In the last post, I discussed the culpability of white Reformed evangelicals. Is this group of people responsible for white privilege (as we have defined it)? We answered no, simply because white privilege, as I have demonstrated, consists only in the benefits of the rights all people should have—rights currently enjoyed by black Americans. There is simply no concrete evidence suggesting that African Americans miss out on their God-given rights at current.
Economic and social disparities are not, in themselves, bad things which render any particular party accountable. These types of disparities can be caused by many different things. Geography, for example, can cause a great deal of disparity both economically and sociologically. Now, if the American black community was deprived of their rights and subsequently set-back economically and sociologically, do not white Christians have the responsibility to do something?
The Onus Principle
The reason I would answer no is because this would essentially entail the transfer of material goods or temporal allowances from white people to black people. The propositional request (often made by white leftists, interestingly) sounds like this: Whites should give material resources or allowances to blacks in order to make-up for that which has been done to them in the past. This, it is thought, would decrease the economical and sociological disparities between whites and blacks in America. But is that true? Would reparations, from—say—white Christians to blacks (to use one example) really help things? Thomas Sowell writes:
To think of some people as simply being higher achievers than others, for whatever reason, is a threat to today’s prevailing vision, for it implicitly places the onus on the lagging group to achieve more—and, perhaps more important, deprives the intelligentsia of their role of fighting on the side of the angels against the forces of evil. The very concept of achievement fades into the background, or disappears completely, in some of the verbal formulations of the intelligentsia, where those who turn out to be more successful ex post are depicted as having been “privileged” ex ante (Intellectuals and Race, p. 52).
Going back to my question above: Don’t white people, in some fashion, have the responsibility to make-up for this economic and sociological disparity between whites and blacks? Well, for starters, this question assumes a very black and white solution, which isn’t always helpful. But there is something else wrong with this way of thinking. Remember, we have said in previous posts that we are dealing with the ripple effect of past sins committed. But literally every sin has an effect. While there may be ripple effects of sins such as slavery and segregation, there is not enough evidence to concretely suggest black Americans are effected in any significant way today.
But, let’s grant the definite contemporary effects of slavery. Black America continues to be effected adversely by the past sins of slavery and segregation. What should the church’s response be in the here and now? Would the church be sinning if they refused to believe such things? Well, if it is true significant effects of slavery and segregation continue to plague black America, then the church is in sin if it denies that fact. What if the church doesn’t deny that fact, but simply doesn’t change anything about itself in order to help this current generation of blacks?
The question then becomes: In what ways would they help? If they are to give things to the black community, this is nothing but sociological suicide urged on by liberal minds. When the onus is taken away from the lagging party, as Sowell rightly notes, the lagging party stays the same or declines into deeper poverty levels, crime rates, etc. Retribution of this kind does not have a good track record.
A situation that differs somewhat from the present discussion is that of Native American Federal benefits. The Native American Rights Fund reports that some tribes receive special benefits from the Federal government depending on tribal treaties or resource trade. However, these benefits are distributed to the citizens of such tribes. While most tribes are free to levy taxes on their citizens and have some attributes of a sovereign nation, this does not change the fact that the government is heavily involved in their economy. Native Americans, as of 2016, had a poverty rate of 26.2%, the highest of any ethnic group in the U.S. according to the census bureau. And it isn’t what the America isn’t doing for them, it’s what they are doing.
No matter what anyone gives the Native American community or the American black community, their progress will not become a reality until they are given their own responsibility back. Involved in our God-given rights as human beings is the dignity of responsibility. The Feds (especially white liberal politicians) are really good about taking responsibility away and instead replacing it with a sense of dependence and neediness. This way of thinking has worked just about as much as communism has—never.
Are Blacks Really Held Back Because of Slavery and Segregation? Or, Is There Another Culprit We Need To Address?
Sowell also questions the effects (black poverty) as it relates to its cause. Sowell says, “If we wanted to be serious about evidence, we might compare where blacks stood a hundred years after the end of slavery with where they stood after 30 years of the liberal welfare state.”
In the source video, Sowell goes on to say that in 1960 only 22% of black children lived in homes with only one parent—only 22%. This means 4 out of 5 black children were in homes with both parents. He then goes on to say, “30 years later, after the liberal welfare state, that number had more than tripled.” He points out how this tripled figure, of black children increasingly living in homes with only one parent, was not due to slavery (or even segregation!) but due to a whole other set of policies.
He cites another statistic.
In 1993, the number of students who graduated from Dunbar High School in Washington and went on to college was less than it was 60 years earlier (in the midst of the great depression). He also mentions Stuyvesant High School in New York and how in 2012 the number of students who had gained admission into that high school was less than 1/10th the percentage of those who had gained admission 30 years earlier. Still, another observation he makes relates to housing projects. One-hundred years after slavery, these neighborhoods did not experience the high crime rates that they do today.
If slavery and segregation had such long-lasting effects on black Americans, why is there such a sociological decline from early to mid-20th century and on? Why wasn’t the decline more consistent from slavery’s end to now? It’s simply not good practice to take a present circumstance and blame it on past events without examining other factors (e.g. the welfare state noted by Sowell).
We could debate the effects of slavery and segregation on that 22% of children who lived without both parents in the home, but that would be speculation almost entirely. In this article, we have shown that other factors arising 100 years after slavery and segregation play into the current situation within black America.
While it’s not necessarily untruthful to grant the long-lasting effects of slavery and segregation in our day, it’s not necessarily truthful either—it’s speculative at best and doubtful at worst in light of the above information.
We have come a ways since the first post.
So far, I have covered the danger of hasty generalizations, their common use in contemporary race-talk, sin, effects of sin, and the culpability of the current generation of white Reformed Christians.
We have also discussed important statistics comparing black Americans 100 years after slavery to black Americans now. The numbers should cause us to conclude that the popular claim of black victimization (from slavery and segregation) is speculative at best and doubtful at worst. Rather, it appears that the Intelligentsia had more to do with black poverty, crime, lack of education, etc., than slavery or segregation did. The liberal narrative, really taking root during the late 60s and 70s, which states that blacks are victims of past crimes—held down by whites—and that someone owes them an equal playing field, has been found to be a fabrication.