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Byrd: Racial diversity will not save us

BY MATTHEW BYRD | AUGUST 27, 2014 5:00 AM

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In the wake of yet another anecdote in America’s poisonous history of race relations unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri, one of the central tenets of modern American liberalism has been floated as possible medicine for our perpetual racist illness. Diversity.

The impetus behind this tenet is the idea that the main problem with American institutions when it comes to race is one of exclusion. Institutions containing only white voices and white opinions produce policies that will naturally be deleterious for non-whites beholden to their power. Add black voices and opinions to the equation, and you get policies that are egalitarian and mindful of disparate concerns.

A tattered relationship between police departments and minority communities because of decades of racial profiling and police brutality, such as the one seen in Ferguson? More black police officers.

Unconscionable gaps in wealth between black and white families? More black college students and (later) black CEOs.

A political system egregiously stacked in favor of white interests? More black judges, senators, governors, and other politicians.

But the empirical evidence doesn’t really lend any credence to this liberal vision of a rainbow coalition washing away America’s ugly racial dynamics. While the average American police force is 75 percent white, according to the Department of Justice, there’s no indication that more diverse police force have any more amicable relationships with minority communities. As Rebecca Leber at The New Republicpoints out, the most diverse police department in the country (New York City), where more than half the officers are non-white, is continually slammed for its racist stop-and-frisk policy and unpunished police killings of blacks such as Amadou Diallo and, very recently, Eric Garner.

On a wider scale, outside of police, this theory has been revealed to be nothing but bunk by the accomplishments of the post civil-rights era. There is a black president, a black attorney general, 43 black congressmen, two black senators, countless cities with majority black city councils and black mayors. And what good has it done? Black wealth is still a fraction of the amount allotted to whites; blacks are still embarrassingly disproportionately punished by our criminal-justice system (mostly due to the most horrendously racist policy enacted in the past 50 years, the War on Drugs), and blacks still go to schools that are less adequately funded and more substandard than the ones their white counterparts attend.

None of this is meant to disparage diverse political and cultural institutions or to suggest that we are at a perfect level of diversity when it comes to those institutions (we’re not), but it’s clear from the diversification that has already happened, and the scant progress that has been seen, that diversification alone is not the answer to our racial wounds. And that’s because the main problem is not one of exclusion but one of nefarious design.

American institutions, from the very beginning, have been coded with the guiding ethos of white supremacy. It’s in their DNA. The police are supposed to brutalize black citizens, the Justice Department is supposed to throw them in prison, Congress is supposed to enact laws that prevent their economic advancement, banks are supposed to subject them to predatory loans, etc. It doesn’t matter if you have a black executive in charge of these institutions or black bureaucrats populated its organs. The results will be the same, discrimination against black people.

The only way to ameliorate this is to radically alter how these institutions operate, and that’s a task diversification does not have the firepower to handle. Diversity will not forgive our nations sins, our redemption will not be found in the confessional booth. We have to go out into the world and make penance.


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