In the minds of social justice warriors, racism is around every corner, embedded in every institution — and its ever-present effects are visible in any form of racial disparity as long as it is minorities who are underrepresented.
Any organization that doesn’t meet the social justice left’s specific expectations is immediately demonized as a tool of white racism, an extension of slavery and Jim Crow.
The CDC is the newest target of this woke outrage. Over 1,200 employees from within the public health organization have signed a petition condemning the CDC’s “recurring acts of racism and discrimination” while also calling for the organization to meet a list of demands for equity or equal representation by treating people differently based on the color of their skin.
“During the past several weeks, we have received messages from agency leaders claiming solidarity with the ongoing protests and calls for racial justice. Though we are encouraged by these messages, their sentiments ring hollow in the face of our daily, lived experiences as employees of this agency,” the petition read.
“In light of the recent calls for justice across this country and around the world, we, as dedicated public health professionals, can no longer stay silent to the widespread acts of racism and discrimination within CDC that are, in fact, undermining the agency’s core mission.”
According to NPR, as of Monday afternoon, the letter had been circulated among the organization’s 11,000-person workforce and had garnered as many as 1,204 signatures from staff members.
Redfield responded to the letter by saying “CDC is committed to fostering a fair, equitable, and inclusive environment in which staff can openly share their concerns with agency leadership.”
Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones, a former employee advocating the letter, was deeply disappointed with the response, finding it “disheartening and disrespectful” that Redfield did not address the specific demands of the letter.
Those seven demands call for social justice and racial equity changes. The list includes demands such as declaring racism a public health crisis, increasing black representation through diversity hirings, establishing safe spaces for CDC employees, removing “visible and invisible” barriers to advancement for black employees and implementing implicit bias training.
Combating the ‘Invisible Barriers’ of ‘Systemic Racism’
The first demand, that the CDC “declare racism a public health crisis in the United States,” and the fourth demand, to “dismantle the visible and invisible barriers to career advancement for Black employees,” carry with them a few troubling presuppositions.
The petition does not call for racism — bigotry against someone based on their race — to be labeled a public health issue, but rather the unproven notion of “systemic” racism — a collection of seen and unseen forces of white supremacy within social groups and institutions.
In order to combat the supposed “systemic racism” within the CDC, the petition calls for mandatory implicit bias training, which often includes a test riddled with statistical flaws and a total lack of effectiveness, laid out quite extensively in an article from the Vox-owned news website The Cut.
Even one of the test’s co-creators, Tony Greenwald, a University of Washington researcher, admitted in an interview with Vox that the test cannot predict individual behavior.
Critics of the term “systemic racism” point out that in order to reach the conclusion that systemic racism exists, one must utilize an unscientific, univariate analysis; if any disparity exists between white people and black people, it must be because of racism irrespective of any other relevant variables and differences between the two communities.
The Petition Ignores the Black Community’s Real Issues
In reality, there are several cultural disadvantages within the black community that have grown more prevalent over the last century at the same time that American society has become dramatically less racist, showing no evidence of a positive correlation between those issues and historic racism.
For example, one of the growing disadvantages within the black community is the dramatic increase of black fatherlessness over the course of the 20th century.
In a 2015 column, renowned Stanford economist Thomas Sowell elaborated on this idea, explaining how many of the most prominent issues affecting today’s black community grew at the same time that white racism decreased.
“Anyone who is serious about evidence need only compare black communities as they evolved in the first 100 years after slavery with black communities as they evolved in the first 50 years after the explosive growth of the welfare state, beginning in the 1960s,” Sowell wrote. “You would be hard-pressed to find as many ghetto riots prior to the 1960s as we have seen just in the past year, much less in the 50 years since a wave of such riots swept across the country in 1965.”
“We are told that such riots are a result of black poverty and white racism. But in fact — for those who still have some respect for facts — black poverty was far worse, and white racism was far worse, prior to 1960. But violent crime within black ghettos was far less,” he continued.
“Murder rates among black males were going down — repeat, down — during the much-lamented 1950s, while it went up after the much celebrated 1960s, reaching levels more than double what they had been before.”
Sowell went on to explain that many of these issues are direct consequences of the welfare state.
“Most black children were raised in two-parent families prior to the 1960s. But today the great majority of black children are raised in one-parent families. Such trends are not unique to blacks, nor even to the United States. The welfare state has led to remarkably similar trends among the white underclass in England over the same period,” the economist wrote.
“One key fact that keeps getting ignored is that the poverty rate among black married couples has been in single digits every year since 1994.”
Solving Unproven Discrimination with Actual Discrimination
In addition to ignoring these facts, the CDC petition goes one step further in demanding the organization implement a series of race-based preferences, which by definition require employees to be treated differently based solely on skin color.
Examples of such demands within the document including the requirement of race as a key factor in the hiring process and creating various training opportunities available only to “Black employees and other employees of color.”
Equality of opportunity and equality of outcome have never gone hand-in-hand. True equality may mean disparities between different communities, given that different communities have varying characteristics, behaviors and problems.
Rather than addressing racial disparities through the affirmation of the unseen, unproven and “invisible” forces of racism, social justice warriors such as the ones who’ve signed this petition would be more successful if they focused on combating welfare dependency and the deterioration of the family unit within the black community.
CORRECTION, July 20, 2020: This commentary originally described Thomas Sowell as a “Harvard economist.” While Sowell does have an undergraduate degree in economics from Harvard, he received his doctorate from the University of Chicago and has worked at Stanford University since 1980. We have therefore revised the article to describe him as a “Stanford economist.”
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