In contemporary America, professors openly say things like “All I want for Christmas is white genocide” or “OK, officially, I now hate white people,”. Teaching assistants claim that “some white people may need to die” so that Black people can get what they deserve. Editors at the New York Times assert that “White men are bullshit”, use the hashtag “CancelWhitePeople” and complain about “Dumbass fucking white people marking up the internet with their opinions like dogs pissing on fire hydrants” .
This is the same New York Times which published a piece entitled “Can my Children be Friends with White people?“, a question which the author answers largely in the negative: “As against our gauzy national hopes, I will teach my boys to have profound doubts that friendship with white people is possible. When they ask, I will teach my sons that their beautiful hue is a fault line. Spare me platitudes of how we are all the same on the inside. I first have to keep my boys safe, and so I will teach them before the world shows them this particular brand of rending, violent, often fatal betrayal.”
Sometimes, white people don’t like this sort of stuff. For instance, a few complained about the New York Times editor I mentioned, but writers for NBC News explained that “white people getting mad — or publicly performing anger, at least — about white people jokes is actually white people getting mad about threats to white power. Threats like a woman of color joining the editorial board of the New York Times after telling smarter and funnier jokes than them on Twitter. Racism is a mechanism of maintaining an imbalance of power — making it literally impossible, by definition, to be racist against white people, or to tell a racist joke about a white person”. Similarly, The Chicago Tribune has stated that “American racism is a uniquely white trait“.
USA Today has made this point too, that only white people can be racist. They’ve also noted that “A majority of white Americans believe discrimination exists against them in the United States” but have explained that this is not to be taken seriously, arguing that “America’s newest class of victims — i.e., white men — is on the warpath again. They complain that they can’t get into college because of affirmative action, can’t get a job because of diversity hiring, and can’t keep a job because of factories closing due to unfair trade deals. Now we can add to the “whine list” the fact that many white men feel they can no longer get ahead or get an advantage because of identity politics.”
CNN has published material explaining that white people who disagree with non-whites about racism are often engaging in “Whitesplaining”. This term was defined as follows: ““Whitesplaining” is an affliction that’s triggered when some white people hear a person of color complain about racism. They will immediately explain in a condescending tone why the person is wrong, “getting too emotional” or “seeing race in everything.”” The article went on to cite telltale signs of whitesplaining, such as when white people say things like “But I’m not a racist”.
Other times, white people agree with these narratives and devote themselves to fighting white supremacy. This can take an emotional toll on white people as a kind of racial self hatred. The New York Times has noted this in an advice column responding to a woman whose sense of white guilt caused them to have a mental breakdown. As they explain, white suffering is ultimately unimportant: “You have to relinquish your privilege. And part of learning how to do that is accepting that feelings of shame, anger and the sense that people are perceiving you in ways that you believe aren’t accurate or fair are part of the process that you and I and all white people must endure in order to dismantle a toxic system that has perpetuated white supremacy for centuries. That, in fact, those painful and uncomfortable feelings are not the problems to be solved or the wounds to be tended to. Racism is.”
NBC has also acknowledged the psychological toll of their ideology, telling white people that “you’re going to have to take a side. And yes, you have to do it now. It’s very likely, and understandable if you feel this is unfair, this is inconvenient, it’s frustrating, it’s difficult, it’s embarrassing, it’s going to alienate you from people you know, love, work with, watch the game with. That’s privilege. Someone once said, “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” This is a taste of equality.”
And Forbes too has said that white people need to stop caring so much about their own suffering: “If you are not Black, your pain and hurt is not the priority right now. This may be an anomaly for you – it is not an anomaly for Black folks who live this life, everyday”.
In the political realm, Joe Biden has talked about how white people becoming a minority is not only not-bad, but in fact a positive good which will improve the country.
These news outlets, CNN, the NYT, USA Today, Forbes, and NBC, are not seen as organizations of the radical left. Like Joe Biden, they are seen as center left or moderate.
If we looked further to the left, we’d find things like Bernie Sanders saying “when you’re white … you don’t know what it’s like to be poor“, Buzz Feed running articles like “37 Things White People Need To Stop Ruining In 2018” (the first of which, apparently, is America), Vice positively covering vacations non-whites take just to get away from white people, and The Root publishing articles with titles like “White people are cowards” which conclude “I thought white people were evil. I was right.”
Mainstream right wing media does not have material like this about minorities. That is because the American right is, for the most part, not racist. The American left, however, is significantly based on anti-white sentiment and behavior.
The Anti-White Left
This statement is backed up by various studies which consistently show that liberals value white people less than non-white people. Most of this research also finds that conservatives exhibit no significant racial bias.
|Ulhamm et al. (2009)||Liberals are more willing to murder someone for the greater good if that person has a white sounding name rather than a black sounding one.|
|Winegard et al. (2019)||Liberals think black people being genetically superior to white people with respect to intelligence is more plausible than the reverse.|
|Cooley et al. (2019)||Hearing about white privilege caused liberals to feel less sympathy for poor white people.|
|Tetlock et al. (2000)||Liberals feel non-whites should not pay more for home insurance due to living in a high-risk area but as neutral about whether white people should.|
|Winegard et al. (2019)||Liberals would support censoring research showing white genetic superiority with respect to intelligence more than they would support censoring evidence of black superiority.|
|Goldberg (2019)||White liberals are the only group who on net prefer other racial groups to their own.|
While not directly concerning how liberals view whites, it is also worth noting that Heiphetz et al. (2020) found that Americans dehumanize racists (or, “see them as less than human”) more than they do groups which are traditionally seen as being dehumanized.
It’s worth noting that by accusing the left of being anti-white I am not accusing them of being genuinely pro-black. There is some reason to think that liberals, especially white ones, are often more concerned with being anti-white than they are with helping minorities.
For instance, Cooley et al. (2019). found that exposing people to left wing messages about white privilege caused their sympathy for poor whites to decrease while their sympathy for poor blacks remained the same.
Similarly, Dupree et al. (2019) found that: “Across five experiments (total N = 2,157), White participants responded to a Black or White interaction partner… liberals—but not conservatives—presented less competence to Black interaction partners than to White ones… This possibly unintentional but ultimately patronizing competence downshift suggests that well-intentioned liberal Whites may draw on low-status/competence stereotypes to affiliate with minorities”. In other words, white liberals talk to black people like they’re children.
This may also explain why it is that leftists spend a great deal more time talking about white on black murder than they do on black on black murder even though the later is far more common.
Some people have trouble accepting that the left is anti-white because so many white people are leftists. This should not be that confusing. We all know that people can internalize the narratives that justify discrimination against them. Leftists talk about this happening to racial minorities and women. There is no reason why this could not also happen to whites.
We also know that people can have a bias against themselves at the individual level. We normally call this low self-esteem and we know that liberals, on average, have lower self esteem than conservatives (Schlenker et al., 2012). Research has even suggested that people’s political opinions shift to the right if you boost their self esteem prior to having them take a political quiz (Belmi and Neal, 2014). Since we know that leftism has something to do with disliking yourself as an individual, it should be even less surprising that white liberals exhibit a dislike of their own ethnic group which is not typical of the members of any other group.
Intuitively, we might suspect that this kind of thing, what is often called “white guilt”, may be psychologically damaging. This intuition is supported by Fujushiro (2009) who found that thinking your race is given an unfair advantage doubled a person’s risk of poor mental health even after controlling for age, sex, education, income, and marital status.
There’s also research showing that white guilt has increased with time, and that leftist ideology has a causal impact on white guilt.
So far as I can tell, research estimating the average degree of racial guilt among white college kids began in the 1970s (Bardis, 1973). Guilt was measured with questions like “Do you feel personally guilty about the American Negro’s present social inequality?”.
Back then, on a 5-point scale ranging from completely disagree to completely agree, whites averaged a score of less than 2 on most questions.
So far as I know, another paper quantifying white guilt wasn’t published until 1999 (Swim and Miller., 1999). Agreement with the same sorts of statements as before was rated on a 5 point scale, and the average response was 2.12, implying only slight guilt and that the mean level of guilt had not changed much since the 1970s. However, this slight guilt was pervasive with only 6% of the sample saying that they strongly disagreed with all five statements of guilt.
In 2007, this same scale was administered to another sample of white college kids (Case, 2007). This time, the mean response was 3.64. After these students took a diversity course, the mean score increased to 3.94, implying a good deal of guilt, and implying that leftism causes such guilt.
Similarly, Powell et al. (2005) reported the following: “In Experiment 1 (N = 110), White American participants assessed 24 statements about racial inequality framed as either White privileges or Black disadvantages. In Experiment 2 (N = 122), White participants generated examples of White privileges or Black disadvantages. In both experiments, a White privilege framing resulted in greater collective guilt”.
Thus, over time white guilt is becoming more common and such guilt is caused by leftist rhetoric. We we’ve seen, this is potentially damaging to the mental health of the white people who internalize left wing narratives.
Such narratives are probably not only damaging to those who feel an active sense of white guilt. It is likely that they’ve also harmed white people who have responded to the modern political climate by simply de-identifying with their race or ethnic group. We have some reason to think that this is damaging, because, as can be seen below, identifying with one’s race is generally correlated with higher self-esteem and this is especially true of white people.
|Phinney et al. (1997)||669||.44||.17||.27|
|Phinney et al. (1999)||5,423||.24||.14||.14|
|Carlson et al. (2000)||898||.27||.39||.27|
Despite this, white people have the lowest level of racial identification of any ethnic group in America:
|Pew (2019)||One in seven (15%) of whites, 56% of Asians, 59% of Hispanics, and 74% of Blacks say that their race/ethnicity is central to their identity|
|Phinney et al. (1997)||On a measure of ethnic identity, African Americans scored higher than Latinos who scored higher than whites.|
|Roberts et al. (1999)||Across ten ethnic groups, African Americans had the highest score on a measure of ethnic identity while white Americans had the lowest.|
|Phinney (1992)||Across five ethnic groups, Black Americans had the highest score on an ethnic identity measure while white Americans had the lowest.|
|Carlson et al. (2000)||On a measure of ethnic identity, African Americans scored the highest followed by Hispanic Americans who scored higher than white Americans.|
White Americans failing to identify with their ethnic group despite the positive impact this may have on self-esteem may in turn partly explain why it is that, ever since the 1970’s, black Americans have scored higher than white Americans on measures of self-esteem.
White Americans Aren’t Racist
These observations naturally leads us into countering the most fundamental anti-white lie spread by the left: that racism on the part of white people is the primary explanation of racial inequality in the United States.
This idea is supported by many people in part because they feel that any other sort of explanation is inevitably racist. The implicit logic here, that it is morally problematic to accuse a non-white group of behavior which explains their life outcomes but it is not morally problematic to blame inequality on the racist behavior of white people, is itself obviously racist and anti-white.
A useful first observation towards dispelling this idea is to note that, unlike black Americans, white Americans generally don’t exhibit any racial bias in experiments measuring racism by seeing if the way people say they would treat various hypothetical situations differs depending on if individuals described in the situation are black or white.
This data suggests that on average white people exhibit no racial bias. Of course, this does not mean that there are no racist white people. But the impact of such people is made up for by an equal effect from white people who are biased in favor of non-whites so that the net mean level of discrimination is zero.
Leftists sometimes deny this based on the results of implicit association tests which are supposed to measure subconscious biases which people may be totally unaware. However, IAT scores don’t predict actual racist behavior and so are not a valid measure of racial bias.
This data should inform our priors about racist behavior such that we should think that any particular group of white people is on net unbiased with respect to race unless we have some evidence about this particular group of white people which suggests otherwise.
Differences in Income
Some think racism is necessary to explain group differences in income. But blacks actually make as much or more money than whites when education, cognitive skill, marital status and other confounding variables are controlled for. Such has been shown multiple times.
Of course, racism may explain a group difference in one of these confounding variables, such as educational attainment, but it is important to note that group differences in income disappear or flip direction without directly controlling for any measure of racism.
Differences in Educational Opportunity
With respect to educational opportunity, Murray and Rueben (2008) calculated spending per pupil for US schools between the years 1972 and 2002. They found the following: “In 1972, the ratio of nonwhite to white spending was .98; this trend had reversed by 1982, as spending per pupil for nonwhite students was slightly higher than for white students in most states and in the United States as a whole and has been for the past 20 years”. Thus, since 1982, spending on non-white students has been greater than spending on white students.
This issue was revisited by Richwine (2011) who found that spending on black students was 1% greater than spending on white students, while spending on Asian and Hispanic students was a few percentage points lower.
These difference in spending are reflected in school characteristics: on average, blacker schools have smaller classes more experienced teachers who have more formal education and who receive more pay (Cocoran et al., 2003).
This information may surprise some people as leftists often cite data showing that blacker school districts receive less funding than average. This is true but within school districts blacker schools receive more money and thus black students go to better funded schools than white students despite the headlines people sometimes see concerning district level disparities (Ejdemyr et al., 2017).
Once high-school is complete, students apply to college. Based on aggregated data from 20 previous studies, we can estimate that when comparing people of equal qualifications, Black applicants are roughly 21 times more likely than white applicants to be admitted, while Hispanics are 3 times as likely, and Asians are 6% less likely or 59% more likely depending on whether we use the mean or median estimate.
(The race columns show the odds of admission compared to those of white applicants when qualifications are held constant.)
|Citation||School||Type||Black OR||Hispanic OR||Asian OR|
|Nagai (2008)||Arizona State||Law||1115.43||84.95||2.18|
|Lerner and Nagai (2002)||University of Virginia||Law||730.8||1.1||1.86|
|Nagai (2008)||University of Nebraska||Law||442.39||89.63||5.78|
|Armor (2004)||William and Mary||Law||267||0.66||0.66|
|Nagai (2008)||University of Arizona Law||Law||250.03||18.15||2.54|
|Lerner and Nagai (2002)||William and Mary||Law||167.51||2.47||3.29|
|Danielson and Sander (2014)||Berkeley||Law||121.6||18.2||1.6|
|Armor (2004)||University of Virginia||Undergrad||106||2.81||0.94|
|Nagai (2006)||University of Michigan||Undergrad||62.79||47.82||0.81|
|Lerner and Nagai (2002)||University of Maryland||Medical||20.63||2.51||0.68|
|Armor (2004)||North Carolina State||Undergrad||13||1.93||0.64|
|Lerner and Nagai (2001)||SUNY||Medical||9.44||4.08||0.76|
|Nagai (2011)||Miami University||Undergrad||7.99||2.16||2.14|
|Danielson and Sander (2014)||UCLA||Undergrad||5.15||1.92||0.85|
|Lerner and Nagai (2006)||US Naval Academy||Military||4.44||3.32||0.67|
|Lerner and Nagai (2001)||University of Washington||Medical||4.01||4.86||0.9|
|Nagai (2011)||Ohio State||Undergrad||3.33||4.3||1.47|
|Lerner and Nagai (2006)||US Military Academy||Military||1.94||1.2||0.68|
|Lerner and Nagai (2002)||George Mason||Law||1.13||1.09||1.74|
Similarly, it’s been estimated that the proportion of students attending selective colleges who are white would increase from 66% to 75% if admissions were based solely on test scores.
And once in college non-white students are more likely to receive grants and scholarships despite the fact that white students are no more likely to have their parents pay for their school (Kantrowitz, 2011; Brown, 2019)
As a whole then, resource allocation within the education system favors non-whites students over white ones. Obviously then, white racists have not inhibited black economic success by depriving them of the resources needed for educational success.
Difference in Unemployment
Previously, I noted that racial income differences can easily be flipped by controlling for obvious determinants of income. Of course, to have an income at all you first have to be employed and many people think companies avoid hiring minorities for racist reasons.
This suggestion is difficult to reconcile with the overt behavior of corporations. For instance, a 2017 report on all the companies in the S&P 100 found over 90% of them had engaged in diversity initiatives and 75% of them had gone as far as setting specific hiring targets for minority employment. The same report found that such practices are rapidly gaining in popularity.
The idea that racism explains group differences in employment levels is also hard to square with the fact that there was no unemployment gap between races in the early 20th century when white people were far more likely to be racially biased against black people.
It’s worth noting that the unemployment gap between races that emerged in the second half of the 20th century seems to be, at least in part, voluntary. As Williams (2011) reports: “During 1979-1980, the National Bureau of Economic Research conducted a survey in the ghettos of Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Only a minority of the respondents were employed, yet almost as many said it was easy or fairly easy to get a job as a laborer as said it was difficult or impossible; and 71 percent said it was fairly easy to get a minimum-wage job.”
If you tell this to a leftist, they are likely to respond by noting that black people are less likely than white people to get called back when they submit a job application that is identical in every way other than the race implied by their name. To be specific, Quillian et al. (2017) meta-analyzed the research on hiring discrimination and found that black applicants received 36% fewer call backs than white applicants. So this effect isn’t very large even if it is explained by racism.
But it’s probably not. These sorts of experiments rely on a basic misunderstanding of how qualifications relate to job performance. Suppose that the distributions of job performance among blacks and whites consist of two overlapping normal distributions, like this:
Now suppose that qualifications on a resume require a certain level of skill and ability to obtain such that those who would be bad employees cannot easily acquire them. As is hopefully evident in the below example, there is no possible threshold for job performance, or any other relevant trait (e.g. job related knowledge, cognitive ability, self discipline, etc.,) where the white mean is above the black mean in general, but not still above the black mean among those who exceed that threshold.
This becomes even more true if we make it easier for black people to acquire a given qualification than it is for a white person. In this scenario, among applicants with any such qualifications, white job performance will exceed black people’s job performance among those with equal qualification even if there is no mean difference in job performance between black and white people in the total population.
This situation is exactly what happens when a society institutes affirmative action and as we’ve seen affirmative action for African Americans is widespread in contemporary America.
These theoretical considerations should be sufficient to show that these experiments are invalid measures of racism, but if you’d like empirical evidence to substantiate this consider the results of a massive study carried out by the federal government to measure people’s work-related cognitive abilities in terms of things like everyday math skills, writing skills, and the ability to efficiently use information taken from a document.
As can be seen, the general trend was such that black respondents were outscored by white respondents who had lower levels of education attainment than the black respondents did.
Similar results are found in Neill (1990), a paper which shows the mean AFQT percentile scores of black and white men aged 19-21 by education level for the years 1953-1958 and 1980. (The AFQT is a test designed by the military to measure cognitive skills relevant to job performance such as reasoning ability, mathematical ability, and reading ability.)
In 1980, Black people who had completed 3-4 years of college came in, on average, at the 49.7th percentile, or slightly below the average score unconditional on education. By contrast, the average percentile scores were 80.2 for whites with 3-4 years of college, 65.8 for whites with 1-2 years of college, and 46.5 for whites with 3-4 years of high school. This was even more extreme in the 50s, when black people with 3-4 years of college completed scored lower than whites with 3-4 years of high school.
Similar disparities are seen within occupations, with white people significantly out scoring black and Hispanic people on IQ tests when comparing people within the same industries (Murray, 2021).
Thus, it is clearly rational for employers to prefer the average white applicant over the average black applicant even if they are the same on paper in terms of things like work experience and educational attainment.
Ideally, we’d want to test this by comparing the rate at which black and white applicants are hired after controlling for the qualifications that show up on a resume as well as direct measures of the job performance related abilities that are not directly captured on a resume. To my knowledge, the only paper to do this is Ho (2005) who found that race did not predict whether an applicant was hired once such variables were controlled for.
The most important evidence on this question comes from Roth et al. (2003) who meta-analyzed data from 19 previous studies and found that black employees scored 0.30 standard deviations lower than white employees on measures of job performance even when they were working the same job at the same organization. This suggests that what is being required of applicants in terms of actual job performance, rather than on paper qualifications, is lesser for minorities.
This is consistent with most firms engaging in affirmative action in hiring and, because they are invalid measures of racial bias, this is also consistent with black applicants receiving 36% fewer call backs on applications.
Some might argue that this explanation is rude, racist even, because it requires that we note the job performance gap between black and white people. Here I would re-iterate that it is no less rude or racist to blame this difference on the supposed immoral behavior of white people. The only reason I’ve even brought this up is to defend white people against this charge. We can also note that, obviously, a group difference in averages is just that, a difference in averages, and there are individuals of all types in every racial group.
Differences in Loan Acceptance Rates
Another common argument made by the left concerns the fact that black people have a harder time than white people getting a loan. Data from Pew shows that black people are indeed more likely to be denied for a mortgage loan, but even among blacks the rate of denial is only 27%.
Turning the interest rates, it is true that Black people are more than twice as likely as whites to get a mortgage interest rate of 8% or more. But this is very rare even among black mortgage holders. The average interest rate seems to be similar among whites, Hispanics, and blacks, though possibly significantly lower for Asians.
So these differences are real but fairly small. Leftists are apt to point out that some of these differences exist even after controlling for credit scores. This is true, but the remaining differences are really quite small. For instance, Cheng et al. (2014) analyzed data from the U.S. Survey of Consumer Finances for the years 2001, 2004, and 2006 and found that controlling for measures of consumer behavior and debt risk reduced the black-white average interest rate gap to .29%
More importantly, credit scores don’t predict behavior equally well across races. Consider the following from a report given to congress by the federal reserve on how well loan performance is predicted by credit scores: “Consistently, across all three credit scores and all five performance measures, blacks… show consistently higher incidences of bad performance than would be predicted by the credit scores”. In other words, loans to black people have a higher risk of default even after controlling for credit score.
This report also notes that this is largely just true of black and white people with poor credit scores. Among those with high credit scores, there isn’t much of a difference across race in risk. Relatedly, a study by the Chicago federal reserve found no racial bias in loan approval rates among those with a good credit score but a significant bias in favor of whites among those with a bad credit score. Similarly, Ross et al. (2004) find that black borrowers have a tougher time getting loans but this is only true among those who don’t have mortgage insurance. Thus, lenders are acting exactly as we would expect them to if they were accurately using race as a proxy for investment risk.
The strongest evidence against racial bias in lending comes from Bhutta and Hizmo (2019). They analyzed a data set consisting of all FHA-insured mortgages that originated in 2014 and 2015. After controlling for lender effects, credit score, and income, they found a black-white interest gap of .03% and a Hispanic-white gap of .015%. This result is similar to what we’ve already seen, but, unlike most research in this area, Bhutta and Hizmo also included data on discount points and this revealed a racial difference in favor of non-whites. Combining this data into a single model, they found no racial bias in borrower’s expected pay schedule’s. Even more importantly, it is shown that the expected revenue generated by a loan does not significantly differ by the race of the borrower.
This evidence is very hard to reconcile with racial bias. The fact that, once other differences are held constant, races experience the same expected pay schedules directly suggests that no bias exists. The fact that the expected revenue of loans does not differ by race strongly suggests that the differences in the terms of loans given to blacks and whites reflect lenders accurately forecasting the terms which will maximize profit within each race of borrowers. It is hard to see how this result could come about if people were acting on the basis of racial animus rather than economic rationality.
A related claim made by the left is that certain neighborhoods have been “red lined” and are discriminated against by banks. These areas historically contain many minorities and so result in racial discrimination. This hypothesis has been tested in various cities and it’s been consistently shown that the racial composition of a neighborhood has no direct impact on the probability of loan approval, meaning this narrative is simply false.
|Ahlbrant (1977)||Pittsburgh, PA||The racial composition of someone’s neighborhood had no direct effect on their chances of getting a loan.|
|Hutchison et al. (1977)||Toledo, Oh||The racial composition of someone’s neighborhood had no direct effect on their chances of getting a loan.|
|Dingemans (1979)||Sacramento, CA||“Measures of ethnicity contribute little explanation” to loan rates. Details not given.|
|Avery et al. (1981)||Cleveland, OH||In demographically stable areas, race had no direct impact on the number of loans given in an area. Loans were 9% less likely to be accepted in areas with quickly changing demographics.|
|Tootell (1996)||Boston, MA||The racial composition of a neighborhood had no direct effect on the rate at which loan requests were rejected|
If we accept what I’ve argued thus far, we still might think that racial inequality is caused by racism of the past even if our current institutions have been made unbiased or even biased in the opposite direction. Often, this sentiment relies on two assumptions. The first assumption is that black people today would be roughly as well off as white people today if they had been as well off as white people many generations ago. The second assumption is that racism is why black people were not as well off as white people many generations ago.
Beginning with the first assumption, we have very good reasons to doubt that current racial inequality would be lesser today if black people had more money in the distant past. Specifically, Toney (2016) finds that a doubling of the wealth of a person’s grandparents predicts an 18% increase in their own wealth if they are white but only a 2% increase in their wealth if they are black. This implies that a 5 factor increase in black wealth 6 generations ago would predict less than a 1% increase in their wealth today.
This lack of wealth transmission in black families is made especially clear by Chetty et al. (2018) who were given data by the IRS that allowed them to conduct a statistical analysis on the entire US population that filed taxes between the years 1989 and 2015. They write: “A black child born to parents in the top quintile is roughly as likely to fall to the bottom family income quintile as he or she is to remain in the top quintile; in contrast, white children are nearly five times as likely to remain in the top quintile as they are to fall to the bottom quintile”.
Even these analyses probably over-states the causal link between wealth and income across generations. Families that are well off differ from poor families in a variety of respects other than just their wealth. In part, money will run in families because of the genetic transmission of traits like intelligence and self discipline. Research utilizing study designs which rule out the influence of genetics, including research specifically on the impact of American slavery on African Americans, finds that the effects of parental economic success on offspring economic success are weak or non-existent across one to two generations implying that even a weak causal effect is implausible across many generations.
|Sacerdote (2000)||Parental income failed to predict offspring income in an adoptive sample (NLSY).|
|Sacerdote (2004)||In an adoptive sample of Korean Americans parental income was unrelated to offspring income.|
|Bleakley ad Ferrie (2016)||The offspring of the winners of Georgia’s 19th century land lottery did not outperform the offspring of non-winners with respect to wealth or income.|
|Sacerdote (2002)||After two generations, the descendants of slaves had “caught up” to the descendants of free blacks in terms of socio-economic status.|
|Sacerdote (2000)||Family socio-economic status did not predict offspring income at age 23 in an adoptive sample (NCDS).|
|Ager et al. (2016)||Destruction of parental wealth via the American civil war had only a very weak effect on offspring income (a 0.4% decrease in income per 10% decrease in parental wealth).|
That even dramatic changes in income aren’t transmitted across many generations is also evidenced by many recent events in history. Consider, for instance, the amount of time it took the Irish to rebound from extreme repression by the English, Jewish people to fully rise economically following emancipation, Japan to rebound following WW2, and countries like Estonia to recover from communism. Nothing about any of these events would lead us to think that events of the past can keep a population poor for many generations to come.
Thus, we are justified in thinking that a large increase in the past wealth of black Americans wouldn’t significantly change the current situation.
Before moving on to the second assumption made by people who blame present inequality on historical racism, it’s worth noting that the lack of wealth transmission among African Americans is significantly explained by their spending habits independent of income. Research shows that black people have lower saving rates than white people even when they have the same incomes (Dorgo, 2003). More dramatically, Hughes (2018) documents that black Americans spend more on goods like fancy cars and clothing than do white people despite being poorer than them and that such spending directly accounts for around 20% of the black-white wealth gap. Hughes goes on to note the following:
“To make matters worse, spending patterns are just one part of a larger set of financial skills on which blacks lag behind. Researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis followed over 40,000 families from 1989 to 2013, tracking their wealth accumulation and financial decisions. They developed a financial health scale, ranging from 0 to 5, that measured the degree to which families made “routine financial health choices that contribute to wealth accumulation”—e.g., saving any amount of money, paying credit card bills on time, having a low debt-to-income ratio, etc. At 3.12, Asian families scored the highest, followed by whites at 3.11, Hispanics at 2.71, and blacks at 2.63.
Next, they asked if education accounted for the differences in financial habits by limiting the comparison to middle-aged families with advanced degrees. Surprisingly, they found that the racial gap in financial health-scores didn’t shrink; it widened. Highly-educated Asian families scored 3.49, comparable whites scored 3.38, comparable Hispanics scored 2.94, and comparable blacks remained far behind at 2.66.”
It is also worth noting that the black-white wealth gap among those who have no inheritance is only 28% lesser than the gap among those who do receive inheritance. The white-Hispanic wealth gap is actually largest among those with no inheritance. This sets on upper limit on how much of racial inequality can plausibly be attributed to inheritance even if you don’t buy my arguments suggesting that 28% if far too high of an estimate.
Now let’s turn to the second assumption, namely that the reason black people were poorer than white people many generations ago is because of white racism. There are at least two reasons to think this is false.
The first reason is a simple conceptual reasons. Generally, when we say that X caused Y we are implying that the most likely alternative scenario in which X did not occur would not have produced Y. But everyone knows that had racism and slavery and the like not occurred the most likely alternative scenario consists of black people remaining in Africa and therefore being far poorer than they are today. On this interpretation, saying that racism made black people poor is clearly wrong.
Most people implicitly interpret the question of what caused black poverty as meaning “how poor would black Americans be if they were all still brought to America but immediately made into free citizens rather than slaves?”. Historically, this happening would have basically been impossible. Clearly, thinking that this question is the same as asking whether racism caused black poverty is fallacious. That said, we can acknowledge this and then go on to answer this implausible hypothetical anyhow.
The second reason for doubting that the racism of the past strongly depressed how black people did in the economy is the fact that there is no trend towards improving racial equality as racism decreases. Generally speaking, if X is causing Y then a decrease in X should predict a decrease in Y. But that is not what we see with respect to black-white inequality in wealth or unemployment. On both of these measures we actually see the opposite, with racial inequality increasing dramatically since the mid twentieth century.
With respect to home ownership, racial inequality declined significantly between 1870 and 1900 but has remained fairly stagnant since then despite a huge amount racism still supposedly being present in the early 20th century.
Assessing the historical trend in income is slightly more complicated. Often, people report statistics showing that the ratio of black worker income to white worker income has increased over time. This is true, but caused by the fact that prison sentences and unemployment have removed a disproportionately large share of unproductive people from the pool of black workers. To remove this bias, we should just look at the ratio of all black people to all white people. If we are interested in racism, we should also restrict our analysis to men because group differences in the rate at which women entered the labor force could distort our result. And of course we’ll want to restrict our analysis to working age men so changes in the age distribution of groups over time don’t impact things. Doing so, we find that racial inequality in income is the same today as it was in 1950, with the ratio of black to white income being roughly 0.51 the whole time.
This is similar to what is seen in Brazil, 0.50, and England, 0.63 (Bucciferro, 2017 ; Collinson, 2020). In modern day Detroit, the ratio is 0.41 (Danziger et al. 2014). In Chicago its 0.43. That same ratio was 0.53 in the South of America in 1870 (Lindert and Williamson, 2016). In 1880, the ratio of black to white income in the south was 0.58 (Ng and Virts, 1993). (The national ratio was lower because black people tended to live in the South which was poorer than the north and have over time moved out of the South).
To find levels of inequality significantly greater than what is observed today, you have to go back to the time when slavery was still ongoing. Thus, despite segregation and Jim Crow and the klan, etc., the level of racial inequality seen in the American south has been in line with what is seen today in large long standing black populations ever since 1870. Given this, there is no especially great level of racial inequality that we need to invoke racism to explain. The only kind of explanation that seems appropriate will point to things that black people in present day America, England, and Brazil, as well as the south of 1870, all share in common, and their degree of experience with racism is obviously not such a common factor. Certainty, we should not explain this inequality by pointing to a variable like racism which differs heavily between these locations and times despite the uniformity of inequality observed.
The only places where the ratio of black-to-white incomes are significantly higher is in nations where the black population consists mostly of immigrants. For instance, the ratio of black to white income is roughly .80 in Canada, .84 in France, and .77 in American when just looking at black immigrants. (CA; Algan et al., 2010; Pew, 2015; Anderson, 2013). As we’ve already seen, the ratio is lower in Latin America. It is even lower in Africa. For instance, in South Africa, the ratio is 0.16 (Desilver, 2013). The reason that black immigrants tend to do relatively well is therefore not because they come from populations of black people who generally do well relative to whites. Rather, it is because, for the most part, only elite black people from Africa and Latin America have the ability to immigrate to Europe and North America. Of course, it is, by definition, also true that economically elite native black Americans do better relative to whites than is typical. The existence of these immigrant populations is thus no more evidence that fairly treated blacks will do better than is the fact that there are richer than average black people within every black population.
An objection to my argument might be that it is simply not plausible that racial animus and systemic discrimination in the educational system did not, at least in the 19th and early 20th century, inhibit black income. There are a few things to say about this objection.
First, while it is surely true that white Americans used to be racially biased against black people it is also true that employers care an awful lot about running their business in the way that will make them the most money. That employers often put profit over racism is the only way to explain how it is that among farm workers in the rural south in 1880, a context in which we’d expect to find the biggest effects of racial animus since slavery ended, the ratio of black to white income was 0.79 (Ng and Virts, 1993). This doesn’t significantly differ from what the ratio of black to white income is today if you control for work experience, education, living in the rural south, and marital status (Neal and Johnson, 1996).
Secondly, it seems probable that racism in the distant past did have a negative effect relative to the simple removal of that racism, but that in the real world the removal of that racism gave rise to new factors with a similar negative effect on black income such as the welfare state. Thus, the net effect of switching from the system we had in the past to the one we have now was zero.
Thirdly, it of course should be said that human intuition is fallible and sometimes surprising things are true.
In total, the relevant empirical evidence does not justify the view that racist behavior of the past had a large negative effect on black income in the past, and even if it did empirical evidence strongly suggests that it wouldn’t have a significant lingering effect today.
Race and Crime
Turning now to the police, liberals say that there is a racial bias in the people police pull over, arrest, and shoot, and then there’s even more racial bias in criminal sentencing. The fact that black policemen and judges pull over, arrest, shoot, and sentence, black Americans at the same or higher rates than white policemen and judges do makes it unlikely that any of this is motivated by racial animus.
|Smith et al. (2001)||The probability that someone being pulled over was black did not differ between white and non-white police officers|
|Baumgartner et al. (2018)||Blacks were most over-represented among those pulled over when looking at those stopped by black police officers.|
|Steffenmeier et al. (2001)||The impact that being black had on a person’s sentence was found to not significantly differ between black and white judges.|
|Ulhman (1978)||Black and white judges exhibited equal degrees of racial bias.|
|Meinfeld et al. (2018)||Black people account for 33% of those killed by non-white police officers compared to only 28% of those killed by white police officers.|
|Johnson et al. (2019)||The race of police involved in fatal shootings is unrelated to the probability that the person being shot is black or Hispanic.|
|Brown et al. (2007)||“Black suspects were more likely to be arrested when the decision maker was a Black officer”|
Moreover, if we look at surveys that ask Americans whether they’ve been the victim of a crime, and if so to describe the perpetrator, we find that black people are arrested for crimes at the same rate that they commit them.
And African Americans are actually underrepresented among those shot by police relative to the rate at which they commit violent crime.
Of course, this is not to say that African Americans are never unfairly killed by police. It is just to say that African Americans are not over-represented among those unfairly killed by police because of their race.
A favorite argument for liberals to bring up states that racism must explain why it is that African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested for using drugs despite the fact that both groups use drugs at similar rates. This argument ignores the fact that African Americans are more likely than white Americans to use drugs in high-crime areas, to use and buy drugs outside, to buy drugs from strangers, and other behaviors that elevate their risk for arrest above what you would expect given the rates at which African Americans report using drugs (Lagan 1995; Ramchand et al., 2006). This argument also ignores the multiple studies which have used drug tests to show that African Americans are more likely than white Americans to falsely claim that they haven’t done drugs (Fendrich et al., 2005; Page et al., 1977; Falck et al., 1992; Feucht et al, 1994; Johnson et al., 2003).
Another favorite argument of liberals goes like this: among those the police pull over or search whites are more likely than nonwhites to be found guilty of a crime meaning the amount of evidence for criminality police require before they will pull over or search white people is higher than the bar of evidence they use for nonwhites. After all, if , for instance, police searched everyone of both races with a 50% or higher of chance being a criminal then the arrest rate among people who have been searched would be the same for each group. The fact that more whites are arrested than blacks among those searched implies could only happen if, for instance, whites had to have a 60% chance of being a criminal before being searched whereas nonwhites were searched if they had a 40% chance or higher of being a criminal.
Empirically, it is true that the “hit rate”, or rate at which those searched are found to be criminals, is higher among whites than it is among blacks and it is even lesser among Hispanics.
But this argument still fails to provide evidence of racial bias in search rates not because the data is flawed but, rather, because the logic of this argument implicitly assumes something which is almost certainly untrue. To see why, imagine a hypothetical world in which there are three equally sized groups of people: blue people, green people, and red people. Let’s say that 20% of blue people are criminals, 70% of green people, and 100% of red people. In this world, the only evidence police have which is relevant to whether or not someone is criminal is there group membership. What will happen if the police in this world decide to stop and search anyone who has a 50% or higher chance of being a criminal? To find out, let’s make a simple graph showing how many people there are of each probability of being a criminal in our society, also called the distribution of the risk of criminality.
Well, no blue people will ever get stopped, and all the green and red people will. Moreover, the hit rate will be 100% for red people but only 70% for green people since 100% of red people and 70% of green people are actually criminals. This will happen even though the same bar of evidence is being applied to everyone. A “hit rate” experiment done in this society would conclude that the police were using different bars of evidence for different sorts of people and that would be false.
Continuing with our hypothetical, suppose that everyone gets fed up with the Red Group’s criminality and so administers some sort of intervention to lower it. And it works! Moreover, there are now sex differences among Red people such that 80% of their males and 60% of their females are criminals. Because Red people have the same number of men and women, in total 70% of Red people are now criminals. Because police search anyone with a 50% or higher chance of being criminal, the “hit rate” for Reds and Greens will now both be 70% even though their distributions of criminal risk are not the same. They have the same mean, and that’s what matters.
But then some liberals come around and say that police are too tough on crime so our society institutes a new rule so that police will only search someone who has at least a 61% chance of being a criminal. The result? All Green people and all Red men are searched and everyone else is ignored. Because 80% of red men are criminals, the hit rate for Red people who are searched will be 80% while the hit rate for Green people will still just be 70%
And now we can see that hit rates will be the same across groups when the probability of criminality required for search is the same across groups and the mean risk of criminality is the same in each group among those people who are at or above the threshold for search. If the distributions to the right of this threshold don’t have the same means then the hit rates won’t be the same even if the same bar of evidence is being required for each group. Thus, for us to conclude that hit rate research is a valid measure of racial bias we must first assume that each race has the same mean criminal risk to the right of whatever the threshold being used by police is. There is absolutely no reason to think this is true and the probability of it happening randomly is incredibly small. Given this, the probability that hit rate research is a valid measure of discrimination is equally small.
Here’s something else worth noting about the above example: Red people accounted for 43% of the crime committed but only account for 33% of those arrested. In other words, red criminals were less likely than green criminals to face legal consequences for their crimes. In order to give criminals in each group an equal chance of being arrested, police would either have to use a lower threshold for both groups or just for Red people.
The fact that using different evidence requirements could produce the same chance of criminals being arrested across groups is worth probing. Generally, groups where criminals are easy to tell apart from non-criminals will allow police to use a require a high bar of evidence and still arrest most criminals. For instance, imagine that in one population there is a certain way that nearly all criminals and very few non-criminals talk and dress. Police use this manner of speech and dress as evidence that someone has at least an 80% chance of being a criminal and so search such people and thus are able to use a high bar of evidence and still search most criminals. By contrast, in another population suppose that many non-criminals dressed and spoke the same way that criminals do. Imagine that many non-criminals in this population even went out of their way to emulate signals of criminality. As a result, the proportion of people engaging in such signaling who are actually criminals will be quite low. In this population, there is no evidence that allows police to conclude that someone has an 80% chance of being a criminal. Instead, the typical criminal signaling behavior only indicates a 20% chance of being a criminal in this population. As a result, in order to arrest as many of the criminals as do the police in the other population, police would have to arrest everyone with even a 20% chance of being a criminal and thus use a lower bar of evidence to arrest the same proportion of criminals. While exaggerated, the differences between these two populations may be a more extreme version of the difference between white and black Americans caused by the “thug culture” that is so prevalent among blacks. If this is right, then police may have to use a lower requirement of evidence among blacks in order to arrest the same proportion of their criminals.
As we’ve seen, there is no reason to assume that using the same evidence requirement across groups will lead to the same proportion of criminals in each group being arrested. As the just noted consideration makes clear, this is actually quite unlikely unless the groups have very similar distributions of criminal risk. Each of these goals seems like a feature of a fair legal system, but unless random chance produces something like a miracle they will actually be at odds with each other. As I’ve noted, hit rate research does not allow us to infer whether police use differing evidence standards by race. But we’ve already seen that they manage to arrest roughly the same proportion of criminals across race and that the propensity to stop and search black people does not differ between black and white police officers. For these reasons, even if the evidence requirements did differ by race, which we are not justified in believing, we still would lack justification for thinking that they differed because police were racist as opposed to them attempting to pursue a legitimate and fair legal outcome across races. Thus, hit rate research does not show that the American legal system is racist.
To sum up this section, there is no empirical evidence actually demonstrating any racial bias in drug arrest rates or police search rates, and there is data positively demonstrating no bias in arrest rates for violent crimes, and showing that black and white police officers do not differ in their treatment of African Americans. Given this, and the fact that white people generally don’t behave in a racially biased way, we are justified in concluding that the legal system is probably not significantly biased against black people until presented with better evidence to the contrary.
In fact, if there is any sense in which our approach to crime in this nation is racially biased is consists in victims who are ignored. The media would lead you think that being killed while unarmed is a leading cause of death among black Americans. In fact, happens less than 50 times per year and many other causes of death which are totally ignored are far more common.
|Cause of Death||Deaths Per Year|
|Police (while unarmed)||48|
|Homicide (white offender)||243|
|Homicide (Black offender)||2,570|
By contrast, between 1976 and 2005, on average each year there were 981 black-on-white murders.
To put these numbers in a historical context, consider that roughly 3,500 blacks were lynched in the United States between 1882 and 1968. At its height, around 100 black Americans were lynched per year.
We hear about black people who were lynched in the past and we hear about black people killed by police today. We don’t hear about the white people killed by blacks despite this being far more common. The value judgement implicit in this difference in attention is obvious.
Ultimately, I’m just arguing that we should recognize something that should be obvious. History is full of societies which practiced discrimination. We all have an intuitive idea of what they looked like. In such societies, those with power didn’t openly condemn the discrimination they were secretly perpetuating. Such societies didn’t ostracize people for using words the offended the people they were oppressing as we do with racial slurs aimed at minorities. In genuinely racist societies, people aren’t fired or “canceled” when it is revealed that they are racist.
The society that we live in is one were major corporations, institutions of education, and the government, openly talk about how they try to avoid hiring or admitting white people. It’s one where people can be fired and ostracized for criticizing non-whites but where people are rarely punished for criticizing white people as the American left does openly. It’s a society which says that phrases like “White lives matter” and “It’s okay to be white” are immoral statements of hatred. As in many racist societies of the past, we live in a culture where we are taught that one racial group (whites) is to blame for many of the problems of everyone else. And we are taught that it is racist, and therefore immoral, for white people to attempt to defend themselves from this charge as I’ve done here. Increasingly, we are told that we must trust the “life experiences” of those who blame whites for their problems and that the very act of looking for rational justification of these claims is itself suspect.
White people are expected to accept that they, and only they, share an inherent evil, racism, for which they can never fully repent though they must relentlessly try to nonetheless. This process may cause whites suffering, but, we are told, to be pre-occupied with the suffering of whites is itself racist.
The only thing unusual about our culture’s racism is the number of white people who have been socialized into participating in their own oppression. This victimization of whites is already significant. It inhibits white people economically, holds them back in education, subjects them to crimes which are systematically ignored, and sometimes directly damages their mental well being. As racial inequality continues to increase and white people become a demographic minority, these problems will probably only become worse. Certainly, the history of what happens when the majority (future non-whites) blames their unending problems on a minority (future whites) gives us reason for pessimism.
For these reasons, it is important that we recognize the sense in which our society truly is systematically racist and work to correct this before the effects of anti-white ideology are so great that they are simply impossible to ignore.