Writing in the New York Times, op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof recently pushed back against the notion many American whites have that racism isn’t really the vexing national crisis that it used to be. To this end Kristof lists several uncomfortable statistics illustrating the stark inequality between the races in areas like income, educational attainment, incarceration rates, life expectancy, and so forth, including the following headline grabbing bullet point:
The net worth of the average black household in the United States is $6,314, compared with $110,500 for the average white household, according to 2011 census data. The gap has worsened in the last decade, and the United States now has a greater wealth gap by race than South Africa did during apartheid.
These are all indisputable facts. But you don’t need a bunch of statistics to intuit the reality about racial inequity in America. Just look at the composition and layout of our communities: 150 years since the end of slavery, and a half century after Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, socioeconomic lines and color lines are still largely one and the same in what remains a profoundly racially segregated nation.
Why? Well, if you think about it logically, there can really be only two explanations. Either African Americans (and other non-white communities) are being held back by institutional racism… or nonwhites are, on average, racially inferior.
Feel free to argue the latter explanation if you like, although there is no science to support it. And even if you insist that there is some sort of cultural, rather than genetic inferiority that is holding back black Americans, that still doesn’t let you off the white supremacist hook.
So if we accept the premise that we are all more or less born equal (and what could be more American than that?), how else can we explain the stark disparity in life outcomes that stubbornly sticks to racial lines? Institutional racism is the only logical explanation.
If we define “institutional racism” as any kind of system of inequality based on race, then that is what we have here in America. The outcome is the proof.