tuskeegee

Group Conformity Holds Back Black Achievers

3 ¼ min

The Biden administration is studying slavery reparations for African Americans. One of the prominent justifications for reparations is the racial income gap, and some proponents of reparations argue that wealth redistribution would put blacks on equal footing with white Americans. This analysis is misguided.

A major reason for the racial income gap is the individual achievement gap. Notwithstanding the academic improvement of African Americans, they are still less educated than white Americans. If black males still have the lowest graduation rate in the country, then how can we expect their earnings to be on par with those of white men?

Economist Roland Fryer has marshaled data proving that the racial income gap is primarily explained by the achievement gap and not discrimination. Earlier studies have also found the racial income gap is correlated to differences in teenage academic achievement

Another contributor to the racial income gap is the reluctance of blacks to pursue college majors that tend to provide lucrative salaries. Maya Beasley’s fascinating 2011 book, Opting Out: Losing the Potential of America’s Young Black Elite, argues that black students exhibit a greater preference for social activism and as a result are overwhelmingly represented in socially useful, but low-paying professions. Moreover, Beasley said the commitment of black students to these campus activist groups may be harming their ability to form other relationships. “While black students may derive substantial value from these networks, there is also a considerable downside to their separation from the wider campus community,” she said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed.

According to Beasley’s report, some black students posit that the fear of racism precluded them from socializing with white networks. Yet such assumptions are unfounded since there are many signs that racism has declined in America, and that tolerance for racist rhetoric is diminishing. In any case, racism is not an insurmountable obstacle for people who want to succeed. Black men like Robert Church and William Scarborough achieved despite the more potent venom of racism in their earlier era.

Black Americans living in today’s less hostile environment cannot legitimately use racism as an excuse for not pursuing careers in fields dominated by whites and Asians, nor for their failure to tap into non-black networks. Blacks must exert agency and stop thinking of themselves as an oppressed group. Contrary to what activists want them to believe, they are not being oppressed by whites.

Western culture is uniquely individualistic, and one must be willing to deviate from one’s own group in order to achieve stratospheric success. In general, it seems that black Americans are not as individualistic as white Americans and as such, they lack the drive to stand out from their group and achieve personal success. Because African American culture values group conformity, black Americans deprive themselves of opportunities for innovation and wealth creation.  For instance, a sizeable percentage of black Democrats identify as conservative, however, they still consistently vote for Democrats. Accordingly, some researchers have concluded that “strong support for activist government and the importance of in-group identity seems to drive this trend.”

Hence, I believe the desire to achieve in-group identity may prevent black individuals from achieving their personal goals. It is the lack of individualism in the black community that is a potent cause of the racial income gap, and this will not be solved by reparations. Instead, black Americans need to cultivate a desire to achieve personal success, and the courage to stand out from their group.

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Image Credit: 

Wikimedia Commons-Library of Congress, public domain

Lipton Matthews

Lipton Matthews

Lipton Matthews is a researcher, business analyst, and contributor to mises.org, The Federalist, The Imaginative Conservative, Merion West, and American Thinker.

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sneighbors@strategicsos.com
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We are all in this world together. All races have faced discrimination at one time or another. Consider the history of the Jews, the Irish, German, Japanese, Italian, Hispanic, Indian, or whatever. Further, all humans have experienced what could be considered unfairness in their life. How we respond to the innate question built into every person ("Who am I and why do I matter?") is what makes us human or beast. We can be divisive, even to using terrorist tactics, justifying our evil (as defined by any reasonable moral standard) by " I (or we) were wronged." All criminals tend to justify their wrong by "someone done me wrong." How do we respond to the wrongs done us is what makes us human or beast; civilized or barbarian. History is full of evil acts justified by wrongs done me.
 
 

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Rick
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I believe we all experience similar issues to some extent, though some demographic groups experience it more than others for a variety of reasons. And it's a shame we, as a species, haven't overcome this type of non-constructive behavior. Thinking of something as "belonging" to an "Other" ('education is a White thing', etc) keeps everyone from progressing. Our collective quality of life and level of achievement would be higher, on average, if we could surmount these types of impediments to individual progress.
 
 

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Tionico
Those "non-constructive behaviours" are not species wide. At bst, they are culture wide, and there are many very different cultures on this dirtball. Each has its strangths and weaknesses. . For the blacks it would appear that collectivist mindset noted as common amongst blacks tends to drive them to conformity within their own groups. People groups form round similarities and differences, and "other" is a mechnaism for preservation. Not all types of conformity are assets in a greater setting
civilization2020
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Useful insight, thanks. I didn't see it as group thinking before. Makes sense. On multiple occasions I've heard someone say "if only I can get this job, I'll bring up everyone in my block; get them all who want work here a job." I cringe when I hear that as A) the person must be in that position for at least a year or two themselves to get great at learning everything about it from all perspectives and B) there just aren't that many positions open in the company. Breaks my heart because it's too heavy a burden for them to carry.
 
 

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civilization2020
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In the early 1970's my mother worked at UOP in a suburb of Chicago. One day, she came home crying so hard it affected us all deeply (I still get teary thinking of it). There was a man who worked the mail room that was so expert in conversation he could talk with the President with as much ease as the janitor. He was smart and respected all the way up and down the org chart. The executives offered him a position in the Jr. Management Program; typically reserved for an elite group of college graduates. They got him in the Program and agreed to pay his tuition to get the degree while he's working. First day of work there was a huge party waiting for him. After a couple hours of waiting (he was always punctual), someone went to his home. He was shot dead. Later in the week, a couple detectives came back to UOP. Said "his neighbors killed him for getting uppity, it happens more that you'd think". Everyone was stunned. This last year, watching protesters scream at Black Police for being Police, brings me back to that incident. The black on black violence needs to end also.
 
 

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Pilgrim
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Many groups and cultures compel orthodoxy of their members. Union workers frown on their members who seek to excel or who are promoted into management. Religious people judge their peers who deviate from the prescribed mindset. Gangs are notorious for punishing non-normative behavior. Today our social conversation is about victims, which according to their identity are allegedly oppressed by other groups, particularly white males. So, groupthink creates antipathies when it comes to society, judgment, achievement, individuality, development of the mind or soul, character improvement, and so on. All of this results in mediocrity of individuals--the dumbing down of innate abilities through discouragement of effort, learning, and preparing for the future. I am white. I am well-off. I am old. I grew up with two cardinal virtues pounded into my head by my "low-class" parents. First, work like hell. Second, don't make excuses. Close to the second was never feel sorry for yourself. Myriads of admirable character traits flow from those virtues--grit, determination, resilience, purposeful endeavor, creativity, adaptability, courage, strength, self-reliance, etc. My religious ancestors were deprived of land and property and some their lives by mobs of white folks in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. Reparations? Complaints? Excuses? Victim-pity? None of it. They migrated to the West, leaving farms, buildings, schools, churches and everything they couldn't carry in a wagon and then built hundreds of towns and cities, planted and harvested crops, built irrigation systems, educated their children, cultivated the arts, worshipped God, and generally moved on with life. That's a good formula for blacks, and it was working economically until the civil rights era and the Great Society indelibly marked black culture with victim-think and excuse making. Racism was and is real, but that doesn't prevent individual effort and achievement. Barack Obama is black. Forget reparations. Go to work!
 
 

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