Posted on December 8, 2004

Discrimination Myths that Everyone Believes

Thomas E. Woods, Jr.,, Dec. 6

The ideology that informs the thinking of present-day “civil rights” agitation is cluttered with misconceptions. It is not true, for example, that discrimination must lead to poverty. As Thomas Sowell observes, the Chinese have never enjoyed an equal playing field in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, or Vietnam, yet the Chinese minority in these countries — a mere five percent of the population — owns most of these nations’ total investments in a variety of key industries. In Malaysia, the Chinese minority suffers official discrimination at the hands of the Malaysian constitution, and yet their incomes are still twice the national average. Italians in Argentina were subject to discrimination but ultimately outperformed native Argentines. Similar stories could be told about Jews, Armenians, and East Indians. In the United States, the Japanese were so badly discriminated against that 120,000 of them were confined in detention camps for much of World War II. Yet by 1959 Japanese households had equaled those of whites in income, and by 1969 they were earning one-third more.

Another misconception is that statistical disparities between groups necessarily prove the existence of discrimination. Here again Sowell’s work is essential. There are a great many morally neutral explanations that can account for these differences. Ethnic groups in America often differ considerably in average age, sometimes by as much as a quarter century. That factor alone would be enough to account for a considerable portion of income differences between groups, since an older group will tend to have more education, more job experience, and more accumulated wealth. The various ethnic groups are also distributed very differently across the country, some concentrated in largely low-paying areas and others in high-paying areas. Thus the difference in incomes between Asian Americans and whites (with Asian Americans earning more), and between whites and American Indians or Hispanics, essentially disappears when we control for geographical distribution, education level, and proficiency in the English language. For a quarter century, in fact, college-educated black couples have earned slightly more on average than college-educated white couples, yet “civil rights” leaders prefer to obscure the real situation by looking at the two races in the aggregate. Only that way can they claim that “racism” is the explanation for white-black income differences.



Here, then, is the beginning of a refutation of the standard narrative about discrimination. The civil rights chapter of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History tells the rest of the story.


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