Thinking About Persistent Racial Inequality in the United States
Let me be as provocative as I can. I want to talk about the power of narratives to shape racial politics in this country. As we all know George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis by police officer Derek Chauvin, who has been duly convicted of murder by a jury of his peers. The cop was white and his victim black. But I have a question: Was it a racial incident?
What would we mean if we said this was a racial incident, beyond the trivial statement that one participant was white and the other black? Well, we might mean that we think we know Chauvin’s motive when putting his knee on Floyd’s neck—that he acted out of racial animus. Alternatively, it could be that people identify with the incident and ascribe significance to it due to the race of the participants, quite apart from any discriminatory intent of the people acting in that situation.
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Glenn C. Loury is the Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences and Professor of Economics at Brown University and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He currently hosts a podcast called “The Glenn Show” on bloggingheads.tv.
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