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Thoughts on America’s racial issues
Guest columnist

By Tom Hand

I love America. Like most other average Americans who love this country, when America is hurting, I hurt. The current racial protests and apparent disharmony in America are painful for me to watch. At its roots, it seems the primary issue is the perception of economic inequality, especially for Black Americans.

Police issues aside, it has been my experience from owning a small cheese factory and working elbow to elbow with my staff for 20 plus years that the lack of money is the single biggest stressor for the average American. I found it to be true regardless of the color of a person’s skin or their gender. It seems difficult for the wealthy to grasp this basic truth, but that’s the way it is.

I will mention up front that I am a small-town White man from a mostly White area and I do not know a lot of Black, Hispanic, or Asian guys. It is not that I don’t like them. I just don’t run in the same circles.

In any event, my experience is that most American guys of all types are more similar than dissimilar to me. The male minorities I have known at Proctor and Gamble, West Point, in the Army, and while running my factory were just normal decent people. They had at least a high school degree, were employed, and most had a family.

Even the Black guys I meet in Home Depot while we are wrestling with which faucet to buy are like me. They have jobs; I know because we talk about them. They have wives; I know because we complain about them. All are Americans just like me. Which is why I refuse to use the hyphenated terms (African- American, Asian-American, etc.) so favored by the intellectual elite. These Black men are no more African than I am Irish. They are Americans. Period. Separating all of us into our little compartments by using hyphenated names only serves to further separate us and calls out our superficial differences and works against our nation’s motto of E Pluribus Unum, Out of Many One.

Dr. King had it right when he said that he looked forward to the day when men would be judged by their character and not their skin color. I bet Dr. King would not like hyphenated names.

KEY FACTORS To better understand the issues and form my own conclusions, I researched some key facts regarding economic opportunity and police/crime statistics. I found the three primary factors to prevent someone from falling into poverty are to graduate from high school, get a job, and marry before having children.

First, according to a study by the US Census Bureau (Census), the high school graduation rates for the four main ethnic/racial groups are Asian 92%, White 89%, Hispanic 73%, and Black 68%. Interestingly, the demographic group with the lowest high school graduation rate is Black males at 59%. Think about that number. 4 out of 10 Black males do not graduate from high school, even with today’s grade inflation. It seems hard to believe, but facts are facts.

I will mention it does not seem to be a universal Black problem as the Black female graduation rate is 70%. Interestingly, the group with the overall highest high school graduation rate is Asian females at 93%. I will also state based on the success Black males have had in charter schools, the relatively low success rate in public high schools among Black males is not because they lack the ability to succeed.

Second, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in 2018 for the four main ethnic/ racial groups was Asian 3.0%, White 3.5%, Hispanic 4.7%, and Black 6.5%. Additionally, the group with the highest unemployment rate was Black males at 8.3% (Black females were at 6.1%), while the group with the lowest unemployment rate was Asian males at 3.0%. I suspect there is a correlation between the lack of a high school degree and the lack of a job.

Third, according to the Census, the chance of being raised in poverty is four times greater in single parent households than married households. Importantly, the percentage of children being raised in a single parent household for the four main ethnic/racial groups are Asian 16%, White 25%, Hispanic 42%, and Black 67%. In other words, 2 out of every 3 Black children are raised by only one parent. That seems a shame.

Finally, putting all these statistics together it is not surprising, according to the Census, the median household income by race is Asian $87K, White $70K, Hispanic $51K, and Black $41K. I find it interesting that the demographic group with the highest median income is a minority.

SYSTEMIC RACISM Despite these facts, some repeatedly state that America is systemically racist. I must agree that seemingly legal racism does exist in America, but not where these folks would have you believe. Consider the following four examples of what I call legal racism or codified discrimination.

First, according to the Harvard Crimson, at Harvard from 2000-2017, Asians had the highest SAT test scores, but lowest acceptance rate, of all racial groups. The average Asian scored about 300 points higher than the average Black on their SAT’s.

Harvard has admitted in a court brief it does turn down many qualified Asians because it does not want too many of them. I believe most people would say that is discrimination. Imagine the outrage if Harvard said they did not want to have too many Blacks, and yet no one seems to be outraged for these Asians.

Second, Affirmative Action is a policy whose goal is to help those groups that have been historically under-represented in certain parts of our society. I understand that. However, the policy openly advocates the favoring of one race over another. How is that not discrimination. It seems like the best way to end discrimination is to stop discriminating.

Third, the Trump administration recently attempted to revoke the status of all Dreamers, those young Hispanics protected under DACA. While the five liberal Justices (Chief Justice Roberts being number five) struck down their attempt, imagine the outrage if Blacks were the targeted group. Unfortunately, nobody seems to speak up for the Hispanics.

Hispanics work hard and do a lot of our dirty tasks. They pick avocados in the Salinas Valley, work in meat plants in Nebraska, clean our hotel rooms, and mow our lawns. Despite these contributions to American society, many in America openly call for their removal from our country. To me, that seems not only foolish, but also discriminatory behavior.

Fourth, considering all things in life are relative, we must consider middle aged White males as a discriminated group. Don’t scoff. All women are protected from discrimination by various laws. The same can be said for all the old, all the young, all minorities, all sexual orientations (I never knew there were so many), all religions, and possibly all breeds of dogs and cats but I am not certain.

Who’s left out? White men between 26 and 55. No one sings the blues for them, but maybe someone should. To an average guy like me, it seems like it might be easier if we just got rid of all these countless laws protecting one favored group and simply agreed we would not discriminate against anyone at any time in any way.

OUR HISTORY From a historical perspective, discrimination has been practiced against one group or another since the first Europeans arrived in English North America, but Whites did not invent discrimination and they certainly did not invent slavery. Defending one’s group against another or taking advantage of a neighboring tribe or group is part of humanity’s DNA. I am not saying it is right or wrong, but it is how we are made and is how it has always been.

The Puritans discriminated against non-Puritans. Catholics could not find a home in English America until Maryland opened her doors. The Irish in the 1800’s were openly told “they need not apply” for work in Boston and New York. It is hardly necessary to mention how badly the Jews have discriminated against both here and abroad. The Indians were either exterminated or had their lands repeatedly stolen from them.

I do not say all this to condemn America. This country is the greatest land of opportunity the world has ever known. I mention it to say that Blacks are not the only group that has faced discrimination or hardship in America or anywhere else in the world throughout the history of mankind.

Yes, they faced slavery, the worst stain on our nation’s resume, but we must keep in mind that slavery ended with the 13th amendment in 1865 and the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. At some point, every group of people that has been oppressed must move on or they will never improve their lot in life.

POLICE SHOOTINGS I also examined the facts surrounding police statistics and crime rates in general. I was surprised at what I found. According to the Washington Post, that bellwether of conservatism, more Whites than any other group are shot and killed each year by police.

Specifically, between 2015 and 2020, the police killed almost 1,000 people each year. The largest group killed by police each year was White men. That is not a typo. Since 2015, 45% of all people killed by police have been White (about 2,400 people), 23% have been Black (about 1,200 people), and 16% have been Hispanic (about 800 people).

Importantly, these same percentages by race roughly apply to the shootings by police of unarmed men as well. Hard to believe based on what we hear on TV and read in the paper and on-line. Yet, I cannot seem to recall the last time the death of an unarmed White man by a police officer led to any righteous indignation and protests.

Additionally, most murder victims are killed by one of their own race. While 90% of Blacks are killed by other Blacks, 83% of Whites are killed by other Whites. Since 2015, while approximately 1,200 Blacks, or about 250 per year, have been killed by the police, roughly 2,300 Blacks are killed by other Blacks each year. This number is probably understated because the perpetrator in about half of all the murders in America are never identified.

Finally, regarding inter-racial murder, Blacks kill Whites at a much higher rate than the other way around. Specifically, in 2015, Whites killed 227 Blacks, while Blacks killed 500 Whites.

PRISON STATS Reviewing incarceration rates by race and gender is also instructive. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics for 2018, of the total male prison population 34% were Black, 29% were White, and 24% were Hispanic. Among the total female prison population, only 18% were Black, while 47% were White, and 14% were Hispanic. Asians had the lowest incarceration rates of any race/ ethnic group.

I found it interesting that according to the FBI, in 2016, 69% of all Americans arrested were White, while only 36% were Black, and 14% were Hispanic. Based on what I hear from the main-stream media, I expected the arrest rate for Blacks to be higher than for Whites.

As an aside, according to the World Prison Brief, the US has highest incarceration rate of any nation in the world at 655 prisoners per 100,000 residents. By comparison, Canada’s incarceration rate is 144, England’s is 146, and Norway’s is 79. Interestingly, in 2015, the US had about 4.4% of the total world population but held about 21% of the world’s prisoners.

Finally, crime rates are much higher in urban than rural areas. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, the incidence of violent crime per 100,000 people is more than double in metropolitan counties versus non-metropolitan counties. The same is true for property crimes.

To the casual observer like myself, it appears the current civil unrest, especially the more violent aspects, is largely taking place in urban settings. The destruction we see on TV each night is simply not representative of what I see in rural America.

I will also say the violence and mayhem in our cities today is being equally created by both young White and young Black men. As a society, we must not lay the blame for the current violence entirely on Blacks.

CONCLUSION In conclusion, I believe the root cause of our current race issues is that a large percentage of capable, talented, young Black American men, especially those in urban areas, are not living up to their potential. For reasons I do not claim to understand, a relatively large percentage of those living in cities are choosing to drop out of high school, not secure employment, and father children and then leave the scene.

No one is forcing young Black men to do these things. After all, this isn’t Russia. They are simply making bad life choices. The consequence of these bad decisions is that we have a large demographic group of unsatisfied, disengaged citizens who are not financially secure and I suspect are bitter towards society in general. Just imagine the benefit to both the individual and the nation if this group ever realized their full potential.

Fortunately, they have the option to make different decisions, ones that can lead to a better life. The problem is how to get them the encouragement they need to make these changes. In my opinion, we need a strong, iconic Black man to speak up and lead the way on this problem.

Unfortunately, the right ones do not seem to want this task. While some strong, bright Black men such as Jason Riley, Shelby Steele, and Robert Woodson have spoken up and addressed the issue, they seem to lack the platform or position to reach Black youth.

Men like Tiger Woods, Lebron James, President Obama, or Michael Jordan who have the status and respect to deliver this message to young Black men, have chosen to stay away from this issue. In their defense, I will say it takes a lot courage to deliver unpleasant news, especially to those who hold you in high regard.

That said, let’s hope some courageous Black leader with the voice to command steps up soon so we can all enjoy a better and more harmonious America.

Tom Hand is a West Point alumni, former Army officer and retired businessman who lives on Ford Plantation.

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