Of Burning Crosses and the First Amendment

Westchester County, an affluent, predominantly white suburb of NYC (where the Clintons, among others reside) was the site of a crossing burning on the night before Thanksgiving.  As of yesterday, a 21-year-old white man has been charged in with a hate crime. The suspect is the older brother of a girl who was involved in a fight at the local high school with a class mate, Timothy Artope, who is African American; the fight apparently included use of a racial epithet. The cross appeared on the Artope family’s lawn just hours after the fight. The report from the local news channel here describes the Westchester D.A.’s response to the family this way:

She praised Wesley and Clara Montague-Artope of Cortlandt for their family’s “dignified and courageous” response to the cross burning.

While I have no doubt that it’s true that these folks have responded with dignity and courage, such reports don’t go far enough to… Continue reading…

Why are so Many Black Males Being Murdered?

I usually do not like to promote television news shows when it comes to coverage of racial, gender, or religious matters, for they only give you bits and pieces of information supported by a primitive critical lens. Plus, news shows have a proclivity to have so called “experts” that are mental midgets attempting to demonstrate some form of intelligence. At times, I can not distinguish what is more insulting, the fact that a majority of scholars of color are absent and replaced by a Black person who is not able to handle themselvs in a critical argument with someone on the “Right” or the manner in which these media outlets bring on Blacks who agree that racism is not a factor and Blacks are to blame for their current situation. Regardless, the information is then easily and blindly ingested by other sitting on their couches around the country. But, I think this particular show will be interesting. Tonight on CNN at 8:00p.m. (E.T.) they will be discussing the rate of Black male homicides in the U.S.
http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/outintheopen/

Health Effects of Racism Not Going Away

As I wrote here awhile back, the effects of racism on health are not insignificant. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s Daily Reports put me on to this story from the Portland (ME) Press Herald. Leigh Donaldson sets this medical news story in eloquent relief with his opening:

During my high school years, I helped my father maintain his residential rental properties in Detroit.


This meant low wages and hard work. It’s not always easy working for a parent, especially for my father, who raised the work-ethic bar on a daily basis.


He expected the best effort with minimal complaint, short of a near-death experience.


One day, I was mowing the lawn surrounding one of his buildings when he yelled from a tenant’s apartment window for me to bring up his toolbox from the car.


Entering the living room, I overheard the tenant, a gray-haired white woman, refer to my father this way: “You know how they are. God knows how long it will take. I doubt if he even knows what he’s doing.”


My father must have overheard as well, yet he continued to work. The tenant, who was behind on her rent, asked him if he knew the landlord.


My father said: “I should, I’m him. I own the building.” The woman’s mouth dropped.


Since that day, he has never mentioned the incident, and I often wonder just how he felt and if he was hurt by these less-than-subtle insults.


What did members of the Rutgers University women’s college basketball team internalize after listening to radio talk show host Don Imus’ racial slurs?


There has been a quickly emerging field of research that demonstrates that racism hurts the health of the body. According to Madeline Drexler, a medical columnist and visiting lecturer at the Harvard School of Public Health, more than 100 studies now document the effects of racial discrimination on physical health.

Toward the end of the piece Donaldson goes on to note that:

Too many Americans are reluctant to deal with racism on any level. Exploring it scientifically has met resistance from funding sources.

He’s partly right here. It’s true that (white) Americans are reluctant to deal with racism on any level. And, exploring racism scientifically isn’t just met with resistance from funding sources, it’s that scientists are asking the wrong questions. Instead of exploring the science of racism funding is allocated to study racial differences. So, for example, instead of asking questions about what the physical impact on the body is from racism for those who are targets of it – or perpetrators of it – funding goes to study racial differences between Black and white behavior and biology. Asking research questions framed exclusively in terms of behavioral and biological racial differences without looking at racism simply reinscribes racial hierarchies rather than producing knowledge that might disrupt them.

The Pseudoscience of “Intelligence” Testing

It seems that the theme of intellectual inferiority along racial lines has gained renewed public attention in the past month with the Watson debacle and then, as if in his defense, the online magazine Slate’s 3-part series “Created Equal” by William Saletan appeared shortly afterward. I won’t revisit Saletan’s argument in detail here, but will point you in the direction of Daniel Koffler’s excellent vivisection of the piece. A key point of Koffler’s is this:

the principal study on which Saletan rests his case is a two-year old paper by J. Phillippe Rushton and Arthur Jensen.


To put this as fairly as it can be put: Rushton and Jensen are anything but a new wave of scholars come to shed light on a heretofore intractable problem, as Saletan presents them. On the contrary, they have spent nearly a century combined harping on the same theme again and again, in paper after paper, and that theme is black racial inferiority. (Care for a taste of just how old-fashioned they are? They group human beings into a tripartite classificatory scheme of “Caucasoids,” “Mongoloids,” and “Negroids.” It’s in the 2005 paper, and it’s roughly as credible as the Shem/Ham/Japheth theory of race.)

Koffler is correct in his assessment of this literature, and the theme of racial intellectual inferiority is one that goes back decades in the United States. Earlier in the twentieth century, this theme was applied (by white analysts from northern Europe) to white immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, who were considered to be very inferior in intelligence to native-born Americans of northern European descent. However, in the past few decades the focus has been on black Americans and other Americans of color. For example, Arthur Jensen and Richard Herrnstein, along with a handful of other white social scientists, have alleged that differences in “intelligence test” (IQ) scores are not determined primarily by environmental factors such as education, socialization, racial discrimination, and socioeconomic circumstances, but reflect genetic differences between black and white groups. These arguments will not die, because of the great white interest in perpetuating them. Such “scientists” argue that differences in “intelligence” can be reliably and accurately measured by relatively brief paper-and-pencil and object (or symbol) manipulation tests that are inaccurately labeled “IQ tests.” Groups with low social status or income are argued to be, on the average, intellectually and genetically inferior to groups with greater status and income levels simply because the former average lower scores on these relatively brief tests. These academics and associated conservative writers argue that poor and rich Americans, or black and white Americans, have such different types of intelligence that they require different educational techniques. They also express concern about high black birthrates, which they believe lower the national intelligence. Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s best-selling book The Bell Curve, published in 1994, argued for the discredited theory that there are significant genetically determined differences in intelligence between black Americans and white Americans. (They also explicitly discard the idea of democracy in the process of their argument, revealing their true biases. They fear ordinary people, especially those of color.)


Although the reactionary views of Jensen, Herrnstein, and Murray have been successfully refuted by many social scientists—especially their denial of environmental effects on test results—their notions about intelligence have spread to analysts and politicians around the globe. In 1971, Patrick Buchanan, then an adviser to president Richard Nixon who later became a Republican presidential candidate and television talk show pundit, picked up on Herrnstein’s arguments. In a memo to Nixon, Buchanan alleged that “every study” showed black groups had lower IQs than white groups and that Herrnstein’s views about race and IQ provided “an intellectual basis” for considering cuts in certain government programs.


In the 1930s a number of social psychologists began seriously questioning whether IQ test results could be used as evidence of genetically determined differentials. They showed how white–black differences in IQ test scores reflected major differences in education, income, and other living conditions. Numerous studies showed that test scores of black children improved with better economic and educational environments. Results from large-scale IQ testing revealed that black children and adults in some northern states scored higher than whites in some southern states. Using the logic of Jensen, Herrnstein, and Murray, one would be forced to conclude that white southerners were mentally and “racially” inferior to black Northerners. (See data gathered by Otto Klinberg as cited in I. A. Newby, Challenge to the Court (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1967), p. 74. See also Thomas F. Pettigrew, A Profile of the Negro American(Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand, 1964), pp. 123-126.). Most such white analysts would doubtless avoid this interpretation; obviously they, as defenders of a theory of black IQ inferiority, do not wish to argue that data on IQ might actually show black intellectual superiority. Rather, they would accept an environmental explanation for uncomplimentary regional IQ-score differentials for whites. Not surprisingly, thus, testing differentials favoring whites are also most reasonably interpreted as reflecting environmental conditions such as family income and quality of schooling, not genetic factors.


Some analysts have focused on the cultural bias—specifically, the white middle-class bias—inherent in traditional achievement and other psychometric tests (including IQ, SAT, and GRE tests), which measure only certain types of learned skills and certain acquired knowledge—skills and knowledge that are not equally available to all racial and ethnic groups because of centuries of discrimination and, thus, of low family incomes and lesser quality educational facilities. Social scientists have also found that advanced skills in achievement-test taking itself are skills that white middle-class children are more likely to possess because they and their parents have access to more substantial learning resources and are typically more familiar and experienced with such paper-and-pencil testing.


The most fundamental problem for those who insist on racial differences is the equation of these relatively brief tests’ results with general intelligence. From the beginning, the so-called intelligence (IQ) tests have been intentionally misnamed. These tests measure only selected verbal, mathematical, or manipulative skills. Clearly, they do not measure well many aspects of human abilities, such as much human creativity and imagination. They do not measure musical, artistic, farming, fishing, and many other skills that reflect human intelligence. They penalize those who do not spend their lives enmeshed in the culture of the test makers. Intelligence is much broader than what relatively short paper-and-pencil or symbol-manipulation tests can measure. Intelligence is more accurately defined as a complex ability to deal creatively with one’s environment, whatever that environment may be. At best, only a very small portion of human intellectual ability can be revealed on any short test. Given this problem of what social scientists call the “validity” of a measure, the modest and brief “intelligence” tests by no means reveal what the defenders of racial inequality claim that they do.

Anti-Racism Rally Marks End of Transatlantic Slave Trade

The BBC reports that about 500 people marched yesterday in the St Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March, organized by the Scottish Trades Union Congress, to mark the anniversary of the British act to abolish the trade. I have to wonder as I do each time I read about anti-racism rallies outside the U.S. why there are no similar events organized on this side of the Atlantic. Perhaps it is the partly due to the fact that so few Americans really know the history of the transatlantic slave trade, or the debates in the U.S. about it, including the following quote from Abraham Lincoln in 1858:

“I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about the social or political equality of the white and black races – I am not … in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to inter-marry with white people.”


“There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.”



And, then again, in 1862, while President Lincoln said:


“If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it, and if I could do it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would do that also. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union.”


(Thanks to Richard Woodley at The Fifth Column for reminding me of these quotes.)

It seems to me that what Lincoln shares with some of the contemporary advocates of racial inequality, biological and otherwise, is what historian George Fredrickson calls the arrogance of race.

Saygo: A Native American Thanksgiving

“Saygo,” a roughly anglicized version of the word for “greetings” in the Seneca and Ojibway languages, seems like an appropriate salutation for this Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. Although the holiday has been almost completely overrun by the commercial interests such as Macy’s, the christmas-industrial-complex, football and the travel industry, it’s important to remember the history behind the event. This “open letter” to Senator Dodd and the people of Connecticut from Lawrence Otway, Tribal Court Judge, Golden Hill Paugeesukq, Tribal Nation is one reminder. And, Jacqueline Keeler, a member of the Dineh Nation and the Yankton Dakota Sioux, writes powerfully about the tradition of the “First Thanksgiving”:

In stories told by the Dakota people, an evil person always keeps his or her heart in a secret place separate from the body. The hero must find that secret place and destroy the heart in order to stop the evil. I see, in the “First Thanksgiving” story, a hidden Pilgrim heart. The story of that heart is the real tale than needs to be told. What did it hold? Bigotry, hatred, greed, self-righteousness? We have seen the evil that it caused in the 350 years since. Genocide, environmental devastation, poverty, world wars, racism.


Where is the hero who will destroy that heart of evil? I believe it must be each of us. Indeed, when I give thanks this Thursday and I cook my native food, I will be thinking of this hidden heart and how my ancestors survived the evil it caused. Because if we can survive, with our ability to share and to give intact, then the evil and the good will that met that Thanksgiving day in the land of the Wampanoag will have come full circle.


And the healing can begin.

Hold a good thought today that each of us can move toward that healing vision. Peace ~

Black Face & “Ironic” Racism

So someone at Smith College got the not-so-brilliant-in-hindsight idea to throw a party with the theme: celebrity rehab. When two white guests showed up in blackface at the party as Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, people objected and the faux Whitney and Bobby reverted to their previously white faces. The white Smith students excursion into blackface, and what one scholar has called “racial fantasy,” set off a controversy over the weekend that gained intensity through hundreds of posts to Smith’s Daily Jolt message board.


Perhaps these white students, like that Chapman guy who thought he was “cool enough with Black people” to repeatedly use a racial slur when referring to his son’s girlfriend, thought they were “cool enough” to go to the party in black face. Not to excuse these students for their misguided attempt at humor, but a brief scan of some behavior by whites in the pop culture landscape, and it’s easy to see how they might have thought their stunt would be a hit. For example, on the Comedy Channel’s Sarah Silverman Show, Silverman recently did a skit where she appears in black face, as do a number of other white people. Here’s the 2-minute video online. (Be forewarned: the video and the audio play when you click the link.) This phenomenon is not limited to the U.S. In the UK, Mark Hooper writing for the Guardian Unlimited wonders about the “ironic racism” in shows such as The Office (the original British version). Hooper poses a great question:

When the joke is on the racist characters, does that make it OK to repeat the racism?

It’s a difficult question to answer and a difficult comedic feat to pull off. Mostly, I think it depends. I like comedy that’s subversive, that makes me laugh as it challenges my assumptions (e.g., Richard Pryor, Margaret Cho, Dave Chappelle), but Silverman’s black face routine never makes me laugh or question the status quo. Several people have noted that we’re living in an age of irony, in which the default response is one of detached hipness and cynicism. And, it’s within this context that the attempt-at-comedic-racism and the “ironic” racism emerge. In this brand of racism, white people imagine themselves to be “cool enough” to be black, and thus able to escape their own white identity, if only briefly.


But, this isn’t unique to the contemporary, ironic age. White people have long been fascinated by (and fetishized) blackness and sought to escape whiteness through black face and by appropriating black music and culture. To tremendously oversimplify a complex field of scholarship about blackface and minstrelsy, one of the points that Lott makes in his Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (Oxford University Press, 1993), is that black face performance by whites reflects both a desire for blackness (“love”) and a plundering of black culture and the denial of unremunerated black labor (“theft”). I think there’s a strong case to be made that many of the racial dynamics of “love” and “theft” that fueled Jacksonian-era minstrelsy are operating underneath the displays of black face and “ironic” racism in contemporary pop culture. Whether or not this constitutes a subversive racial practice is the subject of scholarly debate, but it’s not very funny.

Racism and IQ (Again)

Someone really should sit Andrew Sullivan down and school him on racism and the roots of the IQ debate. He once again reveals his complete lack of depth on the subject in his re-hash of Watson’s comments about “race” and “IQ.” Henry Farrell over at Crooked Timber does an excellent (what’s the superlative above excellent?) job of explaining why Sullivan (and Watson’s, and Hernstein and Murray’s, and Rushton’s) take on “race and IQ” is flawed in a series of lengthy posts that you can find here. These are long posts, but well worth the time if you have an interest in this topic.

Part of what is so annoying about Sullivan’s insistence that the “data demand addressing” around IQ is that he, like so many others wedded to the notion of biological race, commits what Troy Duster refers to as the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness.” Here, Sullivan commits this fallacy in thinking that “IQ” is really an accurate measure of some sort of inherent, immutable intelligence. In fact, there’s lots of research that demonstrates what so-called IQ tests are best at measuring is class position, such as a French study by Capron and Duyme which found that children adopted by high-SES parents score higher than children adopted by low-SES parents. It seems appropriate that this is a French study, since the practice of testing for “intelligence” began in France, with Alfred Binet in 1905, specifically to find in which areas the French school children needed remedial education. Following that, it was imported to the U.S. and promoted as tool in the eugenics movement by people like Henry Herbert Goddard, America’s first intelligence tester and author of the famous American eugenics tract, The Kallikak Family. Goddard and others in the eugenics movement at the beginning of the 20th century, envisioned IQ-testing as an effective tool for addressing the social issues of their day, such as poverty, crime, prostitution, alcoholism, and immigration restriction (See, for example, Zenderland, Measuring Minds, Cambridge University Press, 1998). Indeed, if you take a look at the testimony by “social science experts” of the day who testified before Congress in the hearings prior to the widespread, and racist, 1924 immigration restrictions, many of these leading social scientists used the “evidence” from IQ tests. These tests were administered to new immigrants in English and then in a fallacy of misplaced concreteness (treating results of the IQ test “as if” it were a real, concrete thing), used the lower scores on IQ tests as evidence of their putatively lower intelligence which justified their exclusion as “worthy” immigrants and future citizens. Dr. Jonathan Plucker, Indiana University, offers this detail on Goddard’s work at Ellis Island:

In 1913 Goddard was invited to Ellis Island to help detect morons in the immigrant population. In his Intelligence Classification of Immigrants of Different Nationalities (1917) he asserted that most of the Ellis Island immigrants were mentally deficient. For example, he indicated that 83% of all Jews tested were feeble-minded, as were 80% of the Hungarians, 79% of the Italians, and 87% of the Russians. The result was that many immigrants were turned away and sent back to Europe.

I dare say that none of the contemporary anti-immigrant, anti-black (or more precisely anti-African) proponents of Watsonian-style IQ-mongering would dare to launch a convincing argument that 83% of the Jewish population is “feeble-minded.” And I hope they would  take issue with the notion of a Jewish “race.”

Let’s review: “race” as biology is a fiction, racism as a social problem is real.

Racism and Politics: Agreeing to Disagree

Let’s get this out of the way first: I disagree strongly with the writer over at The Wonkette who recently offered this incredibly condescending attack on the civil rights protest in Washington D.C. And, the predominantly white Wonkette-readership trots out the usual round of and predictably nasty trash-talk about Rev. Al Sharpton and other Black civil rights leaders. The title of the Wonkette post, “We All Agree. Racism=Bad, Got it. Thanks!” is meant to suggest that “we” (who’s this “we”?) are all “over” racism, and is emblematic of the kind of “I’m not a racist, but…” rhetoric popular among white liberals. The total denial of the reality of racism, contemporary, happening-right-here-right-now-racism, appears to be completely missing from the analysis there, yet that reality continues. Pointing to Rev. Al Sharpton as the source of the problem of racism (“he makes a living off of racism” as one of the commenters writes at Wonkette), is a cheap shot and a red herring in any meaningful discussion about racism.


In addition to the current round of hate crimes (and the declining interest in investigating hate crimes by the federal government), presidential politics appears to be the latest venue for racism. As Pam (and others) have pointed out, Ron Paul’s campaign – flush with new millions according to the New York Times - is a favorite of avowed white supremacists like Don Black. And, the white supremacists are taking their case for Ron Paul to YouTube, the popular video-sharing site. I refuse to post a link to it here, but if you’re curious you can go to YouTube and search for “Stormfront Radio + Ron Paul” and you’ll find the video. Currently, there are over 8,000 views of this online video and lots of supportive comments.


Yet, despite this support and Paul’s refusal to disavow these racist supporters, mainstream (though right of center) writers like Andrew Sullivan insist that Paul is being “smeared” and unjustly charged with being a “closet racist or neo-Nazi.”


The important point to make here is that the name-calling, and this bizarre quest for “who is/is not a racist” (and the even more bizarre denials from whites like that Chapman guy or Don Imus or Michael Richards, the list does go on…), is yet another red herring that distracts us from more pressing discussions. If we could have those more pressing (not mention more interesting) discussions, they might include questions such as: how does institutional racism operate and how we go about dismantling it? The fact that Ron Paul’s libertarian campaign rhetoric and philosophy both dovetails seamlessly with a white supremacist political agenda and is proving to be financially lucrative on the American political landscape should not send us looking in “the closet” for Paul’s racist roots (what’s the prize there?), but instead should have us investigating the connections between mainsteam political philosophies like libertarianism and white supremacy. Let’s all agree on that.

Pew Report on Racial Views Deeply Flawed

On November 13, 2007, the Pew Research Center released a report on racial views of white and black Americans that captured much media attention and some response from bloggers. Much of the report’s analysis is odd, misguided, or weakly interpreted. The report, done in association with National Public Radio, is based on a telephone survey of more than 3,000 Americans, including an over-sample of 1007 African Americans, with only a 24 percent response rate.



The summary of the report on the Pew Research Center website is itself odd, misleading, and/or white-framed in much of it analysis of the state of racial matters in the United States. For example, the lead heading for this summary is in a large font size and virtually screams “Blacks See Growing Values Gap Between Poor and Middle Class.” The first pie chart is headed with “Are Blacks Still a Single Race?” And, the first paragraph of textual analysis reads:

“African Americans see a widening gulf between the values of middle class and poor blacks, and nearly four-in-ten say that because of the diversity within their community, blacks can no longer be thought of as a single race.”

In the first place, these are not the most significant findings in the survey from the point of view of a country with nearly four centuries of racial oppression as its foundation and continuing reality. The most important findings of the Pew survey are those that are not emphasized in the heading of the summary of the report on the website: that more than 80 percent of the African American respondents reported widespread racial discrimination in at least on major area of the society. Two thirds reported that African Americans always or often face discrimination in jobs or In seeking housing. Fifty percent said the same for shopping and restaurants. Also significant is that the survey found a majority of whites denying these realities reported by African Americans. (Is it odd to ask the discriminating group if they see the discrimination they or their peers do, and parallel that finding to what are called the “perceptions” of the targets of that discrimination?) The summary’s comments on these questions are well down in the report and only generally characterized.



The summary writers also report on a vague question about the state of black progress higher up in the second paragraph of the summary of the report, one that indicates that only a fifth of the respondents think things are better today for blacks than five years ago and that less than half (44 percent) think life will be better for blacks in the future. Then they report that whites (why, again?) are twice as likely to see black gains in recent years, and that a majority of whites think the future will be better for blacks.


The analysis is clearly framed from a white perspective, with no lead-in emphasis on the widespread racial discrimination cited by these African American respondents. Pleasing whites by not featuring the continuing racial discrimination seems to be the desire. Considering that whites created centuries of slavery and legal segregation, and ended all that less than four decades ago, this approach is suggestive of an establishment bias.

The opening story about a “divided race” is also problematic. The conclusions about a divided racial group mainly come from two questions in the survey, one asking “In the last ten years . . . have the values held by middle class black people and the values held by poor black people become more similar or more different” and another rather odd question asking, “Which of these statements comes closer to your view, even if it is not exactly right: Blacks today can no longer be thought of as a single race because the black community is so diverse; OR Blacks can still be thought of as a single race because they have so much in common.” On the first question 61 percent of the black respondents replied “more different,” while on the second question 53 percent said “single race” (37 percent chose “no longer . single race . so diverse”).



These questions are themselves so superficial as to be hard to interpret if not useless. The first question actually leaves out half of Black America, the working class half that is neither “poor” nor “middle class.” One cannot draw strong conclusions about the supposedly divided state of Black America and leave out half the population. In addition, the largely white-controlled (and often conservative) mass media hammer so hard on the “pathologies” of poor black Americans that it is not surprising that some black as well as many white respondents have stereotyped notions about the supposed (negative?) “values” of these poor Americans, most of whom in fact have many of the same positive values as the rest of the U.S. population with regard to issues of family, education, and the American dream. Significant here too is that the word “values” is left vague and undefined. What did the question (white) writers have in mind?



The question about “single race” is also so vague and ill-defined that its results are hard to interpret. First, a majority of these black respondents do not see a divided race, a finding that is not emphasized in the Pew report. Secondly, the word “diverse” in the question can mean several things, since it is not specified for the respondents. What kind of diversity do the respondents have in mind who chose the first presented option? The resulting data indicate more about poor question-writing by the survey researchers than a finding one can feel confident about interpreting. One also has to wonder again about the role of the mostly white-controlled mass media in generating inaccurate notions of a splintered African Americans group even in some African American minds.



Several conservative talk show hosts and mainstream media commentators, including Juan Williams for NPR, picked up on another vaguely worded, and loaded, question asked in the survey: “Which of these statements comes closer to your views: Racial discrimination is the main reason why many black people can’t get ahead OR Blacks who can’t get ahead are mostly responsible for their own condition.” Fifty-three percent chose the latter option, with 30 percent choosing the discrimination option. Again, this is written from a white racial frame, as it poses a false dichotomy. One can easily choose both options of individual responsibility and racial discrimination in assessing the problems for “many black people.”



Racial discrimination and oppression, as other questions in the survey mentioned above indicate, are well recognized by a majority of these African American respondents as creating very serious limitations on black lives–a view that is unsurprising given that this country has only had freedom from slavery and legal segregation now for about 38 of its 400 years (less than 10 percent of its history!). Given the intense accent on individualism, it is not surprising that African Americans, like other Americans, typically accent individual responsibility for what goes on in individual lives. That does not lessen the reality of racial oppression, nor their knowledge of that oppression from everyday experience.