It isn’t surprising that Tanner Colbyblames conservatives and Republicans for some of America's problems with race, but he does surprise us when he saves his strongest indictment for the big-government liberals.
It is even more surprising that the long and detailed, and well-written, article appears on Slate, not exactly a right wing tribune.
One recalls that Thomas Sowell has been saying the same thing for decades, but Colby makes clear that, for all intents and purposes, liberals and progressives have been driving the race-relations train and they have driven it into a ditch.
They own it and they broke it.
Focusing, in this article, on school integration, Colby takes the measure of a racially divided America:
Fifty years after the March on Washington, America’s high school cafeterias are as racially divided as ever, income inequality is growing, and mass incarceration has hobbled an entire generation of young black men. Do we really think this is entirely due to Republican obstruction? Or is it also possible that the party charged with taking black Americans to the Promised Land has been running around in circles?
The left has been ceded a monopoly on caring about black people, and monopolies are dangerous. They create ossified institutions, paralyzed by groupthink and incapable of self-reflection. To the extent that liberals are willing to be self-critical, it’s generally to flagellate themselves for not being liberal enough, for failing to stand fast with the old, accepted orthodoxies. Monopolies also lead to arrogance and entitlement, and the left is nothing if not arrogant when it comes to constantly and loudly asserting its place as the One True Friend of Black America. And yet, as good as liberal policies on race sound in speeches, many of them don’t hold up in the real world.
With the right being derelict, the left assumes stewardship of our new multiracial America by default. So there is an added responsibility to get it right, to purge outdated orthodoxies, admit past mistakes, and find real solutions that work.
Who was at fault? Colby accuses the technocrats who gave us the Great Society and who so badly mismanaged the Vietnam War:
Emboldened by the victories of the New Deal, Washington’s best and brightest had learned to dream big, to put their faith in top-down, technocratic solutions to society’s ills. That’s how they approached public housing and urban renewal, that’s how they approached Vietnam. School busing was no different. They fired up the buses and sent X percent of black kids over here and Y percent of white kids over there. If America refused to integrate, the government would redraw the map and do it by administrative fiat.
To the technocrats, integration is a statistic. It involves how many whites and how many blacks are attending each school. This, statistics-driven model ignores human experience:
Integration is the forming of relationships based on mutual trust and respect. Schools could be forced to desegregate—that is, to accept black students—but genuine integration, as King said, was an “unenforceable” demand. The government can put us in the same room, but they can’t make us get along.
To this day, the language of racial balance, as used by the left, keeps us talking about “integrated schools.” But institutions don’t integrate. People do. If a school is 3 percent black, but all of those students are actively engaged in making friends and participating in student activities, then those children are well and fully integrated. If a school is 20 percent black but all the black students stay on their own side of the cafeteria and then get bused home at 3 p.m. every day, then there is no integration taking place at that school. Trying to measure integration with percentages is like trying to measure your weight in inches.
It was not a question of how good these or those schools were. White parents refused to send their children to black inner-city schools because of the social cost. Since power and status lay in the white schools and the white school districts, middle class parents—liberal and conservative-- refused to consign their children to schools where they would learn social skills that would inhibit their social and professional progress.
In Colby’s words:
After Brown, white parents fought for 15 years, doing everything in their power to keep black students out of white schools. But when the courts started mandating that white students bus into black schools, white parents didn’t fight for much longer. They just left. They fled for gated communities and private academies; they opted out of the social contract and they haven’t been back since, at least not as far as public education is concerned. Even in Berkeley, Calif.—bastion of liberal, progressive America—when the school district tried to implement a busing plan in 1964 that would take white students into black schools, local white parents launched a recall election to try and throw out the entire school board.
What is the result of this grand effort at social engineering? Colby answers:
Today, America’s schools are more racially homogenous than they were 25 years ago. But to say that those schools are “resegregating” is to misstate the facts. They can’t resegregate. They never integrated. We moved a lot of kids around for the sake of making things look good on a spreadsheet, but our communities and social networks remained largely unchanged. The racial balance created by busing was a fiction, and in the absence of those programs we’re just seeing the country for what it has been all along, what it never stopped being: separate and unequal.
As he says, it is a massive failure of American liberalism.