Monday, November 30, 2009

The Specter of Race

In conversations that I have had with friends regarding race I have asserted often that in modern America race plays no significant factor in any facet of public life, be it within the criminal justice system, politics, business, or education. Read any of Larry Elder's books to get the gist of my stance on the issue. The more liberal among them respond to the assertion with shock and horror, while reflexively spouting off facts and statistics rapid fire that they believe show otherwise. I'm well aware of the inequities that exist along racial boundaries in our society, I just reject the notions that A) racial distinctions are necessary, meaningful distinctions to make and B) that the inequities that do exist can be linked to any current racism (rather than to residual effects of racism from the past.) Given this I believe the appropriate action to take with regard to these inequities is to do precisely nothing, because doing anything requires regression into a mode of treating race as though it were in any way relevant or meaningful, when it is not.

We have long since eliminated all traces of officially sanctioned racism from our Constitution and laws, as well as from every aspect of public life. In the eyes of the law we are all equal. And that is all that anyone is owed; equal rights and equal protection under the law. Our job as citizens on the issue of race is completed. That doesn't mean we don't need to be vigilant against any racism that rears it's ugly head within the system. But that is a matter of simply holding individuals responsible for their racist actions or words, especially when they intrude into the public sector. And that's a fight that has no conceivable end game. But our job as it relates to public policy and law is complete. To go a step even further, even in our application of the law our job is very near to being as complete as can be achieved (other than, as I said, remaining vigilant in calling out individual acts of racism). Of course, when you have fallible humans in positions of power and responsibility who have to make judgement calls (such as judges and police officers), there is no way to foolproof the system. But the evidence that exists (viewed in the proper context) with regard to sentencing and arrests, for example, shows a highly color blind justice system. A justice system with a rigorous set of checks and balances on itself in place.

In response to this people will often bring up cases of various laws that 'target' minorities, and use this as evidence of racism within the system. Such as mandatory, harsher penalties for certain types of drugs (drugs that are more often associated with other types of crime, and therefore more prevalent in inner cities, therefor more prevalent amongst the poor, therefore more prevalent amongst minorities), or harsher penalties for selling drugs within certain proximity to schools (when schools more densely populate urban areas where there are more minorities). But this is not racism. The socioeconomic and geographic maldistribution of races is a product of past racism. This is the specter of institutionalized racism. And as a society we have no duty, responsibility or capability to fight against specters.

You might correctly state that whites have a greater share of the resources (due to past racism) and thus an 'unfair advantage'. Such a statement makes a few faulty assumptions. First that blacks and whites have monolithic goals and interests, which they don't. And second that it is even a good idea to inspect who holds a greater percentage of resources along racial lines, which it is not. We should no sooner inspect whether or not there's a "maldistribution of resources" along the lines of skin color than we should inspect the issue along the lines of eye or hair color. Even if an 'inequity' exists there is nothing that can or should be done about it. It's impossible to delineate precisely between resources that were justly earned and ones that were inherited from some type of privelege that is tied to unjust acts of our ancestors. America makes no promises, nor should it, about granting equal access to resources, equal social status at birth or anything of the sort. Only equal rights, equal treatment under the law, and equal opportunity. All of which has been achieved.

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