Equality Of Outcome Is Impossible Because All Are Not Equal In All Things, But All Should Be Equal In The Eyes Of The Law.

Walter Williams

Something To Think About
May 16, 2019
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WalterWilliamsNov2011
Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

Discrimination and Disparities
and
Discrimination and Disparities II
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Please note: There are two articles this month.

Discrimination and Disparities
     My longtime friend and colleague Dr. Thomas Sowell has just published a revised and enlarged edition of “Discrimination and Disparities.” It lays waste to myth after myth about the causes of human differences not only in the United States but around the globe. Throughout the book, Sowell shows that socioeconomic outcomes differ vastly among individuals, groups and nations in ways that cannot be easily explained by any one factor, whether it’s genetics, sex or race discrimination or a history of gross mistreatment that includes expulsion and genocide.
     In his book “The Philadelphia Negro” (1899), W.E.B. DuBois posed the question as to what would happen if white people lost their prejudices overnight. He said that it would make little difference to most blacks. He said: “Some few would be promoted, some few would get new places — the mass would remain as they are” until the younger generation began to “try harder” and the race “lost the omnipresent excuse for failure: prejudice.”
     Sowell points out that if historical injustices and persecution were useful explanations of group disadvantage, Jews would be some of the poorest and least-educated people in the world today. Few groups have been victimized down through history as have the Jews. Despite being historical targets of hostility and lethal violence, no one can argue that as a result Jews are the most disadvantaged people.
     Jews are not alone in persecution either. The number of overseas Chinese slaughtered by Vietnamese mobs and the number of Armenians slaughtered by mobs in the Ottoman Empire in just one year exceeds the number of black Americans lynched in the history of the U.S. From 1882-1968, 4,743 total lynchings occurred in the United States, of which 3,446 of the victims were black. Sowell concludes this section suggesting that it is dangerous for society to depict outcome differences as evidence or proof of malevolent actions that need to be counterattacked or avenged. Politicians and others who are now calling for reparations to blacks for slavery should take note of Sowell’s argument.
     There’s considerable handwringing among educational “experts” about the black/white academic achievement gap. Part of the persistence of that gap can be laid at the feet of educators who replaced what worked with what sounded good. One notable example of success is the achievement of students at the all-black Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., from 1870 to 1955. During that period, Dunbar students frequently outscored white students on achievement tests in the Washington, D.C., area. Sowell, who studied Dunbar and other high-achieving black schools, says, Dunbar “had unsparing standards for both school work and for such behavioral qualities as punctuality and social demeanor. Dunbar’s homework requirements were more than most other public schools. Some Dunbar parents complained to the D.C. Board of Education about the large amount of homework required.”
     Dunbar High School was not the only black school with a record of success that would be the envy of today’s public schools. Schools such as Frederick Douglass (Baltimore), Booker T. Washington (Atlanta), PS 91 (Brooklyn), McDonogh 35 (New Orleans) and others operated at a similar level of excellence. By the way, these excelling students weren’t solely members of the black elite; most had parents who were manual laborers, domestic servants, porters and maintenance men.
     Observing the historical success of these and other black schools, one wonders about the catchwords of Chief Justice Earl Warren’s statement that separate schools “are inherently unequal.” That vision led to racial integration going from being a means to an end to racial integration becoming an end all by itself. Sowell doesn’t say this, but in my view, integration becoming the goal is what has made diversity and inclusion the end all and be all of today’s educators at many levels.
     Dr. Thomas Sowell’s “Discrimination and Disparities” is loaded with pearls of wisdom from which we can all benefit, and as such, this will not be my final discussion of his masterpiece.
 
Discrimination and Disparities II
     Last week’s column discussed Dr. Thomas Sowell’s newest book “Discrimination and Disparities,” which is an enlarged and revised edition of an earlier version. In this review, I am going to focus on one of his richest chapters titled “Social Visions and Human Consequences.” Sowell challenges the seemingly invincible fallacy “that group outcomes in human endeavors would tend to be equal, or at least comparable or random, if there were no biased interventions, on the one hand, nor genetic deficiencies, on the other.” But disparate impact statistics carries the day among academicians, lawyers and courts as evidence of discrimination.
     Sowell gives the example of blacks, who make up close to 70 percent of NFL and AFL players in professional football. Blacks are greatly overrepresented among star players but almost nonexistent among field goal kickers and punters. Probably the only reason why lawsuits are not brought against team owners is that the same people hire running backs and field goal kickers. One wonders whether anyone has considered the possibility that professional black players do not want to be punters and field goal kickers?
     Different social classes raise their children differently. Studies have shown that children whose parents are professional heard more words per hour than children whose families are on welfare. Studies show that professional parents used “more words and more different words . . . more multiclause sentences, more past and future verb tenses. . . . The ratio of affirmative words to negative words was six to one with parents who had professional occupation.” By contrast, families on welfare used discouraging words more than two to one: words such as “Don’t,” “Stop,” “Quit,” and “Shut up.” Sowell sarcastically asks are we to believe that children raised in such different ways, many years before they reach an employer, a college admissions office or crime scene are the same in capabilities, orientation and limitations?
     Social justice warriors ignore many differences that have little or nothing to do with discrimination but have an enormous impact on outcomes. Age is one of those factors. Median age differences between groups, sometimes of a decade or two will have an enormous impact on observed group outcomes. The median age for American Jews is slightly over 50 years old and that of Latinos is 28. Just on median age alone, would one be surprised at significant group income disparity and other differences related to age?
     Sowell says that a single inconspicuous difference in circumstance can make a huge historical difference in human outcomes. During the 1940s, Ireland experienced a potato famine. Potatoes were the principle food of the Irish. That famine led to the deaths of a million people and caused 2 million to flee. The same variety of potato that was grown in Ireland was also grown in the U.S. with no crop failure. The source of Ireland’s crop failure has been traced to a fertilizer used on both sides of the Atlantic. The difference was that fertilizer contained a fungus that thrived in the mild and moist climate of Ireland but did not in the hot, dry climate of Idaho and other potato growing areas of the U.S. That one small difference caused massive human tragedy.
     A study of National Merit Scholarship finalists found that first born children were finalists far more often than their younger siblings. In the U.S. and other countries such as Britain and Germany, the firstborn’s IQs were higher than their siblings. Among medical students, a high proportion are firstborn. Sowell asks that if equality of outcomes don’t exist among people with the same parents, raised in the same household, why would one expect equality of outcomes elsewhere?
     Morally neutral factors such as crop failures, birth order, geographic setting, and demographic or cultural differences are among the reasons why economic and social outcomes fail to fit the preconceived notions of “experts.”
     The bottom line about Sowell’s new book, “Discrimination and Disparities,” is that it contains a wealth of data and analysis that turns much of the thinking of politicians, academicians, legal experts and judges into pure, unadulterated mush.
 
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Email: walterwilliams.mail@gmail.com
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