|(31) Racial Bias is Everywhere (uh, statistically)
By Homan W. Jenkins 12/13/00
Bias is Everywhere (uh, statistically) (12/13/00
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from Homan W. Jenkins, Jr.
"Contrary to usual practice, we'll place the moral at the beginning: The greatest blockage to progress in this country is the neuroticism that seeks to blame "racial bias" for any racial disparity. That's true whether blacks are being charged disproportionately high rates on car loans or their ballots are disproportionately invalidated for improper voting.
"Second moral: This search for racial explanations isn't always innocent neuroticism either, but frequently reflects a grab for the meretricious moral status that seems to accrue instantly to anyone who lobs charges of racism.
"The New York Times has a bad record in this regard, starting with a false report of a Texaco executive using the word "nigger" on tape (the word was "Nicholas"). [See Adversity.Net: Texaco Horror Story] The thrust of its latest "investigation" is that auto dealers are racially biased against blacks. The evidence: In about one-third of auto sales, the dealer arranges the financing, and sometimes the dealer tacks on a surcharge to the offered interest rate. The Times claims blacks are twice as likely to be charged this "dealer markup" (after correcting for creditworthiness), and the markup is twice as high.
"... the claim that racial bias is the operative factor is absurd on its face. Why wouldn't non-blacks be asked to pay these extra fees, which drop as pure profit to the dealer's bottom line? Blacks account for 10% of the population. That means 90% of [non-black] buyers are getting a freebie from car dealers, a group not previously known for its charitable magnanimity.
"Ah, you say, cars are bought and sold through a process of negotiation. Car dealers try to get top dollar from every customer and buyers try to get the cheapest deal. If dealers weren't able to cadge that extra charge from as many non-black buyers [as from black buyers], it's only because they can't. Then the difference isn't skin color; it's a buyer's willingness to pay. And if blacks are more willing to pay, shouldn't dealers be knocking themselves out to woo them?
"Where is the evidence the auto industry recognizes blacks as an especially profitable segment? It doesn't exist.
"Yet now the Justice Department has joined a class-action lawsuit against the auto-finance industry, and it's hard not to conclude the critics just don't like bargaining, since it means no two customers pay the same price for a car.
"The argument over car loans bears a telling resemblance to the Florida ballot confusion, where Jesse Jackson sees a racist plot in the disproportionate disqualification of black votes. [See especially Adversity.Net "Florida Felons Vote for Gore"]
"As it happens, the racial gerrymandering of Florida congressional districts provides a much clearer view, allowing comparison of literacy levels in black-majority districts and the counties they overlap. [See Adversity.Net discussion: Racial Gerrymandering.] Take the 17th congressional district, which encompasses the black neighborhoods of Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. Some 49% of the adult population is functionally illiterate. In the counties as a whole, only 33% of residents are. Roughly the same holds for the 23rd district, which overlaps Palm Beach County, and the 3rd, which overlaps Duval.
"People who can't read and write may be capable of making perfectly realistic political judgments, but they're going to have a harder time translating that into a clean ballot. What's true for voting may well be true for negotiating a car loan (though we lack reliable data about car loans).
"The sad thing is [the New York Times] is undoubtedly full of editors who saw the problem with the car-loan story and chose to keep their mouths shut rather than step into a racial minefield. Until the nation's "paper of record" can sort out its own confusion, it should do the nation a favor and leave the investigation of our racial troubles to others."
Excerpted from Homan W. Jenkins opinion in the Wall Street Journal 12/13/00
[Link to Pay Site: http://interactive.wsj.com/articles/SB976665047287860688.htm ]
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