Friday, August 10, 2018
Black Voice News

In June of 1968, novelist, essayist and one of American society’s most insightful critics, James Baldwin, appeared on the The Dick Cavett Show.  With him were a slate of other guests, including Yale Sterling Professor of Philosophy, Paul Weiss. 

Weiss, who made his appearance and was introduced to Cavett’s audience after Baldwin, had been listening backstage to the celebrated author and once on stage, voiced several disagreements with his criticisms.  Their interaction, prelude to Baldwin’s extraordinary, and timeless (unfortunately for us) response (proven and made so by the testimony of years) is still being discussed in the same ways today.  Before the phrases “Disparate Treatment” or “Racial Wealth Gap” had ever been uttered, we have had, and continue to have precisely these discussions framed in exactly these ways.

That June day in 1968, Weiss arguing from the classical liberal framework, wished to emphasize the rights and commonalities shared on the level of individuals. He disagreed with Baldwin’s use of race as the determining factor in outcomes and argued that everyone experienced obstacles, however like-minded persons who share characteristics which are more likely to lead to success such as educational or professional attainment, regardless of race, had more in common and by inference more common outcomes than say, those who were less educated.    

Time has ultimately proven Baldwin to be correct and has not been as kind to the arguments of Professor Weiss.  A mountain of evidence proves that the trope of American attainment through education and hard work has been shown to be just that. Recent studies have overwhelmingly illustrated that of all the factors which determine outcomes—race is by far the largest determinate.

In fact, these differences persist despite educational and professional attainment, marriage, you name it.  Even when speaking of the wealthiest among us, William Darity Jr. Et al in their game changing and seminal work What We Get Wrong About Closing the Racial Wealth Gap state:

At the other end of America’s economic spectrum, Black households constitute less than 2 percent of those in the nation’s top one percent. White households constitute more than 96 percent of the wealthiest Americans. Moreover, even among the nation’s wealthiest households, extreme differences persist on the basis of race. (Emphasis mine.)

Read the full article here.