Measuring an American Dilemma
Charles Murray’s just published book, Facing Reality: Two Truths about Race in America, comes just as Neo-Marxist Critical Race Theory (CRT) doctrines have become major social justice engineering ideology and policy for the Biden Administration and Democrat Party leadership.
Murray is one of the most renowned and courageous political scientists in the U.S. and the world. He has a BA degree from Harvard and MS and PhD degrees from MIT. He is also the author of Losing Ground (1984), The Bell Curve (1994), and Coming Apart (2012), and Human Diversity (2020)
CRT is not a cure for racism; it is racism of the most vicious, hateful, and unforgiving kind—it is flagrantly anti-white, anti-Christian, anti-family, anti-capitalist, anti-history, and knows no truth or moral standard but power. CRT is an immediate threat to our military effectiveness and the integrity of our educational institutions. It is a protection racket that is corrupting American corporations and university administrations, and a divisive threat to public order and safety.
Murray points out, however, that CRT follows over 60 years of misguided affirmative action policies that have been weakening American commitment to what he calls the “American Creed.”
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights….”—The U.S. Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.
Samuel Huntington described this American Creed as “embracing the political principles of liberty, equality, democracy, individualism, human rights, the rule of law, and private property.” Jefferson meant by “equality” that all men were of equal human dignity in the eyes of God and thus must be treated with equal human dignity and consideration under the laws of men. This was so understood by his peers. He did not mean that all men were equal in every personal characteristic or entitled to equal outcomes in life.
Murray further points out that an essential understanding of the American Creed is that people should be judged according to their character, merit, and work as individuals rather than circumstances of birth or status.
The most dramatic words of Martin Luther King’s momentous August 1963 speech to 250,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington were that his children would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” He was pleading for a more complete fulfillment of the American Creed. But it only took a few years for the gradual transformation of well-intentioned affirmative action policies into a political bargain that made race and gender more important than character and merit. Under the cloak of civil rights and virtue-signaling political rhetoric, American civil rights and opportunity were slowly being molded into a race and gender conscious system of government pressured preference. Moreover, those who dared protest were shouted down by lockstep government, academia, and the media.
Murray summarizes the transition from affirmative action to blatant racial, ethnic, and gender preferences in three paragraphs:
“The phrase ‘affirmative action’ originally referred to initiatives by colleges and corporations to seek out qualified Blacks who were being overlooked for educational and job opportunities. It was a needed policy in the mid-1960s and legally innocuous. But it soon morphed into aggressive affirmative action, meaning government-sponsored affirmative preferential treatment in determining who gets the education and the jobs.”
“Working-class and middle-class Whites who now see themselves as second-class citizens in the eyes of the government are not making it up…They are now told by government officials, college administrators, and corporate human resources managers—to get in line behind minority applicants for admission to elite colleges and for employment and promotion in attractive white-collar jobs. Well-to-do Whites can find ways to circumvent this problem, but working-class and middle-class Whites cannot…It has long been my view…that aggressive affirmative action is a poison leaking into the American experiment. We are now dealing with nearly sixty years of accumulated toxin. It is not the only cause of the present crisis, but it is a central one.”
“I think it is fair to conclude that the American job market is indeed racially biased. A detached observer might even call it systemic racism. The American job market systematically discriminates in favor of racial minorities other than Asians.”
The main purpose of Murray’s book, however, is to inform the public and policy makers on two important truths that cannot be ignored for a rational and just society.
First, although the overlap of cognitive abilities (intelligence) among self-identified racial or ethnic groups is tremendous, many decades of careful scientific research give overwhelming evidence that there are persistently significant differences in the averages and distributions for cognitive abilities in these groups. Government, academic, economic, military, and other policies that do not consider this give unwise and unjust advantages to the lower testing groups and unjustly disadvantage higher testing groups. A society that rewards racial and gender preferences hurts itself and will probably decline. The American Creed emphasizing individual character and merit benefits the nation and most individuals.
Most Americans would like to believe that all races and ethnic groups have the same average and distribution of cognitive abilities, and this wishful thinking is almost an ideology, but it is not based on decades of data and analytical, fact-driven science. A large component of these differences is thought to be genetic, but some are rather obviously due to selective migration. There are other important factors that are not fully understood. It is possible that these things will gradually change for reasons we do not now comprehend, but we cannot base near term decisions on uncertainties many decades away.
Cognitive tests are valuable because they are predictive. If they are not predictive, they fail the bias or practicality tests. Cognitive ability tests are not only predictive of academic achievement, they are positively predictive for every job but especially analytically demanding jobs. They are also modestly predictive of income levels.
Perseverance, hard study, and hard work can overcome a lot of cognitive ability points but cannot move someone from average to a competent test pilot, doctor, chemical engineer, or accountant.
Murray gives the average scores and percentiles for Americans of Asian, European, Latin American, and African origin on page 38 of his 151-page book. I would prefer not to risk over-sensationalizing such numbers, but only to say that, for example, if we analyzed the most recent medical school graduates in the United States, we might find Asians the most over-represented, whites over-represented, Latinos a bit under-represented, and blacks under-represented but still common. However, this would not be the result of discrimination but of differences in the upper ranges of cognitive abilities. Non-Hispanic whites and Asians make up 66 percent of the U.S population, but we could expect them to be 85 percent of those with cognitive abilities competitive for medical school. Most people insist on knowledgeable doctors with good judgement. If we do not include cognitive ability as a variable in evaluating human resources, we are headed for academic, economic, military, and health services ruin.
Again, differences in average cognitive ability can change for various reasons over time, but usually a fairly long period of time. The gap between white and black test scores shrank by one-third from 1972 to 1987 but then leveled off. What was happening from 1972 to 1987 that stopped? Two parent families apparently make a big difference in educational achievement. Latino scores are getting better because recent immigrants include many with higher skill levels. Asians continue to improve because Asian migration is highly selective for high technology jobs.
The simple solution is operating according to the American Creed of judging individual character and merit and tossing quota pressures in the trash can of failed and dangerous ideas.
The Second reality that we must face is that there are significant racial and ethnic differences in the incidence of violent crimes. Most people of all races are generally law-abiding, but the differences are important for evaluating public law enforcement policy. Murray studied the violent crime arrest rates for thirteen cities. The ratio of black to white arrests averaged 9.6 to one. The worst cities were Washington at 19.9 to one and Chicago at 14.5 to one. The ratio of Latino arrests to white averaged 2.7 to one. Many Hispanic crime rates, however, are quite low. Murder rates in these cities showed blacks were at least 18 times more likely to be arrested for murder than whites, and Latinos were about 5 times more likely to be arrested for murder than whites. Contrary to the supposition of many, violent crime offenders are more likely to be arrested if they are white, for example, 22 percent more likely for robbery and 13 percent more likely for aggravated assault. There is in reality a bias against whites, probably because greater legal and public relations precautions are called for in dealing with minority offenders.
According to the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, black violence against whites is 5.7 times more common than white violence against blacks. A police officer is 18.5 more likely to be killed by a black assailant than an unarmed black man is to be killed by a police officer.
There are many other considerations and many nuances that deserve more mention on these subjects, but they cannot be adequately covered in a single short article.Our task now is to reject false narratives and virtue-signaling and seek truth measured by reality. We must, of course, reject CRT, which insists on equal outcomes that lead only to folly, misery, and tyranny. Wisdom can only be found in truth. In that spirit, we must embrace the principles of freedom that preserve the dignity and rights of individuals and the common good.