The demand for villains

People come from different cultures. They know different things and want different things.

When I arrived in Harlem from the South as a kid, I had no idea what a public library was. An older boy who tried to explain it to me barely succeeded in getting me to get a library card and borrow a couple of books. But it changed the course of my life. Not every kid from a similar background had someone to change the course of his life.

When Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe arrived in New York in the 19th century, they were even poorer than blacks from the South who arrived in Harlem in the 20th century. But the Jews crowded into public libraries because books had been part of their culture for centuries. New York’s elite public high schools and outstanding free colleges were practically tailor-made for them.

Groups differ from other groups all over the world, for all sorts of reasons, ranging from geography to demography, history and culture. There is not much we can do about geography and nothing we can do about the past. But we can stop looking for villains every time we see differences.