Friday, January 27, 2017


The idea of equality in this country is, and always has been an illusion. It started as a means to justify the end of seceding from Britain, and has been maintained ever since. Not just the concept of racial equality or gender equality but rather equality on a much larger scale. In other words, societal equality or rather societal inequality, since the very concept of society denotes inequality. Within a community with a singular focus, status is implied, indeed in some cases necessary. There will always be a dominant group in power. The closest we as a race of humans have every come to true equality is the Athenian democracy, which was not a true democracy. Even in that regard, it was marred by inequality since, slaves and women had no vote and therefore not voice. Men who were not prosperous and did not own land were not equal to those with more. Even in a Communist society, there are leaders. Human leaders. Human leaders who often have favorites, or simply give themselves more and others less. Power, or more specifically, the misuse of power will always be the bane of our society.

The logical conclusion? Equality is an illusion. There's simply no truth to it. There will always be a class system in every country no matter where you go, whether explicit as it is with the caste systems of India, or implicit, as it is here in the United States. Once you accept that, the next statement will make more sense: as individuals we cannot balance the scales. No matter how many boot straps you pull, or how hard you work, you will never successfully gain equality. You may gain access to more influence, power, or money, but you still haven't gained equality for the rather obvious reason that equality isn't a thing you can gain.

With that knowledge in hand, one might wonder: what then do we do about equality? The answer is quite simple: we have to rely on powerful organizations to balance the scales the best they can. In the United States, this task is unenviable, especially since the entire country was built with the blood of slaves, the majority of whom were of African descent. The effects of slavery are unique from the incident of slavery in one key way. The time period in which slavery existed is well-documented, but its effects are not. We can document the numerous disparities between the children of the formerly enslaved, and attribute it to slavery, but in truth, the damage done by three plus centuries of psychological, emotional and physical torture, not to mention the cultural damage caused by forcibly uprooting 12.5 million Africans and transplanting them into the U.S. converting them into property to be bought and sold at their owners' whims.

We can't change the past. We can only try to correct its effects. Many of the alt-right would say we shouldn't try, or that we have done enough. But have we really? 12.6% of the U.S. population identify as Black Americans, according to data from, maintained by the U.S. Census Bureau. That's 38,929,319 for those keeping track at home. According to the U. S. Bureau of Prisons, Black people constitute 37.9% of the prison population, for a total of 71,647 Black inmates. By contrast, non-Hispanic Whites are 63.7% of the country at 196,817,552. White inmates comprise 58.6% of the prison population, numbering 110,871. Surely this was caused by slavery?

Perhaps, but the water is considerably muddier than this. In the 1980's, in an effort to circumvent Congress and fund Contras in Nicaragua, the CIA begin selling cocaine and weapons to inner cities largely populated by Black Americans. Couple this with segregation, mass lynchings, and the "war on drugs" and suddenly, attribution seems far more difficult than before.

One of the key fallacies of attribution is that things can attributed to one source. We often think of things originating from one source, but the truth of the matter is that we can attribute the disparity in our statistical samples to multiple  sources. However, one thing holds true as we continue to explore the various reasons: the majority of the causes are external. To say that Black people are more inherently predisposed to crime, is ignorant, myopic and irresponsible.

As stated earlier, we can't change the past. But we can help mitigate the damage of our previously poor decisions. We can't undo the mistakes of our forefathers, but we can help those affected by it. Not because we should, but more importantly because we can. The United States is a country that has afforded so many opportunities to all of us. The very creed of this nation is about the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, and the core values of the U.S. reflect that. It's that very fact that gives us the ability to help those who have been wronged, to set right what once went wrong. Not simply because we have to, or because we should. But because we can.

No comments: