Friday, March 18, 2011

A comment on race and looting

I've been accused by a number of readers of trying to ignore race altogether, to pretend that it's irrelevant that the looters in New Orleans were black, the non-looters of Japan Japanese.

I don't think that race is irrelevant to the discussion. I think it's highly relevant. What I don't buy is that race is the answer. That is, I don't think that black people are intrinsically more likely to loot that white people, all else constant. The thing is, all else is not constant.

Decades of federal policy have made black people more and more dependent on the government. Black educational levels and economic achievement were both rising faster than in the white population back in the 50s. Black families were mostly married father-mother nuclear families. Black civic institutions were strong.

Then came welfare, the Great Society, benefits for mothers without husbands (better benefits than they could get with husbands at home), benefits for doing exactly what you shouldn't do to have a stable family life or to get a good job. Because blacks were the poorest group in America, they were hit first by these programs.

White people haven't been immune. We're just 20 years behind blacks on the curve. The same family disintegration that's devastated black communities has come home to white America. The same lack of responsibility that hit black America is now part of white America. It just isn't as wide spread yet. Small communities are more resistant, as are communities in areas with strong religious and family ties. We probably wouldn't see much looting in Bismark or Fargo or Salt Lake after a Katrina-type disaster.

I submit that race is a factor, but it's not a cause. The problem as I identify it is social irresponsibility and family disintegration due to pervasive and perverse government policies. But before I write an article with my answers, I like for people to think about the problem themselves. I'm a teacher, not a prophet or an oracle. I prefer to make people think about answers rather than give them mine. I'm not convinced that I'm entirely right about this, but I've yet to see anything convincing to the contrary.