Razib Khan reviews Charles Murray’s Facing Reality in Quillette:
written by Razib Khan
July 29, 2021
And Robert Verbruggen [Tweet him] reviews Facing Reality in National Review:
By ROBERT VERBRUGGEN
July 29, 2021 11:25 AM
Facing Reality: Two Truths about Race in America, by Charles Murray (Encounter Books, 168 pp., $25.99)
With Facing Reality, Charles Murray aims to provide an extremely brief corrective to our current debate over racial inequality. That debate, he says, is missing “two truths”:
The first is that American Whites, Blacks, Latinos, and Asians, as groups, have different means and distributions of cognitive ability. The second is that American Whites, Blacks, Latinos, and Asians, as groups, have different rates of violent crime.
Once we recognize that these differences exist and will be with us “indefinitely,” we should stop blaming all racial inequality on racism, abandon race-conscious policies, and rededicate ourselves to the American ideal of treating one another as individuals.
What is the target audience for such an argument? Murray says one group is a special priority: “people on the center-left who are liberals in the tradition that extended from FDR through Bill Clinton and included Senator Joe Biden.”
It is true, of course, that there are real and highly consequential racial gaps in test scores and crime rates — and that we’ve expended considerable effort trying to close them, with mixed-at-best results. It’s less clear that many Americans are unaware of these gaps, that Murray is the right person to convince a skeptic, or that the case he has assembled here is well tailored to that purpose.
To begin with, I would posit that most Americans know about these problems, even if they’d rather not dwell on them or state them out loud in crude terms. Some may cringe at the assertion that different racial groups have different levels of “cognitive ability” on average, for instance, but gaps in academic performance are widely accepted. Every year we hear about gaps on standardized tests and debate how to address them. High rates of crime in minority neighborhoods are similarly obvious and troubling to mainstream and center-left Americans. In 2016, Barack Obama called the black murder rate “way out of whack compared to the general population.”
My main subject matters are:
Pointing out how the world works;
Pointing out that the typical New York Times’ subscriber’s model of how the world works increasingly doesn’t work.
But that doesn’t mean that the white population of the non-ultraorthodox parts of Brooklyn don’t know about crime and education gaps between the races when it comes to, say, why the think this block would be ideal to profit from off gentrification but that block will have to wait.
On the other hand, their awareness of the existence of racial gaps seems to vanish when it comes to matters of public policy not personally affecting them. To take a pertinent example, they seem sincerely shocked that black men in Ferguson, Missouri are hassled more by the police. The obvious Occam’s Razor explanation that that’s because of the much higher crime rate, especially for murder, among black men simply does not seem to occur to them when they read the headlines.
Personally, I’m always trying to think through how truths we know from private life, such as those involving real estate, affect public life, such as criminal justice, and vice-versa. But lots of intelligent people rarely ever make this connection and seem to see the private and public as two completely separate intellectual domains. It’s just wrong to apply the knowledge you’ve gain in where to buy a condo and where to send your children to school to thinking critically about the doctrines of Black Lives Matter and Dr. Ibram X. Kendi.
Back to Verbruggen:
Further to the left, there certainly is a growing segment of “woke” folks who deny Murray’s truths, the ones who would eliminate standardized testing and blame racial differences in incarceration entirely on a biased justice system.
This extreme left is winning at eliminating standardized testing.
But even this ideology — obsessed with a subtle “systemic racism” that can perpetuate inequality even through colorblind rules and good-intentioned people — doesn’t have to deny the facts about test performance and violence, which can simply be seen as effects of systemic racism in themselves. Two Urban Institute researchers wrote last year, for example, that “violence and the disproportionate rates of victimization in Black communities” are “a product of structural racism.”
But Woke excuses sound more plausible when most Americans aren’t aware of the size of the gaps and assume there are only moderate gaps in line with differences in income and educational status. For example, I broke the news last September that blacks per capita in the FBI 2019 crime stats were 8.2 times more likely than nonblacks of all other races to be known murder offenders. I haven’t seen anybody in the MSM repeat that hatestat. Without actual numbers, it’s hard to think critically about Woke dogmas. For example, Hispanics are about as poor and undereducated as blacks, but have a much lower murder rate.
So, it may not really come as a shock to center-left Americans, and even some with more radical inclinations, that there are different levels of crime and academic performance among racial and ethnic groups.
But they don’t talk about it much.
Anyway, a fundamental problem is that the Woke Mainstream pursues solutions to the wrong problems. They don’t act as if deep-seated “structural racism” that causes blacks to act more violently and less intelligently is the real problem. If that were true, you’d want to continue to measure reality so you’d have evidence that your brilliant plan to dismantle structural racism is working as planned.
No, they act as if the problem is the cops arresting too many blacks and psychometric tests being unfairly biased against blacks, so they take destructive steps that, for example, drive up the black on black murder rate.
To me, the beginning of wisdom is “First, do no harm.”
But to the mainstream the beginning of wisdom is to assume that reality must concur with your hopes and wishes.