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Racism Everywhere?

Even as actual racism declines, news stories about purported racism continue to multiply. Let’s take two examples from the last 24 hours. In Slate, Tracy Thompson tells us: “Snow didn’t paralyze Atlanta. Racism did.” Seriously: Thompson blames the snowstorm and consequent snarling of traffic in Atlanta on “racism.” How can that be? Thompson explains that on account of racism, regional government in the Atlanta area is fragmented:

“Exaggerated individualism” is a pretty good description of the Southern approach to politics—especially in Georgia, which has more counties than any state in the country except Texas. “Atlanta” is actually a 10-county metropolitan region which is home to more than 4 million people and 68 separate municipalities.

So what? The Twin Cities metropolitan area, where it snows all the time but kids don’t have to sleep in schools as a consequence, is home to 2.9 million people and consists of seven counties and 182 cities and townships, nearly three times as many as the Atlanta area. What does this have to do with the ability to drive in snow? Thompson explains, sort of:

[W]hen regional disaster hits—whether it’s the years-long drought of a few years back, or this week’s snowstorm—that means umpteen local and state politicians have to work together on a deadline, putting aside their various ambitions and competing constituencies under adverse conditions in order to deal with a common threat.

But Thompson cites zero examples of how municipal authorities failed to cooperate in connection with the snow storm, or how any such failures contributed to stalled traffic. Nor is there any explanation of how any failures of municipal leadership related to “racism.” For what it’s worth, the Atlanta area probably has proportionately more African-American government officials than any other metropolitan area in the country. Thompson deems this picture to be evidence that Atlanta’s problems stemmed from “exaggerated individualism:”

140131_POL_AtlantaSnowGridlock.jpg.CROP.promo-mediumlarge

Looks like rush hour to me, with a light dusting of snow.

The second reason Thompson offers why “racism” is responsible for the snowstorm is that in 2012, voters rejected a proposal for a $600 million light rail system. But that shows good judgment, not racism (putting aside the fact that, as far as I know, African-American voters were just as hostile to the proposal as white ones). We have a light rail system here in Minnesota that cost considerably more than $600 million, and the idea that light rail will do anything material to ease traffic congestion is a fantasy. In any event, it is ridiculous to suggest that any metropolitan area that chooses not to build a light rail system is “racist.”

Then we have this morning’s Minneapolis Star Tribune which headlines, provocatively: “To close the gap in health disparities, officials say Minnesota must confront ‘structural racism.’” “Structural racism,” if you are not familiar with the concept, is a technical term. It means, “Not racism, but something else that we would rather not talk about.” So what does the Strib tell us about health disparities? With respect to African-Americans, this is the Strib’s principal example:

As one example of deep institutional health barriers, Ehlinger cited the Health Department’s own radon testing program. It educates homeowners to test their houses for the chemical, which can cause lung cancer. But only one-fifth of black residents own their own homes in Minnesota — compared to 75 percent of white residents — meaning that blacks were less likely to be reached by the program and, as renters, less likely to be able to install radon remediation systems where they live.

Seriously? That’s what counts as racism these days? If the Health Department really believes its radon awareness program is missing renters, it could deliver a copy of its radon brochure to every renter in the state at a nominal cost. And programs already exist to subsidize installation of radon mitigation systems for low-income residents of the state.

The only other fact recited by the Strib in support of its claim of “structural racism” is this: “Before she reaches her first birthday, a black child in Minnesota is more than twice as likely to die as a white child.” But that is a well-known phenomenon that is not limited to Minnesota. The principal cause of infant mortality is low birth weight:

There exists perplexing racial disparities in birthweight and infant survival. Across the U.S., rates of low birthweight and of preterm delivery have been higher among African American women than among whites for many years. African American babies are twice as likely to be low birthweight as well as twice as likely to die in the first year as compared to white babies. Despite considerable research over the last 20 years, the reasons for these differences remain obscure. However puzzling, the numbers reveal that there exists a real vulnerability of African American women to preterm labor and delivery.

This disparity appears to be, at least in part, genetic. Smoking, drug addiction and excessive alcohol intake are also factors associated with low birth weight. Structural racism in Minnesota? No.

These are just two examples plucked from the constant stream of news stories that allege racism where none exists. Why is this effort so insistent? Why are we constantly bombarded with allegations of racism, at the very time when actual racism has dwindled to insignificance? The motive, it seems obvious, is political. The Democratic Party desperately needs to keep African-American voters on its plantation if it is to have any hope of maintaining power. (Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by 20 points among white voters in 2012, according to some estimates.) Because Americans in their daily lives rarely see evidence of racism, but are often reminded of the ubiquity of affirmative action, liberals in the news media must keep up a constant stream of tales about purported racism in order to create an alternative reality. Sowing racial division is a core strategy of the Democratic Party, and newspapers and magazines are its agents in executing that strategy.

The Democrats’ endless “war on women” is a similar phenomenon, but that is a story for another day.

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