The world is imperfect, human beings are imperfect, and racial prejudice is still a feature of American life in 2021. These are hard truths. But so are these: Our country legally banned de jure segregation in 1954, made virtually all discrimination formally illegal in 1964, and has practiced pro-minority affirmative action since 1967. Simply put, these efforts to address the results of racial animus have worked, to a degree that is, for complex reasons, rarely discussed. But facts are facts. In 2021 America, it is not, objectively speaking, extraordinarily hard for a person of any skin tone to “make it.”
Seven of the wealthiest eight ethnic groups in the U.S. today are populations of color, even as affirmative action broadly defined serves as a counterbalance to much of the residual bigotry within society (though it is the cause of other kinds of social conflicts). In the real world, simply adjusting mathematically for mundane characteristics such as median age and study time closes almost all of the large racial—and gender—performance gaps glibly attributed to bigotry or genetics. Even where there’s some remaining effect of prejudice relating to a belief that racial minorities perform less well than whites, it is very often smaller than the impact of class, sex, region, or a half-dozen other characteristics. In the real world, the biggest threat to racial comity today may well be not actual bigotry or conflict but rather the false promotion of narratives about racial conflict that verge on conspiracy theory.
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