Black Lives Matters claims that disparities in outcomes between Blacks and other racial groups is evidence of oppression. Kevin Cokley, an opinion contributor for USA Today put it this way:
“The Black Lives Matter phrase is intended to affirm the humanity of all Black people in the midst of deadly oppression in a country where long-standing racial disparities would suggest that Black lives really have not mattered.”[i]
American Blacks suffered great oppression by Whites throughout most of America’s history. For example, in the 1940s, my parents and their families were appalled by signs on all the roads leading into their hometown, “Nigger, Don’t Let the Sun Set on You In Blackwell.” Those signs and other anti-Black signs and deeds were common in many places.[ii] During that period, oppression was responsible for many, if not most, of the disparities between Blacks and people of other hues.
As noted in PART IV of this series, even as that kind of oppression was suppressed, the income gap between Blacks and Whites was closing rapidly. In fact, “… Black Americans have made the greatest gains, over some of the highest hurdles, and in a shorter span of time than any other racial group in history.”[iii] While the “do-gooder” attempts to reverse oppression were counterproductive, their intent was the opposite of oppression, the “unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power.”[iv]
With that in mind, let’s sort out some BLM claims that cannot withstand scrutiny.
Disparities Are Evidence of Oppression
Identical twins raised in the same household have disparate outcomes[v] and first-born children out-perform their siblings.[vi] Given that, the idea that large groups of people who are different from each other on multiple dimensions could have equal outcomes is untenable. Thomas Sowell crystalized the situation in the preamble to Chapter 1 of “Discrimination and Disparities”:
“… Yet the disparities in outcomes found in economic and other endeavors need not be due to either comparable disparities in innate capabilities or comparable disparities in the way people are treated by other people.
The disparities can also reflect the plain fact that success in many kinds of endeavors depends on prerequisites peculiar to each endeavor—and a relatively small difference in meeting those prerequisites can mean a very large difference in outcomes.” Sowell, Thomas. Discrimination and Disparities (p. 1). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
To illustrate Sowell’s observation, in the “Battle Rounds” of The Voice TV series, the difference between the two battling singers is often slight and the loser is typically excellent. Yet, the careers of those who are booted are likely to be much less successful than those who remain and get additional national TV exposure. However, the careers of the average battle round winner will likely be vastly less successful than the career of the show’s season winner. Similarly, one of the world’s greatest thinkers observed, “If a [Broadway] show had been running for three days, one’s best bet would be that it would run another three days. And if it had run for 30 years, the best bet is that it would run for another 30.”[vii]
The above is not to say that oppression plays no part in disparities between Blacks and people with other skin hues. It is to say that, given how much has been done in America to eliminate oppression and to create disproportionate advantages for Blacks, oppression is a minor factor in the disparities that exist and disparities between groups of people are the norm.
Disparities in Outcomes Are Due to Racism
We sorted out in Part IV how programs like Affirmative Action prevented Blacks from achieving as much as they otherwise could have. Perversely, those programs, which were promoted by anti-racists, account for much of the disparities in outcomes that Blacks have suffered. Racism, i.e., animosity or ill will toward Blacks, like oppression, plays a minor role in the disparities that exist. Having been marginalized in America, racist have very little power to deny anyone of anything.
If racism was a major factor in Black outcomes, then one would expect Black immigrants to have fewer employment opportunities than other immigrants. The opposite is true. [viii] For example, “Overall, African-born immigrants aged 16 and over have a higher rate of employment (69.2%) relative to the foreign-born population (63.1%) and the general US population (59.9%).”[ix] Moreover, that more educated Black immigrants fare better than less educated Black immigrants[x] shows that disparities are attributable to things other than race.
Ta-Nehisi Coates cites differential ambition as the cause of foreign-born Blacks outperforming native Blacks:[xi] “[It’s] like comparing the most ambitious members of one team with the entirety of another team.” Fair enough, but that reason is not racism (although, weirdly, he attempts to turn it into racism at the end of the article).
A Johns Hopkins University research paper[xii] concerning the foreign-born/native performance differential found:
- “… immigrant Blacks do not value education more, and they are not outperforming native Blacks academically…” and
- “…selective colleges enroll nearly four times as many Black immigrants, at 9.2 percent, than native-born Blacks, at 2.4 percent, and Whites, at 7.3 percent…”
So, even though foreign-born and native-born Blacks value education equally and foreign-born Blacks do not out-perform native Blacks academically, selective colleges (leftist, supposedly empathetic toward poor Black Americans) select foreign-born Blacks over both native Blacks and foreign Whites. A high percentage of the people who run the country’s largest companies attended those selective colleges and have been indoctrinated into the ideologies that produce these results. These facts belie the notion that racism against Blacks by White supremacists explains these kinds of disparities.
Moreover, Black immigrants typically reject the idea that Americans are racist out of hand.[xiii]
Note also that there are huge disparities in outcomes among native-born Blacks. As noted in PART III, only about 20% of American Blacks live in poverty and, as noted in Biden’s Bigotry, there are 35,000 Black millionaires in America many multiples of that among America’s upper income population. That could not have happened if White supremacists had considerable power.
Those who still believe that racism is the cause of disparities in employment for Blacks should answer Thomas Sowell’s piercing question:
The poverty rate of married blacks is not only lower than that of blacks as a whole, but in some years has also been lower than that of whites as a whole. In 2016, for example, the poverty rate for blacks was 22 percent, for whites was 11 percent, and for black married couples was 7.5 percent.
Do racists care whether someone black is married or unmarried? If not, then why do married blacks escape poverty so much more often than other blacks, if racism is the main reason for black poverty? If the continuing effects of past evils such as slavery play a major causal role today, were the ancestors of today’s black married couples exempt from slavery and other injustices?
Sowell, Thomas. Discrimination and Disparities (p. 116). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
Disparate COVID-19 Death Rates
Compared to Whites, Blacks disproportionately become ill and die of COVID-19[xiv] (and some other diseases, e.g., sickle cell anemia), and Blacks have shorter life expectancies than Hispanics, Whites, and Asians[xv] (a gap that is expected to widen significantly due to COVID-19). BLM would have us believe that all of those differences are attributable to Blacks disproportionately having to go to work during a pandemic, living in prisons, poor education, and poor healthcare.[xvi] Those things could account for some of that disparity. On the other hand, other things are more likely the cause, and choices by Blacks contribute to the situations that BLM claims are the cause of the disparity.
Note also that the BLM’s explanation does not explain why other groups have worse results than Blacks concerning COVID-19. For example, a study of the 213 nurses who had died of COVID-19’s as of September 13, 2020 found:
A total of 67 nurses, or 31.5%, are Filipino, even though the demographic makes up just 4% of registered nurses in the US… Thirty-eight, or 17.8%, were black when black RNs account for a total of just 12.4% of nurses nationwide…[xvii]
Although a smaller percentage of Filipinos live in poverty or prisons and have a higher rate of college graduates[xviii] than Whites, Blacks have massively disproportionately fewer COVID-19 deaths than do Filipino nurses.
A person’s genetics can significantly impact her health outcomes.[xix] For example, obese “women have a greater risk of all-cause mortality… and breast cancer-specific mortality.” But, “These associations were observed among white, … but not among black women.”[xx] Obese White women are more likely to die than obese Black women. Conversely, Blacks are more susceptible to COVID-19 than Whites. If White supremacists could affect health outcomes, why haven’t they spared White women of this disparate outcome?
Consider these statistics about Somali Blacks in Sweden (which has a universal healthcare system). While Somali’s are less than 1% of Sweden’s population:
“… 40 percent of the reported COVID-19 related deaths occurring in Stockholm involve the Somali diaspora communities. Other Swedish medical experts estimate 18 percent of the COVID-19 deaths country-wide are from the Somali community.”[xxi]
Some Swedes attribute that disparity to language barriers, larger families living together, anti-authority attitudes, ignorance, religion, etc. Those things surely play some role. Some portion of Black Americans exhibit similar characteristics are, as a group, more similar to Swedish Somalis than is true of people of other skin hues, as a group, in America.[xxii]
Those attitudinal or cultural traits, however, are not due to racism or oppression. Neither do they account for a genetic difference between people whose skin is the color of people who live in tropical climates where, if they had lighter skin, their bodies could produce lethal levels of vitamin D. Conversely, light skin enables people to produce healthy levels of Vitamin D outside of tropical zones. Dark skinned people living outside of tropical zones are far more likely to be Vitamin D deficient — a significant COVID-19 risk factor.[xxiii]
Consider also: “Having obesity puts people at risk for many other serious chronic diseases and increases the risk of severe illness from COVID-19,”[xxiv] and “non-Hispanic black adults had the highest prevalence of obesity (38.4%) overall, followed by Hispanic adults (32.6%) and non-Hispanic white adults (28.6%),”[xxv] i.e., Blacks have 1.34 times the prevalence of obesity as Whites. While other factors can be at play, obesity often is mostly about decisions made as to what and how much to put in one’s mouth.
All of the above contribute to worse health outcomes concerning many other diseases. Whatever part racism or oppression plays in disparate health outcomes, they likely pale in comparison to the kinds of factors described above.
Other Disparities Discussed in Previous Parts of This Series and Earlier Posts Include:
- Treatment of Blacks by Police — Part IX
- Criminality — Part VIII
- Religiosity — Part VIII
- Education — Slowing the “School-to-Prison Pipeline”—At What Cost?
In short, many of the claims BLM makes about disparities are delusions. For real progress about real problems confronting Blacks, people must focus on the reality of the situation. Policies based on delusions will make matters worse.
[xxiii] Vitamin D Can Help Reduce COVID-19 Risks: Here’s How “Vitamin D is a well-known immune booster… Now, a series of recently published studies say the supplement can also protect you from contracting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that can cause COVID-19. And vitamin D may reduce the severity of illness if you do test positive for COVID-19.” See also, Low Vitamin D Levels Don’t Affect All Races the Same, Study Says