Saturday, September 20, 2008

Beyond FRUSTRATING: Racism Alive and Well in the U.S.

First thing this morning, I was greeted on-line by an AP article on an August 27-September 5 survey conducted by the Associated Press and Yahoo. The headline, “Poll: Racial views steer some white Dems away from Obama,” is sobering enough, but the article goes on to document many discouraging—but to some not at all surprising—facts:

· 40 percent of all white Americans hold at least a partly negative view toward blacks.

· Just seven in 10 Democrats support Obama.

· Given a choice of several positive and negative adjectives that might describe blacks:

--20 percent of all whites said the word “violent” strongly applied,

--22 percent agreed with “boastful,”

--29 percent “complaining,”

--13 percent “lazy” and

--11 percent “irresponsible.”

· When asked about positive adjectives, whites were more likely to stay on the fence than give a strongly positive assessment.

· More than a quarter (25%!) of white Democrats agree that “if blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites.”

· Among white Independents, nearly four in 10 (40%!) agree that blacks would be better off if they “try harder.”

A stunning graph is included with the article, but only in the “printable” version that readers have to click-through to view. I also found intriguing a Yahoo ad that was run at one time to the bottom left of this article; the ad portrayed a sad middle-aged black man and asked if the reader was depressed. How fitting.

The lead of this article wraps it all up in a wake-up call to Obama supporters who assume their candidate is a shoe-in: “Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House.”

Stanford political scientist Paul Sniderman, who helped analyze the “exhaustive” survey, had this to say: “There are a lot fewer bigots than there were 50 years ago, but that doesn’t mean there’s only a few bigots.”

I’ve met with readers of my novel (which explores subtle forms of contemporary prejudice) who insist we’re “better than this” or “black people are treated just the same as everyone else” or “you’re exaggerating.” Others insist they’re “colorblind” and wonder why we can’t simply “put this behind us.” Maybe this article will finally make more people see, as Marvin Gaye once sang so sweetly, “What’s Going On.”

Post-note: By 7:30 a.m. MST today, the article “Poll: Racial views steer some white Dems away from Obama” had already been bumped off the list of Top AP Stories.


Anonymous Special Needs Mama said...

Horrifying. Thank you for posting this.

9:08 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I'm afraid it's the elephant in the election and I don't know that there's any way to estimate what the impact will be.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

You're very welcome, Special Needs Mama. Horrifying is a good word for it.

Lisa, it's the big awful elephant in this election; I'll be surprised if Obama brings it up in debate because McCain will just say he's playing the race card. But to ignore the impact of racism on this election is shameful. Talk about a catch-22. K.

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is shameful. And horrifying. Thanks for sharing the information.

5:41 AM  
Blogger steve said...

I'm still hopeful. At the beginning of the year, there seemed to be a felling in the black community that Obama wasn't "black enough." Now it seems he's too black for some white voters.

I'm also suspicious of any polls done by Stanford. It's a very conservative school, and I suspect some of the questions were deliberately provocative.

We're bombarded by news programs showing Africn-Americans as particularly violent. And the Welfare Cadillac myth has never gone away. Because some black people are violent, and some are on welfare (though that doesn't necessarily mean lazy), a lot of whites will do word associations between blacks and violence and laziness. Had the questions been framed differently, there would have been different responses.

For instance, if whites were asked about black people they knew or worked with, the response would have been much different.

I think the upcoming debates will show Obama as a thoughtful man who is not prone to rash judgments (such as support for what he called "dumb wars).

Yes, there's still racism. But I don't believe it's as prevalent as the Stanfrod survey suggests. At least, I hope not.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Steve, thanks for the reminder to consider the source, but I'm willing to guess these results are close to accurate. At any rate they raise awareness that significant challenges remain for any person easily labeled as different from a traditional American (white heterosexual neurotypical etc etc) point of view. K.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Patry Francis said...

Whether the people who hold these beliefs like it or not, the future is coming, and it's a future with a beautiful multi-racial face! Let's hope the young--who seem far less susceptible to the racism that poisoned our past--come out and vote in record numbers.

8:35 PM  
Blogger cs harris said...

I'm frankly amazed at the parodies of shock one sees over this election. Did Americans actually not realize how prejudiced their society still is?

I remember moving here from Australia and having to explain to my children what racial prejudice is. I'll never forget their incredulity at the idea someone could judge another merely on the basis of their race. It didn't take too many months of living in New Orleans before they "got" it (although my youngest, now in a liberal arts college with kids from all over, says she's found her fellow students from the North tend to be even more bigoted than Southerners). For their sake, I'm glad that while they are biracial, they don't look it.

I try to be discrete and avoid talking about politics in a public forum, so I'll shut up now!

9:12 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Fingers crossed at that one, Patry!

Candy, I'm so glad you chimed in on this, especially since your family is also mixed-race. Thanks so much! K.

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's just proof of the US's poor education status. One of words in the acronym of my personal mission statement is Education. In my training last night I stressed the importance of education and how my favorite part of my job is the training. I'm training them to make smart choices for their success. I know that "when I grow up" I want to fund a scholarship. Not sure the details yet but that is one of my goals.

Education allows people to make smarter choices instead of impulse decision. Using your head and not your emotions. Education takes you "BEYOND Understanding" to a place of Empathy, Perspective, and Respect. Maybe if people would research policies and platforms (i.e. educate themselves), then their informed decision would be based on making our country what they want it to be. That is why we have the privilege of Democracy. The uneducated people voting via a judgment will be the same people who, in a year, from now will be complaining about something the government isn't doing, no matter what color the president is. Sigh...

FYI, I awarded you! And don't forget to change your link in your blogroll! Thanks!

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always have subscribed to the notion that hate/prejudice is taught and not inherent in our DNA. I'm beginning to wonder. In any event, I do not believe we are prisoners of our DNA in every respect.

Anyway, all we can do is examine ourselves, continuously, those of us who care to do so, and keep our personal demons in check.

7:58 AM  
Blogger wblmom said...

There are so many issues that are not right with all of it including who we have to pick for our presidents, I am sorry people, but that is my view.
I don't care for Obama, not because he is black, but because of things he has done, especially when he was in Florida. Trust me, if this survey was conducted from people on behalf of Obama I know exactly why they did it and I would not trust it one bit.
Again this is not a racial thing on my part not one bit, you put Denzel Washington up for president I will vote my hiney off!! :)

3:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't usually address myself to other comments on my host's blog, but here goes.

To "wblmom": What, exactly has Mr. Obama done in Florida? He does not represent Florida in the Senate (and he served in the Illinois legislature), so I'm at a loss how he could do things to adversely affect Florida (except as Florida may be affected like other states based upon federal legislation). Care to elaborate?

6:03 AM  
Blogger Barrie said...


9:19 AM  
Blogger Carleen Brice said...

I have to say I am surprised at the high numbers. This fear is the reason that many black folks waited until Obama won Iowa before they came on board. They were shocked that a majority white state went for him and found hope there. I'm holding on to my hope that people will vote their best interests rather than their fears and prejudices...but I have to admit, I'm afraid.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Jen, I am so far behind! I'll be by to visit soon, promise!

As for education, I find it hard to believe anyone who thinks the Democratic plan for bettering education in our country is lacking in specifics ought to go to the Obama site and read the details.

9:32 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Gerry, the trouble is so many still consider prejudice in its many forms acceptable. I agree with you that it's a personal demon that demands a lot of attention.

WBLMOM, I'm with Gerry/TwoBlueDay in that I'm unsure of your reference to Obama's actions in Florida. K.

9:35 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Barrie and Carleen, I'm very hopeful with the current polls. A terrific nonpartisan resource for that is But BOY will I be happy when this election is over! Talk about nerve-wracking. K.

9:37 PM  
Blogger paris parfait said...

The more things change, the more they remain the same. So sad. It breaks my heart to see the true colors of people, which has everything to do with their actions and nothing to do with their skin tones.

6:57 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home