Yesterday morning I saw a BBC story I had to read. The headline was “U.S. black scientist less likely to get funding“. Knowing the affirmative action leanings of American Universities I suspected the article was being misleading. The article was poorly written and as is often the case one has to dig into the actual research to get anything close to the truth. The research the article was based on does show interesting statistics but the article lacked any honest assessment of the what was shown, of course when the media reports on racial issues almost anything goes except honesty.
At first the article as written seems to be insinuating the exact opposite of what the storyline suggest. At first glance one would get the impression that of every 100 applicants for research grants 30 go to whites and 20 go to blacks even though only only 1.5% of the research applicants are black! Fortunately the original research article was linked and the confusion could be cleared up.
The research appeared in Science Magazine, if you want to read the research yourself the article is here. This study is based on research grants given out by the National Institute of Health (NIH). NIH admits it has been pursuing affirmative action policies for years (and yes has a 1.5% black participation rate to show for it). The research shows that if 100 white applicants applied for a grant along with 100 black applicants 30 whites would succeed and only 20 blacks would succeed. Hidden in the research is the fact that black applicants were much less likely to reapply if their first attempt failed. This insinuates that black applicants were less determined in the first place to get a research grant which would likely also mean they probably put less effort into the process in the first place. Now this could be for at least couple of reasons: many black applicants might of applied only because of NIH encouraged them to or for whatever reason they believed they would not succeed anyway. What is not clear is what the Science Magazine and the BBC articles infer, that there is a “insidious bias” at work. In fact the panels that decide who gets a grant are prevented from even seeing the applicants race.
The article unfortunately is driven by a left wing bias that is all too often shows up in the media and does not get to underlying problems. In fact, finding anyone who deals with the issues of race honestly in the media is nearly impossible. The real tragedy behind the statistics is the large percentages of black children who are not going to college and thus not becoming researchers. Shoddy schools are often blamed and it is correct that some of the worst schools in America are mostly black schools. What is overlooked is that schools are usually a reflection of the culture that permeates the society it serves. Having worked in k-12 education at one time I can tell you what all teachers already know; success starts with parental involvement. To this end black schools were dealt a devastating blow decades ago.
In the 1960’s the long war for civil rights was being finally won. At the same time leftest leaders in the black community started teaching young impressionable minds “The Man” was against you. Just when they should of been told the lid is off and encouraged to go for the brass ring (or a even a gold one) these poverty pimps were telling a generation to not even try, the odds were just too much against them. President Johnson was at the same time sending out welfare recruiters to invite people to come live off the government; the message their invitation implied was white society owes you so take what you can. Decades later the impact of these philosophies is a large percentage of the black population still feels the cards are against them many have bought into the idea that they should not have to work for success since society somehow owes them (the rioters in Britain seemed to be driven by this idea). The hopelessness and despair of these ideas fester leads directly to the gangs, drugs and poor graduation rates that plague many black schools (not to mention an extremely high incarceration rate).
Today the left says just throw more money at the problem even though Washington DC schools, one of the most well funded in the nation and also one of the worst, has shown this does not work. Another answer of the left is racial preferences but research has shown these just give a leg up to those already on the ladder, those that are not on the ladder are actual hurt by such policies. The real answer is a seismic shift in the perceptions that many blacks have that the cards are stacked too much against them. Some black leaders like Bill Cosby, Thomas Sowell, Juan Williams, Walter E. Williams have been trying to shift the tide. There are also many great examples of successful entrepreneurs, intellectuals and yes politicians showing the way. Unfortunately the damage done by half a century of left wing ideologues can’t be undone overnight, especially when many of them are still around spitting out the same garbage.
An old but good resource on culture and race is Thomas Sowell’s book “The Economics and Politics of Race“. In the book what Sowell poignantly points out is racial divides are really cultural divides and it is culture more then race, religion, or ethnicity that determines how successful groups are. I believe what Sowell and other black thinkers would see as the real tragedy highlighted by the study’s statistics is the generations of lost young minds they represent. The statistics reflect a much deeper problem then can be solved by racial preferences or more money. The truth is the real answer to the tragedy is a change in culture. This is a change that must come from within the U.S. black community and the sooner the better.