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Interview

Real vs. Perceived Barriers to Success for People of Color

Coleman Hughes Fellow, Manhattan Institute; Contributing Editor, City Journal
Jamil Jivani Author, "Why Young Men"
Tue, Sep 8, 2020 EVENTCAST

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Real vs. Perceived Barriers to Success for People of Color

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Interview

Real vs. Perceived Barriers to Success for People of Color

Coleman Hughes Fellow, Manhattan Institute; Contributing Editor, City Journal
Jamil Jivani Author, "Why Young Men"
EVENTCAST 11:00am—11:45am
Tuesday September 8
Tuesday September 8 2020
PAST EVENT Tuesday September 8 2020

The role of structural, “systemic” discrimination is at the heart of our ongoing national debate. Some argue that public institutions, such as the police, and private businesses are the culprits for the persistence of racial disparities in America. In this telling, individual discriminatory actions function alongside deep-rooted institutional prejudices to perpetuate injustice. But is this narrative actually complete, or does it leave out cultural factors, educational obstacles, and personal choices that are essential to providing a fuller picture?

On September 8, 2020, Manhattan Institute fellow Coleman Hughes and Jamil Jivani, the author of Why Young Men, held an important conversation about these issues. Hughes and Jivani will discuss the barriers to success that people of color face in life and in the workplace—asking which ones are simply imagined, and which ones are real.

Event Transcript

Coleman Hughes:

Good morning and welcome to our virtual event, Real vs. Perceived Barriers to Success for People of Color. I'm Coleman Hughes, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and I'm very excited today to talk with Jamil Jivani, the author of Why Young Men.

Jamil Jivani:

Thanks, Coleman. Welcome.

Coleman Hughes:

Thanks Jamil. So our theme today is the barriers facing people of color personally and professionally, and how we might track with, or how that might track with/or depart from the dominant narratives. So this is a pretty general topic, and I think we'll have an opportunity to talk about your personal experiences and perhaps some of mine and some of the broader policy implications of those experiences. And you've been thinking about this issue deeply for a while. So I think you can draw upon your life in this conversation. And before we talk about any kind of wider public policy implications for barriers facing people of color, I want to start with your life, if that's okay.

Jamil Jivani:

Yeah. Sounds good.

Coleman Hughes:

So you are now a successful book writer and writer in general, so it will probably come as a surprise to people that you were declared illiterate in high school. Can you talk about why you were declared illiterate and how you, starting from there ended up as someone who is making a living off of the written word?

Jamil Jivani:

So I grew up in Toronto, home of great and the reigning NBA championship Raptors. We do a test when we're in grade 10 for all students who go to school in Toronto called the literacy test, and it's supposed to measure how well we've learned how to read and write up till that point. So by the time you're in grade 10, it's like you're a couple of years away from graduating. If you can't read and write by that point, I think you're in serious trouble when it comes to what you might do next after high school. And I failed that test. I was declared illiterate because I couldn't demonstrate reading and writing ability at grade level. And for a person who didn't cares so much about school at the time, I didn't see it as that big of a deal, but I do think it has a fairly devastating effect on a young person to be told that you are so far below where you're supposed to be in your development, and easy then to believe that maybe you're, as I did at the time, that you're stupid or incapable, or going to be unable to find success in sort of traditional pathways when it comes to education and career.

Jamil Jivani:

So it was a very big moment for me. And I think getting to the crux of our conversation today, it was an example of where real and perceived barriers were both affecting my life. So the real barriers that I was facing is that I was from an unstable household. I was going to a school that was unprepared to help young people like me. You know the real family and community challenges that we faced. And I didn't have teachers who connected with me. I didn't have very many relationships, and certainly no positive relationships with anyone at my school, teachers and guidance counselors included. So when you have a kid who's disconnected from the school you wind up, I think having a pretty good chance that you might have someone who has high potential, but no one knows that that person is capable of much of anything academically.

Jamil Jivani:

Then the perceived barriers I had was, I had an attitude of, I'm not getting support from the school. People here aren't like me. They don't know what I go through. They don't know what I experience every day. So we're never going to be on the same page. I can't be helped here. The deck is stacked against me. People like me aren't meant to be successful. And that was my perception. So when you combine the real barriers I was facing in my school with the perceived barriers, you wind up with a kid who at 22 would then go on to Yale Law School, but at 16 people thought he couldn't read and write. And that is the sort of buried potential [inaudible 00:04:46] a lot of people of color in America today, which is that there is tremendous potential and ability that is just underneath layers of rubble. And some of those layers are real things that our societies are creating for young people. And some of them are perceived and I think would overcome with our own power and our own wealth.

Coleman Hughes:

That's an amazing answer. Let's dig in a little bit more to the real barriers that you faced as a result of, as you say, being disconnected and coming from what you call the chaotic sort of home environment. And this will connect to a wider conversation about the importance of role models in people's lives. Can you talk a little bit about the connection between the home you came from and your feelings of disconnection?

Jamil Jivani:

Yeah, so I mean, the first thing that I always say, and we identify in many different ways in the world today. But if I were to pick an identity that I grew up with, that was the most important to how I experienced life, it would be the identity of a fatherless son. I grew up without a dad. And I think the literature, and I'm sure many people who are listening to our conversation know this well, the literature shows has devastating effects on young people especially with boys and leads to a lot of behavioral issues. And also a lot of maladjustment when it comes to being able to adapt and fall in line with society in terms of taking direction from authority figures and being able to be helped by people who might want to help you.

Jamil Jivani:

It makes it harder I think to receive that help when you grow up, not having authority figures who build a relationship with you at home and show you what it looks like to be part of a community, to be part of an organization, to be part of a hierarchy when it comes to being a young person who needs direction and leadership from someone who is older. So that was a really big part of the chaos that I experienced because when you don't have a dad and you have a single mother, and you've got, in my case, two other siblings, it's a lot of chaos. But it's especially chaotic when that's not just a one off in your neighborhood. When you are not the only person who doesn't have a dad or the only person who has a single mother, who's hustling and working really hard to get by, but all your neighbors and your friends and your peer group are going through the same thing.

Jamil Jivani:

Now, in my particular neighborhood, that was a reality for a lot of the black boys that I grew up with. I did not live in a majority black community. Most of my community were immigrants, but many of whom were from India and they had a very different kind of family structure and community around them. So we grew up noticing some pretty significant differences between the kids who had dads and communities and family and tradition around them versus those who do not. And when you look at other cities, I know we have a contingent of people from Ohio who are watching this conversation right now, you look at a place like Cincinnati, where you got a 40% child poverty rate. And a lot of that child poverty is coming from a fatherless household, single parent households, where the income is just low as the reality of being a single parent. In many cases, regardless of how hard you work, one person can only earn so much money.

Jamil Jivani:

And you see that a lot of those social problems stacking up on top of each other, where you wind up with a lot of boys who are lost, a lot of boys who are looking for opportunity, who are tempted by the allure of some quick money, that illegal activity might be able to offer. Who are tempted by the misguided mentorship that older men in your neighborhood can offer you when it comes to criminal networks and you just wind up lost and astray. And in some cases, very hard for people to pull you back from that. So that is the kind of chaos that I'm talking about. And some of it is individualized at household level, but a lot of it is also neighborhood based as well. Yeah.

Coleman Hughes:

Yeah. With regard to role models, my father is also from Cincinnati and I think there is... I wouldn't be the first to say that there is a big difference between the extent of the fatherless home problem in 1950 or in the 1960s when my dad was born and today. It seems it's just gotten worse in every American racial community by the numbers. And probably around the time you were born is when it sort of hit its peak. But yeah, this [inaudible 00:09:49] problem of role models. My mother, for example, grew up in the South Bronx in the sixties and seventies and was naturally very smart kid. But didn't apply to college just because she didn't know anyone who had ever applied to college. I think people that have strong social networks where they just know people in their immediate family and extended family and wider social network that are successful, sometimes take for granted how having those pieces around you influenced your sense of what you knew was possible for you. C

Coleman Hughes:

Because it's one thing to understand that a person of your race or of your general background can make it in a particular career path. But it's another thing to actually have an example close at hand of someone who you know is very similar to yourself because they're your cousin, or they grew up on your block and to see, oh, he's going to college and I can... That makes it seem much more realistic for you. So can you talk a little bit about how either the lack of role models or presence of role models has shown up in your life?

Jamil Jivani:

Yeah. Well, that's a great example with your father, because certainly a lot of these issues have been exacerbated over the last few decades for a number of reasons which perhaps we can get into. But to be more specific to the matter of role models, I think that there are different kinds of role models that can play a role in a young person's life. So I had very close role models, people who... When I got out of high school, by the grace of God, I did night school and day school in order to graduate, but I couldn't get into any post-secondary program and wound up getting into what we call a Virgin program, where you go to community college. And if you do well, then you might qualify for other programs later on. So when I got into a program like that, I had role models who became very close to me, who saw me and saw someone with potential who needed help.

Jamil Jivani:

And they grabbed onto me and they held onto me and they wouldn't let me go. They encouraged me and they pushed me and they paid attention to me. And they were there for me on the day to day and the week to week, as I needed to learn to believe, I needed to learn that believing in myself was something that mattered to my success. And so I needed those kinds of role models who will be very close to me and could provide that voice of confidence in the moments where I wasn't able to provide that voice myself. Right? So that was one type of role model I needed. And I was very fortunate to find some of those at community colleges, and then later on in universities. And I would say those are the first set of adults that ever built a positive relationship with me in my life, aside from my mother.

Jamil Jivani:

And those relationships were very important, but then you also have, I think, Coleman what you're describing too, which is the more distant role models, right? People who you may not know personally, but by paying attention to them, hearing their story, seeing how they progress in their life, it starts to shape how you might think about yourself. And that might be for example, a guy from your neighborhood who wants of getting a scholarship to go to school. It could also be, in my case, a professor who you might meet randomly at a conference who says, "Oh, you're a smart kid. Maybe you should apply to Yale for Law School one day." And that winds up being the difference maker and whether you go to Yale for Law School or not. Right. And those are the models that by living a life of strong example and then believing in you, even in those small moments where you might be passing in the hallway at a conference, it matters to you, right?

Jamil Jivani:

And those are the role models that I also think when you lack the personal connections of people as a young person, and this can be as dramatic as what I was describing at high school, but it could also be something as somebody who might see as less flashy, but equally important. Like you just get hired at a firm to do an internship of some kind, and you don't know anyone there and you don't know who to go to for career advice. Those are the sorts of [inaudible 00:14:06] relationships that when we don't have them, we want to placing greater importance on the distant role models. And there's this [inaudible 00:14:13] models can be very positive, but then they can also be people who we watch on TV or people who we follow on Instagram. And those are not always the most helpful examples for us to follow, right. So I think the mix of the distant role models and the close role models are the right combination of supports that a lot of young people need in order to climb their way up in whatever environment they find themselves in.

Coleman Hughes:

So let's talk a little bit about what the public policy implications of some of the observations you're making are if there are any. So let's talk about public education, charter schools, just the wider set of hopes people have for education reform. Do you see more or less promising avenues among the ideas that people put forth for education reform either on the local level, K through 12 or charter schools?

Jamil Jivani:

Yeah, so I think there are the overarching implications to what I'm saying, I think, causes us to put public policy in what I hope is an appropriate context. So what I mean by that is that we understand there's a lot that can be accomplished through the power of everyday people and everyday communities and everyday relationships. And so we definitely need to be aware of that and not see public policy as the only lever that we can pull on. And I think a lot of the narrative right now around race relations, around opportunity for people of color, around opportunity, for people who have... For multiple generations experienced inequality in American society, I would argue that a lot of it is overly focused on public policy and presenting public policy is the only way that a community can change its fate, which I don't believe is the case. But that doesn't mean public policies around [inaudible 00:16:24].

Jamil Jivani:

And the example Coleman you're giving of charter schools, I think is an example of where we can look at the institutions that we rely on to build the capacity of young people to find success in modern society. And we say, "Can those institutions be changed? Can they become, for example, a place where we put more role models, right? Where a young kid looking for a father figure, or a young kid looking for an example of someone from his or her circumstances who can go on and be successful in academia? Can we actually put those sorts of people in a school?" And what charter schools I think offer is the possibility of adapting public education institutions to the local needs of children. If you're growing up in Cincinnati, for example, and you've got a 40% child poverty rate and a whole bunch of challenges that might not be present in a small town or in a suburban school, I think you want a school system that can adapt to those particularities.

Jamil Jivani:

And what we have in the absence of charter schools is mostly a one size fits all approach to education, where we rely on a community organizations to provide the adaptable, cultural, specific needs that children require to be successful. So charters, I think hold a great deal of promise, but I also would, of course emphasize that in the absence of charters of school, a child is not sentenced to failure. I mean, there's an organization in Cincinnati, for example, called Bonds of Union that works with public schools in providing role models and providing innovations in the classroom that teachers can be trained in that make them more effective in working with children who might be multiple grade levels behind, or might not have the support at home in order to be successful the way a typical student might have. And so there are things that can be added to the existing public schools. And sometimes I think the charter school movement in its enthusiasm might make a lot of people believe that the public schools are a den of despair, and there's no opportunity there, which I think is not the case.

Coleman Hughes:

I want to underscore something that you said, which it goes counter to a lot of people's instincts. It's something I very much agree with, which is that people have extremely high hopes and expectations for, especially national public policies. We were all sort of watching the news probably more than we should. We're all on social media a bit more than we should be. And especially in the past year, so much of the news is national and character. It's very easy to store all your hopes for reform in who the next president is and who the next administration is. And implicitly, you might have... It's easy to fall into a worldview that ascribes far too much importance to national policies, as opposed to what you can do with a voluntary organization, like a church or other community organization in your neighborhood, with people face to face. I think in general, people I encounter tend to be a little bit too optimistic about what can be done from Washington DC and not optimistic enough about what can be done in a two mile radius of where you live.

Jamil Jivani:

Absolutely. That was one of the biggest things I learned from going to law school and being a student at a more fancy university was that a lot of people really believe that the reason why the world isn't better is because we just don't have the right individuals in the right positions of power. So you come into an Ivy League Law School, and people talk to you as if one day you're going to be a judge or a senator or you're going to run a city or something. And by virtue of you with the right education and the right and the right moral compass, you will then come into these roles and the role will be a completely different place. And I think it's a thing in a lot of people in powerful positions really do believe is that they themselves are the difference maker. But I believe that, a lot of what is required to achieve substantive change is putting more power in the hands of everyday people and reminding them of what they're capable of and what they can achieve.

Jamil Jivani:

And so there is a competing philosophy, I think, between what a lot of people in positions of institutional power in American society believe to be true versus what I think is actually needed for everyday people to feel empowered, to overcome whatever their circumstances are.

Coleman Hughes:

So we're talking about real versus perceived barriers for people of color and an observer couldn't help, but notice that neither of us has mentioned racism or systemic racism or white supremacy or racial bias or any of the cluster of concerns that are often talked about as the foremost barrier. And for my part, I would never deny that racism exists, but I'm curious where you locate racism among the hierarchy of barriers facing upwardly, striving people of color, either based on personal experience or research.

Jamil Jivani:

Yeah, that's a great question. So if we take the example of the... We've been talking about education and social mobility, right? So the reason why some children are born in a scenario where social mobility is far more difficult to achieve, because the schools aren't strong enough, opportunity might not exist in their neighborhood, housing might be very poor in their neighborhood. They might not have access to adequate healthcare. A lot of people would look at that and say, "It's more likely for black children or black youth to be in a position to experience those hurdles, because social mobility that is evidence of racism." Could be evidence of past racism and how policies were shaped, segregation. It could be evidence of racism today in terms of how resources are distributed.

Jamil Jivani:

I think that there's legitimate conversations to have about whether racism is influencing the way opportunity is distributed in American society, both historically, and also in the present. I think that's absolutely an important conversation to have. But I would also say though, if you spend time with people who are experiencing the challenges that we're describing, you also have to develop a way of talking about these problems that acknowledges their own power and their own strengths and their own abilities. If you go to a bunch of children who are in an unequal school system, and the only message you have for them is that there's a racist somewhere half an hour from here, who's making policies that aren't helping your family and that is the reason why your life is the way it is. What then do you say to that young person to do next? Are they supposed to give up? Are they supposed to internalize defeat?

Jamil Jivani:

Are they supposed to say, "well, I guess there's no way for me to be successful. Why bother learning, how to do math, or why bother learning how to be an effective reader and writer?" I don't want that to happen. So I wrestle every day and I think anyone who's genuinely trying to solve these problems wrestles every day with how do we talk about these things in a way that appropriately acknowledges that there are systemic issues, but also acknowledges that we as individual people and as families and communities have the ability to overcome things. And we should not give up on the kids who are in the school system today, because we hope it could be better 10 years from now. That's a thing that I wrestle with. So when we talk about hierarchies, I don't know how to put one thing above the other, right. You look at, let's say in a more private sector context, right?

Jamil Jivani:

You're a young person, you finished college, or you finished university, you're now entering a company. You've done internship. And you look around and say, "Well, no one who looks like me is a senior manager here, no one who looks like me is a partner at this firm, or no one looks like me is sticking around more than a few years before they wound up moving somewhere else." And you could wonder, well, is that because there is racial discrimination, racial prejudice at this company. And I don't know how you'd necessarily prove that, but we do have evidence that, for example, when we look at who do senior people mentor in companies? Harvard Business Review reports about 70, 71% of senior mentors, mentor people who look like them. Meaning people who are the same age and the same race. Is that an example of systemic bias at play? Very likely in some cases it is. But then do we say to that young person, "You should not seek out mentorship. You should not try to make your way in that company." Because at some point we have to learn how to work together.

Jamil Jivani:

And I don't think we get there by saying that racism is the only way to explain why you might be successful, unsuccessful. We have to open the conversation up. So people actually can see where their own agency might make a difference in how their life turns out.

Coleman Hughes:

Okay. So let's go to questions from the audience now, and we have a few queued up. Okay. So here's one, for those who, get out, in quotation marks, of the low income neighborhoods and become successful, is it because they had an extraordinary opportunity, like a charter school plus parental involvement, or does it really boil down to individual's drive and ambition?

Jamil Jivani:

Well, I think that all of those things factoring. There are some people who I believe purely through hard work and will, are able to get themselves out of the circumstances that they're born into. There are other people who frankly by luck wound up meeting someone who takes an interest in them and helps facilitate their success and growth. And then what I think are the most important thing is there are institutions that we build that can help achieve that in the lives of more young people at a larger scale. And to the questioners point, charter schools, some of them aren't example of that, where there are charter schools in some of the most challenged neighborhoods across America that have tremendous success rates of giving people a chance to attend a college or university program. That is incredible.

Jamil Jivani:

And the challenge that I think we have is trying to figure out how do you learn something from the example of the individual success stories and scale that up? How do you build institutions that can offer those sorts of supports and opportunities to a larger number of people? I don't know if there's a magic sort of bullet in that in trying to solve that problem. That is obviously people who are sort of stretching their brains, trying to think about that on numerous issues on a regular basis, whether that's in government or academia or think tanks. But I do think that we have to acknowledge that a mix of those things are relevant to everyone's success. Even kids who wound up in middle school, sorry, middle class communities and middle class neighborhoods, some of them go on to achieve enormous things. And some of them may wind up with a lower quality of life than their parents had.

Jamil Jivani:

And that's a reality in American society today where the traditional path to social mobility is a lot less present for most people. So it's something that we're all trying to figure out, I suppose. And the best way I think at least if we could arrive at a conclusion to that sort of conversation is to try to build a society that can say with some integrity that what you're born into will not determine alone your outcomes. Right. And that, unfortunately, I don't think America can say that today. And that's, I think the goal that I work toward is trying to figure out how can we say that and believe it.

Coleman Hughes:

Okay. Another one I grew up hearing, you can be whatever you want to be with the expectation that I would do well in school and go to college. That was the expectation for everyone I knew. How does that differ in low income minority neighborhoods? What do parents tell their children?

Jamil Jivani:

Yeah. Well, a few things. So when we say things like, "You can be anything you want to be, or you can go on and attend college and university." I think it's important that we recognize that in a lot of neighborhoods across America, there are, let's say milestones that precede going to college, right? So in some places, a parent just wants their kid to be able to make it to a certain age without getting involved in the justice system or without getting involved in some of the negative influences that might exist in the neighborhood. And so your hopes for your kid are shaped by what you see as some of the immediate threats to your child's safety and security. In other neighborhoods it might just be, "I want my kid to learn how to be... To feel welcomed in this neighborhood or welcomed in the institutions that they participate in." Because there may be a family history of people dropping out of school or giving up, or not feeling like these are places where they belong.

Jamil Jivani:

And so simply attending school and graduating high school might be enough to feel like the family's moving forward, even if it's not reaching some of the, the pinnacles of education and career success that we often talk about. So I think we need to recognize that it is a matter of inequality from the beginning to grow up in an environment where college is something that feels like the main goal for a young person. In many ways, there are other things that are more pressing on the young person's minds and on parent's mind. So I think that's part of the messaging difference is that are we preparing young people to see themselves beyond the age of 18, or are we just getting them ready to get to 18 and not clear on what happens next? The other difference that I think is very relevant is people have been beaten down by our culture in many ways, right?

Jamil Jivani:

I mean, a lot of people... If you spend any time... Take this year as an example, right? You're a young person, you're a young black woman, a young black man, you're spending time like everybody else does on social media. And you're seeing over and over and over again, images of people look like you being shot, images of people who look like you have a knees on their necks, images of people who look like you having their businesses ruined in riots. The cultural weight that goes on top of people who are being socialized to see that this is a hostile place for you is very real. And it's very significant. And that's one of the reasons why I think even though obviously police brutality is a serious issue, obviously all these forms of inequality are serious issues, when we build a culture around those things, where as a young person, that's all you're seeing every day.

Jamil Jivani:

And you wind up with a very distorted view of the likelihood that you might be attacked by a police officer or a riot might happen in your neighborhood, it's hard. And that takes up so much of your emotional and your mental energy that you might not have the time to be talking about things that you should be talking about when it comes to education and careers. And that's why when you look at people who don't appreciate the effect that this has on real people, I find it very frustrating. When you're not dealing with those issues and those real fears and the emotional effects of our culture right now then you can go out and talk about these things all day, and it has no consequence because it's not your life. But when it is your life, it actually takes away from other things you might be needing to do for the betterment of your family.

Coleman Hughes:

All right. So another one here, what's the role of religion in solving the problem of missing fathers or lack of role models? Are there public policies that might support a larger role for religion in public life?

Jamil Jivani:

Well, I am a very committed Christian. So I have a biased view on this topic to some extent, which is that I do think that religion is very important and it's played an incredible role in my life in terms of giving me the strength and the community support to overcome various forms of adversity. I think that for a lot of people, the absence of religion gives away to an over reliance on culture and the way that culture changes so frequently to provide us with values and morals. That one of the strengths of religions, and I think this is true for all religions not just Christianity, is that there is ideally some form of timelessness to what is right and what is wrong and how you should live your life and how should measure your life. And that I think is something a lot of people need, especially when you're in a chaotic environment, like someone like myself was growing up, you do need traditions to rely on that can help you sort of get through the chaos.

Jamil Jivani:

Because life is changing so quickly and so rapidly that anything that has deeper roots feels like a life raft in a sea of confusion and uncertainty. So I do think religion is important. I also think that it's not a coincidence that as America has become a less religious country, we have seen more family breakdown and more fatherlessness. And that again goes across all races and is applicable to all economic backgrounds, but of course, more acute when it comes to low income families. So I do believe religion has an important role to play. When it comes to how does public policy help with that? I'm not really sure there's a good answer there to be honest. I believe that to some extent the American electorate is becoming less religious. And I think less interested in having religion, especially Christianity privileged in how public policy is being made.

Jamil Jivani:

And there are a lot of Christians who want to fight that, right? I mean, you're seeing that with a lot of the evangelical support for Trump right now, it's like, we want to fight that trend. We want to make sure that Christianity is still privileged in public policy. I don't know if that's the fight that's worth fighting, in my opinion, I think it gets back to our earlier point about what are the limits of public policy in the first place and how much should we actually expecting government to do for us? I don't know if government is supposed to solve their religiosity problem, as I see it, at least. I think that's something that we need to be able to do as families and communities. And if our culture changed, then perhaps public policy would be better positioned to help us with that.

Coleman Hughes:

Yeah. From my part, I didn't grow up Christian and I grew up in a pretty secular household, but I've definitely found that spirituality in general, as opposed to any particular religion is crucial in a person's life. For precisely the reason you highlighted, which is that having something timeless to anchor yourself to, some set of principles that isn't just the flavor of the month is enormously useful. Because if not, you just end up buffeted by your immediate surroundings. As creatures were extremely sensitive to what our friends are doing and what is just perceived as the thing to be doing in your immediate circle of five or 10 or 50 people. And if you want to live the kind of life... If you want to look back on your life and say, "Well, I wasn't just a leaf floating on the wave and being taken wherever I was being taken." Then you have to have some kind of principles that people have thought about for a long time and have been proven effective to guide you. So I agree on that level, if not on the specific religion.

Coleman Hughes:

Okay, so let's do this question from Amir. So Amir says, "I think the reason Critical Race Theory..." And we should define that for people, is winning and we could wonder faster. "The reason Critical Race Theory is winning is because its proponents are appealing to the emotional character. Whereas people like yourself, myself, Camille, John McWhorter, and Glen Lowery speak academically and diplomatically." Can you speak to this.

Jamil Jivani:

Well, Coleman, do you want to give a working definition of Critical Race Theory before we get into it?

Coleman Hughes:

Sure. Critical race theory is something that came from scholars and academics starting really in the seventies and eighties with Kimberly Crenshaw and a few other, and Derek Bell and a few other prominent black academics who wrote books and articles, essentially what the theory says is that racism is a subtle and invisible systemic system that is pervasive and persistent, and that we have to actively overturn systems. And white constructs such as, even things that are even viewed neutrally like reason, or typical standards of achievement and meritocracy are subtly racist and tilted against people of color, our society is created by and for white people in such a way that it has to be remade in order for black people really to succeed. That's the general flavor of Critical Race Theory.

Jamil Jivani:

Yeah. And I don't think it's a coincidence that Critical Race Theory was developed in large part by legal academics. And the reason why is because in law school and in legal academia, there's the assumption that you can create laws and public policies, in many cases, with the idea that there is a reasonable, objective individual who you can assume... Kind of a law and economics theory that has been embedded in a lot of legal academia, which is that you can assume people make rational decisions. You can assume they will react and behave in certain ways. And that is something applicable to all of us, regardless of your gender, your sexuality, your race, et cetera. What Critical Race Theory in the legal world has tried to do is to undermine the idea that any sort of law and policy could be made with the expectation of a reasonable person being affected.

Jamil Jivani:

That there is no longer objectivity or neutrality at all, as Coleman explained, and instead everything affects everyone differently based on their identity. And as the name Critical Race Theory would suggest that started many cases about black people in America, that laws and policies affect black people on mass differently than they affect white people. But through the pervasive intersectionality ideology has also been broadly applied to women, to people of various sexualities and gender identities, et cetera, et cetera. So it's become a snowballing thing in terms of getting us away from assumptions, that we are all the same in many ways, right? The idea that you could make policy assuming that children, regardless of their race need the same kinds of supports at the end of the day, or you can make laws assuming that a man and a woman should be treated the same in the civil or criminal systems at the end of the day.

Jamil Jivani:

And it's becoming, I don't know whether I would say it's a winning or not, because I think there are a lot of people pushing back against it. But I do think that this year it has grown significantly because we have, as the questioner pointed out, become so emotionally paralyzed in some ways around the race issue that anyone who's coming to us as if they are confident, they have a good idea, we're listening to them and taking them seriously. And I don't think we're appropriately saying like, "Wait a minute, your ideology was created as a critique of the status quo. Can your ideology go from a critique to the actual governing ideology of an institution?" And I think that's what's happening here. When I was in law school, I thought Critical Race Theory was interesting because I thought it was another perspective. Where it say, "Oh, that's another way to think about this law. I've never thought about it that way."

Jamil Jivani:

But you can't take that, in my opinion, from a critique, from an analysis of what is in place to then say, "We should build institutions around this." Because at the end of the day, it's a reactionary ideology. It's not something that helps us actually build a fair and just society in my view.

Coleman Hughes:

All right. So last question here. Will the Black Lives Matter movement actually help people of color attain social mobility? Their policy on deconstructing the nuclear family would seem to exacerbate the problem. Let's take the question to be not just about the nuclear family, but about Black Lives Matter and will it actually help people of color attain social mobility?

Jamil Jivani:

Well, I think that black lives matter has helped some people of color achieve social mobility, particularly those who benefit from the hundreds of millions of dollars that Black Lives matter raises. Where no black person I know has ever been consulted on what to do with that money or where it goes. I don't see any transparent reports. So somebody's getting kicked up off this Black Lives Matter moment, and they're doing well, whoever those people are, are doing well. For the rest of us, I don't think it really offers very much at all, to be honest. I think that there are probably some people who may be more sensitive to their own biases because of Black Lives Matter. For example, someone who's in a hiring committee, who otherwise may have not thought about why have I never hired a black person at my firm may now start to think, "Oh, I should be aware of this potential bias and maybe give an opportunity to a young black person coming out of college or university."

Jamil Jivani:

There could be examples like that. I don't want it to be dismissive of having any positive effect, but I think for the most part, the question should be why is this a movement? And why are so many people in the media and in politics, particularly Democrats, but not only Democrats, so overly focused on the police and on the policing issue as an example of where we're supposed to prove that Black Lives Matter? Because Black Lives Matter as an organization, including some of its very notable supporters like NBA players and coaches and owners, for example, they're not really talking about social mobility, they're not coming out and saying, "We should support Senator Tim Scott's opportunities zones as a way of bringing jobs back into our inner city America." They're not coming out and saying, "Hey, all these rich corporations that are using Black Lives Matter hashtags on social media, put some money up, let's actually create some jobs and some economic momentum in black neighborhoods."

Jamil Jivani:

Instead, they're focusing on the cops. And I would say that part of why, and I don't want to make too many assumptions about how people think. But part of why the cops are an easy target is because there's no rich person loses anything when you talk about the cops, right? No one has to give money up. In fact, they're actually trying to defund the police. So they're asking for less money to go into the public coffers. No one has to pay, put money or resources. No one has to make it easier for a poor kid to compete with a rich kid for a spot at a university, no one loses anything. The only people that lose anything are black people and other minority communities who disproportionately need good policing in order for their kids to have a fair opportunity.

Jamil Jivani:

And now those kids are stuck in a neighborhood with more crime because police aren't doing the job they should be doing for a number of reasons. And in part that's because of Black Lives Matter. So I'm not a supporter of the movement. [inaudible 00:45:45] having in many ways, a negative effect on reality today and on our politics.

Coleman Hughes:

All right, on that note Jamil Jivani, it's been a pleasure as it always is. I think we're nearing the end of our time for today. So thank you very much for joining me and for this excellent discussion of these timely issues. And to our audience, thank you for everyone watching, for your time and for your thoughtful questions. If you'd like to hear about more conversations like this one, or are interested in supporting the MI mission, I'd encourage you to subscribe to the Manhattan Institute's newsletters or consider making a donation. There are links for doing so in the comments window, on your screen. Thank you.

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