Why anti-racists can't acknowledge progress

From Austin Storm
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Yet a curious observer surely can’t help but notice the irony in the fact of an award-winning journalist at the newspaper of record, declaring with no resistance whatsoever, that we have yet to come to terms with America’s racial sins while simultaneously recounting those sins in gory detail. We are meant to believe that a society in which virtually every mainstream institution, media outlet and major corporation has come out in support of the George Floyd protests—in the midst of a global pandemic—is also antiblack to its very core. If this is a systemically racist country, what would a systemically non-racist country look like? Every step toward racial progress is met by many progressives with an expanded definition of what progress is, downplaying everything that hasn’t yet achieved the unattainable goal of perfect racial equality of outcome. James Baldwin, the godfather of modern anti-racism, would often point to the unwillingness of whites to have relationships with blacks as evidence that we have yet to make real progress: “Up to today we are set at a division, so that he [the black man] may not marry our daughters or our sisters, nor may he—for the most part—eat at our tables or live in our houses.” I wonder what he would make of the astounding leap in intermarriage rates and the widespread acceptance of interracial couples in contemporary America.

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But the problems with the anti-racist narrative are not merely descriptive, but also prescriptive. If the argument for reparations and other race-conscious policies is that blacks are disproportionately represented at the lower end of various socio-economic measures, then why wouldn’t policies intended to help the poor, the unjustly incarcerated, the geographically displaced and the educationally deprived—regardless of color—be enough to remedy those injustices? In other words, why is race the proxy for these other metrics, which are far more accurate and predictive of disadvantage? Our country has no shortage of broad systemic problems that impact all racial groups: the majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck; average life expectancy is declining; we have vastly more gun violence and more homicides than other comparable countries; we have entrenched geographical, economic and cultural inequalities; our healthcare system leaves millions under- and uninsured; our university system is unaffordable; our public school system has embarrassingly low standards. So why is it so crucial to focus almost exclusively on race when diagnosing our societal ills?

- Samuel Kronen, [1]