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. [….]