Re: Communitas: Race, Culture, and Government (Adam Serwer & Amy Wax)
Everyone knows that different behavior or choices by individuals has an effect on outcomes. Everyone also knows that some people are given certain advantages in life over others. Certainly you know that these banal observations do not give us the answer to whether or not structural factors privilege certain groups nor do they necessarily give us the solutions as to how to influence people to make better choices.
As to what "liberals" are "afraid" of, to try my best to seriously and sincerely answer your question, I think what liberals are hesitant to do is to make the leap from saying that certain individuals have better character or make better choices than others to saying that whole groups of people, defined by "race," or "ethnicity" or "nation" or what have you, have better character or make better choices and that is what results in certain groups having better outcomes.
The other reason that liberals are skeptical of accepting diagnoses of the problem as behavioral is well outlined in Mr. McWhorter's review of Wax's book...even if one accepts the diagnosis it doesn't make the solution easy or obvious. And so liberals worry that allowing the narrative to become accepted that it is only Blacks who can change their condition relieves the government or the rest of society of the obligation to help change the situation that is at least to some large degree created by past and/or current discrimination. And so there is a worry that such arguments about character don't necessarily result in solutions that help improve the lives of poor Black people but give white people justification to think that it is "not our fault" and we have no obligation to do anything about it, including even in cases where the government continues to play a significant role in the problem regardless, the most obvious being the criminal justice system and failing public school system.