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Are you a racist?

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Are you a racist?

Critical thinking about deceptive polling

White Too Long by Robert P. Jones (Simon & Schuster, 2020) was No. 3 among Amazon’s “history of Christianity” books on Sept. 6. That’s both good and bad news: Jones provides useful information on white supremacy but builds a sinkhole too far by constructing a 15-question test and claiming the answers show white evangelicals are racists.

Try question No. 2 yourself: “What should be done with Confederate monuments that are currently standing on public property such as statehouses, county courthouses, public universities or city parks?” One in 5 said “left in place just as they are.” One in 4 said “removed but allowed to be reinstalled in a museum or on private property.” Almost half said “left in place but have a plaque added that explains their historical context.” Only 9 percent wanted to destroy the statues. 

What do you think?

I wrote to Jones to ask how he scored the answers. He courteously responded, “the ‘removed and destroyed’ response option is scored as the less racist response.” Fascinating: The Taliban blew up statues of Buddha, and to be fully anti-racist Americans should also be destructive. Famed artist Elisabet Ney lived in Austin and sculpted slave owners and slavery defenders including Stephen F. Austin, Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, and Confederate Postmaster General John Reagan: Should her work be destroyed?

My own preference: Move statues to a museum. In a book setting out to show the omnipresence of racism, it’s manipulative to include as evidence a question to which 91 percent of Americans don’t give the author’s preferred Talibanesque answer. Other questionable analysis sets up “a stunning contradiction,” as Jones puts it: “White evangelical Protestants report the warmest attitudes toward African Americans while simultaneously registering the highest score on the Racism Index.” In other words, these whites personally like blacks but support systemic racism.

It’s not a contradiction but an ideological difference. Most evangelicals are conservatives who criticize the systemic racism that keeps many black kids trapped in terrible public schools, even though educational choice programs in several large cities have shown excellent results. Many also criticize the systemic racism that for a half century has encouraged single parenting by offering welfare to single moms and imprisoning dads for minor drug offenses. (One out of 5 black kids grew up in a single-­parent home in 1960: Now it’s 2 out of 3.) 

Liberals, though, rarely admit that their liberal programs have contributed to systemic racism. They rightly lay out the brutality of slavery and the semi-slavery that continued even after the Civil War, but often ignore the analysis of black economists like Thomas Sowell and black journalists like Jason Riley, whose book title offers a good request to liberals: Please Stop Helping Us.

Some common right-left ground on prison reform exists, and the COVID-19 shake-up may open up common ground on the need for radical changes in public schools. But why turn conservative/ liberal differences of opinion into a racist/nonracist divide? 

Bookmarks

Katharina Bonzel’s National Pastimes: Cinema, Sports, and Nation (University of Nebraska, 2020) provides provocative analysis of Chariots of Fire, the Rocky series, and other films. Jonathan Tepper’s The Myth of Capitalism (Wiley, 2019) shows we have too much crony capitalism and should develop a reinvigorated antitrust policy. Ron Sider’s Speak Your Peace (Herald, 2020) makes the case for pacifism.

If you think fascism is right-wing, you might benefit from socialist-turned-libertarian David Ramsay Steele’s The Mystery of Fascism (St. Augustine’s Press, 2019). Steele’s essays are creative, politically incorrect analyses of many political and cultural issues. His 2001 essay on fascism identifies fascism as the refuge of socialists disappointed to find workers interested in reform rather than revolution: Fascism was a leftist variant in Italy and deserves a spot at that ­dictatorial end of the spectrum, with liberty at the other end. —M.O. 

Comments

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  • Andy Knudsen
    Posted: Sun, 09/27/2020 12:54 am

    Thank you for the reviews and analysis, as always!

  • JimVC
    Posted: Tue, 09/29/2020 12:45 pm

    Perhaps someone should point out to Mr. Jones that if the facts on the ground stunningly contradict his pet theory, that proves that his theory is a crock.

  • BF
    Posted: Sat, 10/03/2020 08:29 pm

    "Most evangelicals are conservatives who criticize the systemic racism that keeps many black kids trapped in terrible public schools..." 

    Perhaps I'm missing something, but what "systemic racism?" This term is thrown around so much now. Bad policy yes, but how is a bad policy racist if it applies to all races? It might affect one race more than another (such as welfare and drug raids) but that does not make the policy itself racist. Unless of course the policy specifically targets one ethnic group over another in its language. Affirmative Action comes to mind as one such policy. 

  • TH
    Posted: Sun, 10/04/2020 06:23 am

    Yet another "big issue" based almost entirely on falsehood. Genuine racism in America is minimal with most of it residing in minority communities. But almost every discussion begins with accepting the lie that behaviourism is racism. Few people care much about the color of one's skin, however, almost everyone cares about how one presents themself. Being a jerk knows no color boundary. The test for this is pretty simple. Imagine you and your family at a large theme park entering an area to break for lunch. There are parties of various races in each corner and you must pick one of these corners. All are behaving in a decent manner except for one which is the same race as you. Where do you sit? Define issues correctly and they can be addressed. The way racism is normally defined today it us unfixable. 

  • Janet B
    Posted: Mon, 10/05/2020 11:22 am

    Excellent point!

  • Greysmoke
    Posted: Mon, 10/05/2020 10:01 am

    So, tear it down = not racist. Anything else = racist.

    It's extraordinary for a proper statistician to expect essentially binary answers to questions about human beliefs and opinions, which will always be experienced in shades of gray (despite our most heroic efforts to the contrary). Of course, Dr. Jones is a student of religion, and not statistics. Curious....

  • Janet B
    Posted: Mon, 10/05/2020 11:21 am

    Thank you for this article, highlighting the way in which those who are defining the terms are skewing the questions to make evangelical Christians look bad.

    But I have to respectfully disagree with your use of their terms, Mr. Olasky.  It is not systemic racism that keeps blacks in inefficient schools and poor neighborhoods.  The programs do not state that only blacks will be recipients of programs that encourage fatherlessness and illiteracy.  There are plenty of white and Latino people suffering from these programs, as well (though I grant you that it is more dire in black communities).  I rather think that it systemic elitism:  "We will help you because you are not able to live up to our standards of success."  

    I do agree that it has mainly been the Democrat party that has, since the generation after the Founders, considered blacks and the poor not worthy of equality.  While they may have meant well in the last 50 years, they should be able to admit that their policies and programs have failed, and to look to other programs - using more successful reading methods, tax credits for married couples - that would accomplish what they say they want for the poor.  But they refuse, and worse, they work hard to label those who are really trying to respectfully improve the lives of the poor as racist.  It is shameful hypocrisy, and more should be done in the media - especially WORLD - to expose it.