Reaching Beyond Race
I just finished Reaching Beyond Race by Paul Sniderman and Edward Carmines. They argued – in 1997 – that people concerned with racial equality should focus on enacting policies that increase opportunities for the disadvantaged generally, using arguments that, as the title suggests, reach beyond race. This is a common enough viewpoint, but they make a number of interesting points about public opinion on racial justice, including the following:
- Whites broadly and strongly reject affirmative action, and opposition is only weakly related to self-reported attitudes about Blacks. (They use clever survey designs to try to avoid social desirability bias in responses.)
- Merely mentioning affirmative action increases negative views of Blacks (among Whites) substantially. The proportion saying Blacks are lazy increased from 20% to 31%, the proportion saying irresponsible increased from 26% to 43%, and the proportion saying arrogant increased from 29% to 36%. (They also point out that Whites say a lot of positive things about Blacks.)
- Affirmative action splits the democratic coalition – those who have favorable views of Blacks support AA, but political liberals who are racially prejudiced oppose it just as strongly as conservatives.
- Racial prejudice does not influence White liberal support for policies aimed at strengthening the safety net or taxing the rich.
- A majority of Whites believe (falsely) that an absolute majority of the poor and of violent criminals are Black. (I will return to this in a future post.)
- Support for job training for unemployed Blacks is higher when justified using race neutral justifications based on the importance of work than justifications based on historical discrimination, and support is highest for universal programs.
The book is obviously a bit dated and some of its conclusions may not hold due to reshuffling of people between parties based on racial attitudes, cue-taking by voters and the use of more explicit racial messages by Republicans, continued liberalization of attitudes, and no doubt many other factors. And some of their findings seem consistent with somewhat different stories about political psychology than the stories they tell. But I want to highlight two lessons that still seem relevant today.
First, they worry that liberals are emphasizing issues and arguments that split their coalition. I think this is true, and it doesn’t just pertain to race. Currently liberals are resisting public pressure to end pandemic restrictions, a position that unifies Republicans and splits Democrats – potentially pushing cross-pressured Democrats away.
Second, consider the explanation they offer for why this happened (in the case of race, my bold):
Part of the answer, we want to suggest, has to do with misreading sentiment not in the public taken as a whole – even politicians of below-average astuteness have long recognized the unpopularity of preferential treatment and racial quotas in the country as a whole – but that portion of it on their own side of the political aisle. When it comes to public issues, most people spend most of their time speaking to those who mostly agree with them. The inclination of liberal Democrats to avoid public criticism of affirmative action has led liberal Democratic activists to overestimate support for, and to underestimate anger at, affirmative action on their own side of the political aisle. . . .
Their argument here – from 1997 – bears a strong resemblance to the claim by some Democratic political analysts like Teixeira and Shor and commentators like Yglesias that Democratic elites are too “woke” and out of touch with working class voters who might support Democrats on less racially and culturally divisive issues – because they spend too much time talking to each other. Of course, this doesn’t prove that this critique is correct, but it does offer useful historical perspective.
Why overcoming racism is essential for humanity’s survival
Respectful and tolerant societies are typically the most harmonious. To get through the challenges of the 21st Century, we are going to need to learn to overcome racism and bigotry.
Humans are the most cooperative species on the planet – all part of a huge interconnected ecosystem. We have built vast cities, connected by a global nervous system of roads, shipping lanes and optical fibres. We have sent thousands of satellites spinning around the planet. Even seemingly simple objects like a graphite pencil are the work of thousands of hands from around the world, as the wonderful essay I-Pencil, quoted below, describes.
Yet we can also be surprisingly intolerant of each other. If we are completely honest, there is perhaps a little bit of xenophobia, racism, sexism and bigotry deep within all of us. Luckily, we can choose to control and suppress such tendencies for our own wellbeing and the good of society.
Most human attitudes and behaviour have both a genetic and an environmental component. This is also true for our fear of others who are different to us – xenophobia – and intolerance of their viewpoints – bigotry. Hardwired into the brain’s amygdala region is a fear reflex that is primed by encounters with the unfamiliar. …
Modern civilisation in general encourages the extension of attitudes such as respect and tolerance beyond those who look similar to us, to those who we have no relation to. We reinforce and codify these values, teaching them to our children, while some religious and secular spiritual leaders promote them in their teachings. That’s because they generally lead to a more harmonious, mutually beneficial society.
This is exactly what has made us such a cooperative species. But sometimes our cultures can be less progressive. What people around us say and do subconsciously influences the way we think. We soak up this cultural context like a sponge, and it subtly shapes our attitudes and behaviours. If we are surrounded by people that stigmatise those different to themselves, this also encourages distrust or aggression in us.
It presses the buttons of certain deep-seated xenophobic attitudes within us. In fact, it discourages the hard-learned inhibitory responses in the brain’s prefrontal cortex that get built up under more progressive contexts. …
Get everybody on the same economic level — that would be a good start.
After I described the American labor market to my late, more articulate brother John, he came back with: “Martin Luther King got his people on the up escalator just in time for it to start going down for everybody.”
Today 40% of American workers take home 10% of overall income. Today’s top 1% of American earners take home 25% of overall income. I figure with 50% (or more) labor union density the bottom 40% could score 15% out of that 25% —
— 10% out of who I call the middle 59% of earners’ current 65% of overall income. It should be possible for the bottom 40% of labor to take home 30% of overall income with high enough union density. Watch crime vanish.
Only way to achieve 50% or greater labor union density: https://onlabor.org/why-not-hold-union-representation-elections-on-a-regular-schedule/
Anybody here, ever, want to say what they think about mandatory union cert/recert/decert elections at every government workplace? Ever? Just note that Andrew Strom’s proposal exists.
Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike
February 12, 1968 to April 16, 1968
The night before his assassination in April 1968, Martin Luther King told a group of striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee: “We’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through” (King, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” 217). King believed the struggle in Memphis exposed the need for economic equality and social justice that he hoped his Poor People’s Campaign would highlight nationally.
On 1 February 1968, two Memphis garbage collectors, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, were crushed to death by a malfunctioning truck. Eleven days later, frustrated by the city’s response to the latest event in a long pattern of neglect and abuse of its black employees, 1,300 black men from the Memphis Department of Public Works went on strike. Sanitation workers, led by garbage-collector-turned-union-organizer T. O. Jones, and supported by the president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Jerry Wurf, demanded recognition of their union, better safety standards, and a decent wage…
[Jerry Wurf was a white guy. Participation in civil rights activism by whites was an important means to bridge the racial gap. Unions and the Poor People’s Campaign were the instruments of merging the battle for racial equality with the more widespread battle for economic equality and opportunity allowing a larger coalition to form against a diminished backlash from working class whites. Then shit happened.]
Posted a link and excerpt from a good article along with a brief comment, which of course got collected as trash by the website software.
I have been preaching reaching beyond race since martin luther king gave it up.
i get called a racist for my trouble
by people who think you can end racism by shouting at it.
or, i hate to say this: “being arrogant” or “demanding pity”. Most blacks do not do this, but their self appointed leaders–black and white–do.
otherwise…i imagine most of the “prejudice” among whites against blacks is created by white ring propaganda. there is a natural disposition to “generalize” against “the other.” which is defeatable with “education” (constant propaganda in a good cause). but between being swamped by propaganda in a bad cause and being self-defeated by clumsy and arrogant propaganda in a good cause…does not appear to be going away any time soon.
it seems to me the author of the post does not recognize the role of mass public persuasion, bad and a badder, in creating the “racism” measured by polls.
one other thing to note: there is a remarkable amount of intolerance right here on AB that has nothing to do wih race. i have a remarkable degree of intolerance for men dressed up in white coats telling me to trust them. and they have a fanatical intolerance of me telling them they are wrong.
there may be a little racist living in my amygdala, but i wouldn’t count on the superego living in my prefrontal cortex being enabled by that “fact” to do someting about it.
My take is that Eric Kramer did a very good job with the two relevant lessons in his post, better than Paul Sniderman and Edward Carmines in the list of their points about public opinion that were taken from their book Reaching Beyond Race. However, it is not just Democratic elites that hide out in their own echo chambers. The working class of both races (at least in my neighborhood and everywhere that I have ever worked based on my own unscientific anecdotal opinion poll) select their mass media channels according to their own biases that were inherited from their family and social surroundings.
Rebellious assholes like me are rare, regardless of race. It is a psychological development that leaves one largely isolated throughout their life. So, most of the individuals that walk that path really never cared much for the opinions, acceptance, and approval of others to begin with. However, if one does care for such then it must be an unhappy road to travel. In my case though it is a joyous journey with just enough companionship along the way to be able to share that joy with a few close friends, but without any social pressure to betray myself. However most people prefer to lose themselves in the crowd of their own choosing. Most do not even need leaders to follow as they shuffle along through life safe within their own crowd.
OTOH, leaders and marketeers must cater to the crowd if they want to succeed. The difference between the crowd and the leaders and marketeers is that the crowd are not fools by choice. They are just fools. The leaders and marketeers get to choose what kind of fool that they will be.
well, i think i agree with all that, but even the Rhinocerous wandering alone knows that peer preesure is much harder to ignore than those of us who think we don’t care realize.
Not sure I know all that much about Rhinocerouses. I’d rather be like the Lion unafraid of noises. But they are family men. And I’ve seen what even a bunch of ignorant savages can do to them with only sticks.
Which leaves the Lotus, unstained by water.
[“they”, not lotuses, need leaders. it’s just the fool in front of them.] [but ol’ JC had something to say about saying that.]
“we” are not without sin. but if we did not gossip about our neighbors we would not be upholding the herd immunity.
I think affirmative action is absolutely necessary…as long as you don’t call it that.
And “on the job training” is better than “job training.” maybe a good reason for government jobs…as long as the boss is serious about “training.”
Suppose [and my apologies to those who don’t know what “suppose” means.] there were two “races” in the population, and that the members of one race were “on average” demonstrably better at some tasks than the member other rs of the other race. Would it be a good idea then, to announce [de-facto] either that the “other” race was inferior, or that no member of the other race would ever be qualified for “some” tasks, nor would any member of the “other” race ever be paid as much for his work as members of the “first” race.?
cleaning ladies are never paid as much as lawyers. yet the hour the cleaning lady works to clean the lawyers office creates an hour for the lawyer to make what he “earns.” Why is that?
Tucker-face Carlton gave an example of superio-race reasoning when he argued that Biden’s promise to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court, amounted to declaring that he would hire a black woman regardless of any other qualification, and therefore any black woman being considered must be completely unqualified.
of course we have learned to expect this from Tucker-face, but he apparently expects his audience to agree with him. And that scares me (because they keep paying him to say stuff like that).
–ooo. did i say “hire”?
Of course, it does. She takes the shredded documents and flushes them down the toilet for him or her. That way an attorney can tend to more important stuff.
creating affirmative action jobs for plummers?
I recently paid a lawyer ten thousand dollars to take care of some more important stuff (he said he would charge me 3k for the work). Then he said, well, actually this is a case for a specialist, you need to find another lawyer.
It’s a good thing the invisible hand takes care of us lay-persons.