The War Between the States was begun over 150 years ago. Jim Crow has been dead for more than 50 years. Despite that, remarkable economic disparities continue to exist between the black and white populations. In his review of Amy Wax’s book, John McWhorter gives us the following:
Wax identifies the illusion that mars American thinking on this subject as the myth of reverse causation—that if racism was the cause of a problem, then eliminating racism will solve it. If only this were true. But it isn’t true: racism can set in motion cultural patterns that take on a life of their own.
One can disassemble a bell so it can never be rung again, or even modify the bell so the clapper no longer impacts upon the housing of the bell–but one can never un-ring a bell. Once the bell has been rung, and people have responded to the ringing of it, there is no way to set things exactly back the way they were before.
The attitudes toward and treatment of people simply because of the color of their skin was criminal in its scope and effect. In addition to this wholesale demeaning and devaluing of human beings by their fellows, myriad other individual crimes were committed against the persons and property of blacks living in the US.
The historic maltreatment of blacks, or Native Americans, or Irish, or Jews or any other group which has suffered abuse and ostracism because of ethnic identity is just that–history. We can, and should, understand that history so we do not repeat it. But if we dwell entirely in that history, reliving the pain and hopelessness and fear–we will be as stuck in time as the Doctor in a broken Tardis.
Bottom line? None of us can change what happened in the past. None of us moves ahead by going to the past and camping out in a timeshare.
You and I and everyone else is given a context, a framework of time and place and family (or the lack of family). We don’t get to choose our context–but we can choose how we respond to what we’ve been given. As John notes:
[Amy Wax] argues that discrimination today is no longer the “brick wall” obstacle it once was, and that the main problems for poor and working-class blacks today are cultural ones that they alone can fix. Not that they alone should fix—Wax is making no moral argument—but that they alone can fix.
Now, there’s an individual mandate I can get behind.