Some members of his party have been heard complaining that President-elect Joe Biden isn’t selecting enough Blacks to serve in high profile positions in his administration. Clearly, he won’t be able to satisfy everyone who helped get him elected so why not just pick the best qualified people willing to serve regardless of race or ethnicity or any other accident of birth? Why should skin color, gender or sexual preference matter? Shouldn’t we be striving to achieve a colorblind society where people are judged only by their character and ability? Must racial and gender quotas be a factor in every selection process?
Identity politics has even come to Wall Street. The Nasdaq, demonstrating its wokeness, has sought permission from the SEC to require corporate boards of directors to include at least one woman or LGBTQ person or risk de-listing. This is called virtue signaling and will do nothing to enhance productivity and economic growth or our economic competition with China. Board members represent the owners of the corporation and have a responsibility to act in their best interests, not those of the inclusiveness activists at Nasdaq. But a recent article in the WSJ Weekly Review by Janet Adany and Paul Overberg offers some hope that we may be seeing some movement toward greater assimilation among Americans and less focus on race and ethnicity, especially among recent immigrants. This would be a very good thing, in my view, because racial divisions and identity politics are inimical to what America was supposed to be in the first place; more a melting pot with blended ingredients than a salad bowl with distinct ones.
Recent legal immigrants to America tend not to see themselves as victims needing handouts but rather feel fortunate and privileged just to be here in what they perceive is a land of opportunity like none other. What most seek primarily is a level playing field and freedom from government oppression rather than government assistance. It’s called equal opportunity and it is very different from affirmative action because it advocates treating people as equals. In immigrant-rich, liberal California, voters recently decisively defeated a proposal to repeal a law banning affirmative action.
It’s time for racial identity to be de-emphasized and assimilation to be emphasized. America should be a blend of cultures, not a collection of them. Similarities, not differences should be stressed. Kenneth Prewitt, a former director of the Census Bureau, has even suggested that we should stop asking Americans to report their race. For one thing, the responses are misleading and somewhat arbitrary. People with only trace amounts of DNA indicating minority ancestry may choose to identify as a minority. Arab-Americans from northern Africa are not usually referred to as African-Americans. Why not? The fastest growing demographic in the country consists of bi-racial people. But if you have a White parent and a Black parent, why are you usually considered to be Black? Why not White? Whose business is it anyway and why should we even care? Why can’t we be just American?
Assimilation is a demonstrated path to greater prosperity. It pushes minorities up the economic ladder. Many Jews and Asians, just to cite examples, faced discrimination and injustice as immigrants. Many of their ancestors faced slavery. But they did not dwell on victimhood and moved rapidly up the economic ladder and consistently achieved academic success with little reliance on welfare programs. There are obvious lessons to be learned here. They would include the importance of stable, two-parent households where educational achievement and hard work is not only stressed but expected, if not demanded, by parents.
In his book, “Please Stop Helping Us,” Jason L. Riley, a Manhattan Institute senior fellow and Wall Street Journal columnist, wrote that liberals are making it harder for Blacks to succeed with many well-intentioned welfare programs that are, in fact, having a perverse effect on black progress. For example, minimum wage laws may help those that are already working but may limit employment opportunities for young Blacks seeking entry level jobs. Soft-on-crime laws and defunding police may keep more Blacks out of jail but will also make predominantly black neighborhoods less safe. Some welfare programs can encourage dependency.
The majority of Blacks who lead successful, productive lives often don’t get enough credit for what they have achieved through their own merit, not because of affirmative action or social welfare programs designed by liberals who assume that they know what’s best for black Americans and who want to continue making a pretty good living at it. Perhaps what they needed most was just a level playing field and an even chance.
Identity politics is not solving the problems of racial injustice or promoting equality. It is, in fact, further dividing us. Assimilation is the path to racial equality and to prosperity. Instead of attempting to force radical changes to the national culture, let’s work together to enrich and improve it. Rather than settling for victimhood and welfare programs that promote its perpetuation, let’s focus instead on assimilation as the best path to a colorblind society that promotes the common good.