Washington Policy Center
My Pillow

Why Big Companies Claim a Race Crisis

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Is America in 2015  facing a major crisis in race relations?

Some significant players in the corporate world have invested money and prestige in a major effort to get you to think so. How do major companies, or the nation at large, benefit from persuading the public that the United States suffers as never before from racial inequality and oppression?

Starbucks, purveyor of coffee-related products to the known universe, has combined with USA Today, one of the nation’s leading circulation newspapers, in what they’re proud to describe as a “bold” new effort “to stimulate conversation, compassion and action around race in America.” On March 20th, the Friday edition of USA Today included a “special section” of eight pages meant to launch this revolutionary movement – an act of singular courage, in the view of its perpetrators.

“Racial inequality is not a topic we readily discuss,” proclaim the two CEO’s in announcing their initiative. “It is time to start.”

With all due respect to Howard Schultz of Starbucks and Larry Kramer of USA TODAY, but anyone who believes that discussion of racial inequality is rare has been living in a billionaire’s bubble – and ignoring the determined propaganda machine of the American left for nearly 50 years.

In any event, to make their point about the coming age of diversity the special section devotes an entire page to a series of maps proving that by the year 2060 there will be a 71% “chance that two random people are different by race and ethnicity.”

There’s also a “True and False” quiz that proves that many common beliefs about ethnic distinctions have scant basis in reality. For instance, many Americans no doubt accept the idea that raising young males in fatherless households constitutes a particularly acute problem in the African-American community. But the “Race Together” truth tellers proudly announce: “There are nearly 2.9 million more white children than black children living in single-parent homes.”

Of course, that figure ignores the fact that there are nearly five times as many white children overall as black children – so that African-Americans remain almost exactly three times more likely than their white counterparts to grow up without the benefit of both a father and a mother.

The final page of the insipid and dishonest presentation asks in large letters “NOW WHAT?” and then directs the read to answer a series of questions, including this thought-provoking doozy:

“Q: Did you have a childhood friend of a different race that you’ve lost touch with? Why?”

Okay, my personal answer to that one is a definite yes: at the beginning of middle school, one of my best pals was a neighbor kid named Sergio Sanchez who had been born and raised in Mexico. To tell the truth we were far more concerned with our disagreements about baseball than any perceived “racial” distinctions – he was a great fan of the New York Yankees and their center fielder Mickey Mantle, while I made the case (lame though it was) for the Philadelphia Phillies and their Hall-of-Fame center fielder, Richie Ashburn.

And why did I lose touch with my buddy Sergio after years of walking home from school together every afternoon? I lost touch with him for precisely the same reason I’ve lost touch with other friend I knew and valued I knew in middle school: it’s a long, long time ago, and most of us find it difficult to hang on to childhood relationships, regardless of similarities or differences in shade of skin.

Do the “Race Together” enthusiasts want me to believe that I actually dumped my one-time pal because of unspoken bigotry based on his “Hispanic” ethnicity –an identification, by the way, that didn’t even exist back in the ‘late 50’s?

And for the future, are we supposed to impose enough guilt and obligation on our own children so that they will form unbreakable attachments with every schoolmate or neighbor who’s lucky enough to represent a different background?

 In a “Race Relations Reality Check” the special section asks “Where Do You Stand?” and then makes inquiries such as “my children have ___ friends of a different race” and “In my Facebook stream, ___% are of a different race” and “In the past year, I have eaten a meal with someone of a different race ____  times.”

This is madness, of course. My wife’s best friend, who is frequently in our home and is in fact joining us for a meal this weekend, is a Hawaiian-born Chinese American whose elderly relatives maintain some scary memories of their pre-Revolutionary homeland. She’s also brilliant, funny, a convert to Orthodox Judaism, and mother of two gifted boys who study at an advanced Rabbinical seminary.

Do we deserve some sort of special credit for solving America’s racial problems because we are privileged to have this contribution to “diversity” at our family table on a regular basis?

The “Race Together” questions and answers seem so breathtakingly childish and insipid that they beg the question as to the actual purpose of the “year-long campaign” that the two companies have now launched with considerable fanfare. It’s hard to imagine that this effort, as sincere as it may be, will succeed in selling either latte’s or newspapers.

And the urgency behind the effort raises the much larger challenge about the general sense of national emergency concerning the purportedly catastrophic state of American race relations.

By what standard do we actually face a societal crisis of ethnic inequality? Economic, educational and even crime statistics show impressive progress for black America in the last twenty years, let alone in the last forty, and indicate Asians – regularly heralded by “Race Together” as “the fastest growing” minority group – easily outperforming whites in every measurable regard. In terms of political participation and representation, college (and even high school) graduation rates, race differences haven’t taken some sudden turn for the worse but have improved dramatically.

Why, then, the unceasing emphasis on discussing oppression, race guilt, discrimination, the ravages of slavery, and notions of permanent victimhood, in these few remaining months at the end of the Obama era?

Perhaps the most plausible explanation involves… the end of the Obama era. If the president’s two terms have been a powerful disappointment even to his most ardent admirers, isn’t it easier to write off his manifest failures as the result of America’s endemic racism rather than a product of the hero’s own mistakes and shortcomings? And with his Democratic successors unlikely to exert the same visceral appeal as groundbreaking candidates of color, they may find it difficult to draw the same staggering percentages of the non-white vote that Obama needed to win in both of his electoral triumphs. In 2012, 72% of all voters identified as “white” and they preferred Mitt Romney by 20 points.

Of course, to consider electoral analysis of any kind probably gives the “Race Together” initiative more credit than it deserves. In presenting his program to restive Starbucks stockholders, Howard Schultz returned repeatedly to the theme, “We’re better than that.” For the coffee company, corporate culture in general, and the nation itself, we ardently hope that he’s right.

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