The following is an excerpt from a speech ... "RACE, CULTURE, AND EQUALITY - by Thomas Sowell"
It would do us well to consider the insight and clear thinking provided by Thomas Sowell as we intend to reconcile issues in our society.
"History does not offer blueprints for the present but it does offer examples and insights. If nothing else, it can warn us against becoming mesmerized by the heady visions and soaring rhetoric of the moment.
One of the most seductive visions of our time is the vision of "fairness" in a sense that the word never had before. At one time we all understood what was meant by a "fair fight." It meant that both fighters fought by the same Marquis of Queensbury rules. It did not mean that both fighters had equal strength, skill, experience or other factors that would make them equally likely to win.
In today's conception of fairness, only when all have the same prospects of winning is the fight fair. It was not in The Nation or some other left-wing magazine, but in the neoconservative quarterly The Public Interest that we find opportunity equated with "the same chance to succeed" or "an equal shot at a good outcome"-- regardless of the influence of social, cultural, or family background.
This confusion between the fairness of rules and the equality of prospects is spreading across the political spectrum. Regardless of which of these two things might be considered preferable, we must first be very clear in our own minds that they are completely different, and often mutually incompatible, if we are to have any hope of a rational discussion of policy issues ranging from anti-trust to affirmative action.
To add to the confusion, when prospects are not the same for all, this is then blamed on "the system" or "the rules of the game," as Brookings Senior Fellow Isabel V. Sawhill does in the Spring issue of The Public Interest. Rules and standards are the creation of particular human beings but circumstances need not be. Ms. Sawhill herself includes "good genes" among the circumstances which affect economic inequalities, and we might add all sorts of other geographic, demographic, cultural and historical factors that were not created by today's "rules of the game" or by "the system" or by anyone currently on the scene.
It makes sense to blame human beings for biased rules and standards. But who is to be blamed for circumstances that are the results of a confluence of all sorts of conditions of the past and present, interacting in ways that are hard to specify and virtually impossible to disentangle? Unless we wish to start a class action suit against geography or against the cosmos or the Almighty, we need to stop the pretense that somebody is guilty whenever the world does not present a tableau that suits our desires or fits our theories.
This new kind of "fairness" has never existed anywhere at any time. The real world has always been astronomically remote from any such condition. Nor are the costs and risks of trying to achieve this cosmic fairness small.
Crime rates soared when our courts began to concern themselves with such things as the unhappy childhoods of violent criminals or the "root causes" of crime in general. Those who paid the highest price for these excursions into cosmic justice were not the judges or the theorists whose notions the judges reflected, but the victims of rape, murder and terrorization by hoodlums."
The entire transcript of the speech can be found here.