Reflections on Racism

The world is not racially stratified because whites plundered and enslaved other races, as our schools and media repeatedly suggest. Op-ed.

Rafael Castro ,

anti-racism protest
anti-racism protest

Racism now occupies a huge place in public consciousness. It is nevertheless astounding to see how little effort goes into dissecting and understanding its causes. Thus, the issue has morphed into a secular demon to be fought off by verbal professions of guilt and ritualized rites of contrition.

Is it helpful to police language and to ban from society every person who ever uttered a racist joke? As long as social structures reflect racial patterns, taboos simply sublimate racism pushing it into the subconsciousness where it is even harder to heal.

I was raised in a family where racist jokes were not told and yet I clearly remember growing up very conscious of an overarching racial hierarchy. In Latin America, where I spent my formative years, the upper-middle class tends to be white, the middle-class mestizo and the lower classes are overwhelmingly indigenous or black.

In other words, no one in Latin America needs a racist upbringing to associate whiteness with prestige and dark skin with social stigma. Even the middle- and lower-classes internalize this racism as the disproportionate presence of white actors in Latin American TV advertisements shows.

Yet the world is not racially stratified due to the fact that whites plundered and impoverished other races, as our schools and media repeatedly suggest. Jared Diamond in “Guns, Germs and Steel” brilliantly demonstrates that a complex interplay of geographical, climactic and zoological factors contributed to the success of European civilization. Colonialism was not one of them. Most European colonies were run at a loss and Western Europe reached its economic apogee in the wake of decolonization.

European civilization flourished wherever it embraced rule of law, political stability and free markets. Remarkably, all nations that follow this path have also flourished: East Asia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Eastern Europe demonstrate this is the sole path to prosperity.

It is a shame that many anti-racism activists are hostile to capitalism, believing that racial equality would be better served by socialism. A glance at Marxist Cuba and Venezuela shows that this is a mirage. In fact, people of color face far more hardships in Cuba and Venezuela than in capitalist Puerto Rico and Colombia.

The examples of Cuba and Venezuela are nevertheless instructive. They prove that even systems and ideologies committed to complete equality draw their cadres disproportionately from well-educated (and lighter-skinned) circles. The secret to redressing social and racial inequalities must therefore reside in providing all races with a good education.

This is easier said than done. As a high school teacher I am intimately familiar with the tremendous advantage enjoyed by pupils whose parents are themselves well-educated. For this reason, it is not enough for society to provide good schools and college scholarships to students from disadvantaged families. It is also essential to provide everyone with the mentorship and social role-models needed to take advantage of available opportunities. Unless our efforts are focussed on building human capital, no amount of welfare and social subsidies will sustainably reduce racial inequalities.

A particularly nefarious mechanism to establish equality are racial quotas. These quotas violate basic principles of individual merit and justice. In addition they attach to every successful person of color the stigma of having succeeded due to racial charity.

In America, in the absence of good schools and good role models for everyone, affirmative action has turned black and Hispanic students into the weakest students at every university, reinforcing the myth that blacks and Hispanics are less gifted.

All our efforts thus need to focus on delivering the only permanent remedy to racial inequalities: even human capital. This will take time and demand commitment and sacrifices from all sides.

Rafael Castro is a Colombian Yale- and Hebrew University-educated high school teacher who regularly contributes columns to Arutz 7. Rafael can be reached at