There’s a reason David Brooks has such a high-profile perch at the New York Times. It’s because he routinely provides unique insights into our society that other, lesser writers might have missed. Take his latest column, in which he makes a stunning discovery: racism....it’s real.
Over the past few months, I’ve been trying to write a comforting column. The thesis was going to be that even though Donald Trump is doing his best to inflame racial division, we are still making gradual progress against racism and racial disparities.
Unfortunately, this is not that comforting column. The deeper I dug into the evidence, the more I came to doubt the idea that we are still making progress on race. For every positive statistic indicating racial reconciliation, there was one indicating stagnation or even decay.
Holy fuck! Here I was, thinking that the election of Donald Trump, the mainstreaming of Nazis, the caging of immigrant children, police killings of black people, the Muslim travel ban, the entire history of the United States of America, and so on were just disparate data points that didn’t add up to anything concrete. But David Brooks has opened my eyes. Things are NOT great.
Brooks goes on to cite various statistics about race and poverty in America that, while they might appear to be obvious to anyone who has taken a glance around them for even one second, must, in fact, not be so obvious—because if they were, David Brooks would not be informing us about them as if they were revelatory in the pages of the New York Times.
He then says that there’s definitely “structural oppression” holding black people back, but that they should also be going to church more and joining the army?
But conservatives are right to point to the importance of bourgeois norms. Three institutions do an impressive job of reducing racial disparity: the military, marriage and church. As the A.E.I. study shows, black men who served in the military are more likely to be in the middle class than those who did not. Black men who attended religious services are 76 percent more likely to attain at least middle-class status than those who did not. As Chetty’s research shows, the general presence of fathers — not just one’s own — in the community is a powerful determinant of whether young men will be able to rise and thrive.
Sure, some “experts” may be calling this line of thinking quite suspect, but I’m certain David Brooks knows more than they do. Anyway, I’m just glad he’s finally taught the world something we should have known about before: that racism is a thing.