The two sides between responsibility and conspiracy are never directly explained in the news. Usually critics point to deficiencies in non-white communities’ “systematic” abuse or inequality. This produces a moral outrage among many and for many more its truthfulness is taken as an article of faith. But this ignores the role that individual behavior has for these problems.
The role of responsibility is most clearly seen in three factors. First, the riots that bring down communities have specific consequences for the neighborhoods in which they happen. Politicians complain that neglect and systematic inequality are responsible for Las Vegas’s historic Westside neighborhoods’ dilapidated condition in 2019. These arguments ignore the fact that the neighborhood was burned down during the Rodney King riots in 1992.
This was especially tragic as some of the targets of arsonists were the valley’s first strip mall that promised to bring economic prosperity. And that region had just barely started to recover from the race riots of 1969 and 1970. In short, burning down your neighborhood once every generation doesn’t inspire businesses to relocate there.
Next, businesses in these neighborhoods have to contend with a small but disruptive criminal element in their neighborhoods. They have to pay more money for security measures like guards, or for lost products, and this in turn causes prices to increase. What’s called economy of scale helps lower the supply cost of big retailers like Walmart and it increases the cost for small businesses. It’s not a cosmic conspiracy against people of certain colors, but the result of individual decisions and basic economics that leads to an increase in cost.
This is most clearly seen in the rates of income. This figure is often sighted as proof of systematic inequality as black households on average have far less wealth than white households and make far less money than whites. But when you adjust for certain variables, such as education and marital status, the difference drops to a statistical tie. So instead of blaming a conspiracy, again, we should look at choices or cultural patterns, and a variety of factors that make certain people wealthy and other groups far more likely to drop out of high school and have kids out of wedlock.
Above all, we should consider how individual choices matter in a person’s life. Burning down your neighborhood, dropping out of high school, or having children much too early in life have far greater effects on your success in life than the color of your skin. But it is much harder to look in the mirror and consider how your failure is the result of personal choices. It is much easier, comforting, and lucrative for those in the race-activism market to blame systematic racism.