EditorialsKevin Alfred StromNews

CFR: We Need “Racial Equality Stress Tests”

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by Kevin Alfred Strom

FOREIGN AFFAIRS, the journal of the self-styled elite’s Council on Foreign Relations, is often where new ideas are floated before their forcible implementation on society at large. Their latest piece, “How Institutions Perpetuate US Racial Inequality,” is a combination of preposterous, even laughable, liberal doublethink combined with a serious proposal to implement a new nationwide bureaucracy to investigate and regulate whole economic sectors and industries to enforce equal economic outcomes among Whites, Blacks, and other non-Whites. (Nowhere, of course, is the wildly outsized portion of US wealth allocated to Jews even mentioned as a problem.)

The authors emphasize the investigation of so-called “institutional racism,” and soft-pedal the enforcement aspect — but when they speak of “regulators” and “policymakers” acting on the “investigations,” you may be sure they are indeed proposing a whole new level of bureaucratic control over our lives; racial equality commissars, if you will. These proposed race commissars would have powers far beyond forcing associations — such as hiring unwanted non-Whites, as “Affirmative Action” already does. They would have immense and apparently absolutely discretionary powers to do anything necessary to enforce “equal outcomes.”

This power is justified since, as every educated person knows, unequal outcomes cannot possibly be due to any inherent differences between the races, since such differences do not exist. Therefore, especially in the absence of any known racial discrimination, the differences must be due to “institutional racism,” and it is the job of the new commissars to root out and eliminate such racism.

Just as some of the forced association laws disguise themselves under the Orwellian name of “Affirmative Action,” these equal-outcome “investigations” and regulations have been dubbed “racial-equality stress tests.”

The CFR piece is authored by Robert C. Lieberman, the Jewish provost of Johns Hopkins University, and Fredrick C. Harris, a Black who heads Columbia University’s “Center on African-American Politics and Society.”

…Analyzing U.S. race relations in 1944, the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal identified what he called “an American dilemma”: the wide gap between the American ideals of liberty and equality and the actual conditions of African American life. In Myrdal’s view, racism was the root cause of the problem. Myrdal found that white Americans’ support for segregation sprang from a widespread belief in black inferiority and that blacks’ disadvantaged status tended to reinforce this sentiment. For Americans to resolve this clash between ideals and reality, Myrdal argued, something had to give: either whites’ racial attitudes had to change, allowing for fairer treatment of blacks, or the circumstances of African American life had to improve, triggering a change in attitudes.

In the subsequent decades, one of Myrdal’s prescriptions did come true — but only one: white Americans’ attitudes toward race have indeed been revolutionized. Yet across a wide range of measures — including income, employment, education, health, housing, and criminal justice — African Americans and other minorities of color have continued to lag behind whites, with severe consequences not only for those disadvantaged groups but also for American society as a whole. African Americans, for example, are nearly three times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be poor, almost six times as likely to be incarcerated, and only half as likely to graduate from college. The average wealth of white households in the United States is 13 times as high as that of black households.

Disparities of this sort have remained a permanent feature of American life even after the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s removed the two most egregious means of reproducing racial inequality: state-sanctioned segregation and explicit discrimination. Today, overt expressions of prejudice are almost universally considered illegitimate. Mass belief in biological or sociological theories that imply the superiority of some racial groups over others has nearly vanished. Americans now broadly accept, at least in principle, the basic premises of legal, social, and political equality across racial lines. Most Americans celebrate diversity in workplaces, schools, and public settings. And the anti-discrimination laws of the 1960s, especially the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, have succeeded at establishing the idea, if not the practice, of racial integration as a public good.

Yet half a century after the peak of the civil rights movement, its gains continue to be undercut by multiple sources of inequality that reinforce one another and place barriers in the way of progress. These patterns discredit the notion of a post-racial society. Rather, the United States is a post-racist country—a place where the role of race is more subtle and hidden from view than before, but no less potent. And a new American dilemma—the continuity of racial inequality in the midst of racial change—has confounded policymakers and commentators alike.

Neither the left nor the right has produced convincing explanations of this predicament, much less solutions to it. The two sides’ shortfalls stem from a common problem: a focus on individuals rather than institutions, which obscures the powerful role that history has played in shaping today’s inequalities. Historical legacies are the key reason numerous civic, social, and economic institutions continue to affect marginalized communities in deeply unequal ways, even though these institutions appear to be race neutral on the surface….

Disparities of this sort have remained a permanent feature of American life even after the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s removed the two most egregious means of reproducing racial inequality: state-sanctioned segregation and explicit discrimination. Today, overt expressions of prejudice are almost universally considered illegitimate. Mass belief in biological or sociological theories that imply the superiority of some racial groups over others has nearly vanished. Americans now broadly accept, at least in principle, the basic premises of legal, social, and political equality across racial lines. Most Americans celebrate diversity in workplaces, schools, and public settings. And the anti-discrimination laws of the 1960s, especially the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, have succeeded at establishing the idea, if not the practice, of racial integration as a public good.

Yet half a century after the peak of the civil rights movement, its gains continue to be undercut by multiple sources of inequality that reinforce one another and place barriers in the way of progress. These patterns discredit the notion of a post-racial society. Rather, the United States is a post-racist country—a place where the role of race is more subtle and hidden from view than before, but no less potent. And a new American dilemma—the continuity of racial inequality in the midst of racial change—has confounded policymakers and commentators alike.

Neither the left nor the right has produced convincing explanations of this predicament, much less solutions to it. The two sides’ shortfalls stem from a common problem: a focus on individuals rather than institutions, which obscures the powerful role that history has played in shaping today’s inequalities. Historical legacies are the key reason numerous civic, social, and economic institutions continue to affect marginalized communities in deeply unequal ways, even though these institutions appear to be race neutral on the surface….

Proponents of racial equality should, of course, continue to root out prejudice and fight to strengthen anti-discrimination laws. But simply eliminating prejudice is no longer enough. Nor is it realistic to expect that a rising tide will lift all boats and that gradual economic growth will ultimately bring minority communities out of poverty. Racial divisions appear entrenched, and existing approaches have proved incapable of loosening their hold. The post-racist epoch demands new tools for uncovering the structural forces that allow racial inequality to persist.

One idea that holds promise is the introduction of rigorous diagnostic methods similar to the stress tests that banks and financial firms use to understand their vulnerabilities and weaknesses….

A similar assessment method—racial-equality stress tests—could become an effective tool for identifying institutional mechanisms that perpetuate racial inequality. Tools of this kind would permit scholars and policymakers to investigate whether nominally race-neutral policies are in fact masking practices that contribute to racial inequality. Such stress tests would allow regulators to place a wide array of institutions under scrutiny. For example, a test applied to large employers might reveal whether their hiring practices treat white and black ex-felons unequally. Other candidates for stress tests would be school districts that practice so-called no-tolerance policies: punishing students through long-term suspensions or handing over the task of enforcing school discipline to the juvenile criminal justice system. Using the new assessment methods, policymakers could evaluate the extent to which these practices accelerate the path to future criminality and incarceration. Stress tests could also estimate the extent to which interventions such as restorative justice programs, which allow students to settle disputes through conflict-resolution techniques, could break the so-called school-to-prison pipeline in black communities.

Similarly, stress tests could be used to assess the adverse effects of distorted markets on African Americans—treating certain retail sectors, rather than individual companies, as institutions. For instance, tests could estimate the health costs of living in a community saturated with fast-food restaurants and the impact of potential policy interventions on reducing such vulnerabilities. This line of inquiry could help policymakers assess the likely effects of specific interventions, such as state or federal tax incentives that might encourage more grocery stores and restaurants that serve healthy food to open in specific neighborhoods. Alternatively, officials could consider regulations that would require a certain ratio of grocery stores to fast-food outlets within certain areas or zoning policies that would explicitly limit the concentration of fast-food chains.

Putting racial-equality stress tests into practice would take effort. The federal government could mandate stress tests for institutions within its jurisdiction, such as courts and prisons, and could encourage their use by offering block grants to states that pledged to conduct such tests on their own. State governments could take the same approach: mandating stress tests for institutions they directly regulate, such as school districts, and providing funding for voluntary testing at the local level. And of course, there is no reason to rely solely on government action; individual institutions could voluntarily administer stress tests to themselves.

None of this will be possible without the concerted support of citizens and advocacy groups….

“Stress tests,” indeed. Just another name for forcing people and institutions to do the unwanted, unnatural, and impossible. The human races have been evolving apart for tens of thousands of years, and have evolved manifold differences in values, behavior, abilities, and inclinations. Trying to make them “equal” is about as likely to succeed as legislation requiring the boiling points of water and steel to be the same temperature.

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