Friday, October 2, 2020

Individuals Trump Statistics

a man standing in front of a sign: Caleb Anderson is a sophomore at Cattahoochee Technical College in Georgia.

Saying that black people underachieve as a result of racism is almost as wrong as saying they underachieve as a result of racial inferiority.   Statistics are useful, but don't determine individual outcomes.

In the paper today, a heartwarming story about a young black man who is only 12 years old, but already a Sophomore in college, studying Aerospace Engineering.  It is a story we need to hear more often, of young black men - and women - succeeding in academia and in fields traditionally staffed by white males. But beyond that, it illustrates the fallacy of both the Left and the Right, when it comes to race relations.

The far-right neo-Nazis and Klansmen argue that the white race is "superior" to others. Oddly enough, the best examples of the white race seldom argue this point.  Rather, the dumbest and ugliest of white people are the ones who argue superiority - thus defeating their own argument.  The best argument against white supremacy is made by white supremacists.  I mean, just look at these people - this is the best Earth has to offer?

But such folks will argue that statistics show that black children under-perform in school and are over-represented in poverty, crime, and incarceration statistics.  But again, people are not statistics, and your outcome in life is not pre-ordained.  How difficult it is for you to succeed may be a function of statistics, but not your eventual outcome.  Poverty and low expectations go hand in hand. If you come from a poor family, either black in the ghetto or white in the trailer park, and there isn't a book in the house, but the television is on all day long, well, odds are, you aren't going to value education, because your parents don't value it, either.

This is not to say you are destined to poverty.  I recounted before a friend of mine who came from poverty in West Virginia.   She wanted more than to be pregnant at age 15 to some Lothario in the trailer park where she lived.  So, she saved her money, staved off the advances of the flat-faced trailer boys, and went to design school.   She graduated, changed her name to something more trendy, and went to the big city and re-invented herself as a high-end interior designer.  Today, she is near retirement and a millionaire. A likely outcome? No. But an outcome that was achievable as evidenced by the fact she did it.   It wasn't easy, though.

I told before a similar story about a friend in law school, who grew up in the projects in Philadelphia.  Same story - she saw her friends all getting pregnant in high school and going nowhere.  So she joined the Navy, and went to college (courtesy of the Navy) and got a law degree and now she is a member of the prestigious JAG corps.   Or she was when I knew her and she was working on a Law Masters degree in tax law.  I presume she too, is at or nearing retirement, at a law firm or maybe a firm of her own.

The point is, outcomes are determined by individuals, not statistics.   How hard it is to achieve those outcomes might be affected by those statistics.   But statistics don't mean that blacks are inferior to whites anymore than they mean that people in trailer parks are inferior to those who are not (and oddly enough, the folks in trailer parks are the most likely to argue "white supremacy").

But on the other foot, the idea that these statistics show inherent racism in our society is also flawed. Or more to the point, that the sole cause of statistical underachievement by blacks is racism is, I think, a flawed idea.  The idea that you can somehow "get rid of racism" by flipping a switch and then everything will be equal and everyone will have equal statistical outcomes is bogus.  There are other roadblocks to success besides racism - as evidenced by the large number of white underachievers in our country - what's their excuse?

The young man pictured above had the stars align in his direction for sure.  He has a native talent and intelligence, but moreover, I suspect he has a good family background, and went to a decent school where his talent was recognized and he was able to advance - as opposed to most schools where a bored student is viewed as a "troublemaker" rather than someone who is perhaps not being challenged enough.

I think also that cultural values are important. In both the trailer park and ghetto, things like education are less valued, and the student who is smart is "getting above himself" and due for a beating after school.  Even in suburban high schools, this is often the case.  But it starts at home, too, with parents valuing education and beating that into the child's head, rather than beating it out of him.

Sadly, we have promoted this idea in America that black culture involves criminality as well as a lack of education.  And if you want to talk about real racism, this is it - because a lot of these ideas come from the white community and are perpetuated by white culture or white-lead culture.

Saturday Night Live used to have a segment called "Black Jeopardy!" which poked fun at "black" cultural values, or what the writers of the show (some of whom are black) thought those values were.  This included speaking English poorly, using a lot of ghetto slang, and being generally stupid and poor. White kids listen to rap and hip-hop music and are entranced by the whiff of danger and criminality that the rap stars promote.  It is just baseline assumed that black people steal things and kill each other - that is the message that white America promotes.   This is the real racism, and oddly enough, it is an idea that many on the Left promote.

But SNL can't be racist, right?  After all, they are against Trump!

Stories like the one above give us all hope, and also illustrate that progress is indeed being made - and more needs to come.  50 years ago, the odds of a young black man going to Engineering school, even at age 18, were pretty slim.  100 years ago, impossible.   But to hear a lot of people on the Left tell it, no progress is being made, and in fact, things are worse today than ever before.

Don't believe it.