New Poll on Immigration: Whites versus Latinos

An NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo poll was just released, and reveals what they term a huge “racial divide” between Latinos and white Americans. (Here is the full pdf on the survey.) First they note an overall finding on Arizona’s law:

In the poll, 61 percent say they favor Arizona’s new anti-illegal immigration law, which would require local and state law enforcement officers to question people about their immigration status if they have reason to suspect a person is in the country illegally.

And, in effect, it requires the police to do racial profiling (how else do you have reason to suspect ordinary citizens, in most cases?) The law also allows citizens to sue the police for not enforcing the law vigorously. So many police chiefs are opposed to such legislation. Then there is the big poll finding:

A divide among white and Latino respondents: 70 percent of whites support the law, versus just 31 percent of Latinos. In fact, 58 percent of Latinos say they strongly oppose it. That’s not the only chasm between White and Latino America. While 68 percent of Latinos believe that immigration strengthens the United States, just 43 percent of whites think that.

It is odd that so many whites do not “get it.” Denigrating, targeting, and racializing Latino immigrants is not even in their longterm interest. Who does much of the “dirty work” and service work that greatly undergirds the lifestyle of 41Krhlnz4lL._SL500_AA300_Middle Class America? Without all these younger folks, that is, the hardworking immigrant workers from Mexico, Central America, and Asia, the U.S. would be heading for an extremely serious demographic decline in the next few decades (as in much of Europe already). That would mean means fewer workers—thus, fewer people to do the work of society and pay most of the taxes, including for the social security payments of retiring (mostly white) baby boomers.

The pundits and pollsters, of course, focus on the political implications of the poll:

… the survey suggests that Republicans could get an immediate political boost, but may face a long-term problem among Latinos, the nation’s fastest-growing demographic group. “Are there areas where the Republicans can make short-term gains? Yes,” says Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart…. “But the fear is that they have long-term losses.” What’s more, 37 percent of whites view the Republican Party favorably, while just 22 percent of Latinos have a favorable impression of the GOP.

So, it looks like the “white political party,” the Republican party, has decided again to alienate most all voters of color. One thing they seem to be forgetting too is that another very fast growing group of color is also heavily composed of immigrants—Asian Americans. I have not seen any discussion or poll of Asian Americans on these issues, but I think it is fairly safe to think they are not happy either with the many extremist attacks targeting hardworking immigrant workers these days. What do you think?

Islamophobia: Popular, Acceptable Form of Racism

Islamophobia, and the racial profiling of almost anyone not white, seems to be the popular and acceptable form of racism these days.  Following the Christmas Day attempt to blow up an airplane bound for Detroit by Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, a Nigerian and a Muslim, a majority of Americans favor racial and ethnic profiling be used in airline security.   Recent poll data from Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds:

“…59% of adults say factors such as race, ethnicity and overall appearance should be used to determine which boarding passengers to search at airports. Twenty-six percent (26%) say these factors should not be used to determine which passengers to search. Another 15% are not sure. Interestingly, however, even more Americans (71%) believe such profiling is necessary in today’s environment. Eighteen percent (18%) disagree and see profiling as an unnecessary violation of civil rights.  Men feel more strongly than women that profiling is necessary in the modern environment. Sixty-eight percent (68%) of men say profiling should be used to determine which boarding passengers to search, but just 51% of women agree. Sixty-two percent (62%) of whites and 52% of those of other races say profiling should be used at airports. African-Americans are more closely divided on the question.”

This is striking data suggesting that Americans are quite willing to jettison civil rights in the service of stereotypes and racial prejudice.   It’s also based on faulty reasoning.  Quite simply, racial profiling doesn’t work.  As Arsalan Iftikhar, writing for CNN, points out:

For years, the concept of “racial profiling” has reportedly undermined important terrorist investigations here in the United States. Most notably, these examples include the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing in which the two white male domestic terrorists, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, were able to flee while officers operated on the theory that the act had been committed by “Arab terrorists” for the first 48 hours of the investigation.

Similarly, during the October 2002 Washington-area sniper investigation, the African-American man and boy ultimately accused of the crime reportedly were able to pass through multiple road blocks with the alleged murder weapon in their possession, in part, because police ‘profilers’ theorized the crime had been committed by a white male acting alone.

According to a report last summer by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Rights Working Group to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination: “Both Democratic and Republican administrations [in the United States] have acknowledged that racial profiling is unconstitutional, socially corrupting and counter-productive, yet this unjustifiable practice remains a stain on American democracy and an affront to the promise of racial equality.”

If the fact that racial profiling is tremendously ineffective doesn’t seem to deter the American impulse to want to “do something” following this lastest attempt at a terrorist act, perhaps considering the fact that this sort of knee-jerk, McCarthyism stands in stark constrast to democratic ideals of equality will temper this reaction.  I fear that such an appeal will fall on deaf ears and there’s growing evidence that this is so.

Consider, for example, a recent interview with Retired Lt. Gen. on Fox News (opens video), in which he flatly states that we should profile and strip search all 18-28-year-old muslim men.  In my view, this qualifies as Islamaphobia – prejudice and discrimination against Islam and against Muslims.  It seems clear that this is a popular, and increasingly acceptable, form of mainstream racism.

And, as another example, Ed Koch – former mayor of New York City – saying in another recent interview (opens video) that “not every Muslim is a terrorist, but “hundreds of millions are,” which is just patently false as the protest by peace-loving Muslims in Detroit, outside the courthouse where Abdulmuttalab was being arraigned, demonstrates.   But, as we see again and again on this blog, such racism is unlikely to be moved by logic and rational argument.

A writer using the name ‘unspeakable’ asks at Daily Kos: do Arabs and Muslims have a place in America? I want the answer to this rhetorical question to be a resounding, “yes, of course!”   Increasingly, I fear that my country is saying “no.”

“Muslims” versus “Americans”?

I just ran across a book put out by the Gallup press last year, titled Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, by researchers John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed. Gallup did tens of thousands of interviews with people in 35 predominantly or significantly Muslim countries, asking them an array of questions about their views of the West and Islam. Here is a bit of the Gallup summary of their findings:

Muslims around the world do not see the West as monolithic. They criticize or celebrate countries based on their politics, not based on their culture or religion.

All their points in the Gallup summary are presented as “counterintuitive discoveries.” And rather uncritically too. The Western bias even in this “liberal” analysis is obvious. It does not take much familiarity with the non-Western media online to know this in advance. Mainly for Westerners would this “duh” conclusion be “counterintuitive.”

In addition, the U.S./Western bias leaps out at the reader in the major part of the summary that accents Western “concerns” about Islam:

When asked to describe their dreams for the future, Muslims don’t mention fighting in a jihad, but rather getting a better job. . . . Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally unjustified. . . . Those who condone acts of terrorism are a minority and are no more likely to be religious than the rest of the population. . . .

Again, this is not really counterintuitive for people living in these countries, or indeed I suspect in most of the non-Western world. Featuring this Western obsession over “jihad” in a major survey tells us much more about Western stereotyping of non-Western Muslims than it does about the latter (billion) citizens of planet Earth.

The summary adds this:

What Muslims around the world say they most admire about the West is its technology and its democracy — the same two top responses given by Americans when asked the same question.. . . . What Muslims around the world say they least admire about the West is its perceived moral decay and breakdown of traditional values — the same responses given by Americans when posed the same question.

The strong and ethnocentric dichotomy throughout the summary is very revealing. There is the odd phrasing the Gallup folks use a couple of times: “Muslims and Americans.” And they carry out this dichotomy in describing (unmodified) “Muslims” and “Americans” as having similar values and views, but again without making it clear that millions of Muslims are indeed Americans. Apparently it does not occur to them that one can be both Muslim and American, all across the U.S.

The ethnocentrism and ignorance about Muslims, including U.S. Muslims, in the U.S. is indeed staggering. Maybe the naïve survey does move in the direction of seeing Muslims everywhere as human beings? As the summary notes:

Muslims around the world say that the one thing the West can do to improve relations with their societies is to moderate their views toward Muslims and respect Islam.

Indeed. And do a little research and reading.

Racists calling “Racist”

sotomayorBarbinMD at dailykos has a useful summary of some of the right-wing white male commentators calling Sonia Sotomayor “racist,” even with their own extensive records of racist commentaries and actions (Image Source: Wikipedia). Barbin MD reproduces this nice little discussion centered on congress critter, Tom Tancredo, and a young white male associate:

TANCREDO: If you belong to an organization, called La Raza in this case, which is from my point of view anyway, just nothing more than a Latino, it’s a counterpart, it’s a Latino KKK without the hoods …
SCHUSTER: A Latino KKK — would you like to take this opportunity to apologize?
TANCREDO: (Laughs) No.
SANCHEZ: It turns out that Tom Tancredo has some explaining to do on this very front, because the Executive Director of his political action committee, his political action committee, has admitted to a blatantly racist act. It’s now revealed that in 2007, this man, Marcus Epstein, according to a Secret Service witness, came out of a bar in Washington, called a woman the “n” word, and then slapped her in the head. Slapped her in the head. He fled the scene, but he was eventually arrested. Epstein, who is due back in court next month, is blaming his behavior on too much alcohol. But according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, it’s more than that. They have described Epstein as a man with a network of racist connections. Back to Tancredo now — who said on this show, people who associate with racist organizations are racists. Congressman, why is Mr. Epstein still in charge of your political organization? And what sir, does that say about you? We got in touch with Tancredo. He declined to answer our questions yesterday, repeatedly.

Various folks like Tom Tancredo, Newt Gingrich, and Rush Limbaugh first called not only the La Raza civil rights group, but also Judge Sonia Sotomayor a racist, but then later started backing off on this and sounding confused.Rush Limbaugh is one good example, as here in this meandering gibberish:

… it’s racism, reverse racism, whatever, but it’s still racism. And she would bring a form of racism, bigotry to the court. But as I said yesterday, folks, I may look past that. I’ve got a whole stack on Sotomayor today. You know she would be the sixth Catholic on the Supreme Court and there are a lot of people worried about that. That does not bother me at all. I know a lot of Catholics, I love Catholics. But Sotomayor, she’s a Catholic, and she doesn’t have a clear record on abortion and I’m, overturning Roe versus Wade, well, that could be huge. I don’t know that it’ll ever happen, but if, you know, the opportunity to get somebody like her — she’s a Catholic, she’s a devout Catholic. She’s a Hispanic Catholic, Puerto Rican, they tend to be devout. She hasn’t got a record on this. Normally liberals do have a record, I mean when they’re pro-choice, man they’re, they, they, they champion it. They shout from mountaintops, they trumpet it. She hasn’t so I, I can see a possibility of supporting this nomination. If I can be convinced that she does have a sensibility toward life.

Given his own record of racist comments, this is very strange indeed.

Living in this country, when it comes to issues of race and racism is often like being Alice in Wonderland. The white-controlled mainstream media commentators get to define any word, like “racist” or “racism,” just about any way they want to. Why then do we have social scientists working so hard on trying to gather data on racism and defining it more precisely?

Structural Racism: What do FDR and Barack Obama have in common?

What do President Franklin D. Roosevelt and President Barack Obama have in common?  Unfortunately, a lot.

lender foreclosure

A recent report by the Kirwan Institute on Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University projects that the relief purposed to come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARR Act) will not benefit all groups to the same degree (Creative Commons License photo credit: TheTruthAbout…) . Because of the racial stratification of occupations and employment opportunities, the jobs created in the stimulus package are designed for industries where blacks, in particular, are underrepresented (e.g., the construction industry).
In parallel fashion, the economic benefits of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal disproportionately benefited white middle class America.  FDR’s New Deal funded the seeds of post-World War II suburbanization and with it, white flight, through the National Housing Act of 1934 implemented by the Federal Housing Administration. These government handouts are in part responsible for the crystallization of a large black-white gap in wealth we still see today.

Fortunately, unlike the 30s, we currently have laws that criminalize racial discrimination in hiring and wage allotment. However, sociological studies show that the racial wage gap is largest in the private sector, particularly in occupations where earnings are decided by the capital of one’s client-base. In a society where both interracial friendships and interracial employment contracts are rare, it is not difficult to see where inequalities in earnings can be built into a privatized client-driven pay scale. Many of the new jobs the ARR Act seeks to create will be rooted in the private sector (e.g., infrastructure investments and the energy sector), not the public sector where racial wage gaps are more equitable.

What we essentially have is an example of institutional discrimination, also known as “structural racism”—that is, a range of policies and practices of an institution that lead to the systematic disadvantage of members of certain racial groups (disparate impact). Not coincidentally, the mechanisms of structural racism operate among us invisibly and create an inert force once activated.

We are only now seeing one of the many unintended consequences of the government subsidization of white wealth – twenty-first century black foreclosure.

Analysts have noted that since 2004 black homeownership gains have been reversed and that even before this time rates of foreclosure were on a steady rise in areas with large minority populations. While the media likes to place the onus on blacks – citing poor investment practices and bad credit, they forget that, unlike their white counterparts, black homeowners financed much of their American Dream through their own means. They also did not catch on to urban flight until the 80s and 90s, once housing prices in urban areas were prohibitively expensive and the rise in housing values (and therefore, escrow capital) had already begun to stagnate.  Furthermore, predatory lending practices, redlining, and urban decline have largely eroded the capital out of their most valuable asset.

Thus, in times where the median black family income is dropping for the first time since World War II, there is little to bail people of color out of the depression they have entered into with the current economic crisis. According to United for a Fair Economy, black unemployment rates have been indicative of an economic recession for the past five years.

Could the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 be the 1930s New Deal all over again? In “Silent Depression: The State of the Dream 2009,” United for a Fair Economy draws more parallels between these two periods than one would like. Lax lending standards, a housing and construction boom, and later foreclosure were all features of the 20s and 30s, much as they are features of our current economic situation.

How do we stop this cycle of structural racism?

If the ARR Act goes into effect without oversight into how and to whom jobs and other monetary benefits are distributed, it seems unlikely that we will be able to do so. One place we already see the process of structural racism in the making is in the response of certain governors to accepting funds earmarked for their state due to their political ideology. Six governors – all Republican and some 2012 presidential candidate hopefuls – have displayed hesitancy in accepting funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the governor of Alabama has already refused stimulus funds for unemployment funds.

While everyone has a right to their politically ideology regarding government intervention into state affairs, the impact of statesmen refusing stimulus funds most likely will only aggravate the current racial gap in unemployment and contribute to the further decline in median family income within black household. These statesmen’s rationalization of government policies is part of the larger white racial frame undergirding American systemic racism simply because of the centrality of race to American racial and non-racial politics. In all of the states where governors are dancing the political two-step, black unemployment is at least twice that of whites. By withholding stimulus funds that will benefit all constituents of a state and stymie the short- and long-term effects of the current recession – both which were derivatives of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, these governors actively participate in maintaining structural racism and racialized experiences.

The time to be assertive, deliberate, and informed about how racism works is now. has already begun an online petition calling out the social and humanistic irresponsibility of these governors. Time is repeating itself: This time there are no excuses.

Racism Among Obama Supporters?

Over at the historian, journalist, and activist Paul Street—who has recently published his book, Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics— has some interesting commentary on issues of racism in both the McCain and Obama camps.

Street points out some of the racialized reasons that some whites support Senator Obama, reasons and issues that get very little attention in mainstream media discussions. He quotes an exchange reported in the New York TimesCaucus Blog:

between white voter Veronica Mendive and white Obama volunteer Cathy Vance: Ms. Mendive: “I’ve never been around a lot of black people before. I just worry that they’re nice to your face but then when they get around their own people you just have to worry about what they’re going to do to you.” Ms. Vance: “One thing you have to remember is that Obama, he’s half white and he was raised by his white mother. So his views are really more white than black really.”

First, here is the old worry that African Americans are not saying to white faces what they are really thinking, which in a racist system is not too surprising. African Americans do have to spend a lot of time and energy in their backstage settings recounting whites’ racist actions and figuring out how to counter them. But that is not what whites are worrying about when they think about the Black backstage. Whites seem to worry most about what Blacks might “do” to whites. The volunteer assures the voter that Obama is OK because of his white ancestry and socialization. This reasoning may well be one common way of thinking about Senator Obama among whites, and it is interesting that (to my knowledge) no one in or out of the mass media has researched this important political and racial issue.

Street then recounts another Times interview with someone who is apparently working for Obama:

According to Times reporter Adam Nossiter, Oaks is “pleased by Mr. Obama’s lack of connection to African-American politics.” Oaks spoke to fellow whites at a local church and with approval of how Obama “doesn’t come the African-American perspective – he’s not of that tradition. . . . He’s not a product of any ghetto.”

One reason that Senator Obama is getting some (many?) white votes, thus, is because they see him as “an exception to his race,” a very old notion that has been part of the white racial frame since at least the 17th century. He is seen as not fully “Black” in the negative sense that idea has in the white racial frame, especially since he was raised mostly by whites. And he does not have the “African American perspective,” which I would guess means that unlike veteran Black civil rights leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al. Sharpton, Senator Obama has been very careful (with the exception of his one Philadelphia speech) not to talk openly about the racial hostility and discrimination, the systemic racism, perpetrated by a great many white Americans.

In working on our book on “race” and the Obama campaign, Adia and I have discussed why Senator Obama has carefully avoided discussing civil rights issues and the venerable Black civil rights agenda, which includes getting the government to vigorously enforce U.S. civil rights laws—which it has not done. Presumably, he must do this to be elected.

A society founded in and still grounded in white racism means, among other things, that a Black candidate running in a predominantly white district or area (the entire nation in this case) cannot talk candidly about the continuing and deep impacts of racial hostility and discrimination against African Americans and other Americans of color—that is, he or she must still act in ways that please whites, at least a significant enough group of whites to be elected. He or she cannot talk about what may be the nation’s most serious problem.

Even then, a majority of whites are still hard to persuade. A check of recent polls indicates that in this last week Research 2000 found that Senator Obama leads Senator McCain significantly among all registered voters, but is way behind among white voters (52-40 percent split in favor of McCain). Gallup shows less of a divide, but still a 48-44 percent white voter split in favor of McCain.

Given that the economy is in a meltdown mode, that we have the most negatively regarded president in recent memory, that the Republican brand is in poor repute, that Senator Obama is extraordinarily capable and has run what is probably the best organized and technologically savvy presidential campaign in history, why is it that white voters are still strongly tilted to McCain?

What do you think about this?

Nineteen Percent of Whites: Friends Will Not Vote for Black Man

Charles M. Blow has a rather chilling oped piece on racism and the coming election in the August 8, 2008 New York Times. He first points out that this should be an easy year for the Democratic presidential candidate, with all the failures of the Bush administration, especially the war, and Senator Obama’s demonstrated fundraising ability. But a July New York Times/CBS News poll underscores the problem we have accented several times on this blog, the racism factor (inaccurately called by the euphemism, the “Bradley factor”) few white journalists or social scientists are willing to discuss:

When whites were asked whether they would be willing to vote for a black candidate, 5 percent confessed that they would not. . . . [And, more importantly] They asked the same whites if most of the people they knew would vote for a black candidate. Nineteen percent said that those they knew would not.

Blow points out this could be a large number of people if these white voters have many friends. (And are the white respondents really talking about themselves?) His analysis then accents what he calls the

murky world of modern racism, where most of the open animus has been replaced by a shadowy bias that is difficult to measure. As Obama gently put it in his race speech, today’s racial “resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company.” However, they can be — and possibly will be — expressed in the privacy of the voting booth.

Blow notes that if the percentage of whites who will not vote for a black candidate is just 15 percent, that is a larger percentage than the percentage of black voters or young voters in the electorate. So McCain has the racial edge–especially considering that Senator Obama’s percentage of black voters is high but about the same as previous white Democratic candidates. Actually too there is nothing mysterious or murky about all this, and the white bias is relatively easy to measure if one goes backstage and records what whites actually say and do there, as we have pointed out from social science data on the backstage blatant racism common in white communities, previously on this blog.

And the most revealing finding for the election in the survey is this:

Just as many white independents as Republicans said that most of the people they knew would not vote for a black candidate, and white Democrats were not far behind. Also, remember that during the Democratic primaries, up to 20 percent of white voters in some states said that the race of the candidate was important to them. Few of those people voted for the black guy.

One response to my previous blog analyses about whites not voting for Obama because of the backstage racism and their vibrant white racial frame is that the “racists are all Republicans any way.” This survey strongly suggests that view is false. The same proportion of independents reported that most of their friends will not vote for a black person, and a significant proportion of Democrats report the same. In an election where the typical winner wins by just 1-4 percent of the total votes cast, the 19 percent of independents who say most of their friends will not vote for Senator Obama is a chilling figure. It would appear that the odds are against him (always have been?) because of that old and still very strong white racial framing of Black men.

White and Black Views: A USA Today Balancing Act

USA Today reports on a summer Gallup/USA Today poll on “race relations,” the conventional media term that dances around without naming the actual reality of systemic racism. They surveyed 702 whites, 608 blacks, and 502 Hispanics. The reporters make these opening claims:

The survey paints a mixed picture of race relations. The racial divide over whether African Americans are treated fairly hasn’t abated, and blacks and whites are deeply divided on how much of a role bias plays in problems faced by the African American community. On the other hand, a record 58% of Americans say race relations “eventually will be worked out,” while 38% say they will “always be a problem.”

The reporters use this weak opening that tries to put a pretty face on racism. After doing the usual balancing of “bad” racial news with “good” racial news–that is after framing the story from a version of the white racial frame that wants to play down racism–the reporter then notes some troubling and revealing data:

Two-thirds of non-Hispanic whites say they are satisfied with the way blacks are treated in the USA; two-thirds of blacks say they are dissatisfied. Most blacks identify racial discrimination as a major factor in a list of problems the African American community faces, including shorter life expectancies than whites and a higher likelihood of going to prison. Most whites call racism a minor factor or not a factor in those situations.

This “analysis” too is firmly framed from a version of the white racial frame. Why should we treat whites as valid sources on the extent of racial discrimination faced by black Americans? Why are there not many more questions on this discrimination faced by African Americans and reporting on how, when, and where they experience it? Why is there no comment on how out of touch many whites are on this discrimination faced by African Americans? Again, we have another form of white-framed balancing, which considers white answers to superficial survey questions on antiblack discrimination to be as important as black answers!

The reporters then, again, try to put a pretty face on U.S. racism:

The gap between blacks and whites in assessing race relations seems to be narrowing. Last year, 75% of whites and 55% of blacks said black-white relations were good, a 20-point gap. This year, that difference of opinion drops to 9 points. . . . Eight in 10 whites and seven in 10 blacks say civil rights for blacks have improved in the past decade.

Clearly, survey researchers often have a limited understanding of racial matters in this country, as is revealed in such superficial questioning. Why not ask more sophisticated and probing questions that get at the major differences in the way that black and white Americans see these issues of “race relations” (systemic racism) and civil rights progress? Why not do some interviewing on these matters? I am pretty sure they would find major differences if they did in-depth interviewing or focus groups.

And how about some more insightful analysis? For example, an African American can of course see improvement if the recent racial past was one of the lynchings and other extreme brutality and oppression of the legal segregation era that lasted into the 1970s—indeed, which ended a rather short time ago when many of us were already adults. It can still, of course, be a very bad situation today as other answers indicate.

This tepid “racial divide” language suggests just how white-framed, and thus out of touch with reality, the maintain mass media are. The so-called “racial divide” is the result of systemic racism created and perpetrated by whites — a system that has now operated over some 400 years in this country, yet it is very rare for this systemic racism, its racial hierarchy, or it rationalizing white racial frame to be critically analyzed in our whitewashed media. Is it a type of “collective psychosis” when large groups of people, like many whites inside and outside of the media, are way out of touch with our still highly racialized reality?

(Note: There is also no significant analysis of the Latino responses in this article. Also, the racist comments posted on the USA Today website by readers after their article contradict the “good race relations” approach in the article.)

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