Saturday, October 3, 2009

Post No. 136b: Black - White Conflict Is Not Society's Largest

The Public Assesses Social Divisions

By Rich Morin, Pew Research Center

September 24, 2009

"It may surprise anyone following the charges of racism that have flared up during the debate over President Obama's health care proposals, but a survey taken this summer found that fewer people perceived there are strong conflicts between blacks and whites than saw strong conflicts between immigrants and the native born, or between rich people and poor people.

"A majority (55%) of adults said there are "very strong" or "strong" conflicts between immigrants and people born in the United States. Nearly as many -- 47% -- said the same about conflicts between rich people and poor people, according to a nationally representative survey by the Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends project."

To review the remainder of the survey, click here.


  1. In the UK, there's something of an anti-immigrant upsurge going on at the mo, mostly unjustified, and fuelled by a section of right-wing media who are terrified of anyone with slightly brown skin and think everything would be all right if only Princess Diana were still alive.

    It's mostly a thick, ignorant minority that think like this, but it causes some cosnternation.

    Yet when I look at the US (admittedly through the dodgy medium of the media), I am amazed at how a country with such a multi-cultural heritage can be so obsessed with skin colour.

    I know this is a simplification, and I may be speaking out of turn as it's not my country and the UK should also buck it's ideas up, but the importance of the US on the world stage make me wish they would try and lead by example, not just industrially, economically and scientifically, but also socially.

  2. We often do lead socially, Jules, but rarely get credit for it. Only Canada beat us out in granting women and blacks the right to vote in the Americas, for instance. GB granted women full suffrage in 1928 while the US did it in 1920. Canada was a few years ahead of us. I was amazed to find that France waited until 1944 and Greece, the "cradle of democracy", waited until 1952. Switzerland waited until 1971.

    I am not trying to paint the US as some great progressive country or a leader in everything. I am just saying we are no different than any other when it comes to social change. Cultures resist change; the dynamics of each culture have a lot to do with whether and how changes come about.

    We may well be the only country willing to have shed blood to force a major change. The Civil War brought an end to slavery in the US and cost us 620,000 military dead (both sides). But it was the culmination of decades of battles against slavery since the US's independence.

    Just as children grow and reach maturity at different ages, so do countries. We don't judge children harshly for being late to enter puberty, why should we judge nations?

  3. The Jules wrote:

    "Yet when I look at the US (admittedly through the dodgy medium of the media), I am amazed at how a country with such a multi-cultural heritage can be so obsessed with skin colour."

    That it took the US so long to abolish slavery reflects something about the American character. Perhaps even more telling is that so many for so long found a religious basis for the continuation of the institution.

    The Logistician argues that it has little to do with race per se, but more about competition in the one of the more competitive countries in history, for limited resources, and a need to establish one's identity while fighting for those resources.

  4. On this racism / slavery issue, two quick thoughts:

    John Haidt argues that what Democrats fail to understand, and what Republicans do, is that politics is more akin to religion than shopping. That being said, you might be surprised to know that neoconservative Irving Kristol once noted:

    "There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work."

    We are reasonably convinced that there are truths for racist people. In many instances, their religious beliefs reinforce their racial beliefs, and that's part of their view of reality and their truth.

    We saw a very interesting program about the neuroscience of political affiliation. Various party adherents had their brains monitored and scanned while articulating certain emotional and logical positions, and the results were fascinating. Humans may not, in the many instances, have the ability to adopt different points of view or modify their views on certain subjects. They may be quasi-permanently hard wired to feel the way they feel.

    We plan to delve into this further down the road.

  5. I come from a family that 'donated' to both sides of the Am. Civil War ... fighting in family fields. Color does not trouble me. ALL of my friends are Black men & women, as is my wife. Until I get guff from someone (happens far too often), I tend to forget that I am a Caucasian. When a White person comes to our congregation (where I am normally the only White person), I tend to be a little suspicious at first -- asking myself "Why is he here?" I gone so far as to become defensive of my 'blackness'.

    I am far more concerned by the gap between rich & poor in every area of measurement. Health, diet, education, status ... the list goes on for pages and affects EVERY race. A wealthy Black man is no more inclined to "give back" than a wealthy White or Hispanic or Asian man is. Whatever 'giving back' there is, it will never be enough to endanger their own status as "haves" nor is it likely to move other have-nots up the ladder.

    Moreover, I see the recent bailout as simply being an escalation of a class war dating back to the establishment of a central bank in the US.

  6. Thanks Bill in Detroit for visiting us. Feel free to do so in the future.

    We, somewhat similarly to you, feel that much of what we characterize as race issues are actually socio-economic issues, coupled with genetic, survival, hard-wiring issues.

    How one functions and survives in the world depends on where one is located at any given point in time, and how long he has been there, along with population density and other environmental factors.

    Your comments on the effect of the bailout were echoed by the author of "Empire of Illusion," which aired on C-Span2 Book TV this weekend. It will air again tomorrow, Monday morning, at 3:00 am EDST.

    The featured author speaks of the economic, political, and moral collapse of America. He notes that the slick and the sophisticated have made off with billions and become even more wealthy, whereas many average working men and women lost their savings, and many have also lost their jobs.

  7. Bill in Detroit, click here to see our article generated in October 2008, entitled "Why I Am Concerned that Obama Might Win."


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