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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 it. Vicki -----Original Message----- From: Duane McCormick <firstname.lastname@example.org> 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 >(http://www.zmag.org) and specifically at the Commentary Page >(http://www.zmag.org/donorform.htm). > >There is a forum for discussing the contents of the ZNet Commentaries in >the >ZNet public forums system also at http://www.zmag.org. > >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 >folks >on all sides of an issue have "numbers." Trotting out statistics to >prove >one's point about something is a well-accepted practice, and yet rarely >do >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 >virtually >nonexistent nowadays; and, 2) that the only real discrimination still in >evidence is that dreaded "reverse" kind, as in so-called affirmative >action >"preferences." Herein, I would like to address both claims, with >reference >to numbers, and what they do (and don't) mean. > >With regards to the first issue-white racial attitudes-my general >response >has always been that no matter how much improved are the views expressed >to >pollsters, the real issue is institutional inequity; and that is >something >that requires no overt bigotry for its perpetuation. While I still >believe >this is an important point, I've also come to realize that in some ways >it's >a cop out: after all, there are real people behind those institutions, >making real decisions, and others who don't make decisions themselves >but >nonetheless collaborate with the system as it is. It is with that in >mind >that I decided to look a bit more deeply at the numbers used by folks >like >D'Souza, Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom, and others to "prove" how much >more >tolerant are today's white folks. > >Although there have been many polls in recent years indicating that >between >30-70% of all whites believe blacks are generally lazy, less determined >to >succeed, and more violent and aggressive, those who deny the persistence >of >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 >said >with great pride by many race commentators on the right, that only a >very >small percentage-perhaps 5% -of whites now say that blacks and other >people >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 >remembered: >first, there are still obviously enough people willing to entertain the >notion of biological determinism so as to make The Bell Curve a best >seller >(not in the 1940's after all, but in 1995), and secondly, even if we >accept >the 5% figure as an accurate reflection of what people think, we should >be >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 >think >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 >essentially >Hitlerian views about racial inferiority/superiority is more of a big >deal >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 >Duke >might consider sufficiently Caucasian, there are nearly 200 million >whites >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 >much >anyone's definition. > >Well just how many people is that? Is it really such a small group that >we >shouldn't concern ourselves with it? Is it so small that people of color >who >concern themselves with ongoing discrimination and unequal treatment >must be >paranoid or overreacting? Hardly. Compare these 10 million with a number >of >other population cohorts, many or most of which the right (and others) >are >worried about, and in some cases about which they are apoplectic. >Consider >that 10 million overt white racists is: > >twice the number of "illegal immigrants" (approximately 5 million) >currently >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 >in >an uproar; >more than three times the number of black single-moms with children >(about 3 >million), who, according to contemporary political discourse are >responsible >for many of the nation's worst problems; >40% more than the total number of persons who will commit a violent >crime >this year (roughly 7 million); >1000 times more than all the drunk drivers who will be involved in a >fatal >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 >nationwide; >3.5 times more than the total number of federal government employees put >together (and you know what a problem people think those "bureaucrats" >are); >four times the number of single-moms receiving cash "welfare" payments, >even >before recent "reforms" bumped tens of thousands off the rolls; >And for a few final points of comparison, 10 million overt white racists >is: >twice the number of whites who are officially unemployed, and equal to >the >number who are actually out of work or underemployed in today's economy; >and, >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 >even >by the most optimistic assessment of white racial attitudes, there are >literally millions holding overtly racist views. When combined with >those >whose views are less vicious, but nonetheless hostile, and those who >aren't >hostile at all, but who simply refuse to speak up against those who are, >it >becomes clear just how real a problem racism-even on the purely >attitudinal >level-remains today. > >As for the second issue-so-called preferential treatment-numbers again >are >important. Although opponents of affirmative action typically shy away >from >numbers here-choosing instead to focus on individual (often inaccurate) >anecdotes about victims of reverse discrimination-those of us who fight >for >racial equity tend to offer up a bevy of statistics indicating the real >nature of preferential treatment which has worked to the benefit of >whites. > >And make no mistake, showing the degree of preferential treatment >afforded >whites-both historically and today-is exactly what we need to be doing. >The >problem about which I have become acutely aware, however, is that >numbers >alone are not enough: mainly because we often don't explain them in a >way >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 >years >which have been largely off limits to people of color. My hope was that >by >doing so, I could place in context the discussion of "preferential >treatment," being offered up by the right, and thus undermine some of >its >ability to persuade. Although my efforts were sometimes successful, it >was >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 >Housing >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 >racially-restrictive >underwriting policies, this font of public largesse was virtually off >limits >to families of color, who generally couldn't receive FHA loans for homes >in >white suburbs. This process entrenched residential segregation which >then >contributed to educational and employment inequity for persons of color. > >This much is known, and irrefutable, as is the fact that the value of >that >home equity-which is in the process of being handed down to today's >white >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 >eyes >were glazing. Fact is, folks simply don't have a reference point for >numbers >that big, and so they tend to go in one ear and out the other. So about >a >year ago, I turned again to the Statistical Abstracts, and was able to >cobble together the following comparisons, which help to put the >magnitude >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, >all >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 >an >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 >noticeable-and >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 >context; >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 >the >most skeptical listeners. > >The lessons of this already too lengthy commentary are simple: make sure >to >deconstruct (for lack of a better term) the statistics offered by >political >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 >real >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 >better. >Rather, it is necessary to make folks understand the faces behind the >numbers, and the real-life impact of political decisions. The >Statistical >Abstracts can't do that. Only we can. > > > > >-- >Duane L. McCormick >email@example.com > >See: >http://www.pmtinet.com/rev.gorgo/politic.htm > -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email firstname.lastname@example.org, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html