Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ten Percent

According to a new CNN poll lots of Americans believe racism is still a big problem in the US.

Only about 10% of the sample identified themselves as racists, though. Seems like the problem is with everybody else. Fair enough :^)

Here’s the take from academia:

University of Connecticut professor Jack Dovidio, who has researched racism for more than 30 years, estimates up to 80 percent of white Americans have racist feelings they may not even recognize.

"We've reached a point that racism is like a virus that has mutated into a new form that we don't recognize," Dovidio said.
He added that 21st-century racism is different from that of the past.

"Contemporary racism is not conscious, and it is not accompanied by dislike, so it gets expressed in indirect, subtle ways," he said.

I’m trying my best to be sympathetic to the full-on racialist point of view.

But when 90% of the country says they don’t harbor racial prejudice, and when the leftist race doctors tell us that the concept of race is so impotent that it doesn’t even rise to the level of dislike, I’ve gotta wonder what all the racialist hubbub is about.

Could class be the primary prejudicial factor we’re trying to put a discerning finger on?

I lost confidence a long time ago that racism was a primary explanation for most of the unfairness in the US.

Still, you’ve gotta wonder about the honesty of all those folks who think race is no big deal except for their neighbor.

In any case, I’d love to meet the ten percent.

Gotta appreciate their honesty no matter what form it might take.


Blogger Jonathan said...

I read that article early yesterday, and was really bugged by the 80% factor. First of all, within the article it was accompanied by zero evidence whatsoever, and second of all, it labeled a percentage of the White population as racist without making a comparable statement about any other population. I could see that characterization as potentially racist in itself. ;)

One interesting thing that could be playing into the 1/8 of the population that's self-identified racists could be the ultra-guilty who always find racist things in themselves no matter how hard they're working at not being racist. I'm not saying those things aren't there, just that it could result in a few very weak self-identifying racists among the group.

Another group could be people like my grandmother. My grandfather spent his whole life in law enforcement and the two of them spent their whole lives in central California. She didn't like the idea of racism in general, but once described herself as racist against "Mexicans" (but certainly not "Blacks") and then described why briefly in really weak terms that had something to do with my grandfather's experience. Other than that one statement I never saw a reason to think of her as racist in my whole life. I don't know if she would self-identify as racist in a survey, but if she did, it certainly wouldn't be a very virulent variety.

8:17 AM  
Blogger Wordcat said...

Yeah, the 80% figure made me laugh too. How in the world would you come up with a way to even make that kind of numerical estimate? I'd love to see Dovidio's methodology. I know he wasn't intending to sound loopy in the quote, but when you start talking about unconcious forces that don't even amount to 'dislike' and then make numerical confident numerical estimates, well, I think you've left a lot of your credibility at the door.

Racism is, of course, still a significant issue, even if only 10% of the country could be labeled 'racist' in the traditional way. That's a whole lot of people who can do a whole lot of damage.

I think the 'new racism' isn't racism in any traditional way and probably shouldn't even get that title.

Seems to me what we're talking about is the preference for and favoritism people have toward their own ethnic and cultural groupings. And a corresponding lack of comfort and appreciation for those outside their groups.

Pretty much every ethnic and cultural group tends to give more advantages to members of their own group than to 'outsiders' and pretty much every ethnic group likes living among people like themselves. Those facts are why de jure desegregation has had so little impact de facto--our schools, churches and communities are still grossly segregated.

European Americans have so many historical and social advantages and live in the US in such large numbers that their propensity to favor their own group--just like everybody else--does disproportionate damage and makes an especially signficant contribution to denying equality of opportunity.

Obviously, I think class prejudice is a much more signficant issue right now. The fact that so many poor folks are people of color tends to distort the picture and can make racism appear more potent than I think it really is. I just don't believe many people (no more than 10% :^) of any ethnic group believe other folks are genetically or physically inferior (race is a biological construct) and base their treatment of them on that basis. I do believe that many middle and upper class Americans think poor folks are inferior and undeserving and base their treatment (or avoidance) of poor people on those prejudices.

Instead of vague labels like the 'new racism' I'd prefer a specific focus on areas where verifiable problems based on ethnic identification remain. For example, if opportunities for home loans or housing are being denied because the caller 'sounds black,' every legal effort has to be made to penalize lenders.

But I don't think it helps to label people who tend to favor their own groups as 'the new racists.' I think they are simply "the new people who tend to favor their own groups." That's a far cry from traditional concepts of race or racism.

Christian folks will always want to make every effort to help people move beyond those narrow group identifications for the sake of social justice and equality of opportunity. Just because I don't think most people are 'racists' right now doesn't mean I don't think we still need to get beyond our groups for the sake of a fairer and more integrated society. I'd just love to see us make that effort and lose the inaccurate label which hurts the cause of justice because it underplays class, which I think is a more potent factor.

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Jon said...

very much agreed with everything you said. Although I would like to know how much of the discrimating affects against the poor are due to classism, and how much are do to systematic problemss that could come from areas other than classism (such as non-classist incompetance in city planning or personal indiscriminant greed).

10:56 PM  
Anonymous Jon said...

effects! (I hate that error)

10:57 PM  
Blogger Wordcat said...

Really good thought Jon. More to the injustice equation than class and race. Hard to avoid oversimplifying, though :^)

11:27 PM  

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