In early June 2020, I received an invitation to attend an online “conversation on racism and racial inequality.” This was just a week after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer–a week that saw riots in many major cities across the United States. Cries for racial equality and “black lives matter” were dominating media, news media and social media, as were the stories of much violence, property destruction, and looting.
Like anyone with a heart, I was appalled by the senseless death of George Floyd. His murder was tragic and unjust, and to the extent that things like this happen in our country, they need to be rooted out and eliminated. In the wake of all these events, the invitation to the meeting piqued my curiosity. I wondered if the meeting be a real, open discussion on race relations and the problems facing our society and potential solutions, or if it would be more of the extreme rhetoric and hollow virtue signalling that was dominating the media.
Placating the Mob with Statements that Perpetuate the Guilty Until Innocent Mentality
I had my suspicions of what the meeting might discuss, but I wanted to give the organizers the benefit of the doubt. You see, in the days prior to this meeting, many organizations were making public statements condemning racism against the black community. The organizers of this event were part of one of those statements. And like most of the ones I saw, the statement this organization put out said nothing to condemn the violence, rioting, and looting by the protesters, which was disappointing and indicated their lack of sincerity. A good example of this kind of statement was made by Apple.
It seems that thousands of people causing millions of dollars of damage that destroyed the livelihood of countless people (a great many of which are minorities) deserved as much a mention in a statement like that as the police brutality towards a black man. But the writers either disagree with that, or willfully ignore the criminal behavior of the mob, likely due to fear and a desire to appease the mob. A statement by the NAACP and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a notable exception. While condemning racism, prejudice, discrimination and hate, their statement also had the courage to “renounce illegal acts such as looting, destruction, and defacement of public or private property.” (see Locking arms for racial harmony in America)
On the one hand, if you are a business owner, I understand the pressure to make a statement in support of racial equality. There seems to be no harm in it–after all, if you are not racist, why not get behind a statement that denounces racism. On the other hand, it seems like making the statement only due to societal pressure feeds the guilty until innocent mentality that is so prevalent in the media and in our country. Meaning, the mob makes you feel like if you, or your company, don’t make a statement condemning racism, then you are guilty of racism. But let’s get back to the “conversation on racial inequality.”
Started Meeting by Declaring White Privilege
While I knew what I was likely in for in this meeting, I was still interested in what would be said. The person who spoke first introduced the topic and in the process, acknowledged their “white privilege” and made other statement like, “to our black colleagues, we see you.” The virtue signalling was thick. When the topic of white guilt came up so quickly, I wanted to throw up, mentally, if not physically. For this person, who has had a very successful career, to attribute their success in life to white skin seemed inaccurate and probably insincere.
Regarding the remark about “seeing” black community, of course we see them, but hopefully not only for their race—because that would be racism. The black civil rights movement was about seeing people for the content of their character, not the color of the skin. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
At some point, I’d like to write more about why I find confessions of “white privilege” problematic, but for the time being I’ll just say that if you feel the need to confess the source of your success, then consider giving credit to God. Thank the Lord for the bounteous blessings and privileges he has given you.
Presentation by Diversity and Inclusion Professional
After the brief intro, the remainder of the hour-long meeting was turned over to a university director of Diversity and Inclusion. The following are some notes on what this person said, along with my thoughts. The presentation had a Q&A at the end, but due to a prior commitment I couldn’t stay for that. So I’ll use my platform here to offer my comments and rebuttals.
- Racial Profiling: She talked about her husband being pulled over by the police unjustifiably and other instances where he was racially profiled by the police. If true, these sounded like horrible events and I feel truly sorry that anyone would have to go through something like that. I sincerely hope we all can do our part to push for change in our country that will eliminate such injustices. Still, it concerned me when she took anecdotal evidence like that and jumped to the conclusions of systemic racism in the country.
- The 1619 Project: She endorsed the New York Times series called “The 1619 Project.” I had heard a little about the 1619 Project prior to this meeting. I knew it was written by political extremists with a left-wing ideology, but little more. Since then, I’ve done more homework and found that the 1619 project is riddled with factual errors and presents a very negative view of the American founding. When confronted with the gross factual inaccuracies, the author defended her work by saying “The 1619 Project is not a history.” She said “It is a work of journalism that examines the modern and ongoing legacy of slavery.” Also see this statement by the NYT’s own fact checker of the 1619 project attesting to the many factual misrepresentations. You can reach your own conclusions about the 1619 Project, but it seemed inappropriate for the speaker to use this platform to further this work of opinion.
- Police Incentivized to Imprison Black Children: She said that “it is in law enforcement’s interest to get black children into the prison.” I was floored by that generalization. She acted as if she had facts to back the statement up, but she never presented the evidence and I couldn’t follow her supposed logic. I thought it was quite unfair to make such a blanket negative statement about the police. In fact, the studies I have read, like this 2019 research by Michigan State University, shows no racial disparities in police officer actions.
- Blacks Still 3/5ths of a Person: She said, “I would argue that blacks are still seen as 3/5ths of a person” in the United States. Obviously that is her opinion and I’m sorry she feels that way. But it is inconsistent and unfair for her to claim to be fighting against generalizing people based on race (racism), and then she makes huge generalities about the police and the people of our country. Furthermore, by referencing “3/5ths of a person” that way, she shows her own lack of historical context, as the 3/5ths clause was a method employed by the slavery abolitionists to take power away from the slave-holding south.
- Our Criminal Justice System is the New Jim Crow: She said that “the new Jim Crow is the criminal justice system,” furthering her generalized views that there is institutional racism in our country. Again, her facts supporting this statement were weak. She cited the fact that black men are incarcerated at a much higher rate than whites and she left it at that. That statement is true, but the way she presented it was misleading because she implied that they are incarcerated unfairly. Studies show, however, that black men are incarcerated more because they commit more crimes than their counterparts in other racial groups. Take, for example, the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that black offenders committed 52% of homicides between 1980 and 2008, though they make up only 13% of the country. This is still a problem, but it is not a problem with the criminal justice system.
- Only the Racial Majority can be Racists: At one point she echoed something I have heard for many years about how only people in the racial majority can be racists. By her definition, a black person cannot be racist against a white person and the problem of racism only exists among white people. This is obviously a perversion of the term racism. Maybe I’m going out on a limb here, but I think racism is any time you base your thoughts or actions solely on the color of a person’s skin–white or black or anything in between. There are obviously white racists and black racists, racists against Asians and against Native Americas. Racism is a human problem, not a white majority problem.
In conclusion, I was disappointed by the “conversation on racial inequality.” The “conversation” aspect was limited, and mostly it seemed like a platform for the speaker to air her grievances associated with her political ideology and to lecture about how unjust and racist our country is, all backed up with little more than anecdotal stories and opinions. Of course, there are pockets of injustice and racism in our country and I pray those will be eliminated soon, but overall, we are not an unjust country with systemic racism. Maybe next time the organizers can put together a “conversation on racial equality” that emphasizes the positive rather than the negative and talk about the progress our country has made in our 250 year history and focus on the steps we can take to continue to make the United States of America the greatest place to live on this planet.