Saturday 26 October 2019

The American disease. Part five (race)

If a black person had to choose any country in the world in which he wanted to live, which country would he choose? The answer is probably the United States. A case might be made for the UK or another Western European country, but nowhere in the world are black people freer, more successful and wealthier than the United States. One of the reasons why we can so easily answer the question of where a black person would choose to live is that black people do choose to live in the United States. Huge numbers of black people from Africa and the Caribbean want to move to the United States. This indeed is the case with all races.

If the United States had a completely open-door immigration policy how many people from all around the world would choose to live there? The numbers of people from all countries and all races would be quite overwhelming. This is likewise the case with countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK and others. How many people on the other hand who live in the United States want to become citizens of an African or Middle Eastern country. How many Americans want to renounce their American citizenship in order to become Chinese or Russian, Iranian or Indian? The answer of course is almost zero.

Those black people who actually do live in the United States have so to speak won the lottery. Out of all the black people living in the world, they are living in a place where more black people would wish to live if they had a chance. Not only this, those black people who do live in the United States under no circumstance would give up their United States citizenship in order to go elsewhere. How many of them would decide to become citizens of Angola, or Mali? Almost none.

It is of course the case that the vast majority of black people in the United States are there because something terrible happened to their ancestors. Slave traders whether black or white forcibly removed these ancestors from Africa. They sailed across the Atlantic in terrible conditions and then were forced for generations to work without any pay and without any freedom. Nevertheless, a black person living in the United States can accurately reflect that the best thing that ever happened to him was that his ancestor was abducted rather than missed. The descendants of Kunta Kinte’s brother remained living in the Gambia and long for the chance to have what the descendants of Kunta Kinte have.

The United States has come a long way since 1860. It has come an even longer way since 1960, but it is as if none of this progress ever happened. In no country in the world do black people have the equality of opportunity that they have in the United States. Black sportsmen, film stars and musicians are some of the richest people in the world. There is not a single profession in the United States where black people cannot reach the top. But America is more divided about race than it ever has been before.

The places where you are most likely to meet racial prejudice are those which are least multi-ethnic. Forms of racism and racial slurs are a completely routine part of life in Russia, China and Japan, simply because few Russians, Chinese and Japanese have ever made friends with people from other ethnic backgrounds. Britain is much less racist now than it was before Windrush. Once people from different ethnic backgrounds work together, make friends and marry prejudice becomes unsustainable. 

Prejudice is a feature of humanity. We are tribal. People with similar beliefs and languages formed themselves into communities that eventually became countries. It is not accidental that most of these countries historically were not multi-cultural.

The United States was one of the first countries in the world to try the experiment of bringing together peoples from all over the world. There are now Americans whose ancestors came from every country on earth. Is there prejudice in American? Yes. Is there more prejudice there than elsewhere. No. In fact the United States is one of the only places in the world where people from everywhere for the most part can live free, successful lives where they rarely meet prejudice. Compare and contrast living anywhere else.

A black American may be able to find a similar quality of life and opportunity if he moved to the United Kingdom. He might find a similar lack of prejudice if he moved to Australia or some parts of Europe. But where else could he go and be able to achieve what he can achieve in the United States?

But it is as if none of this matters. Having achieved so much America is more divided now than it ever was.

The least hint of perceived racism has become the unforgivable sin. Anyone who expresses an opinion that does not conform to the Left’s latest edict on race is likely to be condemned by a mob on Twitter. This sort of condemnation frequently has real world consequences. People have lost their jobs because of a slip of the tongue or a mistake, or a dubious joke. In the land of the free it has become dangerous to write seriously about race. In order to think through an issue, it is necessary to think freely to write things that might be controversial. But controversy about race has become dangerous.   The thought police is waiting for any slip. Did you say “colored people” rather than “people of color” did you express the correct view about an aspect of American history. The consequences of getting it wrong can be enormous and life-changing.

If America were so full of prejudice how is it that people from Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Indian backgrounds have achieved such success. Did they or their ancestors not face prejudice? Irish people were met with prejudice when they first arrived in the United States, but this has not held them back in the long run. Prejudice is due to our humanity.

The greatest temptation is to blame someone else for whatever bad things happen. But this tendency is the reason for failure.

If you tell a child that success depends on his own effort, he will be much more likely to succeed. If you give him an excuse for failure, he will be much more likely to fail. It is easier to embrace the excuse for failure than to succeed.

This is the biggest problem facing America. Some people succeed despite whatever prejudices they meet. Other people use perceived racism as an excuse for failure. It’s not the racism that causes them to fail. Other people met racism but succeed anyway. No, it’s embracing the excuse for failure that causes it.

In this way the obsession with race in the United States acts as vicious circle. Far from helping those who are still on average less successful it reinforces this lack of success. Despite numerous examples including the President of the United States far too many people think that they cannot possibly succeed because of racial prejudice.

But everyone faces obstacles to success. Some people have disabilities, others are from poor backgrounds, others go to bad schools or don’t know anyone who is successful. But nowhere in the world can these obstacles be more easily overcome than in the United States. At no time in history can they be more easily overcome either.

Black lives matter in the same way that any other human beings lives matter. But rather than continually blaming someone else for lack of success or for unjust deaths, look at what you can do to improve the lives of yourself and other people living in America. Blaming someone else whether it is other Americans, including the police, shifts the responsibility away from yourself to the other person. It makes you passive, a victim. Passive victims never succeed and never change anything.

If each black person thought about what he could do to make it less likely that black people would be murdered, there would be less murder. Police kill people because of crime and the fear of crime. They have prejudice about black people in part because of the behaviour of some black people. It’s not straightforwardly racism. After all there is no Chinese lives matter campaign, because Chinese Americans are rarely shot by the police. Why? This is in part owing to the behaviour of Chinese Americans in general. Only when every American takes responsibility for how they each live their lives will there be any chance of overcoming prejudice. If there were fewer gun crimes in America there would be far few instances of the police unjustly killing innocent people. But it’s not merely up to the police to reduce crime, it’s up to all of us.

America was built by individuals taking responsibility for their lives and not blaming the other guy when things went wrong. But the Left requires a victim and it requires an oppressor. It is for this reason that even as America becomes less racist and less sexist it is still always white men who are to blame for everything. As long as this continues then the races and the sexes will continue to battle and never find peace.