[NOTE: This will be a linkless piece. Either you’ve been keeping up with the news, in particular the developments in left-wing agitprop, or you haven’t. The former group will know what I’m talking about and therefore will need no links. The latter might as well play Solitaire. — FWP]
Among the highest contributions of the late Sir Karl Popper was his work on falsifiability as a criterion of quality in a proposition about cause and effect – i.e., about “how things work,” the meat and potatoes of science. In brief, to be taken seriously as a potential explanation for some phenomenon, a hypothesis must be objectively testable, with at least some of the possible outcomes of the test proving it false. The hypothesis must be formed so that a test – a prediction of an objectively observable outcome – is possible. If the prediction fails, the hypothesis has been falsified. If a hypothesis is stated in such a way that it cannot be falsified, Popper argued, neither can it be verified. It’s valueless as a statement of causality.
“Thinkers” with theories that by design cannot be falsified were made furious by this. It blasted their pet theories out of the realm of science and into the domain of faith. They argued against Popper’s contention, often by claiming that truly objective tests of a worthwhile hypothesis are impossible. Nevertheless, Popper’s falsifiability criterion is regarded today as the cornerstone of all legitimate investigation.
Yet even today there are persons advancing theories that are unfalsifiable by design. The one that’s received the most popular attention lately is “systemic racism.”
In simple terms, “systemic racism” is a proposed explanation for the statistical differences in various categories between the Negro race and the others. As statistical aggregates, Negroes have not done as well educationally, economically, or socially as Whites. “Civil rights” laws and other statutes intended to counteract deliberate racial discrimination against Negroes have had little influence on those differences. Affirmative action, Head Start, school lunch programs, and so forth have all failed to produce the improvements their proposers expected from them.
The sole as-yet-unfalsified hypothesis about the causes – i.e., a statistical difference between the races in intelligence, work ethic, aggression, and law-abidingness – is displeasing to the race-hustlers of our time. It cuts the legs out from under their ambitions. Therefore, they proposed that racial discrimination is literally embedded in the fundamental structures of America’s institutions, practices, and customs: i.e., systemic. Moreover, this “systemic racism” is uncorrectable for an appalling reason: the creation and organization of those institutions by Whites. Nothing can be done for the Negro without first “getting Whitey out of the way.”
But the “systemic racism” hypothesis is unfalsifiable. No imaginable event or outcome, starting from any imaginable initial conditions, would constitute a disproof of the thesis. Thus, while it is safe from being disproved, it is also impossible to confirm by empirical results as long as Whites continue to be the largest American demographic cohort. By the assumptions built into the “systemic racism” hypothesis, Whites’ mere presence in these United States guarantees that it cannot be falsified. It’s an article of faith, quite as much as my belief in God.
The point of “systemic racism,” of course, is to create grounds for massive governmentally imposed discrimination in favor of Negroes over Whites. Its proponents argue for this on the grounds of “equity:” achieving the equal outcomes that the racism supposedly built into the foundations of our organizations and institutions makes impossible. All our conceptions of individual rights must give way to the drive for “racial justice.” Freedom must be relegated to the dustbin of history.
That’s the consequence of accepting the “systemic racism” faith. Mature Whites who want only to be left alone and in peace are unlikely to accept it. But those for whom power over others is the Holy Grail think it’s a dandy idea. That’s why it’s being promoted in the government-run schools. As a side effect, it deflects attention from why those schools are no longer worth a damn as educational institutions.
Other angry activist groups see the “systemic” approach as valuable to their own causes. We will soon see protests about “systemic patriarchalism,” “systemic heterosexualism,” “systemic cisgenderism,” and whatever other causes manage to form a compatible bludgeon-phrase. Success always inspires emulation.
But as I said recently, success also breeds failure. Americans generally happy with “the way things are” are no longer vulnerable to imputations of unearned guilt. We’re growing calluses over our sensitivities. The consequences won’t always be just or pleasant.
The late Walter Williams argued that racism is only important when it involves a denial of rights. As such denials are well in the past, Williams contended that what remains of racial attitudes and preferences are, if not entirely harmless, nevertheless not correctable by law without doing even greater harm. Sadly, his reasoning has not received the attention it deserves…and who will ultimately be saddest remains to be seen.