The False Justification for Anti-Racism and ‘Social Justice’

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by The Epoch Times on September 8, 2021 and is crossposted here with permission.


All “anti-racism” and “social justice” writings and campaigns are predicated on the claim that certain races and sexes are being treated unfairly. The only evidence presented to support this assertion is statistical disparities between different census categories of races and sexes.

But statistical disparities don’t prove unfair treatment; they only prove unequal outcomes. Race advocates and feminists claim that statistical disparities reflect racist and sexist discrimination. This is a factual question, and so we must consider the evidence.

But before we address the relevant evidence, it’s important to note the revolutionary change in raising census race and sex categories to the utmost importance. Western Enlightenment culture, particularly in the English-speaking world, has always placed the individual as of prime importance. In this view, collectivities such as governments, churches, and business are meant to serve individuals and their interests, rather than individuals being measured by their service to collectivities. But at least collectivities do have some existence, while the census categories of race and sex to which we are asked to bow are empty labels. This is why racism and sexism are so obnoxious: they honor labels rather than actual human beings.

Is it Discrimination?

Race and sex activists claim that statistical disparities reflect racist and sexist discrimination. With no further proof of actual discrimination, activists claim that any membership or benefit that doesn’t see 13.4 percent representation of black Americans, 18.5 percent of Hispanics, and 50 percent of female Americans—their percentages of the general population—must have resulted from racial and sexist discrimination. For example, the fact that blacks make up 5 percent and Hispanics make up 5.8 percent of medical doctors means that blacks and Hispanics are statistically underrepresented, and that this result is the consequence of racist discrimination against blacks and Hispanics.

Similarly, females make up 15 percent of the American engineering workforce, and are thus statistically underrepresented. For race and feminist activists, these statistical underrepresentations are in and of themselves proof of discrimination. But do feminists then grant that the demographic dominance of females among students and graduates generally, with females making up close to 60 percent, is proof that the underrepresentation of males is the result of sexist, anti-male discrimination? As most students in the social sciences, humanities, education, and social work are females, apparently they prefer these fields to others, including engineering and some other STEM fields. In the most gender-egalitarian societies, such as Sweden, females make up the lowest percentages of STEM students in the world, presumably because they feel free to follow their preferences. Discrimination doesn’t come into it.

If statistical underrepresentation is the result of discrimination, so too must overrepresentation be a result of discrimination. Let us consider a few cases. National Football League players are 70 percent black (compared to their 13.4 percent of the general population), while 74.2 percent of National Basketball Association players are black, 16.9 white, 2.2 Latino, and 0.4 Asian. Are these statistical levels of participation the result of racial discrimination? Are the NFL and NBA actively discriminating against white, Latino, and Asian players? Rather, it appears that teams are competing for the best players so that they can succeed in their fields of competition. The selection is based on athletic merit, rather than race. No racial discrimination is evident.

Asian Americans, with 5.9 percent of the population, provide 17.1 percent of the medical doctors. This is a major statistical disparity. Does it result from racial discrimination against whites, blacks, and Hispanics? Who exactly is discriminating in favor of Asian Americans, people who themselves have long suffered discrimination? Is there any evidence of discrimination in favor of Asian Americans?

If racial discrimination does not explain the dominance of black athletes in professional sport, or the high level of Asian Americans in the medical field, what does explain these successes? We are warned by Ibram X. Kendi that “racial-group behavior is a figment of the racist’s imagination.” Yet, if we consult evidence rather than racialist ideology, it’s beyond dispute that family structure, community culture, and crime level do differ markedly among members of different racial categories.

What Might Be the Reasons for Different Outcomes?

We know that two-parent families, in comparison with one-parent families, are associated with children’s higher educational achievement and with a lower level of criminal activity and incarceration. Members of different census race categories differ in their family structure: the percentage of single-parent families among African Americans, in 2019, was 64 percent; among American Indians, 52 percent; among Hispanics, 42 percent; among whites, 24 percent; and among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, 15 percent.

Educational achievement correlates with family structure. In all standardized tests, Asian Americans achieve the highest scores, then, well behind, are whites, and well behind are Hispanics, and finally blacks. This reflects not only family structure, but also family and community culture. Asian American families have a high level of discipline and respect for parental authority, and their families and communities are notoriously committed to education.

Crime follows a similar pattern: According to 2019 FBI homicide data, “When the race of the offender was known, 55.9 percent were Black or African American, 41.1 percent were White, and 3.0 percent were of other races.” Among murder victims in 2019 for whom race was known, “54.7 percent were Black or African American, 42.3 percent were White, and 3.1 percent were of other races.”

This means the per-capita offending rate for African-Americans was around six times higher than that of whites. As a result, African Americans are highly overrepresented in prisons by demography, although not overrepresented in terms of criminal activity.

The pattern of economic success, as measured by income, is much the same. Median household income of Asian Americans was, in 2018, $87,243, of whites $67,937, Hispanics, $51,404, and blacks, $41,511. Race, however, does not seem to be a determinant, as Nigerian immigrants to the United States have an average income of $52,000, while 35 percent of Nigerian immigrant households earn $90,000.

All of these statistical disparities that indicate difficulties in the African American community have resulted after 50 years of legalized discrimination on behalf of African Americans. “Affirmative action” has made black Americans a preferred category of applicants, and has granted special conditions and benefits for black Americans. Now “diversity, equity, and inclusion” intensifies pro-black discrimination, and, incidentally, anti-white and anti-Asian discrimination. But the disparities remain, because even 50 years of racial discrimination in favor of black Americans has not addressed the social pathologies of their community.

Now, Ibram X. Kendi has warned us that “One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an antiracist.” Thus, referring to different characteristics of family structure, community culture, and criminality in different race categories is, according to Kendi, racist. Kendi is advocating for black Americans, and rejects the evidence that blacks bear some responsibility for their levels of achievement and for social pathologies such as crime. The problem, according to Kendi, is “power and policies,” and in taking this stand, he’s robbing black Americans of their agency as human beings, of their capability to achieve and to seek their own ends. This is not “anti-racism,” it’s undermining the constituency Kendi claims to champion by no expectations of performance.

Kendi’s solution to “racism” and alleged discrimination is to increase the preferences and benefits for blacks, in perpetuity: “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” Kendi aims to disaggregate rewards from performance, so that his favored racial category gets the rewards irrespective of performance. This is not anti-racism; it’s reverse racism, as well as the negation of achievement and merit, and the advancement of mediocrity in all of our fields of knowledge and service.


Image: Lukas, Public Domain

Philip Carl Salzman

Philip Carl Salzman is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at McGill University, Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and President of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

5 thoughts on “The False Justification for Anti-Racism and ‘Social Justice’

  1. To understand the level of this, one need only looj at what is happening at UM Amherst.

    While no rape was reported, allegedly a student was raped in a frathouse on Sat nite.

    That justified students attacking frat – vehicle rolled over, extensive damage to building. UM not doing anything about it.

    Radicals demanding even more draconian policies.

    And 22 years ago, 1999-2001, those rapes WERE hoaxes…..

  2. Say what you want about Kendi but the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church is a disciple of his racist ideologies. This apparently is no problem for the other woke leadership.

  3. Thanks for this.

    I don’t always agree with Philip, but this sums up the vacuity of “antiracism” well. He keeps calm even when citing the allegation that everything he’s saying is “racist”.

  4. It never ceases to amaze me that the same activists who acknowledge males and females are clearly different when it comes to physical ability, vehemently refuse to believe that males and females can have different mental ability. Biological processes determine physical ability. Well, mental ability–specifically, an ability to process abstract mathematical concepts–is also a biological process. So if males and females are physically different, why do they have to be mentally identical? The feminists have no answer.

    People tend to have no interest in areas where they have little ability. For example, people who can’t draw typically don’t take oil painting classes. It has nothing to do with discrimination. Females probably don’t pursue STEM fields because, on average, they don’t have sufficiently high enough math skills.

    As a side note, males outnumber females in all STEM fields except one: the biological sciences. Is this discrimination? Or is this because biology, when compared to all other STEM fields, has essentially zero math. A BS degree in biology only requires two quarters of statistics. Conversely, a BS in engineering requires one year of calculus, plus courses in probability, linear algebra and differential equations. I conjecture science-oriented females are attracted to the biological sciences because they can avoid having to deal with mathematics.

    1. I conjecture science-oriented females are attracted to the biological sciences because they are naturally drawn to things having to do with life. Watch any group of females around a young baby, and compare with a similar group of males (with the partial exception of the father). While males are attracted to the more mathematical sciences because they are naturally drawn to things like how to spear a tiger, optimize a cannonball’s trajectory, and how to understand quantum gravity.

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