The Corner

Re: Southern Racism

Gerard Alexander sends me an interesting note:

Dear Jonah (if I may),

     […] You refer today on The Corner to “tests” of racism that survey

attitudes about whether certain people would do better in life if they

worked harder. You may already know this, but I’ll mention it anyway: David

Sears and many other scholars integrate just such issues into a

now-extensive academic literature measuring racism in modern America.

Judgments like those are not the only components of their measurements of

“symbolic racism” but they are major ones. Which means that it’s virtually

impossible for a person to conclude that dysfunctional behaviors are

pervasive (not even universal) in a given group without risking being

categorized as racist against that group.  As so often happens, after a

while these indexes are invoked without much explanation of what went into

producing them, so controversial assumptions like those go unexamined, and

then repeated in study after study.  It goes to show what can happen when

entire areas of social science research are, so to speak, bleached of

scholars with dissenting opinions.

     Some people emailed you asking whether they’d be racist if they said

white people could work harder at math. It’s really revealing that little

changes like that in the survey format are basically never tried. Imagine if

they were: they’d find that many whites are critical of many other whites.

And they’d no doubt find that it’s not just Bill Cosby, Al Sharpton, and

Glenn Loury who periodically detect the same dysfunctions in inner cities

that alleged white racists do. [….]

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