Are Americans really racists?

The current “scandal” is that a poll shows that one third of white Democrats harbor racist views towards blacks.  I have two problems with this poll’s approach and two questions about whether its conclusions have any real meaning.

My first problem is the poll’s underlying assumption, one that reveals entirely the pollsters’ bias:  Why the heck isn’t Obama winning because, in pollsters’ minds, he really ought to?

The pollsters set out to determine why Obama is locked in a close race with McCain even as the political landscape seems to favor Democrats. President Bush’s unpopularity, the Iraq war and a national sense of economic hard times cut against GOP candidates, as does that fact that Democratic voters outnumber Republicans.

It doesn’t seem to occur to the pollsters that, as the election draws near, Americans, including Democratic Americans, may actually be looking at issues, not candidates, and may have concluded that Obama’s thin resume is not a helpful antidote to the issues confronting Americans — and that this is true irrespective of either the candidate’s or the voters’ race.

Apparently having dismissed that possibility out of the box, the pollsters, with their assumptions firmly in place about the fundamental abnormality in American’s failure to recognize what a vastly superior candidate Obama is, cheerfully set about using their all new methodology to prove that Americans are racists.

To this end (and herein lies my second problem with the poll results), the pollsters relied on a “unique methodology,” “pioneered” by one company, Knowledge Networks, that thinks it can delve into people’s psyches.  First, they used online interviews, on the assumption that people will be more honest in the anonymity of cyberspace, which may well be true.

However, it may also be untrue.  Once online, people may feel more playful or obstreperous and be less honest.  Who knows?  You can only prove people’s honesty if you have an objective measure of the absolute truth.  And in opinion polls, what the heck is that measure?  We’re in a gray area that sees the pollsters assuming that their own biases about people’s probable beliefs constitute absolute truth, if only the pollsters can arrive at a methodology to prove that fact (in other words, there’s lots of room for bootstrapping and circular reasoning).

If that wasn’t a gray enough area, pollsters delved into an even grayer one, which again uses their own beliefs about people’s biases as the objective truth their psychological evaluation will ultimately prove:

Other techniques used in the poll included recording people’s responses to black or white faces flashed on a computer screen, asking participants to rate how well certain adjectives apply to blacks, measuring whether people believe blacks’ troubles are their own fault, and simply asking people how much they like or dislike blacks.

In other word, they used a technique that many might simply see as a trick.  When a Harvard gal first came up with the idea, which was to prove that people’s first, instinctive responses to imagines of different races inevitably proved them to be racist, I wandered over to check it out.  What you get is a split screen with images of people and different words flashing.  You then have to hit buttons on the right and left side of your keyboard to tie “appropriate” words with equally “appropriate” images.

What I discovered was that, just as I am a word person, I’m very strongly not an image person.  I don’t see pictures very well, and quickly got confused.  I’m also horrible at hand/eye coordination, or even hand/hand coordination.  After randomly hitting buttons a few times, I got bored and stopped.  It was as pointless and frustrating for me as a lot of the Wii games or Nintendo games my kids play.  Rather than delving into the depths of my evil, racist psyche, it proved only that I lack eye/hand coordination.

Still, since I’m not a pollster or a social scientist or a statistician or someone who assumes that racism is the norm, I’m going to assume for purposes of the next part of this post that the poll is so closely attuned to reality that it can actually catch people shlumping at their home computers in acts of vile racism (blacks = lazy, boastful or irresponsible).  Even assuming that, though, I still have my doubts about whether the poll proves that racism will be the problem when/if Democrats turn away from Obama.

To begin with, while the pollsters managed to prove that everybody is a racist (Republican or Democrat), they’ve admitted only that Democrats are so dumb they can’t look beyond their racial preferences, while Republicans are smart enough to be able to examine issues, not race.  (And please tell me if the pollsters or the AP writers really meant to make this point?)

Lots of Republicans harbor prejudices, too, but the survey found they weren’t voting against Obama because of his race. Most Republicans wouldn’t vote for any Democrat for president — white, black or brown.

Second of all — and I know I’m wandering into sensitive territory here — is my suspicion that Americans aren’t racist, they’re “classist” or “value-ist.”  Bear with me here as I try to develop this argument.

Historically, racism actually had to do with the genetics of race.  Prejudiced whites believed that blacks, merely by virtue of the color of their skin, were inherently inferior.  To the mind of the whites who held this attitude, and it’s one with deep roots amongst Europeans and Americans, the mere fact of black skin meant that it was impossible for the person possessing such skin to be intelligent or hard working (and the latter belief was true despite the fact that slavery put those blacks to hard work the likes of which whites never did, unless they were, in turn, unlucky enough to be enslaved by Muslims).

I suspect that things are different nowadays.  Assuming American Democrats (oh!  and, of course, Republicans) really are every bit as prejudiced against blacks as this study seems to show, I doubt that anyone of them would claim that their prejudicial beliefs are tied to blacks’ biology.  That is, unlike your 1850s Southern planter, or 1950s Southern KKK member, no one nowadays would ever say that blacks are, from the womb, lazy or boastful or irresponsible.

What your average American, if taken in a dark closet and promised complete anonymity, might claim is that black culture — which is a learned phenomon — is less appealing to them than white culture.  Is it racism to observe that a culture has values that you think are bad?  I don’t know.

It’s certainly not racism to approve of a culture’s values.  Your average Lefty would be delighted to tell you that the French or Nordic people (Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, etc.) have better cultures than ours.  They wouldn’t say that these people are biologically better; they’d say that the values they hand down to each other and put into law are much better than the embittered guns and God culture that characterizes middle America.

Also, is it wrong to say that blacks have a culture?  Again, I don’t think so.  We’re constantly being bombarded with messages telling us that blacks are a distinct subculture.  The whole point of the political correctness that has permeated the American landscape for the last 30 years is to do away with American commonality.  We no longer believe in a melting pot.  We believe in a chunky (and often inedible) salad, with disparate component parts that, in the PC mind, originate with America’s various “cultures” (racial, religious, sexual, country of origin, etc.), and that cannot be ignored or blended, even in the public square.

The problem, for both blacks and whites, is that black culture (not black biology, but black culture), publicly advances values that are antithetical to middle American values.  In my earlier post about false syllogisms, I pointed out that John McWhorter’s wonderful Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America recognizes that part of the black community’s self-sabotage is the refusal to engage in the “white” work ethic of being reliable.  I noted the probable false syllogism underlying that cultural attitude:  slavery was work, slavery was bad, therefore work is bad.

McWhorter also pointed to the advance Leftist guards of the Civil Rights movement (I guess we’d call them community activists nowadays) who told blacks that, after all their suffering, it was only fair and appropriate that the government should henceforth pay their way. So, while middle and working class America embrace the notion of hard work, substantial segments of the black culture believe (1) that work is a problem, inextricably and negatively entwined with slavery and (2) that it’s only fair that white America should financially compensate them for all the past evils done to blacks.

How about the drug/gang/boasting culture?  Yes, whites use drugs in greater numbers than blacks, but that’s because there are greater numbers of whites.  Even if that were not the case, in the post-psychadelic drug area, it hasn’t been middle and working class whites who developed an influential music form celebrating the drug/gansta life, it’s been black America that’s done this.

Even if, as many will assure us, gangsta rap represents only the smallest subsection of black culture, it is a huge public face.  The complicity of blacks, the music industry (liberal) and Madison Avenue (out of Blue New York) means that whites are deluged with cultural (not biological) images of blacks waving guns, degrading women, and boasting about their prowess, especially when it comes to drugs, violence, and sexual abuse — and they’ve been deluged with these images for more than a decade now.  You can’t profit off selling a violent, demeaning image about your own culture, and then wonder why people start believing the stereotypes you’ve created.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Americans also got some bad images of black culture. Significantly, all of these images came from the liberal media which, in its blind, manic rush to destroy the Bush administration, neglected to realize that it were broadcasting the worst type of stereotypes about blacks.

It was the Bush-hating media that said that blacks were eating each other (after only three days without food).  That same media frantically announced that blacks were murdering each other (after only a couple of very uncomfortable days in the convention center).  The media also shrieked at Bush-loving middle America that, because of Bush, blacks were raping each other (again, after only a couple of days in the convention center).  Media’s talking heads blamed Bush for the fact that Blacks were robbing stores and houses to survive.

With a few minor exceptions, all those hysterical stories, meant to show Bush’s both perfidy and his victims, were untrue.  Nobody was eaten, nobody was murdered, and I don’t think anybody was raped.  The only victims of this mad journalism were the blacks themselves — because a whole lot of white people carried away the message, fed to them by the liberal media, that black culture is so degraded that, in times of crisis, it will turn to rape, murder and cannibalism.

So there are a lot of messages about blacks out there that might lead Americans to view the black culture with suspicion.  As observant black commentators have noted themselves, the twin legacies of slavery and the community activists pushing a nanny state Civil Rights agenda is that many blacks view work with suspicion.  Viewing it with suspicion, they either don’t do it at all, or do it with poor grace.  It’s a cultural thing that may well lead outsiders who haven’t analyzed culture motives to conclude that blacks are lazy.

The perception that blacks are dangerous or boastful also finds probable roots in the modern black culture being sold to white America.  Worse, it’s a sales pitch that originates in two liberal American bastions:  Manhattan and Hollywood.  It’s this liberal America that’s sold us on gangsta rap (boastful and dangerous thugs) and on black violence and helplessness (Hurricane Katrina).  Having sold America on these images of a black culture made up of values antithetical to middle class white culture, these same liberal cadres now castigate us for being racist because some of us bought the garbage they were selling.

So do I think Americans are racist?  Not really.  First, I doubt the value of this novel polling technique, which seems to me to be intended, not to gather information, but to support the pollsters’ own biases.  Second, even if the polls is accurate, I don’t think Americans believe that blacks are biologically inferior.  I do believe, though, that Americans, both black and white, have been on the receiving end of sales pitches and manipulation, originating in liberal white America, aimed at presenting black culture as one hostile to work, and rife with drugs and crime and a very ugly type of boastfulness.

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  • BrianE

    This is the path Helen sees God asking her to walk. She is merely asking others to join her, if the shoes fit.
    I would guess the shoes don’t fit.

  • McLaren

    Fine. I have a pair of shoes for everybody to try on, but it’s the same pair I found on my own. Kind of hard to fit for everybody else….

  • Helen Losse


    BrianE (#101) is absolutely correct. It’s an invitation to join me.

    BrianE, (#99)

    Obama’s Official site states the following: “I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington . . . I’m asking you to believe in yours.” That sounds like he’s the preacher (the leader) not the messiah. Sounds like an altar call to me. Like what you’d hear any Sunday morning in many protestant churches. Obama is a fallible human being. A sinner saved by God’s grace. Just like rest of us.

    What he is calling for is more attention (and breaks) for common people and fewer for the top few. That’s the change he hopes to bring to Washington. If you’re one of the top few, I understand why you’d want to vote Republican. If you aren’t, I don’t get it. . . . unless you (not you personally, anyone who holds this view) really are racist, and think it’s better to side with whites than to admit that financially at least you are more similar to blacks and Hispanics (as a whole, not citing the exceptions). The rich will stay rich in anybody’s plan. It’s just that the government will work for and by poor folks, too. Just think how many homes for the homeless that “bailout money” could buy.

    I, too, “look forward to the day when people stop hating and hurting each other.” And I have hope that we can make the world – not perfect – but more nearly the way God has always planned.

  • BrianE

    My position is fairly simple.
    Economic opportunity doesn’t originate from the government. Government stifles economic opportunity.
    While I’m not a big fan of the super rich, they are a necessary evil for a growing economy that in the end lifts all boats.
    My wife’s family lived on a farm bordering an Indian reservation. If there ever was a policy that guaranteed a group of people remain dependant on the government, it was our Indian policy. Before I met my wife, in the 60’s, the government came in and built these folks nice ‘American’ houses, right next to their teepees. What did the Indians do? They literally chopped the houses apart for firewood. We only appreciate what we’ve sacrificed for.
    I am happy to say, that the Indians are doing fine now, they developed a set of elders with business sense and are relying on themselves (no casino). Instead of being looked down on in the white community, they are respected members and I was at her nephew’s graduation this summer, which included a very moving Indian ceremony. That wouldn’t have happened even 20 years ago.
    Whenever I consider how bad it is in the US, I think of Liberia. We support a group called All God’s Children that offers free education (education isn’t free in Liberia). They also provide a meal. This is for kids with families, not orphans. The reality some of those kids don’t eat for two days each weekend, waiting for the school week when they are fed.

  • McLaren

    If you’re one of the top few, I understand why you’d want to vote Republican. If you aren’t, I don’t get it. . . . unless you (not you personally, anyone who holds this view) really are racist, and think it’s better to side with whites than to admit that financially at least you are more similar to blacks and Hispanics (as a whole, not citing the exceptions).

    This is bullshit. This is an opinion based on an abject ignorance of basic economics and human nature. You’re right, you don’t get it. I have news for you, Helen. There are more poor white people than black or hispanic, not that anybody’s skin color means a damn thing. But apparently it means everything to you. Your opinion is beyond offensive. Barry Obama and his wife are the top few, in case you hadn’t heard the news. Go ahead and buy his line of crap. I’ll pray for you while you wallow in that filth.

  • Ymarsakar

    But ridding our nation of racism requires us to step outside our “comfort zones” (I hate that silly phrase).

    You people here may or may not have already known this about helen, but when she speaks of racism, she is speaking of it from the “white privilege” and “institutional racism” world view. That world view shares the same fundamental class warfare thesis as communism. The thesis states that due to the fact that some races will be more successful than other races, this creates an inevitable race warfare much as Marx’s class warfare. The “racism” then is the perpetuation of the difference in race, economically and politically. Just like Marx, so long as there is a difference between race or class, whether that difference is justified or not, there will be an inevitable conflict amongst people of different races and classes. The rich subdue and oppress the poor proletariat, just like the whites subdue and oppress the weak blacks and minorities. This is white privilege. This is where helen is coming from.

    When you think of racism, most classical liberals jump to issues of justice, fairness, and equal treatment. Helen is not talking about those things. They are not top priorities.

    Your cold-blooded insults directed at me are no longer welcome. Good-bye.

    Oh happy day.

    “I have no name;
    I am but two days old.”
    What shall I call thee?
    “I happy am,
    Joy is my name.”
    Sweet joy befall thee!

    Pretty joy!
    Sweet joy, but two days old.
    Sweet Joy I call thee:
    Thou dost smile,
    I sing the while;
    Sweet joy befall thee!
    -William Blake

    Woot woot

    Dagon could someday develop into a good debate partner if he’d stop being so lazy in his writing and get his temper under control.

    You should have seen Dagon attacking Book a few years ago. Nasty misogynistic stuff right there. No surprise Dagon’s part of the pack trying to eliminate Sarah.

    If you aren’t, I don’t get it

    You don’t get that we’re asking you to believe that everything you have been taught your entire life was a lie, helen? That’s not that complex to get, compared to actually accepting it.

  • suek

    >>That’s the change he hopes to bring to Washington. >>

    Sadly, Helen, you have been deceived. Look at the present financial situation. In three years Obama has received more in contributions from the FMs than all the Senators but one. He has earmarked nearly one _billion_ dollars during his short time on the Senate, some of which directly benefited him, through a tripling of his wife’s salary.

    Read these with an open mind. Does your faith in Obama supercede your reason?

  • Ymarsakar

    The sun does arise,
    And make happy the skies.
    The merry bells ring
    To welcome the spring.
    The skylark and thrush,
    The birds of the bush,
    Sing louder around,
    To the bells� cheerful sound,
    While our sports shall be seen
    On the echoing green.

    Old John with white hair
    Does laugh away care,
    Sitting under the oak,
    Among the old folk.
    They laugh at our play,
    And soon they all say:
    �Such, such were the joys
    When we all, girls and boys,
    In our youth-time were seen
    On the echoing green.�

    Till the little ones weary
    No more can be merry;
    The sun does descend,
    And our sports have an end.
    Round the laps of their mother
    Many sisters and brothers,
    Like birds in their nest,
    Are ready for rest;
    And sport no more seen
    On the darkening green.

    William Blake (1757-1827) P. 1789

    This is true for the birth and death of anything.

    By Republican principles, voting for Democrats is the same as voting to keep racism alive, prejudice alive, and discrimination and oppression of minorities vigorous. You, helen, can’t conceive that what you believe is true of the Democrat party is only ever true of the Republican party, and what you believe to be the truth of the Republican party is actually true of the Democrat party.

  • Helen Losse

    The Little Black Boy
    by William Blake

    My mother bore me in the southern wild,
    And I am black, but oh my soul is white!
    White as an angel is the English child,
    But I am black, as if bereaved of light.

    My mother taught me underneath a tree,
    And, sitting down before the heat of day,
    She took me on her lap and kissed me,
    And, pointed to the east, began to say:

    “Look on the rising sun: there God does live,
    And gives His light, and gives His heat away,
    And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive
    Comfort in morning, joy in the noonday.

    “And we are put on earth a little space,
    That we may learn to bear the beams of love
    And these black bodies and this sunburnt face
    Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove.

    “For when our souls have learn’d the heat to bear,
    The cloud will vanish, we shall hear His voice,
    Saying, ‘Come out from the grove, my love and care
    And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice’,”

    Thus did my mother say, and kissed me;
    And thus I say to little English boy.
    When I from black and he from white cloud free,
    And round the tent of God like lambs we joy

    I’ll shade him from the heat till he can bear
    To lean in joy upon our Father’s knee;
    And then I’ll stand and stroke his silver hair,
    And be like him, and he will then love me.

    Perahps the racism in this poem is evident. Perhaps not.

  • Zhombre

    Nothing is evident in Blake’s poetry. Nothing is evident in poetry. That’s why it’s not prose.

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  • McLaren

    but when she speaks of racism, she is speaking of it from the “white privilege” and “institutional racism” world view.

    Oh, well when you put it like THAT. So really when I say “economic ignorance” and “…you don’t get it…” I mean it in the institutional way, as in a general vacuum of literacy in things that concern both micro and macro economics.

    No offense Ymar…..just venting….