The Jan. 17 editorial argues that Martin Luther King Jr.’s “call for economic justice remains unfulfilled,” and, as proof, refers to a report by the Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations. The commission’s report, in turn, draws on a fact sheet prepared by the Maine Center for Economic Policy, which compiles data on racial disparities in areas such as homeownership, unemployment, poverty, incarceration and, curiously, COVID infection rates, and concludes that “the findings are evidence that racially unjust systems exist in our state.”

Not necessarily. Black scholars and writers like Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, Walter Williams and Jason Riley have been pointing out for years that disparities in racial outcomes are often the result of factors that have nothing to do with racial injustice.

The editorial and the state commission’s report are well intended, but they are also examples of a progressive paternalism that is convinced that every disappointment, failure and racial disparity is the result of systemic discrimination. The possibility that these outcomes and the key to their improvement lie in the culture, attitudes and behaviors within racial groups is too politically unfashionable to consider. Instead, the commission concludes that improvement requires more spending, of course, and that every piece of state legislation be examined for its racial implications. In other words, the cure for racial disparities is not colorblind policies, but more divisive focus on race.

Martin Luther King Jr. did indeed seek economic justice, but it’s unlikely that these progressive solutions are what he had in mind.

Martin Jones

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