Some fallacies made by racialists are so perplexing it is difficult to categorize them. These claims rely on people not looking them up, or even stopping to think about them. Tim Wise makes one of these claims in his book Speaking Treason Fluently without a citation:
“2006 saw the largest number of race-based housing discrimination complaints on record, and according to government and private studies, there are between two and three million cases of housing discrimination each year against people of color”1
In an online article written by Wise he again makes a similar claim without an actual citation: “people of color are victims of housing discrimination 3 million times a year — and that’s a safe estimate.”
This statistic sounds alarming on its surface but as usual, it doesn’t pass the common sense test. In 2006 there were somewhere between 2 and apparently safely over 3 million (what’s a million give or take in statistics anyway) cases of housing discrimination? That means of the adult “people of color” looking for housing in that year alone an enormous percentage filed discrimination complaints. The truth is, yes in 2006 race-based discrimination complaints hit an all-time record. However, according to the US Department of Housing Urban Development (HUD) the number was 4,043 not somewhere between 2 and over 3 million. This number represents a 1 percent increase in the total housing discrimination complaints over 2005. Wise naturally leaves out that between 2006 and 2009 race based discrimination declined. The total number of race-based discrimination complaints in 2008 was 3,699, and in 2009 it was 3,203 just barely beating out discrimination by “Family Status” according to HUD. These, of course, are simply complaints. They can be made by making a phone call or emailing the HUD saying you were discriminated against. Actual verified examples of discrimination are a completely different conversation. Of course, there may also be instances of unfiled discrimination cases, but a claim of 2 or 3 million can only be made after incredible extrapolation and a bit of imagination is used. Why not say 10 million? The followers of racialism will believe just about anything. Explaining the reality of .001% of Americans actually filing race based discrimination complaints within the span of a year isn’t very compelling.
So where could Wise have possibly found his numbers? The only possible source Wise could have found such info is from the Leftist group that calls itself the National Fair Housing Alliance. The Alliance reports every year that there are 3.7 million or more unfiled cases of housing discrimination. So year after year they make this claim, and year after year they cite the same source: themselves. From 2005 to 2010 the Alliance cited their own 2004 report. Their 2004 report, which is no longer available on their website, explains how they obtained their 3.7 million claim, or rather how they’re relying on a guy named John Simonson who teaches at the University of Wisconsin, Platteville. The Alliance explains how Mr. Simonson used data from the HUD 2000 Housing Discrimination Study to calculate using probability the total number of cases of housing discrimination in the US. So, to recap. To understand the amount of housing discrimination there is in the US we are supposed to rely on Tim Wise, who is likely relying on the Alliance, who relies on John, who apparently relies on the HUD, but unfortunately the HUD doesn’t even rely on the HUD. In their 2000 study that John’s calculations are based on, the HUD sent out people pretending to be potential renters in metropolitan areas to try to document cases of discrimination, but the HUD clearly admits in that same study:
“Although these simple gross measures of white-favored and minority-favored treatment are straightforward and easily understandable, they almost certainly overstate the frequency of systematic discrimination. Specifically, differential treatment may occur during a test not only because of differences in race or ethnicity, but also because of random differences in the circumstances of their visits.”
Calculating probability based on nothing of substance is worthless, yet for nearly a decade the Alliance has peddled an illusion, gaining publicity and distracting from real problems of discrimination. If this is the phantom source Wise has relied on, then who could blame him for being so unclear. I wouldn’t want to cite them either. Claiming such a monumental number without a citation, and when the source of the claim is so difficult to determine, leads one to believe that Wise is desperately hoping people don’t look up his claim.
1. Tim Wise, Speaking Treason Fluently, page 18