RALEIGH — According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans of Filipino descent had a median household income of just over $100,000 in 2019. The median household income of white Americans that year was about $66,000.
Based on these two facts, should we conclude that our society is pervasively biased in favor of Filipino immigrants, or of Americans whose ancestors once immigrated from the Philippines? Should we draw the same conclusion about Americans with ancestral ties to India (their median household income is $136,000), China ($85,000), or Nigeria ($69,000)?
No, we shouldn’t. Differences in household incomes or other measures among ethnic groups have many potential explanations. Cultures and family structures vary. Educational levels and labor-force participation rates vary. Preferences vary.
If you’re with me so far, then you likely don’t agree with a key tenet of critical race theory. Pieced together in the 1980s and 1990s out of disparate strands of Marxist and postmodernist thought, critical race theory seeks to explain gaps in income, wealth, education attainment, and other measures as primarily the product of discriminatory social structures rather than individual choices.
Do you believe in diversity, equity, and inclusion? So do I, when the terms are properly defined. Surrounding yourself with people of differing views and backgrounds is often good for you. I also think people ought to be treated fairly, that they shouldn’t be discriminated against based on race or other characteristics that have nothing to do with performing a job well. And I think it’s best to include, not exclude.
These beliefs are, alas, not what the current Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion movement is all about. Much of it is critical race theory rigorously and ruthlessly applied to workplaces, government, and philanthropy. It assumes statistical disparities must be the product of deeply embedded discriminatory practices and attitudes. Therefore, it embraces the use of discriminatory practices and attitudes as the only proper response.
Let me explain that point more clearly. If disparities of outcomes are a sufficient proof of systemic racism and other forms of structural oppression, then the only way to know if the oppression has been dismantled would be for those disparities to go away. The logical goal must be an equality of results, not just an equality of opportunity. If that requires ongoing discrimination against privileged groups — racial and ethnic preferences in hiring and higher education, for example — so be it.
It’s utter nonsense. It’s based on simplistic and easily discredited analysis, and employs crude tools such as “implicit bias” tests that are both methodologically unsound and highly destructive of real human relationships.
Still, I’d pay little attention to critical race theorists if they confined their nonsense to scarcely read journals and sparsely attended classes. In a free society, we all have an equal right to be very wrong.
But critical race theory has now spread far beyond the cloister. Its advocates seek to transform corporate governance, our justice system, and the curriculum of our public schools. Its assumptions are incompatible with freedom, liberal education, and equality under the law. Those assumptions must be fully revealed, clearly understood, and relentlessly opposed.
John Hood is a Carolina Journal columnist and author of the forthcoming novel “Mountain Folk,” a historical fantasy set during the American Revolution (MountainFolkBook.com).