White Bread, Black Coffee
Peter Altschul, MS Copyright 2021
August 8, 2021
Michael Barone, in two columns dated June 25, 2021 and August 6, 2021, wrote about Charles Murray, a conservative icon. He spoke of Mr. Murray’s courage; his elegant charts and tables; and his precise, clear reasoning while marketing Mr. Murray’s most recent book “Facing Reality: Two Truths About Race in America.”
Mr. Murray’s first truth is that Asians have the highest average IQ scores, followed by Whites, Latinos, and Blacks, and that Iq scores correlate closely with achievement. His second truth is that “violent crime rates are far above average among Blacks, somewhat above average among Latinos, somewhat below average among Whites, and almost negligible among Asians.”
Mr. Murray’s truths are not my truths. I have come across many intelligent Blacks and a few who are less intelligent, and many more Whites who are intelligent and less intelligent. I have been in situations where both Blacks and Whites have intimidated me. And I have read about how powerful Whites used scholarly books arguing that Blacks are stupider and more violent than they are to defend slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings, and other instances of systemic racism.
But how should we Whites react if Michael Barone and Charles Murray are correct and I am wrong? MR. Barone argues that all we need to do is to remember that there is more variation in intelligence and violence within groups than between groups, and that each of us should make every decision based on merit.
The value of this advice depends on the myths each of us carry based on our experience and our take on American history. The White Bread version argues that slavery and Jim Crow were bad, but not that bad; that we Whites, while imperfect, were ultimately the saviors of Blacks as we marched triumphantly toward a nation built on life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and Judeo-Christian values; and that Barack Obama’s election as president ushered in a shiny post-race era. Meanwhile, the Black Coffee version of history argues that much of the wealth many of we Whites received came from Black slave labor, government-sanctioned violence, and discriminatory practices that exacerbated the power differences between us. White Bread History sticks to the roof of your mouth and has very little nutritional value, while Black Coffee History scalds when swallowed too quickly, leaves behind a bitter aftertaste, and causes jittery sleeplessness if we drink too much over time.
Mr. Barone’s advice is sufficient if we adhere to White Bread History-based myths, but becomes less and less relevant as we drink that Black Coffee History, for too many of our White ancestors whipped, starved, disrespected, raped, castrated, and lynched Blacks while separating members of Black families for nearly 350 years … and violence, neglect, abuse, and poverty correlate with lower IQ scores and violent crime. Might this violence that Whites committed against Blacks explain those statistics that populate Charles Murray’s charts and tables? And what can we learn from the Bible, the basis of the Judeo-Christian values many of we Whites believe served as the foundation of United States history?
We White people can ponder that passage in Exodus, Chapter 20, Verse 5 where God is characterized as “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me” (English Standard Version translation). We can take hope in that passage from 2 Chronicles, Chapter 7, Verse 14 where God promises that if we Judeo-Christianites humbly pray and turn from our “wicked ways”, the Lord will forgive our sins and heal our country, understanding that we cannot change our behavior without drinking some of that black coffee. We can remember that there is more variation in intelligence and violence within groups than between groups, and do our best to make every race-related decision based on merit and grace, as Michael Barone and Charles Murray suggest. Most importantly, we can break bread with Black people to find ways to mix together bread and coffee to make a more tasty, nutritious history.
To read the columns upon which this essay is based, please visit