September 13, 2014

A hunger to deny racism

It’s racism, not “principled conservatism”: The South, civil rights, GOP myths — and the roots of Ferguson

True GOP believers insist their small government beliefs have nothing to do with race. They're deluding themselves

By Paul Rosenberg
This lack of longer historical memory is part of what helps to support a popular brand of revisionism that claims the South turned Republican because the people there embraced “principled” “small-government” conservatism. There are numerous problems with this explanation. First, if that’s why the South changed, then why didn’t the shift happen earlier? Second, if the change is explained by gradual economic development (as some such as Real Clear Politics senior analysis Sean Trende have argued), then why did Herbert Hoover do almost as well in 1928 as Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952? And why did the Democratic share of the Southern vote drop precipitously by 20 percent in 1948, as noted above, the year the Democrats put a civil rights plank in their platform, and the Dixiecrats walked out?

Third, what exactly is meant by “small-government conservatism”? And how does that square with the fact that Southern states almost universally get far more money from the federal government than they send in by way of taxes? And finally, how to explain the findings in a 2005 paper by Nicholas Valentino and David Sears, which found that “whites residing in the old Confederacy continue to display more racial antagonism and ideological conservatism than non-Southern whites,” and that “Racial conservatism has become linked more closely to presidential voting and party identification over time in the white South”?

But there’s also another problem with the “it’s-not-race-it’s-principled-small-government-conservatism” explanation — namely that race and small government conservatism are inextricably linked. This is not to say that all small government conservatives are racists. But it is to say that racial attitudes and attitudes toward robust government activism are strongly linked, statistically; the more positive (or negative) your attitudes toward activist government are, the more positive (or negative) your attitudes toward blacks are likely to be, and vice versa as well. Negative racial attitudes manifest both in terms of opposition to black political power, and in blaming blacks for their subordinate status. If this sounds like a damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don’t sort of situation, you’re right. That’s exactly what it is.

As I explained in a recent article, the earliest statistical evidence of this relationship came from one of the classic studies of American public opinion:

The year after the March on Washington, pioneer pollsters Lloyd Free and Hadley Cantril conducted surveys that were the basis for their 1967 book, The Political Beliefs of Americans; a Study of Public Opinion. They found that those opposed to five forms of federal spending were three times as likely as those who supported the spending to think that blacks should have “less influence” in politics. Since blacks only had five representatives of Congress at the time—just over 1%, compared to 11% of the population—the notion that they had too much influence was ludicrous on its face—and clearly racist. Yet, that’s precisely what 60% of those ‘small government conservatives’—people like Rand Paul and the Tea Partiers—believed.

“There’s a hunger to deny that race matters”: The new segregation and white America/black America divide

Ferguson shows whites don't want to see race. Blacks don't have a choice. Here's a new way of bridging the gap

By Paul Rosenberg
“This Article argues that outsiders and insiders tend to perceive allegations of discrimination through fundamentally different psychological frameworks,” the article’s abstract explained. It continued:

These previously unrecognized differences have profound legal consequences. A workplace may be spatially integrated and yet employees who work side by side may perceive an allegation of discrimination through very different lenses because of their disparate racial and gender identities…. Studies show that blacks and whites are likely to differ substantially in how they conceive of and define discrimination. White people tend to believe that widespread expressions of a commitment to racial equality and the reduction in overt expressions of racist attitudes reflect reductions in racism, whereas black people tend to believe that racist attitudes and behaviors have simply become more difficult to detect. While many whites expect evidence of discrimination to be explicit, and assume that people are colorblind when such evidence is lacking, many blacks perceive bias to be prevalent and primarily implicit.

It’s important to note that Robinson’s account describes everyone involved as generally meeting the legal standard of acting like a reasonable person, given their personal histories and experience: “[B]oth the outsider [blacks and women] and insider [whites and men] may be reasonable and yet differ substantially as to the likelihood that discrimination occurred; neither can be wholly blamed for the disparity because of irrational perceptions.”

Robinson’s article focused specifically on workplace discrimination, drawing on several large-scale studies, including a Rutgers University workplace study of about 3,000 employees. It’s clear that racial discrimination persists as a much common problem than most whites realize. Regarding the Rutgers study, Robinson noted, “Half of the African-American respondents said that ‘African-Americans are treated unfairly in the workplace,’ while just 10% of white respondents agreed with that statement.”

What’s more, reporting discrimination is no guarantee that it will be redressed, Robinson also reported, “the employee making the charge of discrimination was more likely to be transferred or fired as a result of the complaint (5% of the time) than the alleged perpetrator (2%).” Hence, blacks “reasonably” choose to under-report the discrimination they experience, and whites “reasonably” conclude that discrimination is much rarer than it actually is.

When Whites Just Don’t Get It

After Ferguson, Race Deserves More Attention, Not Less

By Nicholas Kristof
Indeed, a 2011 study by scholars at Harvard and Tufts found that whites, on average, believed that anti-white racism was a bigger problem than anti-black racism.

Yes, you read that right!

So let me push back at what I see as smug white delusion. Here are a few reasons race relations deserve more attention, not less:

• The net worth of the average black household in the United States is $6,314, compared with $110,500 for the average white household, according to 2011 census data. The gap has worsened in the last decade, and the United States now has a greater wealth gap by race than South Africa did during apartheid. (Whites in America on average own almost 18 times as much as blacks; in South Africa in 1970, the ratio was about 15 times.)

• The black-white income gap is roughly 40 percent greater today than it was in 1967.

• A black boy born today in the United States has a life expectancy five years shorter than that of a white boy.

• Black students are significantly less likely to attend schools offering advanced math and science courses than white students. They are three times as likely to be suspended and expelled, setting them up for educational failure.

• Because of the catastrophic experiment in mass incarceration, black men in their 20s without a high school diploma are more likely to be incarcerated today than employed, according to a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Nearly 70 percent of middle-aged black men who never graduated from high school have been imprisoned.

All these constitute not a black problem or a white problem, but an American problem. When so much talent is underemployed and overincarcerated, the entire country suffers.
When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 2

By Nicholas KristofNancy protested on my Facebook page: “We can’t fix their problems. It’s up to every black individual to stop the cycle of fatherless homes, stop the cycle of generations on welfare.”

There was a deluge of such comments, some toxic, but let me try to address three principal arguments that I think prop up white delusion.

First, if blacks are poor or in prison, it’s all their fault. “Blacks don’t get it,” Bruce tweeted. “Choosing to be cool vs. getting good grades is a bad choice. We all start from 0.”

Huh? Does anybody really think that we all take off from the same starting line?

Slavery and post-slavery oppression left a legacy of broken families, poverty, racism, hopelessness and internalized self-doubt. Some responded to discrimination and lack of opportunity by behaving in self-destructive ways.

One study found that African-American children on welfare heard only 29 percent as many words in their first few years as children of professional parents. Those kids never catch up, partly because they’re more likely to attend broken schools. Sure, some make bad choices, but they’ve often been on a trajectory toward failure from the time they were babies.

These are whirlpools that are difficult to escape, especially when society is suspicious and unsympathetic. Japan has a stigmatized minority group, the burakumin, whose members once held jobs considered unclean. But although this is an occupational minority rather than a racial one, it spawned an underclass that was tormented by crime, educational failure, and substance abuse similar to that of the American underclass.

So instead of pointing fingers, let’s adopt some of the programs that I’ve cited with robust evidence showing that they bridge the chasm.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see White Privilege = "Willful Blindness and Fox News's White Privilege Problem.

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