characteristics related to personal choice, regardless of race.
Whatever the media’s role in perpetuating racist attitudes, our deepest convictions relating to individualism versus collectivism is the fundamental issue. To measure group against group is to foster collectivism, which is to foster racism. When you collectivize problems of individuals (“. . . health, education, housing, intelligence tests -- all sorts of measures where whites fare better than black Americans”), it is no surprise when people offer collectivist speculations as to the why (it’s “black culture”, “black parenting”, “black values”, “black biology”)—even from people who, in their private associations, are not racist. I don’t offer collective generalizations, because I’m consciously anti-collectivism/pro-individualism. But when you frame the issue in collectivist terms, people who have not thought things through philosophically—even non-racists—may be drawn to racist, collectivistic broad-brush explanations. Applying the logic of the author's analysis, I’d have to ignore the achievements, the intelligence, the character, the actions, the ideas of each person I meet, and judge the person according to the group the person “belongs” to—according to skin color rather than content of character. That is racism. You can’t fight racism with collectivism, because racism is collectivism. The only antipode to collectivism is individualism.
* [I prefer philosopher Ayn Rand’s broader definition of racism:
Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.
Racism claims that the content of a man’s mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited; that a man’s convictions, values and character are determined before he is born, by physical factors beyond his control.
Like every form of determinism, racism invalidates the specific attribute which distinguishes man from all other living species: his rational faculty. Racism negates two aspects of man’s life: reason and choice, or mind and morality, replacing them with chemical predestination.]
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