On Tuesday, famed economist Walter Williams, speaking with Daily Wire Editor-In-Chief Ben Shapiro, slammed the idea that there is “systemic racism” in the United States, asserting, “The civil rights struggle is over, and it’s won.” Commenting on the charge that the police are “systemically racist,” Williams stated that in Chicago, “There’s a person shot every three hours and a person killed every 14 hours, and so far this year there have been about 280 people shot and killed, and most of them are black and by blacks. In Chicago, the police have killed three people. So if you’re concerned about black lives, who should you pay most attention to?”
Williams offered a salient example of how some inequalities were “unavoidable” by using the example of students granted high school diplomas in Baltimore without proficiency in math or reading, then later citing racism for their failure to advance in their jobs without realizing that they had been given a “fraudulent” high school diploma.
The conversation began with Williams asked about the concept that America harbors “systemic racism” and that inequality between racial groups is primarily due to inequity. Williams responded:
I don’t think you can get very far. You can’t offer a lot of evidence that we’re “systemically racist’ or there’s “institutional racism” in our country. I think one of the things that people need to know is that at least for black Americans, the civil rights struggle is over, and it’s won. That is, at one time black Americans didn’t have the same constitutional guarantees as everybody else, but now we do.
Now that in fact the civil rights struggle is over and won does not mean that there are not major problems, but they’re not civil rights problems. They don’t have anything to do with racial discrimination — which is not to deny the existence of residual racial discrimination.
Williams commented about the notion that the police were “systemically racist,” “There are policemen who do not do their jobs, do not take their oath of office seriously enough, but the problems that policemen have, particularly with black people, is just the crime rate; slightly over 50% of the homicide victims in the United States are black and it turns out that the perpetrators, 90-some percent are black. So the problems with police pale small in comparison.”
He continued, “Just take the case of Chicago. Chicago, there’s a person shot every three hours and a person killed every 14 hours, and so far this year there have been about 280 people shot and killed, and most of them are black and by blacks. In Chicago, the police have killed three people. So if you’re concerned about black lives, who should you pay most attention to? It seems to be not what the police are doing in Chicago, but what other black people are doing in Chicago.”
Shapiro asked, “What do you make of the argument that racism can be blamed as the cause for today’s inequality?”
I think for a lot of young people, they just don’t have the historical background, but I’m in my eighty-fifth year of life, and I grew up in the slums of North Philadelphia. At that time we did not go to bed with the sounds of gunshots. Most people left their doors open until the last person was in. I had a number of friends, I’d just knock on the door and somebody’d holler, “Come in!”
And there were no bars at the window; and other attributes about the black community is that my father deserted my mother and sister and I when I was three and she was two. We lived in Richard Allen Housing project … and we were the only kids in the neighborhood who did not have a mother and father in the house. Today it would be exactly the opposite.
And you can look at the black family structure; in 1880, 85 to 95 percent of black kids lived in two-parent families. Today, we’re much further away from slavery and less than a third live in two-parent families. You look at illegitimacy rates: today, illegitimacy rate among blacks is 75% and among whites it’s slightly over 30%, but if you go back to 1940, the illegitimacy rate among blacks was 11% and among whites it was 3%.
And so it turns out that on a lot of measures of socioeconomic characteristics, blacks were better off in terms of family structure and violence in earlier times. Which is not to say I want to go back to the old days where was gross racial discrimination in our country, but I think that a lot of things that people are blaming on slavery and discrimination, it just doesn’t cut the mustard, unless you say that this stuff skips a generation or two.
If you look at some of the inequalities, they’re unavoidable. For example, in Baltimore, in the city of Baltimore, and this is a feature in other major cities as well, in 13 out of the 39 in Baltimore, not a single student tested proficient in mathematics and only 3% tested proficient in reading. And if you look at six other schools only 1% tested proficient in math and across the city only 15% tested proficient in reading.
Now these kids graduating from high school are getting a diploma which is fraudulent in the first instance, but here’s what a kid will say. He’ll graduate from, let’s say, Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, and he’ll try to get a job, and he’ll say, “Well, look, this white guy, he’s moving along faster and he’s being promoted faster that I am, and I have a high school diploma and he has a high school diploma. So the reason why we’re treated differently is because of race.”
But see, the black kid doesn’t realize that is high school diploma is fraudulent, that his training is highly deficient, but he doesn’t realize that and he’ll blame any difference in treatment on racial discrimination.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that if you look at black people as a group, you’ll find that as a group, black Americans have made the greatest gains over the shortest period of time over some of the highest hurdles than any other racial group in the history of mankind — and here’s the evidence for that: in 1865,at the end of the Civil War, neither a slave nor a slaveowner would have believed that blacks could make the kind of progress that we’ve made in a little bit less than a century and a half. And the progress is that if you added up the income and spending of black Americans and just though of us as having our own GDP, we would be in the top twenty nations in terms of the top 20 richest nations.
Williams concluded, “In 1865, neither a slave nor a slaveowner would have believed that these kinds of gains were possible, and as such, they speak to the intestinal fortitude of a people, but just as importantly it speaks to the greatness of a nation such as the United States. These kinds of gains could not have been achieved anywhere in the face of this earth except in the United States. I think a lot of people ignore that great progress that black Americans have made and played the blame game, and played the racial discrimination game instead of looking at the hard facts that you and I are talking about.”
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