The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Fw: Numbers

        Hello everyone,
 I got this today, and it has some good points in it.  It really made me
think about it.  Since it talks about numbers and how there used to prove a
point, I thought you may all be interested in this.  I hope you all enjoy

-----Original Message-----
From: Duane McCormick <>
To: rev.gorgo <rev.gorgo>
Date: Saturday, March 13, 1999 3:19 AM
Subject: Numbers

>This is one of the daily commentaries that are a premium sent to monthly
>donors to Z/ZNet.  Folks wishing to learn more about the project or to
>sign up to receive the Daily Commentaries can do so at the ZNet site
>( and specifically at the Commentary Page
>There is a forum for discussing the contents of the ZNet Commentaries in
>ZNet public forums system also at
>The physical address is 18 Millfield St. Woods Hole, MA 02543,
>Please, if you forward this commentary to someone, also forward the
>above information.
>Here then is today's ZNet Commentary...
>Racism and "Preferential Treatment" by the Numbers
>By Tim Wise
>Anyone who does political analysis, advocacy or organizing knows that
>on all sides of an issue have "numbers." Trotting out statistics to
>one's point about something is a well-accepted practice, and yet rarely
>we stop to think about what certain numbers mean: be they used by "our
>side," or by political adversaries.
>As someone who works full-time doing antiracism work, I constantly run
>across those whose "numbers" are thrown at me in an attempt to prove two
>things in particular: 1) that racist attitudes among whites are
>nonexistent nowadays; and, 2) that the only real discrimination still in
>evidence is that dreaded "reverse" kind, as in so-called affirmative
>"preferences." Herein, I would like to address both claims, with
>to numbers, and what they do (and don't) mean.
>With regards to the first issue-white racial attitudes-my general
>has always been that no matter how much improved are the views expressed
>pollsters, the real issue is institutional inequity; and that is
>that requires no overt bigotry for its perpetuation. While I still
>this is an important point, I've also come to realize that in some ways
>a cop out: after all, there are real people behind those institutions,
>making real decisions, and others who don't make decisions themselves
>nonetheless collaborate with the system as it is. It is with that in
>that I decided to look a bit more deeply at the numbers used by folks
>D'Souza, Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom, and others to "prove" how much
>tolerant are today's white folks.
>Although there have been many polls in recent years indicating that
>30-70% of all whites believe blacks are generally lazy, less determined
>succeed, and more violent and aggressive, those who deny the persistence
>racism tend to ignore these numbers, focusing instead on the one or two
>surveys which bolster their position. So, for example, I have heard it
>with great pride by many race commentators on the right, that only a
>small percentage-perhaps 5% -of whites now say that blacks and other
>of color are "inferior races" in the biological sense.
>This is of course an improvement since the 1940's, at which time a clear
>plurality, or even the majority of whites would have responded
>positively to
>this Bell Curve-ish proposition. However, a few things should be
>first, there are still obviously enough people willing to entertain the
>notion of biological determinism so as to make The Bell Curve a best
>(not in the 1940's after all, but in 1995), and secondly, even if we
>the 5% figure as an accurate reflection of what people think, we should
>clear on just how many folks that represents. We're so used to hearing
>percentages, that often if we hear that "only" 5% think something, we
>it to be a fringe viewpoint, hardly worthy of concern. But when we look
>deeper-or simply pull out the 1998 Statistical Abstracts of the United
>States-it becomes clear that 5% of the white population holding
>Hitlerian views about racial inferiority/superiority is more of a big
>than previously believed.
>Even if we subtract from the white population totals all whom the Census
>Bureau dubs "Hispanic whites," leaving only those whom folks like David
>might consider sufficiently Caucasian, there are nearly 200 million
>in the U.S. today. Thus, 5% of the white population is approximately 10
>million persons; in this instance ten million persons who adhere to the
>purest racism imaginable, and would be considered racist under pretty
>anyone's definition.
>Well just how many people is that? Is it really such a small group that
>shouldn't concern ourselves with it? Is it so small that people of color
>concern themselves with ongoing discrimination and unequal treatment
>must be
>paranoid or overreacting? Hardly. Compare these 10 million with a number
>other population cohorts, many or most of which the right (and others)
>worried about, and in some cases about which they are apoplectic.
>that 10 million overt white racists is:
>twice the number of "illegal immigrants" (approximately 5 million)
>residing in the U.S;
>at least five times the estimated size of the so-called "hardcore
>underclass," (between 1.5-2 million) about which the right is constantly
>an uproar;
>more than three times the number of black single-moms with children
>(about 3
>million), who, according to contemporary political discourse are
>for many of the nation's worst problems;
>40% more than the total number of persons who will commit a violent
>this year (roughly 7 million);
>1000 times more than all the drunk drivers who will be involved in a
>crash this year (less than 11,000);
>one-third more than all the babies born to teenagers in the last twenty
>years (about 6.5 million);
>10 times more than the number of persons who will be reported for
>abusing or
>neglecting a child this year;
>more than five times the number of persons currently in jail or prison
>3.5 times more than the total number of federal government employees put
>together (and you know what a problem people think those "bureaucrats"
>four times the number of single-moms receiving cash "welfare" payments,
>before recent "reforms" bumped tens of thousands off the rolls;
>And for a few final points of comparison, 10 million overt white racists
>twice the number of whites who are officially unemployed, and equal to
>number who are actually out of work or underemployed in today's economy;
>more than all the cashiers, secretaries, police officers, waiters,
>waitresses and cooks in the U.S. combined;
>and it is more than all the farmers, lawyers, telephone operators, child
>care workers, cops and classroom teachers combined.
>In short, "only" 5% of the white population is a lot of people, so that
>by the most optimistic assessment of white racial attitudes, there are
>literally millions holding overtly racist views. When combined with
>whose views are less vicious, but nonetheless hostile, and those who
>hostile at all, but who simply refuse to speak up against those who are,
>becomes clear just how real a problem racism-even on the purely
>level-remains today.
>As for the second issue-so-called preferential treatment-numbers again
>important. Although opponents of affirmative action typically shy away
>numbers here-choosing instead to focus on individual (often inaccurate)
>anecdotes about victims of reverse discrimination-those of us who fight
>racial equity tend to offer up a bevy of statistics indicating the real
>nature of preferential treatment which has worked to the benefit of
>And make no mistake, showing the degree of preferential treatment
>whites-both historically and today-is exactly what we need to be doing.
>problem about which I have become acutely aware, however, is that
>alone are not enough: mainly because we often don't explain them in a
>which makes sense to people.
>For years I have lectured to students and community groups about the
>multitude of preference programs available to whites throughout the
>which have been largely off limits to people of color. My hope was that
>doing so, I could place in context the discussion of "preferential
>treatment," being offered up by the right, and thus undermine some of
>ability to persuade. Although my efforts were sometimes successful, it
>only when I began to " break down" some of the numbers I was using, that
>clear majorities of the often hostile white audiences would begin to get
>that puzzled look which lets you know they are having to think about
>something for the first time.
>For example, for years now I have used the government's FHA (Federal
>Administration) loan guarantee program as an example of preference for
>whites which still has effects in the here-and-now. As most of you know,
>from 1934-1962, the FHA guaranteed and underwrote over $120 billion
>worth of
>home equity for over 35 million white families. Due to
>underwriting policies, this font of public largesse was virtually off
>to families of color, who generally couldn't receive FHA loans for homes
>white suburbs. This process entrenched residential segregation which
>contributed to educational and employment inequity for persons of color.
>This much is known, and irrefutable, as is the fact that the value of
>home equity-which is in the process of being handed down to today's
>baby-boomers or their children-is now approximately $10 trillion. But
>when I
>would talk in these terms-"millions" of white families, and "hundreds of
>billions" or "trillions" of dollars-it was obvious that many a person's
>were glazing. Fact is, folks simply don't have a reference point for
>that big, and so they tend to go in one ear and out the other. So about
>year ago, I turned again to the Statistical Abstracts, and was able to
>cobble together the following comparisons, which help to put the
>of this one program's preferences in clear perspective:
>$10 trillion dollars (the current value of the housing equity loaned
>preferentially to whites throughout the middle of this century) is:
>More than all the outstanding mortgage debt, all the credit card debt,
>the savings account assets, all the money in IRA's and 401k retirement
>plans, all the annual profits for U.S. manufacturers, and our entire
>merchandise trade deficit combined.
>Now read that again. The first time I ever shared this information with
>audience (and I'm not talking about a left audience, I mean just typical
>not-all-that-political students, and their professors), the sound of
>disbelief emanating from their lungs was more than a little
>in a way that it had never been when I had shared the numbers in an
>abstract, purely intellectual way. Now the face of preference had a
>one that they could understand; and one which makes the claims of the
>opponents of racial equity seem petty and disingenuous even to many of
>most skeptical listeners.
>The lessons of this already too lengthy commentary are simple: make sure
>deconstruct (for lack of a better term) the statistics offered by
>commentators, to find what's really underneath the surface; and learn to
>break down the statistics you use in your own work, so as to give them
>meaning for people. Given the appropriately cynical attitude many have
>towards what any political commentator or activist has to say, it is not
>enough to try and win debating points about whose percentages are
>Rather, it is necessary to make folks understand the faces behind the
>numbers, and the real-life impact of political decisions. The
>Abstracts can't do that. Only we can.
>Duane L. McCormick

This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To be removed/added, email, NOT the
whole list. Archived at

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]