by Eric Kaufmann
Thursday, 1
September 2022
Analysis
17:30

Liberals are virtue-signalling on US life expectancy

White supremacy does not explain the disparity between races
by Eric Kaufmann
Credit: Getty

The great black writer Shelby Steele argues that after acknowledging the sin of racism in the mid-1960s, Americans, and whites in particular, lost their moral authority. To regain it, white liberals or those in elite positions virtue signal their anti-racism by declaring — through words and policies — that only mainstream white society, not individual responsibility, can deliver ‘black uplift.’ The result is to place responsibility for minority problems squarely at the foot of white America while stripping agency from minorities, consigning them to perpetual failure. Whites are self-determining agents, while minorities are other-determined objects.

The latest example of this double-consciousness over racial free will emerged in response to the latest American life expectancy statistics showing a 3-year decline in the country’s lifespan from 79 in 2019 to 76 in 2021. The progressive American media, determined to, in Steele’s words, ‘dissociate’ from racism in order to legitimate its moral authority and status, lavished microscopic attention on the racial disparities in the numbers.

Unfortunately for these moral entrepreneurs, the current gaps in life expectancy confound simple white supremacy hot takes: Asians live by far the longest, followed by Hispanics, then whites, blacks and finally Native Americans.

All groups have slipped during the pandemic but the one statistic that stands out is the dramatic fall in Native life expectancy, from 72 in 2019 to 65 in 2021. Rather than adopt a scientific approach in which a hypothesis (‘settler colonialism’) is advanced and counterarguments refuted, some American Leftists rushed to judgement in a bid to assert their moral bona fides. As one New York University professor admonished:

Life expectancy for Indigenous people in the U.S. fell by four years last year to only 65. That’s what life expectancy for all Americans was in 1944. A horrifying, devastating demonstration of what continued settler colonialism does. 
- Jacob Remes

The double-consciousness of viewing whites as self-determining agents and minorities as billiard balls determined by white systems wasn’t long in surfacing. In a relatively sober New York Times piece, one of the those interviewed attributed the drop in Native American lifespan to ‘longstanding health problems — rooted in poverty, discrimination and poor access to health care,’ leaving indigenous people susceptible to the virus.

Meanwhile, whites’ drop in life expectancy is attributed to their feckless disregard for the advice of health experts. For Dr. Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, ‘racism and segregation’ marginalise minorities but:

The white population did worse in 2021 than communities of color… [This] reflects the greater efforts by Black and Hispanics to get vaccinated, to wear masks and take other measures to protect themselves, and the greater tendency in white populations to push back on those behaviors.
- Dr. Steven Woolf

Woolf’s virtue signalling perfectly illustrates Shelby Steele’s ‘dissociation’ thesis. Was Woolf ignorant or just lying when he performed his ‘look, I’m one of the good whites’ gesture? This is impossible to know, but, as Park MacDougald tweeted, data from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that whites, blacks, and Hispanics all have similar vaccination rates, and whites are significantly more likely to have received a booster.

Steele’s contention is that white liberals’ performative dissociation from racism harms minorities by stripping them of the agency needed to solve their problems, and that progressives don’t really care about the results. One might add that it hampers scientific progress by preventing experts from testing potential explanations (such as anti-vaccine resistance in Native communities). These might point to alternative solutions (such as new vaccine outreach programmes) that could actually help solve the problems progressives profess to care about.

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Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
29 days ago

They are equally dishonest when it comes to blaming black maternal mortality rates on white supremacy.
Hispanic women are less likely to die in childbirth than white women.
Does this mean that doctors are secretly racist against white women in favor of Hispanic women?
There is clearly something besides racism going on when it comes to the high maternaly mortality rate of black women – but this issue will not be solved as long as “white supremacy” is blamed, and -tragically – black moms and babies will continue to die unnecessarily.

Aldo Maccione
Aldo Maccione
28 days ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Statistics are to be used SOLELY in service of the narrative.

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
28 days ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Statistics are only ever deployed selectively:

  • The incarceration of men in the USA is 23x that of women. There is no outrage among progressives that such disparities indicate a “war against men”.
  • Asians are under-represented in prison. There is no outrage about “pro Asian systemic bias”.
  • Women are under-represented in menial jobs like rubbish collecting. There is no call for women to be better represented in these areas.
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
29 days ago

White liberalism would appear to be an anti-science religion, where the answer is always in white racism, and there is no need to question the simple answer to actually find the real reasons for any disparity and try to actually discover what would benefit the population of the US as a whole. Questioning the religious text is blasphemy.

Undoubtedly Jim Crow laws and practices were abhorrent but we are over 50 years from the dismantling of these and the affirmative action and welfare solutions have been doing more harm than good. As Dr Thomas Sowell has pointed out blacks were advancing on many metrics despite Jim Crow and the current liberal solutions have seriously damaged the family coherence of blacks and their relative outcomes.

The religion of white liberals might make white liberals feel good and benevolent but actually serve elite whites in particular and not blacks.

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
29 days ago

If America is anything like the UK in regards race (as the liberal left never cease to inform us), they will find that it was people from minority backgrounds who were more vaccine hesitant than whites people were. Quite possibly ditto for other elements of medical advice.

I remember after the GF murder during an outreach session, a colleague stated that the reason people from minority backgrounds had higher Covid death rates was because of “racism”. Bit baffling but sadly they didn’t elaborate and as far as I’m aware, I don’t recall anyone else doing so. I did suggest that at least some of it could be down to people from minority backgrounds being more likely to live in large urban areas where viruses and illnesses spread more easily and that some cultures have multiple generations of their family (particularly elderly) living in the same household which met with some grudging acceptance.

Some of these issues might be linked to discrimination and racism, but I would like to think as a society we should reserve that as a last resort unless it’s highly obvious.

Ludwig van Earwig
Ludwig van Earwig
29 days ago

“moral entrepreneurs”, I like the term!

Aaron James
Aaron James
29 days ago

”These might point to alternative solutions (such as new vaccine outreach programmes) that could actually help solve the problems progressives profess to care about.”

And if not, (inventively not) it will make Pfizer a lot of money, so will get lots of yes votes in Congress, and air time on the MSM.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
29 days ago

Correlation does not equal causation. These “scientists” are laughable in their specious reasoning.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
28 days ago

My daughter is a registered dietician and works in elder care. When she recommends a diet of low saturated fats and higher fiber to certain patients with diabetes and/or heart disease, a typical response from her black patients is, “stop telling me to eat “white people food.” Fried food is still a staple in much of the black community, but proven to be a poor choice for many.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
28 days ago

We’re losing our people’: COVID ravaged Indigenous tribes in New Mexico. Did uranium mining set the stage? – USA TODAY
https://apple.news/AAXOiacD2Qq-U1tyIFle5Dw

if you can access it, read the article posted above from just the other day. The article was printed by USA Today from a very left wing investigative site, and USA Today is an American MSM newsmagazine.

Last edited 28 days ago by betsyarehart