In my post on my review of the book Red River (Unfulfilled Potential) I included a link to a speech given by Walter Williams, an African-American professor who takes issue with some of the assumptions I attributed to the author of Red River. How strongly the author holds to such assumptions, I don’t know, but I made some assumptions of my own based on her comments in the back matter of the book. Looking over my post, I thought it might be helpful to take Professor Williams’ speech and condense it to what I was getting at in my book review. Williams fundamentally “gets it” when we white people express frustration in dealing with race relations of the sort I mentioned in my earlier post. So, below are my notes on his revealing speech:
According to Walter Williams, there are three basic assumptions we take for granted when we look at race discrimination in America. They are: (1) Discrimination has adverse effects on the achievements of a race; (2) statistical differences between races imply or measure discrimination; and (3) statistical differences will no longer exist or persist if discrimination were eliminated.
Dr. Williams then takes each of these assumptions in turn and explains them.
Assumption One: Discrimination has adverse effects on the achievements of a race (and blacks in particular).
Through the centuries Jews have faced great discrimination and yet they have achieved a higher average income than the general population and have a higher-than-average education. Now, you might say that the Jew is at an advantage because he could simply change is name from “Goldstein” to “Smith” and simply melt into the population. However, most have not and are in fact generally known to be Jewish or we wouldn’t have their stats to look at.
The Japanese and Chinese have also faced horrible discrimination, and they cannot simply change their name to melt into the general population. About 15% of the general population in America are professional workers; however, among Japanese Americans 25% of their population are professionals. 24% of Chinese Americans are professionals. Both these groups have a higher income then the national median and have the lowest crime rate, lowest alcoholism rate and highest marital stability.
But, you might say, people have a “special dislike” for African Americans. Well, West Indian blacks in America also have a higher income than the national average and have a slightly higher average of professionals in their workforce. Now, will a potential employer take the time to find out if the black he is interviewing comes from the West Indies? Probably not. (These West Indian blacks have a similar heritage of slavery as the American-born blacks.)
Lest you think discrimination only has effects in America, consider that 60% of GNP in the Southeast Asian countries of Burma and Malaysia is owned my Chinese citizens, even though they are only 13% of the population. In fact, there are Affirmative Action programs for the natives in some Southeast Asia countries.
Also, Armenians in Turkey have a higher average income than the Turks who discriminate against them.
Assumption Two: Statistical differences between races imply or measure discrimination.
“But for the fact of discrimination we would all be alike,” is the argument made by many racial reform activists. Statistical differences exist, no one denies that, but they do not usually have anything to do with “discrimination.”
Black Americans are 13% of the population, yet they make up 75% of the NBA basketball players. They are also the highest paid in the NBA. Does the NBA “have it out” for white players?
There is only one black in the national hockey league—is the national hockey league racist? No one contends that it is. In addition, more than 50% of American hockey players are from Minnesota. What kind of conspiracy is Minnesota conducting?
Jews are no more than 3% of the American population, yet 33% of all American Nobel Prize winners are Jewish. Are the Jews hiding the books from the rest of us?
Statistical disparities do not imply negative discrimination. Equally productive females only earn 59% of the salary of their male counterparts on average. Unmarried men earn only 62% of what married men earn (when adjusted for age). Why don’t companies hire more of the “cheaper” females and unmarried men? Companies often fail when their costs are only 2% higher than the competition. They would be able to outbid other companies out of the market my hiring more women and unmarried men! Why don’t they? Do the vast majority of businesses in America “have it out” for women or single men? That would be the easy answer, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if companies are trying to be competitive.
Now for the hard-truth answer: First you must ask, “Are all women ‘equally productive’?” Females who remain unmarried and work continuously from age 18 to 37 actually have a slightly higher income than their exact male (never married) counterparts. Female professors who never married also have a slightly higher income than a male professor who has never been married. Apparently, marriage exacts a high cost on women. Because of the traditional roles in marriage, and let us not forget actual biology, women usually become a greater burden on employers once they have married. Their “workforce capital” decreases. Not only do they need time off for pregnancy and maternity leave, they are the ones who are usually called when their child has problems at school, is sick, or needs to be taken to soccer practice. Women traditionally take care of the household needs, such as shopping and cleaning. In other words, their attention is divided; their priority may not, and in some cases cannot (such as childbearing), be with their employment. Also, for whatever reason, women tend to visit the doctor more often then men, costing employers more in health insurance. This is undeniable: health insurance policies on women are slightly higher than on men. Taking all this into account, although married women may be “equally productive” while actually doing the work at their jobs, their costs to employers in time off, divided attention, and other inconveniences brings their “workforce capital” down.
Not so for men—their “workforce capital” actually increases with marriage. In the traditional marriage where the woman assumes the primary role in child-rearing (someone has to), the man gets a “helper.” By becoming married the male can devote more to work because, again, in the traditional marriage, the woman now takes care of the majority of household upkeep, freeing the man from those distractions. The woman simply cannot efficiently develop her “workforce capital” in a traditional marriage. Married men therefore earn an average of 38% more by being married—an advantage of having a “helper.” The woman thus owns 38% of her husband’s income without question. If a woman wants to make the same income or better, she simply should not get married. This is simply one of those “hard facts” in life (if you chose to see it that way) that cannot be overcome without sacrificing valued (and most would probably argue “natural”) roles in marriage and family culture.
Assumption Three: Statistical differences will no longer exist or persist if discrimination were eliminated.
You may say a specific hotel fire was caused my oxygen. That is true, but does it explain why another hotel, also surrounded by oxygen, did not burn down? Oxygen is so pervasive that it alone cannot explain the fire. Likewise with discrimination—it alone cannot explain any single case of “racial discrimination”—other causes must contribute to each case of “racial discrimination.”
Discrimination is everywhere. For instance, we use it in selecting a wife or husband. We always have criteria for our decisions and we don’t give all an equal chance based on our varied criteria. We eliminate opportunity with every choice we make and discrimination is solely the act of choice. When choosing a husband or wife, we all systematically eliminate vast categories of potential mates. Either they’re the wrong gender (there goes one-half of the pool), are not athletic, don’t make adequate income, don’t share the right religion or beliefs, are not physically attractive to us, and so on. In other words we discriminate. Like oxygen, discrimination is everywhere and cannot be eliminated. Claiming you didn’t get a job because of discrimination is true. It is true in every single case of someone not getting a job. Scarcity requires us to choose (there is only one job opening for many applicants). Someone will always be injured by our choice.
Prejudice literally means “pre-judge” or to use a stereotype. We all use prejudices out of necessity to survive. When you unexpectantly see a tiger sitting on your front porch you will probably “stereotype” it by running away. Why is that? Is it based on any specific knowledge of that particular tiger, or is it based on tiger folklore, what your mother has told you about tigers, videos of tigers acting aggressively, or so forth? Now, that particular tiger may be tame as a kitten; nevertheless, a quick calculation is being made: The expected benefit of additional information about that particular tiger is less than the expected cost, so we discriminate against that tiger without further searching. In other words, cheaply acquired observations are of greater benefit than more costly acquired observations.
If offered a million dollars if they win a basketball game, and given 5 white males, 5 black males, 5 white females, and 5 black females, (and you are unable to watch them play beforehand) most people would pick the 5 black males. They could be labeled sexist or racist for doing so, but they would have a much better chance of getting the million dollars. Can you assume everyone doesn’t like white men or females? Even the Grand Master of the Ku Klux Klan would pick the 5 black males—it’s a million dollars!
Simply watching someone’s behavior will give you very little information about their preferences. A known bigot and the most open-minded person will make the exact same choice in the above example if their objective is to maximize the winnings from the basketball game.
If you are an employer and you are looking for a high school graduate with a high SAT score for a particularly challenging internship and it costs you $100 for every person you interview, would you send your recruiters to a Newark, New Jersey inner-city school or to a more affluent suburban school? Where would you have a higher probability of finding a successful candidate at the lowest cost? You may or may not dislike blacks, but it would probably not affect your decision.
There may not be a causal relationship between race and SAT scores, but there surely is an associative one. Likewise with the basketball players—there is no specific reason to not choose the white males, but out there in the real world there is certainly an associative one. Same goes with the tiger. We have no direct cause to run when we see one, but we have ample associative reasons to do so.
Physical characteristics can serve as proxies for other characteristics that are more costly to observe. (We could choose the white females for the basketball game but that would likely be more costly by not winning the game, even though we can say we gave them a “fair” chance. We’re not saying they could not win or even do better than the black males, it’s just with a million dollars on the line, it is not worth the risk.)
It is important to change the characteristics associated with a race or gender to eliminate this kind of “cheap” pre-judging. If we tame a majority of all tigers in the world and actively market and promote the knowledge that most of them are tame, then we may have fewer kitties with hurt feelings as people no longer so readily run away at the sight of one.
The use of the word “minority” is misleading when used in the context of race. The largest identifiable ethnic group in America are people with English ancestry, they are slightly more than 15% of the population. Next are those of German ancestry who are 14% of the population. Next are those of African ancestry who make up 13% of the population. Every other ethnic group is in the single-digit minorities.
Whites are not all alike. White people in their European homelands have been trying to slaughter each other for centuries. The longest period of peace in Europe has been only since the end of the Second World War. You can’t lump all white people into one bag.
How much of what we see in African-American relations can be attributed to discrimination?
Much of it is fraudulent education. The average black will score between 100 and 150 points below the average white on the SAT and still have the same high school diploma in hand. This is not made up in college. The GRE scores of blacks are slightly over 125 points lower than the national norm. 12 years of fraudulent education in primary and secondary schools cannot be corrected in 4 years of college. If diplomas or degrees cannot be trusted as proof of the same level of learning, one is forced to look at other criteria for making good choices.
The saddest aspect of this education fraud, in which employers are forced to compensate for by using the “cheaper” race discrimination, is that it need not be. In private schools 85% of blacks read at or up to three grade levels above their own grade level. The majority of these black children come from low or middle income families. It is not generally a question of capability, but culture.
Throwing money at the problem is not the solution: In Philadelphia, the cost for tuition to one private school with the above success rate is $1,200 whereas the per capita cost for a child in Philadelphia’s public schools is $5,000 with only the national average results. Blacks don’t need to capture a white kid to sit by. These private schools with successful black students, most notably the black muslim schools, are not into bussing and integration programs. In these schools you observe utter quite. The kids have pencils in their hands and their eyes on their teachers. This is all black kids need: Parents who make sure he does his homework, gets him to bed early on school nights, feeds him a breakfast in the morning, and makes sure he gets to school in a business-like fashion ready to learn. There is no mystery.
There is a huge reserve of racial goodwill in America which we are needlessly wasting. Racial incidents and resentment have increased in traditionally black-accepting colleges where affirmative action has been in effect. People know that disregarding behavior is being dishonest. Many colleges either have or are considering such things as black economics courses simply because some dishonest person suggested it. What if someone suggested a course on Polish economics, or Japanese-American economics? They would be thrown out. We need to have courage.
Recognizing the truth is only half the battle, now we need to correct the negative discrimination by first “taming the tigers”—getting rid of the fraudulent education by strengthening the family culture and stop using blame as an excuse—and publicizing this fact after it has taken effect. Affirmative Action and like policies—when based on a lie or fraud—will only exacerbate the problem as all people (blacks included) naturally react to being lied to.