By John R. “Buck” Surdu
As reported in Axios, Senior White House Advisor Cedric Richmond said the white house is considering moving forward with reparations for slavery without waiting on the legislature. One Chicago suburb has voted to steal money from taxpayers for reparations to people who were never slaves, even though the black community was better off 100 years after slavery than 30 years after The Great Society. Now it should be no surprise that Premier Biden is going to issue more executive orders to bypass the legislature and the checks and balances of the Constitution. He has demonstrated little restraint to the leftist, fascist use of executive orders throughout his first month in office. He has said that he plans to use his unbridled fascism to impose reparations on people who never owned slaves to benefit those who never were enslaved. Thomas Sowell has repeatedly provided facts to back his assertion that blacks were better off 100 years after slavery than 80 years after affirmative action (see Economic Facts and Fallacies by Thomas Sowell or any videos on YouTube). But facts don’t matter to the left; only division in the name of unity and segregation in the name of inclusivity matters to the Left.
The non-specific characterization of America as systemically and hopelessly broken, the generalization that all acts involving different races can be chalked up to racism without substantiation, is tearing the country apart. Fomenting racial hatred and distrust is big business, as evidenced by Luis Farrakhan, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the various talking heads on CNN, and many others. This missive is about trying in vain to explain why accusations of institutional racism and tacit or overt support for lawlessness and violence do not help solve our problems.
The Problem with Claims of Institutional or Systemic Racism:
If your goal is to foment racial hatred for political gain, accusations of institutional racism are a brilliant strategy. At once, they do not have to be supported by a balanced analysis of facts or data; by the general and non-specific nature, they are irrefutable (and in fact, attempting to provide evidence to refute this blanket generalization is tantamount to a racist act), and are not actionable and therefore are perpetual and unsolvable. Our schools, media, and politicians jump to ascribing racial intentions or motivations to all acts involving minorities, particularly black people. In such a situation, the accused is guilty whether he or she is proven innocent.
A classmate of mine recently posted that he is afraid of letting his son out of the house because he is a target and likely to be stopped by the police. In the People’s Democrat Republic of Maryland, my son was stopped by a policeman on his way home from his friend’s house. He was upset at having been stopped. He hadn’t done anything wrong. He was profiled because he was a young driver, and it was close to curfew. But the stop was not racially motivated. I told my son the same thing I hope black parents say to their kids. When police stop you, keep your hands in plain sight and don’t get belligerent. As Roland G. Fryer points out (see below), police use of force may be more a factor of how the civilian responds to the police than a matter of race.
When I was a company commander during the Spanish American War, the accused soldier would visit the trial defense service when I issued an Article 15 (non-judicial punishment for a minor infraction of regulations). The head of TDS at Ft. Benning was on record saying there were no bad soldiers, only bad commanders. In such statements, he inferred that all commanders were bad. The problem with such an accusation that all commanders are wrong is that by being a commander, you were painted with the “bad” label and had to prove that you were an exception. I gave an Article 15 to a soldier, who then complained that I only punished him because he was black. I had kept a record of every Article 15 I had issued and told him to take it to TDS and then come back and talk to me. The record PROVED that the punishments I handed out were independent of race or sex. But I had to PROVE that. I was guilty of racism until proven innocent with data. To the credit of the TDS folks, they were willing to accept the data and made the correct conclusion.
When I was young, when schools taught us how to think, I recall Mr. O’Neil, my fifth-grade teacher, talking to us about stereotypes and hasty generalizations. We observed examples of how such things were a) harmful, b) counterproductive, and c) often untrue and unfair. Yet today, it is okay. Assuming the motive for any actions is racial without evidence is encouraged by our “representatives,” from the office of the (last four) Presidents to your local Congressman. When I was in school, we were taught to immediately look with skepticism at words like “all” and “every.” Saying that all Irish are drunks, all blacks are lazy, all lawyers are corrupt, all Congressmen are corrupt, or all whites are racist should be questioned, and the person using such terms should be put on the spot to justify such statements with data. Not anymore, it seems. We take as gospel the statement that “all whites are racists” and that all of America is racist through the mere act of being an American. In fact, “all whites are racists” is taught to our children in political indoctrination camps (that “identify” as schools) and forced down the throats of government workers and employees of large, woke businesses.
The challenge with the non-specificity of a blanket claim of “institutional racism” is that it is ephemeral, irrefutable, and non-actionable. I think those who make a living off racial unrest have posed the problem this way intentionally so that it can never be solved.
Your boss walks in and says, “you always do a crappy job.” First of all, “always” is almost certainly a false claim. Second, you can’t fix “always.” How do you fix “always” without specific examples? How are you supposed to improve? That is the challenge with accusations of “institutional racism.” How do you refute the claim that all police are racist and target black people? You can’t. And if you do, you are racist for even trying. You can even point people at reports such as An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force by Roland G. Fryer, Jr., a (black) professor at Harvard University, the most woke campus on the planet, that makes it clear that “always” isn’t true. Still, without getting to a specific incident or problem, even those data are meaningless. “The man has his knee on the neck of black people” is in no way a practical or addressable problem.
No action can be taken for improvement without a specific case or problem. In Lean Six Sigma training or Statistical Process Control, the first step in process improvement is to document and measure the system, take action, and then measure the outcome to see if improvement was realized. You can’t measure “all” or “always,” but you can address a specific problem. So, let’s get specific and address these incidents holistically and consistently. If we handle each case on its own merits and, through consistent leadership, make clear that unwanted behaviors will not be tolerated, the problem will eventually subside. It is basic layman’s psychology. The behavior you reward increases, and the conduct you punish decreases over time.
Let’s take an example: there is an issue with police brutality. Let’s not say that all police abuse their power, that all use of force is wrong, or that all police precincts have a problem with unwarranted brutality, but it is reported frequently enough that we should examine the facts and improve. Most people would agree there may be a problem, even many police. Police brutality should not be tolerated; once you are in police custody, no one should fear for their safety or life. Period. Regardless of race. Where we find excessive use of force, it should be addressed. Addressing that can include better training, better supervision, body cameras, sanctions, and punishments for infractions. This makes the problem actionable. Take a specific issue and address it. If you get people to talk about particular situations and incidents, you can eventually solve the problem — unless your goal is unrest and you don’t want to solve the problem.
If you get specific, in most cases, programs or remediation are already in place, but it takes one or two generations to create lasting cultural change. You have to stay with it, measure, and adjust. You have to ensure you are rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior. And you have to use facts and science, not emotions and rabble-rousing.
So, let’s take the broad statement of “white privilege.” How do you solve “white privilege?” You can’t, and you don’t. On the other hand, if you said, “blacks are at a disadvantage for admission into college,” you can address that through college funds, admission quotas, programs to help prepare underprivileged kids for college, etc. Under the Great Society and Affirmative Action, such programs have been in place for at least 30 years. Have we measured the effectiveness of such programs? Should they be increased? Decreased? Discontinued because their need has passed? Discontinued because they didn’t work? That is something around which we can have a fact-based discussion among reasonable people rather than forcing people to kneel at the point of a gun. Merely suggesting that the programs should be re-evaluated is racist, it seems.
If you say that schools in underprivileged areas are insufficiently funded or unable to educate the kids in those schools properly, then we can address that problem. I don’t think there is a state that doesn’t have programs to pump extra money into underprivileged schools, even though many studies indicate the quality of education is more about parent involvement than money spent. Is that increased funding making a difference? Should we expand such programs? Do we have facts and analysis to influence the way forward after all these years?
If the problem is unequal pay, promotion, and hiring, programs are in most private sector businesses and the public sector to hire, pay, and promote minorities more equitably. Are those programs working? How do we improve them? As a hiring manager, I focus on finding the most qualified person from the applicants, and I don’t care about their race, but sometimes there are no minority candidates who apply. My team in Maryland consisted of three blacks, an Asian, and three whites, way more blacks than their percent of the population (~13%), but they were the most qualified, so I hired them. They did great. But I am a racist because “all” whites are racists, even if they aren’t aware of it. Of course, I am a racist; America is institutionally racist, and all whites are racists.
So, let’s stop hand-waving and name-calling and get to actionable specifics. Measure, change, measure, assess. That’s how improvement occurs.
Rewarding Bad Behavior:
All lives matter. Period. Yes, black lives matter, but to no greater or lesser extent than any other lives. Let’s stop cherry-picking and deciding that some black lives matter and others don’t for political reasons. Let’s not focus just on George Floyd but also on the black people who have died in the looting and rioting, the thousands of black lives cut short in our abortion factories or the thousands of blacks killed in black-on-black violence in our cities. If we say that black lives matter, let’s focus on all black lives and develop specific and actionable solutions.
As Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, and even Saint Obama pointed out, the problem with violence against blacks results from the nuclear family’s destruction. If you take the time to read the BLM Web site, destroying the nuclear family is one of their stated goals. Affirmative Action programs have rewarded fathers abandoning their children, leading to significant problems in black communities.
I am disgusted by the number of CEOs – and now DoD “leadership”- who have piled on in self-abasement to throw millions of dollars at various minority “charities.” This is form over substance, feel-good appeasement politics, not practical action. First, many of those charities have used millions of dollars, both taxpayer and private donations, for years but have done little to reduce “institutional racism.” Many “leaders” of the black community make money telling black people they are oppressed instead of working toward actionable solutions that lead to demonstrable improvement. As a result, many of these recent donations are merely throwing good money after bad.
In many cases, the “leaders” of BLM and Antifa have been found to have feathered their nests with these funds instead of helping the intended recipients of the donations. Will the charities be held accountable to all these new-found corporate donors to make real improvements? Do those charities have a tangible, measurable plan to use that money to address structural racism? I argue that they are just as unable to solve such an ill-formed problem statement as any other efforts over the past 50 years.
Most importantly, however, is that we are rewarding bad behavior. We have now reinforced the notion that lawlessness, rioting, and looting are to be rewarded with millions of dollars rolling into coffers to be used in largely unaccountable and unmeasured ways. This is bad science and bad policy.
There Really Is Institutional Racism:
Having said all of that, a case can be made that America is systemically racist. Whites (particularly men) are discriminated against in hiring, promotion, loan applications, school admission, and just about every aspect of our society. I had a friend recently whose son was told he was the number one applicant for a position, but he wasn’t going to be hired because he wasn’t black. White students are forced to endure racially, woke, and Leftist indoctrination. While students are subjected to public shaming and “privilege walks.” Poverty is much more significant (and largely ignored by the government) in Appalachia than in inner cities, but no one cares because Appalachia is predominantly white. One of the greatest racists in the world is Ibram X. Kendi, who wrote in How to Be an Anti-Racist, “The only remedy to racist discrimination is anti-racist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” He openly argues that racism against whites is virtuous.
Are there problems in America? Yes. There always have been and always will be. Is the entire institution of the United States broken? No, although our elected representatives like to tell you so. Is America a failed experiment? As we drift into the abyss of civil war, that seems increasingly so. Should we condemn America and all Americans because we have issues? I don’t think so. I have lived in other countries and am convinced this is the world’s greatest country; although, I have been considering emigration to avoid a shooting civil war. I have realized that everyone hates Americans, especially Americans, and even more, especially our domestic enemies of the Constitution in Washington, D.C. That is a sorry state of affairs. America is a great country full of incredibly generous people. The history of America is one of continuous improvement, which is not what the BLM, Antifa, Leftist, pandering Democrats in Congress, and teachers’ unions want you to hear. Let’s stop making broad, unsupported, unsupportable, irrefutable, and un-actionable accusations and get down to specifics, address those issues, and improve. Let’s decide that all lives matter. All lives.