Today’s racial strife gives rise to truly bad ideas, and if stupidity were an Olympic sport, Americans would take home all the medals. But, among these foolish ideas, some are notable for their allure as “reasonable” and even “obvious.” Unlike, say, abolishing the police, an idea easily rejected by even the reality-challenged, these proposals attract support from normally sensible people. They are nice tasting poison, so to speak, and thus dangerous. As a public service, let me highlight five of the worst seductive falsehoods.

The first is what might be called “the Nixon principle” as a solution to black misbehavior. The term comes from President Richard Nixon’s historic 1972 trip to Communist China, an initiative, it was said, that could only have been undertaken by a president of impeccable anti-communist credentials. Bona fides in place, Nixon was free to pursue what had been unthinkable to Cold War hardliners: diplomatic relations with Communist China.

The racial parallel would be appointing a black who, because he was black, could be tough on black criminals. Nobody could accuse a black police chief of racism if he targeted black hoodlums, maybe even with a little extra vigor. Likewise for cops on the beat — surely, black police officers would not be guilty of using excessive force or racial profiling, and with enough black cops, black crime would decline. At a minimum, a more diverse police force would reduce the chance of rioting if an arrest goes wrong. Appointing blacks would be anti-riot insurance.

This idea has enjoyed wide support among blacks who want government jobs, and the “Nixon principle” can be extended: black assistant principals to quell gang violence in schools, black social workers to settle family fights, and black DAs to jail predators let loose by white liberals who fear the racist label.

The idea that blacks can best crack the whip over their own people during periods of rampant crime no doubt helped explains white support for black mayors such as a Chicago’s Harold Washington and New York’s David Dinkins. Black mayors, it was assumed, understood that blocks were most likely to be the victims of black crime, and that crime destroys black businesses. What could go wrong?

Blacks are supposed to have special knowledge that can help manage black problems. A black police chief faced with an epidemic of muggings would be a “brother” with the right accent, body language, familiarity with street argot, and of other “black” traits that would help bring peace. Black teachers and medical workers often claim a special ability to deal with fellow blacks: “cultural competence.” A black principal must surely know how to close racial achievement gaps.

This approach has great allure for whites. Hiring blacks to solve racial problems became a miracle cure, and it was also great virtue signaling for liberals. But, of course, it doesn’t work. Black teachers and principals make no difference, and black police chiefs can’t stop crime: U. Renee Hall in Dallas, Carmen Best in Seattle, La’Ron D. Singletary of Rochester, N.Y. all failed and recently resigned. The last two Chicago police chiefs and the last three in Baltimore have been black – and have seen crime rise. Nothing daunted, Louisville, KY just appointed a black woman chief, Yvette Gentry.

Another nostrum is thinking credentials reflect genuine education. Blacks are behind in school, and since education is correlated with all sorts of good outcomes, better schooling is the obvious path to progress. Education is the Mother of All Root Causes, and how can anyone object to “investing in children”?

Again, early efforts failed to move the needle and this nostrum almost imperceptibly turned into manufacturing diplomas. A piece of paper became learning, which meant fraud on an industrial scale. That blacks embraced the idea that a diploma meant real learning made the fraud politically popular. America’s racial problems could be solved cosmetically. Social promotions made everybody happy and outsiders never saw the watered-down textbooks or exam papers. This kind of fakery became necessary for elected officials who claimed to have boosted graduation rates.

At universities, the path to progress meant giving good grades as gifts and ignoring cheating (particularly plagiarism). Administrators established entire fields of ethnic studies staffed by instructors whose unstated purpose was to push unqualified blacks through to graduation. A lot of student papers were written during workshops and “tutoring” sessions.

No one seemed worried by this; unlike currencies, there is no listing for a degree’s value. I remember a school of education that boasted of awarding doctorates to eight black women (called “The Magnificent Eight”) in a single year. The secret? “Being flexible,” which means overlooking deficiencies. It was taboo to suggest that these “Magnificent Eight” would mis-educated countless students.

A fourth form of folly is the policy of ostensibly limiting the damage of affirmative action by assigning diversity hires to positions that require little technical skill, especially in jobs that don’t require a professional exam. At least bridges would not collapse, nor airplanes fall from the sky. All that was needed was a college degree in any major from any school plus a little on-the-job training.

This “safe” strategy can be disastrous. A common example is putting blacks in charge of the HR department, a policy that is also supposed to insulate firms from accusations of racial discrimination. At universities, blacks are hired to teach in the least mathematical, least intellectually demanding fields as if something that “almost anybody can do” is of minimal consequence for society. Why waste time in a futile search for a black mathematician?

The consequences can be awful. It’s hard to imagine a better way to transform capitalism into a crusade for racial justice than turning hiring and firing over to blacks unable to do other jobs. And a brilliant professor of physics may win a Nobel Prize for explaining black holes, but the diversity hire in the Psychology Department may shape the thinking of thousands of graduates, including physics majors required to take “soft” courses to satisfy distribution requirements. Did you ever wonder why young research scientists have suddenly become “woke”? Chances are, these otherwise hard-head folk learned about structural racism from an Anthropology instructor who is baffled by long division.

Finally, there’s the assumption that the cure for the black underclass is to shower benefits on the black middle class, as if affirmative action hires could persuade ghetto brothers to behave. No one ever explained how that was supposed to work but, if anything, the opposite seems to have happened. When underclass blacks loot and riot, firms such as Microsoft and Boeing promise to hire thousands more blacks, mostly for middle-class jobs. The more the ghetto brothers misbehave, the better it is for the black middle class.

Lavishing benefits on middle-class blacks satisfies the urge to “do something.” It’s like the story of the drunk crawling around a light post. When a policeman asks what he’s doing, he replies, “Looking for my car keys.” When the officer asks where he lost them, the drunk points into the darkness. Why look here, then? There’s more light here. It takes less effort to hire middle-class blacks than try to turn low-IQ troublesome youngsters from the hood into capable workers. By the same token, it’s easier to make sub-prime loans to unqualified black home buyers and absorb the cost of the default than to reform borrowers’ bad habits. It’s hard to resist the urge to “do something,” no matter how futile. What if whenever blacks rioted, Microsoft instead fired a few black managers as a warning? No one would want to defund the police.

The persistence of alluring but futile efforts in the face of repeated failure is normal. Self-delusion is human nature. For millennia, quacks prospered dispensing cures that were worse than the disease. Current Doctors of Racial Quackery also live well — just ask those hired by the HR department to give diversity training to whites. Future historians will treat today’s “cures” as we now view physicians who consulted astrology charts to treat gonorrhea.

Things could get worse; some of today’s black radicals think Communism is the answer. What happens if we finally admit that our race-related misfortunes are intractable? Do we impose a garrison state with police on every street corner while the underclass live in Indian reservation-style compounds? Is some form of once unthinkable racial disengagement the only solution? Our current bad solutions will founder on the hard rock of reality. What comes next?
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