[This was first published at the long-lamented Palace Of Reason, on March 29. 2002]
A recent, tax-funded study, conducted by the Public Service Research Institute, dared to delve into the truth or falsity of the allegations that New Jersey State Troopers have been enforcing an unlegislated statute against Driving While Black. According to what I've read, the study was conducted with meticulous alertness for factors that might bias its results. It made use of impersonal, double-blind techniques at every stage of its processing. It was apparently a model of its kind, a showcase for the best statistical practices of the social sciences.
Unfortunately, the results of the study were:
- The troopers were not engaging in racial profiling when they stopped black drivers, because:
- Black drivers violate the motor vehicle laws disproportionately to their numbers. The disproportion is approximately 50%. That is, whereas blacks made up 16 percent of motorists on the New Jersey Turnpike, they accounted for 23 percent of the traffic stops and for 25 percent of the speeders. This verdict was rendered not by the troopers themselves, but by automated radar units and camera records.
Because the study both exonerates the troopers and indicts the most sensitive American racial group, the US Department of Justice has turned its face against it. The state of New Jersey refuses to release the study to the public. That didn't keep it from being reported by the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/21/nyregion/21TROO.html) -- and denounced by the NAACP.
The objections registered to this study ring hollow. They questioned methods that New Jersey authorities had approved enthusiastically before the study, and which logic indicates could not have biased the results. For example, of the 18,000 snapshots taken through windshields to identify the races of drivers, about one third had to be discarded due to excessive windshield glare. Obviously, this effect would not discriminate among the races, especially since the screeners making those decisions were not permitted to know whether the drivers at whose photos they were staring had been clocked above the speed limit.
Does the putative finding that blacks speed more than non-blacks (in New Jersey, at least) have any enduring social significance? Probably not. But the reactions against the study do.
Our society, animated by an enduring guilt about the enslavement and subsequent differential legal and social treatment of blacks, has elevated the notion of equality among the races to a piety: an assertion that demands homage, but which is unsupported by evidence, and is sustained entirely by faith.
One cannot challenge the pieties of a society without provoking condemnation or ostracism. To question a piety, even along its margins, is to ask to be thrown out of the church. This is an absolute that applies to all peoples and times.
Pieties have their dangers. The unquestioned belief, in late 17th Century France, that Catholics were morally superior to Huguenots allowed Louis XIV to revoke the Edict of Nantes, the decree of religious tolerance for the Protestant minority. The resulting mass emigration of Huguenots to Belgium weakened France severely, as the Huguenots were among the most industrious and educated persons of northern France. Indeed, part of the Catholic animosity toward them was that they worked on Sundays, and thus had a competitive edge over Catholics in business and commerce.
If we are in thrall to a piety contrary to the actual facts of our society, we are in danger too. The question is only of degree.
No decent person would gainsay the principle of equality before the law. It's the only sort of enforceable equality that doesn't violate the rights of Man. He who commits a crime by the written laws should face an impersonal juridical procedure and receive an impersonal sentence -- impersonal in the sense that they should take no account of anything about the accused other than what he did and the circumstances within which he did it. Plainly, we have departed from this simple, honorable standard in many ways. That doesn't vitiate the ideal.
Black-identity groups, which have grown powerful in recent years, have used the law to impose the equality-of-the-races piety on us whether we agree or not. This has led to a marked inequality of treatment of the races, with net benefits flowing coercively to blacks, in particular to politically active blacks, at the expense of whites and Asians. As a matter of justice, this situation is indistinguishable from apartheid and Jim Crow, except for the race of the beneficiaries.
If there are real, substantial differences among the races, whether in ability, civility, or willingness to conform to the law, this could be the death blow to our society.
The black-identity groups and their mouthpieces know this, of course. That's why the NAACP was so quick to condemn the traffic study. It's a chip in the iron wall around the piety. It invites people to think about what the NAACP's central cadre would prefer to remain unthinkable. With the piety for protection of their perquisites, they don't want to risk a collision with contrary objective evidence. Therefore, any study that suggests that blacks and non-blacks differ in anything but skin color is to be condemned out of hand, and suppressed entirely if possible.
It's not my intention to discuss the differences among the races here. I believe that there are some, though I also hold that, whatever any statistic might say about any group, each individual deserves to be dealt with according to his own merits. What upsets me is that we should so readily accede to the desires of organizations whose agenda is, quite baldly, to denigrate objective facts objectively gathered.
But this is of a piece with another American piety. Discomfiting others is near the top of our secular list of thou shalt nots. Adults aren't supposed to call other adults to account for incivility, or cite their character flaws to them even in private. A gentleman, the old code says, is one who never gives offense intentionally -- and whether we still adhere to the code in its full extent, that inhibition is firmly ingrained in white American society.
The race-hustlers are using our highest and best impulses against us. How long can it go on?