It is said that racism is learned. (Of course, others say Whites are born racist.) If something is learned, then it must be taught, either directly or by personal experience.

Direct teaching occurs when one person teaches another, as in a parent-child relationship or a teacher-student relationship. We could expect racist parents to produce racist children.

Personal experience is altogether different. If one watches the news, and sees that people of one race are over-represented in positions of authority, and that people of another race are over-represented in prison, one might, consciously or unconsciously, develop a racist mindset. If one is in school, and sees one race outperform the others, while another under-performs the others, one might develop a racist mindset.

But what is a “racist mindset”? Is it racist to note that Blacks commit crime at much higher rates than other races? Is it racist to note the under-performance of Blacks in school? Is it racist to note that Blacks are disproportionately likely to be on the dole? Is it racist to note that Blacks are more likely to have children out of wedlock? Is it racist to note that “the black–white disparity in debt is greatest at the highest levels of parents’ net worth”? [^]

No, these are facts. Facts are not racist. The problem comes in using facts about groups to pre-judge individuals in those groups. And that happens. Two identical resumes, one from DeMayne Johnson and the other from Alexander Weinstein, will not be treated the same. Neither will two such mortgage applications.

Affirmative Action just exacerbates the problem. If lesser-qualified Blacks are as likely as more-qualified Whites to be admitted to a particular college, and if that college gives extra help to the Black student to get him through, then equivalent resumes do not really reflect equivalent ability and achievement. If companies promote lesser-qualified Blacks over more qualified White to meet racial quotas, then equivalent resumes do not reflect equivalent ability and achievement.

Affirmative Action in mortgage lending doesn’t help either. Lenders are not in the business of losing money, so are more likely to give sub-prime mortgages to those people who are more likely to default. Research in the industry indicates that “Black households have higher marginal default rates, controlling for differences in borrower and property characteristics.” In this case, as in others, “White Privilege” is the result of White behavior, taken in the aggregate. When controlling for other factors, Whites are less likely to default, so Whites get the privilege of better loan terms.

Is charging Blacks more for loans racist? You betcha! But what is to be done? Lenders make a lot of loans, and the aggregate actions of the borrowers affect the lenders’ returns. If you make it illegal to charge Blacks more, then lenders will find ways to make fewer loans to Blacks.

Black men, even when adjusting for income and other factors, have higher mortality rates than do White men. Should they pay more for life insurance? Of course! It is racist? You betcha! But what is to be done? If charging different rates for life insurance is illegal, then insurers will find ways to write fewer policies for Blacks. (Similarly, women between the ages of twenty and fifty cost health insurers more, and cost car insurers less. The prices of health insurance and car insurance should reflect those facts. Is that sexist? You betcha!)

Now, having higher mortality, do Blacks get more Social Security? No! Is that racist? Do Blacks get better returns on annuities? No! Is that racist?

Racism is, unfortunately, a reality. There are racial gaps in educational attainment, crime rates, life-spans, and loan default rates. The problem is not really racism, but prejudice. PRE-judging people based on race (or sex) is wrong.