RACIST? AMERICA IS ANTI-RACIST
Reprinted with permission – THE AMAC Magazine – August 2021
The more we expect of ourselves—and of each other— the more we harp on missed goals. The key is setting the goal, striving for it, caring about it, self-correcting, and never giving up on the ideal. Racism exists in America, but America is not racist. America may be the least racist nation on the planet, devotedly anti-racist. To divide us by skin color is fundamentally wrong.
Before looking at data, ask yourself, what is racism? You do not need a dictionary. It amounts to ingrained prejudice, reflexive judgment, and discrimination based on race, one group toward another. Hardly unique to America, racist tensions appear all over the world—in extremes.
In the Middle East, the Far East, former Soviet Republics, Greater Europe, Africa, and even Central and South America, racism is often cast as a cultural, ethnic, or religious difference, but racism abounds. If children are indifferent to race, adults have warred by tribe since the beginning of time.
Racism—disdain and fear of The Other—is innate and must be confronted with the intent to dissolve it, and where in all human history has that been more a mission than in the United States of America?
No Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Arab, African, Russian, German, French, British, or other government has more readily opened its doors, its entire society, to The Other than America.
Why? Because even with the challenge of extracting past prejudice, we have never given up the ideal. Whatever our familial, tribal, ethnic, or national origin, we embrace a single idea: Liberty and equality are paramount. These ideals bind us as they bind no other nation.
Systemically—yes, let us use that word correctly—these ideals and our attention to them tend to triumph over inborn prejudice based on skin color, origin, and religion, setting the expectation that we will vanquish our divisions, use ideals to animate our decisions, and strive to live as One.
Do we fail? Of course, we do. No great enterprise in human history has been undertaken without failures, back-steps, and resistance, demanding determination, restoration of confidence, resilience, and persistence. Love of liberty and equality is like that.
Reaching higher always empowers the skeptics, critics, and cynics. On our way to the moon, we lost men on the launch pad. On our way to winning World Wars I and II, we had setbacks. Winston Churchill said, “Success is the art of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” That is our mission today: fending off those who would divide us.
Thus, here are facts which prove America is a beacon, not a burden, a promoter of racial equality and equal protection under law. We have outcomes to prove it. We are not a racist nation but the embodiment of a deep human desire to see liberty and equality live big.
Several immutable facts, which are national in character, argue that America is perhaps the most anti-racist nation ever to pursue the goal. We “fail the perfect line,” but we never lose sight of it nor our shared constitutional commitment to pursuing liberty, justice, and equal opportunity for all.
Let us start with the basics. America is the most powerful magnet in the world for minorities of all races. “Facts,” as Ronald Reagan said, “are stubborn things.” America boasts the largest legal immigrant population anywhere, with 40 million citizens born outside the country. We are home to 19 percent of the world’s legal immigrants, who make up 13 percent of America’s population. Where else is that true? Nowhere.
Second, our magnet grows stronger by the decade. Numbers are going up, not down, which would be rather odd for a racist destination. Since 1965, our legal immigrant population has quadrupled. Lest we miss the point, these are legal, law-abiding, assimilating immigrants. Why? Because we are The Other. Name one other country where that is true. Nowhere.
One must ask, if we are racist, why are minorities expending their time and resources, taking risks, and taking a chance with dislocation to seek a visa, become a naturalized citizen, and apply as refugee or asylee? Hispanics, Asians, Africans, Russians, and Europeans come in unrivaled numbers.
Mexico may be the top origin country, but numbers two and three are China and India, and four and five are the Philippines and El Salvador. A full 28 percent of US immigrants hail from Asia, and large swaths are from Europe, Central and South America, the Middle East, and North and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Third, African immigrants are seeking visas to America in disproportionately large numbers, which are also rising. Under America’s Diversity Visa Program, created by Republican George H.W. Bush in 1990, 38 percent of the 50,000 visas granted in one recent year went to African-born immigrants, the most numerous sub-group since 2013.
Fourth, think on another fact: More than half (55 percent) of those coming from Africa are sponsored by an American family (10 percent) or related to an American citizen (45 percent), thus encouraged—not discouraged—to make the effort to seek US citizenship.
Fifth, three-fourths of all “out-migration from Africa” to America has occurred after 1990—not before, not in the 1600s, not by slavery, by force, or without legal recourse. Experts say this migration is about rights, opportunities, education, employment, and security—the American Dream.
Sixth, once here, immigrants do not pick states by politics, which they would if discrimination marred our map. Thus, the top four destinations are Florida, Texas, New York, and California, two Republican states, two Democrat.
Seventh, while African immigrants tend to settle in cities, they migrate over time to suburbs, suggesting income growth, upward mobility, aspirations, and acceptance of differing races.
Eighth, recent polling reinforces how Americans feel about legal immigrants: two-thirds content with current inflow volume, or happy to see more. Pew Research records most Americans view diversity as positive, and even the Washington Post reports those who grew up in America are more likely to be more tolerant of foreign-born neighbors than in other countries.
Ninth, consider what the combination of foregoing facts suggests—that the promise of liberty and equality is real and works for minorities. With a few more stubborn facts, you be the judge. As of 2021, eight of the richest Black billionaires are American, and 25 percent of all American millionaires are Black, Hispanic, or Asian. Where else in the world is this true?
Black Americans own 124,551 American businesses, a third in health care, the highest percentage of any group. Black median income, which fell during Obama’s first term, shot up from 2016 to 2019 under Trump before falling to the pandemic—again, a testimonial to equal opportunity.
Nor are opportunities for minorities strictly economic. Roughly 40 percent of the American military is non-white, with opportunities pegged to service, skills, courage, and merit. Where else in the European, Chinese, Russian, Arab, or South American world would you find a Black former National Security Advisor to the President (under Reagan and Obama), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (under George H.W. Bush), Secretary of State (twice under George W. Bush), or Secretary of Defense (today), as well as countless Black, Hispanic, and Asian cabinet members (Republican and Democrat)?
Of course, 150 years ago, racism flourished in the South; perverse pockets persisted. But the past is not the present, old is not new, and materiality dies. Even then, 360,000 Union men— almost all white—died to defeat the Confederacy and end slavery, a fact worth remembering.
Finally, to punctuate—and rebalance— the national discussion on race and rule of law, consider real numbers around urban police departments, the crucible of the debate. Los Angeles police are 70 percent minority, Chicago 65 percent, Houston 61 percent, San Antonio 57 percent, Washington DC 65 percent, El Paso 84 percent, and Detroit 61 percent. Where is that reported?
On leading indicia of minority immigration, upward mobility, acceptance, and economic, military, political, and law enforcement advances, America is what we claim and aim to be—a land of individual liberty, opportunity, and equal protection under law.
Perhaps the counterproof is best: How many minorities migrate to communist China, autocratic Russia, theocratic Iran, or any other oppressive nation? How many minorities assimilate into Chinese, Russian, European, Arab, African, or South or Central American societies? How many are welcomed by fellow citizens, hired, promoted, admired, or married? How many get rich, invite families, rise in the military, dominate police forces, lead cabinet agencies, advise presidents, or become presidents? Where else in the world but America? Nowhere. These are just facts worth pondering the next time you hear about racism, “Critical Race Theory,” and our failings.
Robert B. Charles
Robert B. Charles served in the Reagan and Bush 41 White Houses, as Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, and counsel to the US House National Security subcommittee for five years; a former litigator, he taught law at Harvard University’s Extension School, recently authored “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and consults in Washington, DC.