An insistence on ‘systemic’ racism tells minority communities they have no power over their own lives.
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Are only white people capable of hate crimes? If you get all your news from mainstream media sources, that’s what you’d think. A 51-year-old black man allegedly stabbing a 12-year-old white boy in Pittsburgh while shouting racial epithets barely made national news. The same was true when a black man was arrested for savagely beating a 65-year-old Asian woman in Midtown Manhattan. We saw endless coverage of the despicable assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, but when a 25-year-old black male allegedly killed a Capitol police officer last week, MSNBC erroneously reported the suspect was white.
Throughout 2020 there was a rise in violence against Asian-Americans, but the race of the perpetrators was typically mentioned only when they were white. Media and other elites obsessively push the narrative that the greatest threat in this country is coming from “white supremacists.” This gross oversimplification has dire consequences for the most vulnerable in our society—those living in the poorest neighborhoods—and for the nation as a whole.
A media environment in which the only acceptable villains are white creates a more dangerous world for all of us. The rush to judgment based on skin color is familiar to those of us who lived through segregation. In those days, some in law enforcement couldn’t care less about crimes committed by blacks against other blacks, but there were severe penalties for offenses against whites. We marched and demanded fair and equal treatment under the law. As far as the application of criminal law, much of what is happening today is a retreat to the pre-Civil Rights South.
Every tragic police killing of a black person is amplified by radical progressives to accuse police of white supremacy and to push for defunding and anarchy. The more law-enforcement officers we lose to defunding, early retirements and drastic drops in recruitment, the fewer we have to patrol lower-income neighborhoods. Homicides among lower-income minorities soar. Meanwhile, the cries of the 81% of blacks who oppose defunding the police are chronically ignored.
The loudest advocates of defunding the police don’t have to live with the consequence of their advocacy. The Los Angeles City Council president pushed for defunding the police while having a personal police escort at her home. Thanks to so-called racial progressives like her, low-income black neighborhoods are experiencing some of what it was like to live in the pre-Civil Rights South.
The assertion that blacks must rely on white people to solve all their problems by somehow ending systemic and institutional racism is both nonsensical and self-defeating. By focusing on the past and present sins of white America as the source of all our problems, we ignore the enemy within, and that which is in our power to change. We turn a blind eye to the destruction within our communities that is consuming more of our lives than the Klan ever did, even at the height of its power.
Furthermore, remedies applied to a single racial group almost always include a kind of bait and switch. The social pathologies are the bait: high unemployment, poverty, inequities in education, high crime rates and so on. When the remedies arrive—generally money—you get the switch. A large share of the benefits never go to the people actually suffering from high unemployment or poverty or crime. They go to the elite members of that race who are already insulated and connected enough to capture the prizes.
For example, Coca-Cola now requires the law firms that do business with it to have 30% of their attorneys be “people of color.” Other companies, such as Wells Fargo, Ralph Lauren and Delta Airlines, are following suit with their own racial quotas for highly skilled positions. Even race-neutral programs aimed at lower-income households spend most of their funding on their middle-class administrators rather than on their supposed beneficiaries. How does this help low-income blacks trapped in unsafe neighborhoods and failing schools? How does requiring corporations to have a certain percentage of women of color on their boards of directors help the thousands of black women in prison, many of whom are being mistreated by their guards, most of whom are also black?
Race remains a salient issue in America, but not only because of whites victimizing minorities. Yet the U.S. is the world’s most prosperous and harmonious multiracial society. We have some serious problems we must address, but we can’t solve them unless we’re willing to speak about them honestly.
Mr. Woodson is founder and president of the Woodson Center and author, most recently, of “Lessons From the Least of These: The Woodson Principles.”