Friday, September 21, 2018

A Theory of Racial Harmony

Racial bias--explicit, implicit, conscious, or unconscious--in U.S. universities and colleges is not a new subject.  Race relations have been a heated, controversial subject of research and discussion for decades.  Since the 1960s, recommendations for improving race relations have largely been unidirectional, favoring more and larger government programs to assist the advancement of non-Whites in the broader society and to compel non-Hispanic Whites to abide by stronger norms of diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice.  These political and social policies have accompanied the changing demographic composition of the United States, from an 88.7% Non-Hispanic White Majority in 1970, to 72.4% in 2010, with projections to 55.5% in 2030, and Non-Hispanic Whites becoming a minority in the early 2040s

Universities have been the vanguard in defining and trying to document racial bias in America, and leading the efforts to expand government involvement in higher education and society in general to reduce and eradicate it.  Only a handful of scholars have argued that government programs often exacerbate race relations.  These scholars have been widely criticized or dismissed by the vast majority of those favoring more government laws, regulations and programs.  (Take a look at the notes and bibliographies of the recent spate of books on identity politics and try to find references to Thomas Sowell, Walter E. Williams, William Hutt, and other authors documenting state repression of Blacks and other minorities.)

I encountered this reality as early as 1972.  I was a visiting scholar at Stanford in 1971-72 as a fellow in the inaugural year of the National Fellows Program, now in its 37th year, at the Hoover Institution.  Fresh off completing Race and Politics in Urban Malaya (Hoover Press, 1974), a revision of my doctoral dissertation based on a year’s research in multi-racial Malaysia (Malays, Chinese and Indians), I next drafted a short book entitled A Theory of Racial Harmony, based on that experience and researching 20 other multi-ethnic/racial countries, resulting in publication of Politics in Plural Societies:  A Theory of Democratic Instability.  The first two books are available as free download on my website,

I submitted the manuscript to Stanford University Press for review and possible publication.  Ordinarily academic presses send manuscripts to experts in the field for review and comments.  In my case, the then Executive Editor took matters into his own hand and returned the manuscript with a letter dated May 18, 1972, without review.

After a paragraph of positive comments on style and clarity of exposition, he turned to the substance of the book.  Here he proffered a litany of charges against my racial harmony hypothesis that governments often exacerbate, rather than ameliorate, race relations and that racial harmony is better in conditions of free markets and limited government: “the carriage breaking down; the exposition begins to muddy up; the persuasiveness of the argument fades markedly; tough propositions are dealt with too quickly,” and several others.

But his foremost charge was that my “thesis begins to look like an argument for keeping them [he presumes we all know who “them” are] down on the farm,” and that my empirical examples were “anomalies and anachronisms.”  “You’re writing economics, but you’re also writing about highly visible problems we all worry about, and I’m afraid we remain confidently unconvinced.”

The manuscript, he stated, needed more real-world analysis, but that would, he guessed, result in my thesis coming unglued.  But this was his assertion, not that of experts in the field.

I subsequently found a publisher willing to proceed with my book, the University of South Carolina Press on behalf of the Institute of International Studies at the University of South Carolina.  Read it free online and judge for yourself.

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