I think what is often missed or downplayed in how politicians and others address racism in America is that you can’t have systemic racism without having a population that includes a significant number of people who are racists. This was not something that President Biden or Vice President Harris said in their responses to Senator Scott’s statement.
From the article:
"No, I don't think the American people are racist," Biden said. "But I think after 400 years African Americans have been left in a position where they're so far behind the eight ball in terms of education, health, in terms of opportunity."
Biden has frequently employed the term systemic racism, which is used to describe when cultural institutions and systems reflect individual racism.
He has stated that systemic racism can be found in education, health care, criminal justice, the economy and other large sectors of American life.
It isn’t just NBC News that headlined the phrase “I don’t think the American people are racist. You can look it up on DuckDuckGo here. Below, just a small example.
Editors across the media considered this the most newsworthy of what President Biden said in his NBC interview with Craig Melvin.
While everything else he said about systemic racism is true, his statement that he didn’t think the American people are racists was, in my opinion, both an impossible to make generalization and stated in a way to be a savvy political calculation.
Vice President Harris said something similar on Good Morning America: “No, I don’t believe America is a racist country, but we also do have to speak truth about racism in this country and its existence today.”
There are numerous accurate things you can add to the sentence “I don't think the American people are _______” for example you can fill in the blank with words from aardvarks to zebras. Once I decided to use their photos to illustrate this diary I realized that the color of the aardvark represents what this country will look like in one or two decades. The zebra represents more of what we look like today.
One can’t accurately and unequivocally say what the American people aren’t because they are so diverse.
There truth is that not only are so many Americans racists that they have imbued, or more to the point, infected the entire culture with its taint. The levels of racism in the population can’t be assessed by simple polls, because on such questions people will lie.
A more scientific approach is necessary, for example this was published in the Replicablity-Index Blog by a professor at the University of Toronto, Mississauga, in Canada whose primary research areas are personality psychology and well-being science.
A famous quote states that something that cannot be measured does not exist. This is of course not true, but if we want to move from anecdotal evidence to scientific evidence and theories of racism, we need valid measures of racism.
Social psychology has a long history of developing measures of racism and today there are dozens of different measures of racism. Unfortunately, psychologists are better at developing new measures than at validating existing ones. This makes research on racism vulnerable to criticism that racism measures are invalid or biased (Feldman & Huddy, 2005; Zigerell, 2015)
The problem with direct measures of racism is that open admission of racial bias has become less acceptable over time.
Critics of racism research by social psychologists have argued that the research is biased because many social psychologists are liberal. The accusation is that social psychologists have created biased measures that conflate liberal policies with bigotry. Here I show that these critics have a valid point and that high scores on scales like the symbolic racism scale and the modern racism scale are influenced by attitudes towards egalitarian policies. However, I also showed that Republicans are more racist when racism is measured with a broad range of measures that have only racism as a common element.
Conservatives may be displeased by this finding, but recent events in 2020 have made it rather obvious that some Americans are openly racist and that these Americans are also openly supporting Trump. The real question for Republicans who oppose racism is how they can get rid of racism in their party.
I see President Biden’s response as purely political. If he said America was a racist country he’d have been wrong. If he said that we had a huge problem with racism he’d be right. However this wouldn’t have been a politically astute thing to say. His words had to be carefully formulated so they wouldn’t give ammunition to the GOP.
While some hard core white supremacists take pride in being called racists others who are to varying degrees racists prefer to reveal this only to their racist friends. My hunch is that the members of the former group can be exemplified by those carrying Confederate flags at Trump rallies. The later group carry Trump flags.
Defining racism by the dictionary definition (showing prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism against a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized) how does one define a racist country? Is it a country where everyone is a racist? Of course not. Is it a country where the majority of country is racist? This is possible but doesn’t seem to apply to the United States.
In my opinion in the United States it is more likely that between 30-40% of the country is racist to what I consider a significant degree, ie, that they fit the dictionary definition. At the extreme end these are people whose bigoted beliefs are central to their attitudes and behavior. At the less extreme end their racism is more selective and doesn't dominate their everyday life but will dictate the way they vote.
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