Racism is systemic

Over the past few weeks, I have read several editorials (letters) in this paper discussing racism. I have noticed a trend: the idea that racism and unequal outcomes between White people and Black people are the result of individual behaviors.

When we choose to focus on individuals, we ignore the systems and institutions that enabled their behavior.

In ‘So You Want to Talk About Race’ Ijeoma Oluo defines racism as “any prejudice against someone because of their race, when those views are reinforced by systems of power.” It is this last phrase that is most crucial.

It is true that Derek Chauvin made his own heinous choice in the murder of George Floyd. But it is impossible to separate Chauvin from the police system that trained him. A 2015 New York Times study of police departments in four states with comprehensive traffic stop data found that Black drivers are between 1.5 and 5.2 times more likely to have their cars searched than White drivers during a traffic stop. If there is just one bad police officer, why are these racially disparate outcomes creating statistically significant data?

Systemic racism is rampant in employment too. According to a Harvard Business School study, 25% of Black candidates received callbacks from job applications if they removed references to their race from their resume. Only 10% of Black candidates received calls if they left those details intact.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, the median earnings for a Black man are $40,370 compared to $58,014 for a White man, according to the Census Bureau. It is admirable if an individual CEO makes a commitment to pay equity. But when nationwide trends show that Black people are less likely to get called for an interview, the problem is larger and more systemic than just one CEO’s salary policies.

So yes, individual actors commit racist acts. But they are encouraged by policies and attitudes, that reinforce unequal treatment based on race. It is those systems that we must focus our energies on.

Catherine Bradley

Ridgefield, July 1

Lefties are stretching

Thanks for publishing two interesting letters, one referring to “Urban Dictionary,” the other to “income inequality.” Ridgefield lefties are stretching.

The Newspeak (George Orwell, 1984) of “income inequality” originates in the work of two socio-economists: Thomas Piketty (Paris) & Emanuel Saez (Berkeley), neither particularly sympathetic to capitalism as an economic system, or America as a free nation. Their theories have encountered scholarly opposition: “Against Socialism” National Review, June 3, 2019, Vol. LXXI, No. 10. A symptom, perhaps, of a different disease, there is no generally accepted definition nor formula for how it should be quantified, Stephen J. Rose, “How Different Studies Measure Income Inequality in the United States”, Urban Institute, December 2018.

To the letter that relies on Urban Dictionary to denigrate anyone who supports the incumbent, UD’s authority lays primarily in its exhaustive catalog of puerile slang for human sexual anatomy, various acts related thereto, and excretions therefrom, not the best source for real debate. I recommend “The Devil’s Dictionary,” Ambrose Bierce, to whose definitions I now refer in capitalized (italicized) words.

Some neighbors and reporters may recite abracadabra with politeness to anoint Mr. Joseph Robinette (yes folks, that’s his middle name) Biden Jr., an ambidextrous lawyer of age with a history of multiple brain surgeries to the presidency. Take it all in with a grain of salt.

Bierce, an avowed cynic (this year we all should be), a decorated Civil War Union veteran who saw heavy action, wounded multiple times, survived to become one of the greatest American journalists of the latter 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1912, he travelled to Mexico to cover Pancho Villa’s gang and was never heard from again. His politically incorrect dictionary still offers a little fun. We need a little fun.

John Tartaglia

638 Danbury Road, July 5

History and truth

There is a debate around monuments. Our president argues that to remove some of them, or to add additional comment next to others, is an attempt to take away our history. I claim just the opposite.

Monuments to confederate generals celebrate not only those who tried to tear our country apart, who embraced slavery, but also were erected over 50 years after the Civil War to keep Afro-Americans “in their place.”

Mount Rushmore was built on land that was stolen from the Sioux after that land was promised to them in a treaty in 1868. It only took a few years afterwards when gold was discovered in the Black Hills to ignore that treaty. And it has been 40 years since a Supreme Court decision in 1980 stated that the Sioux were never given compensation for that theft.

And our founding fathers despite their many virtues were slave holders who considered black people as inferior and not fully human.

As a Jewish American I am proud the Jewish community stands up when celebrated individuals are later found out to have an anti-Semitic past or worse, past affiliation with Nazi Germany. Why should I expect less of others who would do likewise? Why would anyone want to have to explain to a young child why there is a monument in a town square, in front of a court house, or in a frequently visited recreational site celebrating an individual who thought they were inferior or sub-human?

This is not about erasing history. It is about telling the truth. History books and museums are the places for such discussion not monuments that ignore the reality of subjugation, betrayal, and prejudice.

When we accept such truth America will further enhance its greatness. When we glorify ignorance and falsehoods, we only diminish ourselves and our country.

Carey Jaffee

Stony Hill Road, July 4

Reward work

From the catastrophic failures of the Plymouth and Jamestown economic experiments at the dawn of our republic, we learned that without work incentives the economy fails. When people are rewarded without hard work, they simply let somebody else do it. Today, the top fifth of American households work hard enough to earn 60 times more than households in the bottom fifth.

Then government takes and redistributes $2.8 trillion annually, so that difference is reduced to only 4 times as much. Even more astonishingly, households in the second fifth, who work four-times more than the bottom fifth, net only 9% more income than the bottom, and the middle fifth keeps only 32% more while working five times as much. Doesn’t that seem like enough forced redistribution?

Ron Shirk’s little tutorial on the Gini coefficient claims America’s income inequality is high compared with others. He doesn’t reveal which of the available sources he is using, but it looks like the World Bank. Their numbers don’t even pass the sniff test. Do you really believe that American inequality is greater than in Communist China, Russia, Yemen, or Algeria?

A Gini coefficient can be calculated on any set of numbers, and Shirk’s source appears to exclude about three-quarters of American subsidies to households. When these missing subsidies like food stamps, Medicaid, and more than 100 others are included, America’s Gini coefficient falls in the middle of large developed nations between Japan and Australia.

Shirk also makes a profound error confusing the equality of our creation with the equality of economic outcomes from our efforts. The solution for improved standards of living is economic growth from work. Redistribution beyond what is needed for those truly incapable of earning, inherently fails. As Margaret Thatcher famously said, “Sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.”

John Early

92 Fieldcrest Drive, July 5