Note: This post uses religious symbolism for secular purposes. It is not a tool of proselytization.
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Matthew 7:13-14 New International Version (NIV)
Let’s go back to the story of the ancient Hebrews. After witnessing the awesome spectacle of God’s divine intervention, the newly freed slaves grew impatient and turned to idolatry. They craved something concrete that they could see and touch. After seeing the humbling power of Dr. King’s non-violent philosophy, which advocated judging a person based on their character instead of their appearance, Americans ultimately decided to stray off the narrow path that Dr. King walked. They created their own golden calves: identity politics and victim worship. They’re idols forged from arrogance, amnesia and a codependent need for purpose and identity (the latter is often a casualty of permissive parenting). The earlier example of Antifa is just one extreme faction of these idols’ worshipers. Sadly, the majority of that congregation consists of individuals that aren’t as easily recognized as dangerous radicals.
It’s been nearly sixty years since the Civil Rights Movement. The Movement was directly responsible for some of the most influential pieces of legislation in American History. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (segregation was outlawed and people were prohibited from practicing discrimination due to race, sex, color or religion), the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (minority voters finally enjoyed voting protections and guarantees) and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (made discrimination in real estate and housing illegal) have proved to be invaluable accomplishments of the crusade. Despite the constant racial apocalyptic drivel that Americans are bombarded with from news outlets and from progressive activists and organizations (ACLU & Southern Poverty Law Center, for example), the world is a much better place than it was before the Civil Rights Movement, And no, Trump is not going to end civil rights – stop watching CNN.
Stephen Pinker, a Harvard cognitive scientist, has made a career out of using data to debunk societal conspiracy theories and defuse moral panics. His most recent book, Enlightenment Now, simultaneously makes the evidence-based case that the world is better now, across virtually ALL categories, than it has EVER been and that Enlightenment values (reason, science, humanism, etc.) have been the catalysts for improved human welfare. Activists don’t like acknowledging these truths because the status quo public perceptions of multiple ongoing crises (college rape epidemics, racial oppression, female discrimination, etc.) provide justification for them to make apocalyptic prophecies of what will happen if their agendas aren’t enacted. Many people, like the Civil Rights activists, suffered greatly in the past so that human welfare could be better today. Present-day activists don’t want to admit that life is better today because it castrates their arguments for sweeping change. It’s important that we acknowledge our good fortune and cherish the progress that we have made.
Below are a few graphs that Pinker uses in Enlightenment Now to highlight the crescendo of human welfare:
The reassuring sentiments that these graphs showcase aren’t outliers. In a great many areas, America has taken the torch of the Civil Rights activists and forged ahead purposefully and efficaciously. In the past several decades, the number of police shootings hasn’t gone up, it’s gone DOWN (despite a growing population) and, much to the shock of American progressives, an unarmed white person is just as likely to be shot by police as an unarmed black person (please reference works cited for sources & statistics). This is another instance where sensationalist media distorts reality in order to get clicks, subscriptions and views. It’s important to remember that news organizations are motivated by profit. Therefore, they have a financial incentive to ‘preach to the choir’ and also to favor sensationalism over substance.
Many progressive media outlets, angered by Fox New’s decades-long victory in the ratings wars, have mimicked Fox’s activist style. Fox constantly shows illegal immigrants committing atrocious acts and CNN constantly shows police officers shooting unarmed black men and laments Trump’s twitter vomit. Neither of these outlets provide a representative picture of reality; they prefer sensationalism. CNN and MSNBC often broadcast commentators that fan the flames of conflict with divisive identity politics. FOX then follows suit with their own version of collectivist warfare, which is no less polarizing. Anecdotal examples that support the outlets’ respective narratives go a long way in distorting Americans’ perception of these incidents.
These anecdotal catastrophes capitalize on emotion and drown out the sterile reality of statistical facts. These facts go a long way towards restoring hope in the power of human ingenuity and the validity of Dr. King’s philosophy. In 1960, the black poverty rate was 55 percent; it had dropped to 27.6 percent by 2011 and continues to drop. Life expectancy for whites was 50.6 years in 1900; it was 33 years for blacks. By 2015, the life expectancy for a white American was 78.6 years and it was only 3 years less for a black American.
Hate crimes against minorities have fallen precipitously since the 1990s; this drop occurred despite a growing population and an increasing proportion of the population being composed of minorities. In 1996, there were approximately 3,600 hate crimes commited against blacks, 1,000 against Jews and whites (each not combined), 400 against Asians and less than 50 against Muslims. In 2015, there were 1,750 hate crimes against blacks, about 750 against Jews and whites (for some reason, these seem to move together), less than 50 against Asians and about 250 against Muslims. While there has been a slight uptick in hate crimes against Muslims over the last twenty years, they are still much less targeted than other groups, despite progressives’ insistence that Muslims are in greater imminent danger than other minorities.
Women’s status in America has also improved tremendously. Women make up just shy of half of the American labor force and there are more women in college than men. According to victimization surveys, which combat under-reporting to police, rape and sexual assault have decreased 75 percent since the early 1990s (from 800 victims per 100,000 women per year to 200). Violence against wives and girlfriends has decreased at the same rate (From 1,600 victims per 100,000 women per year to 400).
The moral panic regarding ‘rape culture’ on American campuses is reminiscent of the hysteria during the 1980s and 1990s when wild tales of Satanic ritual child abuse put innocent school staff behind bars. This was most famously played out in the infamous McMartin trial, which was one of the most expensive trials in the country’s history. During the court proceedings, the media whipped the entire country into a moral panic and it did so without a shred of evidence. Even though all accused parties were cleared of all charges, their lives were destroyed after being imprisoned for years.
KC Johnson, a Brooklyn College Professor of history and Stuart Taylor, Jr., a legal and policy journalist, wrote The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process At America’s Universities (2016), which captivatingly, and disturbingly, chronicles the rise of this hysterical witch hunt. Like other media-driven distortions of reality, zealous activists (in this case, feminists supported by the Obama administration’s Office of Civil Rights) propagated false data, broadened the definition of rape (to include unwanted touching, forced kissing and allowed retrospective charges to be filed whenever a woman felt uncomfortable the morning after, even if she’d previously given consent) and executed false charges in an effort to further their cause.
Most universities prevented the accused the right to an attorney, didn’t allow cross-examination of the accuser and placed the burden of proof on the accused and not on the accuser. Many falsely accused men were exonerated by police but were still expelled by their universities; some committed suicide after. Here’s the bottom line: if a woman is raped, the police should be alerted immediately so that a rape kit can be properly administered and the perpetrator can be found as quickly as possible and can be prosecuted as aggressively as possible. These are not crimes that can be easily proven long after the fact without material evidence. College disciplinary tribunals are set up to adjudicate accusations of plagiarism, not felonies. Despite the due process-phobic feminists, young women on college campuses are less likely to be raped than those off college campuses. The reality is that America has never been a safer place for women.
The graphs and statistics outlined above highlight a common truth that is too often snuffed out by the mainstream media’s fetish for pessimism: people are drastically less racist, less homophobic and less sexist than they were when Ronald Reagan was president (and titanically less than when Dr. King was assassinated). Leftist social justice warriors will undoubtedly look at this graph and cry “Trump wasn’t in the picture yet! Things have gotten much worse since 2016!” Such perceptions are not driven by data, they’re driven by anecdotally-stoked hysteria. The current division that we see isn’t rooted in bigoted ideologies, it’s driven by tribalism, a profit-hungry media and a stark disagreement of what our fundamental values should be as a nation. President Obama himself rightly pointed out that Trump is a symptom, not a cause. Obama shrewdly remarked that Trump was simply “capitalizing on resentments that politicians had been stoking for years to get ahead.” In 2004, Obama addressed the Democratic National convention and declared, “There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.” Sadly, the actions of left indicate that they feel differently.
America has forgotten the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement. The world has gotten better, but social justice activists don’t know how to exist in a world that isn’t exploding. They prefer the divisiveness of identity politics to the noble focus on individual character. America has forgotten to remember. The nation obviously has much more work to do, but a thorough examination of the philosophy that brought us to this point needs to be conducted within America’s collective consciousness. We can forge ahead without forgetting how far we have come and why.
- Pinker, Stephen. (2018). “Enlightenment Now.” Viking Publishing.
- Mullainathan, Sendhil. (2015). “Police Killings of Blacks: Here is What the Data Say.” The New York Times.
- Deaton, A. (2013). “The Great Escape: Health, wealth, and the origins of inequality.” Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
- Cunningham et al. (2017). “Vital Signs: Racial Disparities in Age-Specific Mortality Among Blacks or African Americans – Unites States, 1999-2015. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 66, 444-56.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2016b). “Hate Crime.” FBI Uniform Crime Reports. https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime.
- United States Department of Labor. (2016). “Women in the Labor Force.” https://www.dol.gov/wb/stats/facts_over_time.htm.
- United States Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2014). “National Crime Victimization Survey.” Victimization Analysis Tool. http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=nvat.
- Johnson, KC & Stuart Taylor, Jr. (2017). The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process At America’s Universities.” Encounter Books.
- United States Department of Justice. (2018). “Table 1: Crime in the United States by Volume and Rate per 100,000 Inhabitants, 1995-2014,” Federal Bureau of Investigation. https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s./2014/crime-in-the-u.s.-2014/tables/table-I.