After the last month of riots and protests, a black person wonders about the divide between white and black America:
Last week, a series of aggregate Washington Post polls revealed that white American faith in the police has increased significantly since August. In fact, white confidence in the ability of the police to treat people equally based on race is the highest on record in the nearly 20 years since the Washington Post has collected such data.
How is it that 50,000 people showed up to march in the streets of New York City to protest racialized police brutality in the same week that white confidence in the police reached a new record?
What kind of America is this? How are white people so oblivious to black pain and frustration? How are they so lacking in empathy?
I think she is correct and that African-Americans deserve our sympathy. That sentiment does not lead to the conclusion many would prefer. Instead, it leads to the idea that we should have empathy for them, but instead of thinking with our empathy, look toward the best design of social order for best groups.
White confidence rose in the police because they were not convicted of racial violence. In both Ferguson and New York, the record shows that the police were not acting out of line, although questions about the wisdom of busting people for selling cigarettes remain. Darren Wilson did not set out to hunt down and kill a black man; he intercepted a felon who attacked him, and shot him, and the felon happened to be black. The NYPD cops under the direction of a black woman did not attempt to kill Eric Gardner, but restrained him at which point his poor health killed him.
This is why white people have more confidence in our police. We place our faith — and this is not an endorsement from me — in institutions, in process and in rules. The rules were not broken. The cops were not crooked. A bad result occurred, but with the situation as it was, a bad result was inevitable and at least in Ferguson it did not happen to the non-criminal element. Thus white people are relatively content with this situation.
Black America has a tendency to — and this is not a lack of endorsement from me — measure its future in terms of results. Such as, why is there more wealth on the white side, more power and certain legal decisions? This arises in part from a historical questioning of condition of the African-American population as a means of introducing this debate.
In the white people view, there was a problem long ago: white people owned black people. Our solution was to remove the ownership ability and give black people freedom. To help seal the rift, we gave various other “leg up” programs like welfare, affirmative action, non-discrimination, preferential hiring and hate crime protection. In our view, this solves the problem by making opportunity equal. White people think that if results have differed, something else has caused that situation.
What could have intervened? Liberals tell us it is omnipresent racism that “holds blacks back.” Conservatives say it is a lack of personal character and willingness to put on suits, commute for an hour, and “work hard” at boring pro forma jobs filing paperwork. The most cynical among us point to racial IQ statistics and testosterone levels and mumble something about Darwin and evolutionary branching. But like most human problems, this one seems intractable and yet no one seems to be winning.
I propose an alternative idea: black people and white people, and indeed any two or more groups, will never understand each other. We are different for a reason. Identity is how we unite ourselves around values and culture that may not be able to be rationalized using science or institutions, but which form the basis of our sense of self-worth and how we comport ourselves. Without the ability to control its own destiny, a people feels lost and victimized. We are not individuals, but individual members of our groups.
The historical wound still gapes, in my view. Slavery will hang over us like a vengeful spirit until we purge it. In my view, this should be done through reparations to black people, and repatriation of all ethnic groups to their ancestral homelands. This way, the constant bloody struggle that no one wins will be over and each group will have self-rule, power over its destiny and as a result, self-respect.