Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Diminishing Race Card in America

Larry Elder, writing on the Race Card--2005, says:

Polls find young blacks less likely to call racism America's No. 1 issue. A Time/CNN poll found 89 percent of black teens consider racism in their own lives to be "a small problem" or "not a problem at all." Twice as many black teens as white believe that "failure to take advantage of available opportunities" is a bigger problem for blacks than discrimination. Polls and focus groups show younger blacks less likely to identify themselves as Democrats, and more likely to support partial privatization of Social Security, school vouchers and the abolition of race-based preferences. This spells trouble for the Democratic Party and its monolithic black vote.

Horrors! The Democrats may have to find another card to play.

It should be noted that the poll Elder references is a bit dated now--it was conducted in 1997. The poll questioned 1,282 adults and 601 teens (ages 12-17). In the story on the poll, it's interesting to read quotes by the professional pontificators on race. They dismiss these startling figures because these teens are not yet out in the real world experiencing discrimination. That's their explanation for why so many black teens are optimistic. (Black adults, after all, view the situation more negatively.) I think there are two explanations--both better--for the discrepancy between black teens and black adults. (1) Things are getting better in terms of race relations in America, and the black adults still recount times of genuine discrimination and prejudice; (2) The teens have not yet been fully inoculated with Black Group Think--an idealogy affecting many which focuses on victimology and guilt in order to advance.

For further polls and analysis, you may want to consult the chapter "What Americans Think About Race and Ethnicity" by Everett C. Ladd, in Beyond the Color Line: New Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity in America, ed. Abigail Thernstrom and Stephen Thernstrom (2002).

Feel free to add a comment below if you think the analysis here misses the mark or if there are important things being left unsaid--or if you agree entirely!.