A Thought on Disparate Impact

Disparate impact is the theory that a policy, or standard, or… is inherently racist if it has an outcome that impacts one group of Americans more than it does other groups of Americans, regardless of any racist intent. If the standard simply affects one group more than another, it must be racist (sexist). Let’s take as an example for this article student discipline in our grade schools. Disparate impact says that discipline standards that result in more black students being disciplined than white students must be racist, even if the discipline is meted out to members of both groups for the same misbehavior, with either no exceptions or identical exceptions allowed.

Let’s unroll that a ways.

Why are more black students disciplined than white? Because they misbehave more often.

Well, why do they misbehave more often? One major reason is lack of discipline at home—lack of home bringin’ up in the parlance of my youth. Either these kids don’t know how to behave at school, or they’re used to getting away with misbehavior.

Why is there that lack? A major reason for this is the higher incidence of broken homes—single parents (usually, single mothers)—in black homes than in white homes. Another reason, closely related, is the greater poverty in black homes than in white, which drives and is driven by that single parent status: the (mother) is occupied with trying to bring in enough money to support her family and lacks both time and energy at the end of her day to deal with her children.

Why is there that difference in poverty? Certainly, racism plays a part at this origin of the students’ behavior problems: the black mother is less likely to be able to get a job at all than is the white mother otherwise similarly situated solely because the one is black and the other is white.

But there’s another major source for this origin. Government welfare policies, with their attendant welfare cliffs, both encourage dependency on government (even to the point of eliminating welfare work requirements that had been in place since the early Clinton years) and make it extremely expensive to move up an income ladder that’s based on earned income. This traps welfare recipients in their poverty, which traps those single-parent families in their poverty, which traps those single parents in their time and fatigue cycle, which severely harms those parents’ capacity for teaching their children behavior standards—giving them that home bringin’ up—which leaves those children more likely to misbehave in school, which exposes those children to disciplinary action by the school.

But the Left doesn’t want to address the disparate impact of that origin—their welfare programs. Or acknowledge that what’s being illuminated by disparate impact is not racism or sexism, but an underlying failure of existing policy. Not at all.

And so, not only do we have the disparate impact of government policy, the remaining true racism that interferes with a black mother’s ability to get a job is obscured and made more difficult to address directly.

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