Is ‘Institutional Racism’ a Conspiracy Theory?

It is probably fair to say that until 1999 few people in Britain, other than academics or left-wing militants, had ever heard of the expression ‘institutional racism’. That year, the Macpherson Report into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in south London somehow appeared to lay the blame for his death upon London’s police force, rather than the white thugs who actually stabbed him to death. 

The report did not do so explicitly of course, but the impression was that the Metropolitan Police were somehow complicit in the affair; the police were presented as part of the problem which had led to the young man’s death, purely because they were riddled with something called ‘institutional racism’. Since racism had been the motive for the murder of Stephen Lawrence, this placed the police in the same general category as the murderers, that is to say, they too were racists.

Institutional racism might have been a new concept for most people in Britain in 1999, but the term had been around for decades. It originated with the Black Power movement in the United States during the 1960s and is believed by some to have first been coined by Stokely Carmichael. During the 1970s and 1980s, the concept was regarded as dubious, and one that had no bearing on the real world. In a book published in Britain by the Open University in 1986, for instance, there is a section on institutional racism headed ‘The Problem of Institutionalised Racism’. 

This academic work, titled Race and Ethnicity, explores what is described as “the problematic concept of ‘institutional racism’,” a term made plain at that time to be saturated with many difficulties and that unless those using it were very careful, it might easily be misconstrued. There may, 35 years ago, have been many reasons to avoid phrases such as ‘institutional racism’ and ‘white privilege’, but all such reservations have now been swept away and a day scarcely passes in which we do not read or hear these terms being bandied about.

Institutional racism is a key concept underlying Critical Race Theory, an American import that has now become the ruling ideology whenever progressive people are discussing racism and prejudice. Since its first publication 20 years ago, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, has become standard when introducing students to the topic of CRT and is used as a textbook in university courses. The two authors, Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, are acknowledged to be experts in the field. In the book, they quote another author who claims, for one reason or another, that black history is “filled with more murder, mutilation, rape, and brutality than most of us can imagine or easily comprehend.” 

Having talked of murder, mutilation, and rape, things which are of course inflicted by people on unwilling victims, Delgado and Stefancic continue without a pause to state:

“That history continues into the present and implicates [non-white] persons still alive. It includes infant death rates among minorities nearly double those of whites, as well as arrest and incarceration rates that are among the highest in the world. School dropout rates among blacks and Latinos are worse than those in practically any industrialised country, and the gap between whites and non-whites in income, assets, educational attainment, and life expectancy is as wide as it was thirty years ago, if not wider.”

This then is what is known as ‘institutional racism’. It is a breath-taking piece of effrontery, and only the fact that so many white people feel embarrassed about calling out its intellectual dishonesty when being espoused by a member of an ethnic minority can explain why a passage like this is not met with cries of derision. Fortunately for him, Delgado is the son of a Mexican immigrant, and so enjoys a degree of immunity from ridicule.

On the off chance that readers have not spotted the fraud being perpetrated, it is this. In the first quotation, Delgado and Stefancic are referring to things which ethnic minorities have in the past had inflicted upon them against their will: murder, mutilation, and rape. Following this with the claim that this “history continues into the present,” they then write of things that ethnic minorities are doing to themselves. To equate historical injuries carried out against individuals with the damage that individuals inflict on their own bodies is a shocking piece of sophistry.

The best way to make this clear is to look at a couple of real-life instances of what the two authors are describing, one being from Britain and the other from the United States. Beginning with Britain, whose history of colonial cruelty and abuse is indeed grim and by no means lacking in murder, mutilation, and rape, we will address two contemporary issues specifically cited by Delgado and Stefancic as being related in some way to the past treatment of people with dark skins: what causes infant mortality rates to be high among ethnic minority communities and why is the life expectancy of such people lower than for white people?

According to the Office for National Statistics, approximately 3 per cent of the British population is of Pakistani heritage, whether being born in Pakistan or born to parents whose families have their origin in that country. The infant mortality rate among members of this community is double that of white British babies, a shocking figure indeed. Is this, however, evidence of what Delgado and Stefancic meant when they wrote of the cruelties of colonialism and claimed: “that history continues into the present and implicates persons still alive, including infant death rates among minorities nearly double those of whites”? Well, before rushing to either endorse or discard Delgado and Stefancic’s notion, let us examine what could be causing such exceptionally high infant mortality rates in this particular community.

The infant mortality rate for babies of Pakistani origin born in Britain is combined with a very high number of stillbirths, a variable running too at twice the national average. Not only that, but babies born to parents of Pakistani heritage account for a third of all babies with genetic defects born in Britain. Reflect for a moment on this figure. Just three per cent of the British population represent 33 per cent of the babies born with genetic defects.

Of course, genetic defects in many cases can lead to disabilities and a shortened life span. Could this really be, as has been suggested by experts in Critical Race Theory, a legacy of colonialism? Is this institutional racism in action? Are Pakistani mothers and their children, who suffer a birth defect rate roughly ten times that of the white British population, accorded inferior treatment to that of white families?

As a matter of fact, the high rates of infant mortality, stillbirths, and children born with disabilities and life-limiting conditions is something not being inflicted upon babies by the ‘institutional racism’ benefitting white Britons, but by the families themselves. Over half of all marriages in Britain involving people of Pakistani heritage are between either first or second cousins. Marriages of this kind are a terrible idea, and although legal in Britain are the object of a popular taboo as steering closer than is comfortable towards incest. Very few marriages between whites in Britain are between cousins; roughly one in 25,000

The chief reason for cousin marriages’ undesirability is that they hugely increase the chance of any offspring being sickly, dying young, or suffering from some kind of genetic defect or another. The royal families of Europe were, in the past, very fond of this practice. One remembers how haemophilia ran through them, most famously perhaps in the case of the son of Russia’s last Tsar. We must not forget that Queen Victoria, married to her first cousin, also had a son with the condition. He too died at a young age.

The Pakistani community in modern Britain is a perfect example of the minorities referenced by Critical Race Theory: An Introduction. The problem for CRT, however, is that rather than being victims of institutional racism within the healthcare system, members of this minority are freely choosing a course of action guaranteed to have a catastrophic effect upon their children. Instead of being a natural continuation of the horrors of colonialism, as Critical Race Theorists would have us believe, the high infant mortality rates in these families means that they are victims of their own culture. Neither racism nor colonialism has any bearing on the case. 

We turn now to the United States to ponder something else which was declared as a natural continuation of the persecution of minorities in the past. This is the gap in life expectancy between whites and non-whites. Again, here we look at a specific case; that of African-American women compared with non-Hispanic white women in the United States. 

According to the Office of Minority Health, which is part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the situation at the time that Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic published the latest edition of their book on Critical Race Theory, was as follows:

“African American women have the highest rates of obesity or being overweight compared to other groups in the United States.” 

“About 4 out of 5 African American women are overweight or obese.”

“In 2018, non-Hispanic blacks were 1.3 times more likely to be obese as compared to non-Hispanic whites.”

“In 2018, African American women were 50 per cent more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic white women.”

“From 2013-2016, non-Hispanic black females were 2.3 times more likely to be overweight as compared to non-Hispanic white females.”

The report goes on helpfully to point out why being overweight, which is, of course, usually a direct consequence of eating and drinking too much, might be injurious to health:

“People who are overweight are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, high levels of blood fats, diabetes and LDL cholesterol — all risk factors for heart disease and stroke. In 2018, African Americans were 20 per cent less likely to engage in active physical activity as compared to non-Hispanic whites.”

People who marry their cousins, eat too many hamburgers and don’t get enough exercise are not, as Richard Delgado evidently imagines, latter-day victims of slavery and its covert modern ancestor. They are, rather, individuals who are likely in the future to suffer the ill effects of their own foolish or ill-considered lifestyle choices. In a free country, and where the law does not forbid it, I should of course be free to marry my cousin and have children by her if I wish to do so. In the same way, should I wish to eat unhealthy foods to excess or drink whiskey too frequently, these are also courses of action which I should have the liberty to take. However, as with any of the choices which we make, there might be downsides to being a greedy and immoderate eater. One of these is obesity, and, further down the line, heart disease and stroke. Overindulging in alcohol can be harmful, while bearing children with a close relative might produce abnormalities harmful to those children.

This then is the essence of institutional racism. The misfortunes which befall people as a direct consequence of their own foolish or ill-considered actions are portrayed as having been inflicted by a racist society. There is not room here to consider other areas such as education or law enforcement, but the picture is very much the same for there as it is for health. Institutional racism is an unnecessary and misleading hypothesis for various things associated with visible minority communities that can be adequately explained already by more simple causes, none of which involve malice or prejudice on the part of people in general. 

Thus, institutional racism is no more than a conspiracy theory, a false version of history propagated for reasons which have nothing to do with the search for truth or any desire to alleviate the ills for which it supposedly accounts. The sooner that this pernicious idea is abandoned, the more quickly will it be possible to tackle the unfortunate situations upon which it purports to shed light.