Is America a Seething Hotbed of Racism and Bigotry?

The premise of diversity training at places like Google (and the various identity politics departments in universities that churn out endless theories of racism, sexism, etc. that back it up) is that implicit racism, sexism and all-around bigotry is pervasive in American society. Maybe DNC members like Bull Connor no longer turn firehoses on blacks in the South, and maybe Democratic jurists like Roger Taney no longer openly proclaim white supremacy from the federal bench, but the deep dish theories of racism dear to the Left hold that it is every bit as present as it was in the Democratic South for a century, only now it is “subtle,” indeed subconscious.

It is telling that this racket depends so heavily on theory to keep it going. (You might call it the macrotheory behind microaggressions.) What does the empirical evidence say? Recently we noted the very thin results of an extensive study of police interactions with minorities in Oakland, California. Comes now an interesting study in PlosOne by six academics from four different universities about the results of a large survey (over 14,000 respondents) about the prevalence of discrimination. The authors note that there is surprisingly little survey evidence about instances of perceived discrimination before this study.

There’s a lot here, but the main finding doesn’t fit with the leftist narrative. Here are a few excerpts from “The prevalence of discrimination across racial groups in contemporary America: Results from a nationally representative sample of adults”:

For all racial and ethnic groups represented in the data, the majority reported experiencing either none or infrequent discrimination. . .

The study tested for nine major reasons for discrimination, running the spectrum from race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, to obesity, and found:

The vast majority of these respondents reported the discrimination was due to reasons other than those covered in the nine mutually exclusive categories. Thus, the most common explanation was not due to race, gender, sexual orientation, or age. Instead, the vague category of other seems to best describe the perceived source of the average American’s discrimination experiences.

In other words, the person expressing a discriminatory thought was probably more likely to have been just an ill-mannered jerk. The concluding discussion says:

Our results indicate that the majority of the sample reported either no experience with discrimination or that it had happened only rarely. Moreover, of those reporting having experienced discrimination, the majority suggested that unique and perhaps situationally specific factors other than race, gender, sexual orientation, and age were the cause(s) of discrimination. Our results thus provide at least somewhat of a counterweight to possibly exaggerated claims that discrimination is a prevalent feature of contemporary life in the United States. (Emphasis added.)

I hope all the authors have tenure.

To understand the liberal mindset behind the microaggressive theory of pervasive implicit racism, it is useful once again to recur to Kenneth Minogue’s classic book from 1963, The Liberal Mind, and especially the opening passage:

The story of liberalism, as liberals tell it, is rather like the legend of St. George and the dragon. After many centuries of hopelesssness and superstition, St. George, in the guise of Rationality, appeared in the world somewhere about the sixteenth century. The first dragons upon whom he turned his lance were those of despotic kingship and religious intolerance. These battles won, he rested a time, until such questions as slavery, or prison conditions, or the state of the poor, began to command his attention. During the nineteenth century, his lance was never still, prodding this way and that against the inert scaliness of privilege, vested interest, or patrician insolence. But, unlike St. George, he did not know when to retire. The more he succeeded, the more he became bewitched with the thought of a world free of dragons, and the less capable he became of ever returning to private life. He needed his dragons. He could only live by fighting for causes— the people, the poor, the exploited, the colonially oppressed, the underprivileged and the underdeveloped. As an ageing warrior, he grew breathless in his pursuit of smaller and smaller dragons—for the big dragons were now harder to come by.

The Left desperately needs to keep racism alive if its spoils system is going to get new business.

P.S. No sooner do I finish composing this item than I open my Wall Street Journal and see Shelby Steele’s fabulous op-ed, “Why the Left Can’t Let Go of Racism.” It tracks the reasoning of Minogue quite closely. For those of you who are not subscribers (you may be able to pierce the paywall through this Google search), here are a few choice excerpts:

Today Americans know that active racism is no longer the greatest barrier to black and minority advancement. Since the 1960s other pathologies, even if originally generated by racism, have supplanted it. White racism did not shoot more than 4,000 people last year in Chicago. To the contrary, America for decades now—with much genuine remorse—has been recoiling from the practice of racism and has gained a firm intolerance for what it once indulged. . .

Such people—and the American left generally—have a hunger for racism that is almost craven. The writer Walker Percy once wrote of the “sweetness at the horrid core of bad news.” It’s hard to witness the media’s oddly exhilarated reaction to, say, the death of Trayvon Martin without applying Percy’s insight. A black boy is dead. But not all is lost. It looks like racism.

What makes racism so sweet? Today it empowers. Racism was once just racism, a terrible bigotry that people nevertheless learned to live with, if not as a necessary evil then as an inevitable one. But the civil-rights movement, along with independence movements around the world, changed that. The ’60s recast racism in the national consciousness as an incontrovertible sin, the very worst of all social evils.

Suddenly America was in moral trouble. The open acknowledgment of the nation’s racist past had destroyed its moral authority, and affirming democratic principles and the rule of law was not a sufficient response. Only a strict moral accounting could restore legitimacy.

Thus, redemption—paying off the nation’s sins—became the moral imperative of a new political and cultural liberalism.

Worth buying a copy at the news stand to read the whole thing. It’s the best thing you’ll read today (after Power Line, of course).

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